One antidote to the snowmaggedon winter many of us endured this year? An idyllic beach vacation, especially in a destination so charming it could stand in for a Norman Rockwell painting. We cherry-picked the very best beaches on the East Coast, where powdery sand, picturesque lighthouses and seafood restaurants are all part of the package. Pack your flip flops and go.
Tybee Island, Georgia
The cinematic barrier isle just outside of Savannah, Georgia, has been a filming location for movies ranging from Magic Mike to Nicholas Sparks’ classic The Last Song. It’s no wonder: the island is chockablock with Americana, from the 1891 Tybee Pier to the Tybee Island Light Station and Museum (built in 1736, and still standing) to the 400-acre Tybee National Wildlife Refuge, created by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1938, where migratory birds like the ‘least tern’ go to nest. Stop in at The Crab Shack—touristy for good reason—for a low country boil and blue crab stew.
Kiawah Island, South Carolina
A golfer’s mecca just 25 miles beyond Charleston, Kiawah may have a teensy population (a mere 1,626) but there's no shortage of activities to keep you entertained. Hit The Sanctuary Spa at Kiawah Island Golf Resort for a citrus-infused hot oil massage that will have you feeling as footloose as a cocktail itself. Then kick back on soft sand beach before a hair-raising alligator safari (led by naturalist guides) at Night Heron Park. Or book a bike ride with a naturalist guide and learn about the island's diverse ecosystem—you’ll pass dunes, maritime forest, ponds and salt marshes.
Goose Rocks Beach, Kennebunkport, Maine
Long a getaway for the Bush family, who own a private compound on Walker’s Point, Kennebunkport is _the All-American vacation. And no stretch of sand there is more flawless than Goose Rocks Beach. It really is that _perfect: a place where both seals and locals go to catch rays and while away long leisurely afternoons. Go for lunch at the Grace White Barn Inn & Spa’s restaurant--we recommend the local lobster tortellini with pomegranate balsamic reduction-- and don’t leave the area without a scoop of Maine whoopie pie or horchata rumcake ice cream at Rococo Ice Cream.
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Keyes Memorial Beach, Hyannis
If you see a Kennedy strolling the sand in Hyannis, don’t be alarmed. The area has been the family's unofficial summer stomping ground since 1904. They had good reason for selecting this place: Keyes Memorial Beach is everything a blue blood could ask for, with shallow water and almost never crowded (you may find more seaweed than tourists). The new farm-to-table restaurant The West End is luring foodies with dishes like Cape Cod lobster escargot and deconstructed lobster rolls accompanied by live music. JS Tip: End your stay with a restorative Swedish massage at Cahoon Hollow.
Cooper's Beach, Southampton, New York
It should come as no surprise that Cooper’s Beach is on this list—it’s often ranked among the best beaches in the nation, thanks to its mansion-lined white quartz sand. You can hop the Jitney from NYC, rent chairs and umbrellas on-site from the Village of Southampton, and settle in among well-heeled crowds. When you've had enough beach time, check out the nearby Herzog & de Meuron-designed Parrish Art Museum, then go for lunch at one of the many see-and-be-seen restaurants in town. Some of our favorites: the Euro-inspired Oreya, the classic Silver’s Restaurant, and Jue Lan Club Southampton, which serves high-end Chinese bites.
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South Beach, Miami, Florida
Yes, it’s touristy. Yes, everybody knows it. But we still think South Beach is one of the most exciting spots in America. Where else can you find sherbet-hued Art Deco starchitecture, a club scene that rivals Berlin’s, and wide swaths of sceney sand? Stop by celeb-favorite restaurant A Fish Called Avalon for ceviche trio tastings and crab crusted grouper, then go for a mai tai or mint julep at 1940s-themed The Regent Cocktail Club, voted one of the best clubs in the city.
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Carolina Beach, Wilmington, North Carolina
If Carolina Beach looks like a scene from Dawson’s Creek—the TV show that catapulted Michelle Williams and Katie Holmes into the celeb stratosphere—it's because the teen drama was actually filmed there (as was Safe Haven and We’re the Millers). It comes as no surprise: the area is stunning and the warm-weather diversions are countless. Search for native Venus Flytraps at Carolina Beach State Park; catch some 100,000 azaleas in bloom at the 67-acre Airlie Gardens; and grab lunch at Catch restaurant, run by James Beard finalist chef Keith Rhodes. We love the “dirty south” oysters—made with bacon and pimento cheese. Beach bodies are over-rated.