New England is full of rugged and gorgeous coastlines, dotted with a number of charming towns that make for great vacation spots. We’ve chosen 7 below that have hosted everyone from George H.W. Bush to Taylor Swift—but fear not, you don’t have to be a celebrity to enjoy the abundant charm of these New England towns…
It took George H.W. Bush to make Kennebunkport known to most of the country, but New Englanders have enjoyed this quiet coastal Maine town for years. In hot weather, beaches are a major draw, but Kennebunkport’s many small boutiques, art galleries and restaurants make a visit fun at any time of year. Inveterate shoppers may want to combine a visit to Kennebunkport with a trip to nearby Kittery, where dozens of outlets and factory stores offer plenty of bargains.
With its sandy North Shore beaches, rocky outcrops, green parks, hemlock woods and wild estuaries full of shorebirds, it is no wonder that Gloucester has attracted such a rich and diverse artists’ community. Fitz Hugh Lane, Winslow Homer and John Sloan are just some of the artists who have taken inspiration from Gloucester’s beautiful surrounds. Still boasting dozens of galleries and boutiques, as well as museums, theaters and an artists’ colony, the city’s art scene clearly continues to thrive.
This pleasant, walkable town right at the elbow of Cape Cod is a classic New England vacation spot. Bringing kids? Check out calm beaches like Cockle Cove Beach and Harding’s Beach. If you’re looking for stunning scenery, however, try Chatham Lighthouse Beach. Its tides can be strong (heed the posted warnings), but it’s one of the most beautiful beaches on the Cape.
Swab the decks, batten down the hatches and get ready to set sail for a weekend of adventure in Mystic, Connecticut’s seaside city devoted to all things maritime. From the popular Mystic Seaport, a recreated 19th-century seafaring village, to the newly updated Mystic Aquarium, where you can mingle with beluga whales, seals and dolphins, there is something nautical at every turn. The Colonial period buildings of Olde Mystick Village offer a few tasty seafood restaurants, historical atmosphere and a multitude of unique gift shops. While most of Mystic’s attractions have a marine theme, there are a couple of exceptions: landlubbers may want to check out the Mystic Art Association’s galleries and studios, which showcase the work of local and regional artists. Or have a lunch at Mystic Pizza, the eatery made famous by the Julia Roberts movie of the same name. From restaurants with plenty of crayons and kid’s menus to hotels with puppet shows and bedtime story hours, everything about Mystic is geared toward children, making it a fun and educational family getaway. And for adults, the nearby Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun casino complexes are a sure bet for entertainment.
Camden, Maine is proud to call itself the “Jewel of the Coast.” A beautiful seaport town with a harbor full of sail boats, Camden has been used as the setting for so many movies, from Carousel to Peyton Place, that it is what many people think of when they think of New England. With a series of annual festivals running all year round, including the US Toboggan Championships, the Summer HarborArts Juried Arts & Craft Show and Windjammer Weekend, there is always something to do in Camden.
Newport, Rhode Island
Here in the heart of Rhode Island’s “Classic Coast,” you can choose your own adventure. Soak in miles of spectacular coastal scenery, study authentic Colonial and Gilded Age architecture, saunter along the wharves of the bustling waterfront, and sink your toes into the sand of stunning beaches. You can be inspired at the legendary mansions, be energized by the vibrant nightlife, and savor local flavor at our many celebrated restaurants, wineries and breweries.
Windswept beaches, sand dunes, blinking lighthouses and a charming pace of life await on this 50-square mile island. The world’s former top whaling port is now designated a National Historic District. Leave the car and take the shuttle or bike around. Seaside cottages, old whaling captains’ mansions and historic harbors contain quaint inns, boutique stores, chowder shacks and upscale dining delights. Swim, surf or load up the tackle for Nantucket’s excellent striper, bluefish and bonito fishing.