Not all coastlines are created equal—unless you’re referring to these eight destinations, whose award-winning restaurants, stunning hotels, and jaw-dropping ocean views do their coordinates serious justice.
Marlborough, New Zealand
Split between two islands, the country of New Zealand has—at 8,700 miles—one of the longest coastlines of any nation, not to mention some of the world's most dramatic landscapes. Marlborough, on the northeastern tip of South Island, is one of its most stunning coastal regions—if a bit under the radar. Sunny, rolling hills give way to the Marlborough Sounds, a collection of drowned river valleys flooded by the Pacific Ocean and home to dolphins, seals, and blue penguins (all can be taken in by boat tour). But sightseeing aside, no one comes to Marlborough without a taste of the land: the sauvignon blancs produced here put New Zealand winemaking on the map. A drive through sunny wine country passes seaside hamlets and hill towns between vineyards and is a perfect way to admire the inland landscape. Two worthy stops: Allan Scott Winemakers, in Blenheim, which is known for its chardonnays and rieslings, and Wairau River Wines, one of Marlborough’s oldest and largest family-owned wineries, which is loved for its restaurant. Come hungry as you'll want to go for locally-sourced seasonal recipes like Marlborough mussel chowder and lamb with mint, portobello mushrooms, and halloumi.
Chaotic Mumbai this isn’t. Goa presents the calmer side of India, a tropical paradise where travelers come to enjoy miles of golden beaches, lush green countryside, vibrant cuisine known for its spicy flavors and Indo-Portuguese influences, and famous all-night parties. As a wave of luxury hotel brands continue to break ground, what was once predominantly a backpacker’s haven has become a full-on destination. Ahilya by the Sea, a quietly elegant bed and breakfast set on the Mandovi River, is a far cry from the over-the-top opulence of its sister property, Ahilya Fort, while the more trend-setting W Goa set up shop this year on Vagator Beach—expect sunrise yoga and fitness classes by day and cocktails alongside a thumping Indian DJ soundtrack by night.
Cape Town, South Africa
The beauty of Cape Town is undeniable—the plateau-topped mountain range that drops into a shimmering sea; the free-roaming wildlife, from whales breaching offshore to baboons that sunbathe on the roadside; the Georgian mansions and Victorian homes that line its residential streets. But there’s more to this city than its looks, including a dynamic urban center chock-full of world-class art, food, and design. The new place to stay—and be seen—is the Silo Hotel, on top of the V&A Waterfront's much-anticipated Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art. Here, 28 rooms feature bulging multi-faceted windows that look out towards Table Mountain. Its Granary Café is also the latest in the Mother City’s emergence of haute cuisine—though The Shortmarket Club (from the minds behind local favorite The Test Kitchen) is worthy of a look for its deco interiors and flavorful plates like Scotch eggs with truffle and kingklip with tamarind. Squeeze in some time outdoors, be it hiking at Lion’s Head or Cape Point, spotting penguins at Boulders Beach, or testing your surfing chops in chichi Camps Bay, home to the legendary Twelve Apostles Hotel.
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The tiny town of Essaouira, on Morocco’s Atlantic coast, first came on the global scene when Cat Stevens and Jimi Hendrix paid a visit in the 60s, but drop by today and you'll find it still retains a hippie-chic vibe. Fortified walls separate the beach from the town's maze of narrow streets, a mash-up of European and African architectural influences. You won't find any big-name hotels here—just charming riads opened by expats seeking a slower pace of life. We love the two-decade-old Villa Maroc, a classic thanks to its timeless white-and-taupe color scheme and a smattering of equally neutral-hued antiques and textiles found throughout its four Medina townhouses. Looking for something more contemporary? Le Douar des Arganiers works open fireplaces in each of its four suites. After haggling for Berber rugs in the medina and taking a refreshing dip in the surf, refuel at Salon Oriental, known for its modern takes on local classics like lamb shoulder with candied spices and cockerel cooked with lemon and saffron in a traditional tagine.
While the HBO smash hit Game of Thrones might have singlehandedly thrown this Adriatic gem into the spotlight, little has changed post-limelight. Medieval walls, Gothic and Baroque churches, Romanesque stone gates and Renaissance-era squares, and the narrow cobblestone streets that wind their way through it all still remain. Start your tour on Stradun, the main thoroughfare which is lined with Euro-style sidewalk cafés, before making your way to the ramparts, as they provide a breathtaking overview of the city’s terracotta rooftops and church spires. Villa Dubrovnik, built right onto a rocky cliff, is a rarefied classic with its floor-to-ceiling ocean views and private beach—though the new Hotel Kompas offers just as much wow-factor thanks to its collection of local contemporary art, minimalist guest rooms, and stunning Adriatic views from its Zenith bar. Heads up: the best views of all are had at café-bar Buža, a popular spot for sundowners.
This sleepy seaport in mid-coast Maine is as New England as New England gets. Need proof? Just look to the clapboard storefronts, the working harbor, and the classic white-steeple church at the center of town. Life here revolves around the outdoors, and days are punctuated with hikes to Mount Battie in Camden Hills State Park (get ready for stunning views of boat-dotted Camden Harbor) and sails in Penobscot Bay—perhaps aboard a historic schooner. Pig + Poet restaurant is a beloved local spot for happy hour oysters and sundowners, but our favorite place to bed down is Camden Harbour Inn, a historic Victorian sleep on a hill with a swoon-worthy white wooden porch—ideal for sipping glasses of prosecco before dinner at Natalie’s. JS Tip: for peak prettiness, time your visit for fall, when New England’s legendary foliage turns Camden's forests fiery shades of red, orange, and yellow.
San Juan Islands, Washington State
It’s impossible not to fall under the spell of the Pacific Northwest, whose rugged landscapes—the subalpine forests, the rocky beaches, the cobalt-blue waters—are some of the most stunning in all of North America. The San Juan Islands, off the northwestern corner of Washington state, encompass more than 172 reefs and individual isles including pine-covered Orcas, known for its resident population of bald eagles and pods of namesake whales. Spend a day sailing the San Juan Islands Scenic Byway, which takes in the region’s many harbors, beaches, mountains, and farms. A notable stop for foodies: Lummi Island, at the center of the archipelago, where James Beard Award-winning chef Blaine Wetzel prepares seasonal prix-fixe dinners that emphasize the region’s local bounty (think Lummi scallops, sea urchin in fermented broth, and island pears over toasted kale leaves) at the legendary Willows Inn.
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It takes a three-hour drive from London to reach Dorset, on the country's English Channel coast, but those who tackle the trek are duly rewarded with miles of beaches, windswept countryside, and a temperate climate that keeps the region sunny year-round. Dorset’s Jurassic Coast is one of Britain’s most incredible natural wonders, with chalk cliffs that rise up from the sea, secluded coves, and a natural limestone arch that has earned its place as a World Heritage Site. This landscape was made for walking: the South West Coast Path, which winds past moorlands, coastal valleys, and harbors, leads you right to The Pig on the Beach, a manor house turned hotel whose country-style rooms and garden-to-table restaurant all lie just five minutes from the sand. Or, if you’re in a more sea-to-table mood, take a scenic drive west along the A35 to the Michelin-starred HIX Oyster & Fish House, whose dining room and terrace overlook Lyme Bay.