11 Best East Coast Getaways
Nothing says summer like a coastal escape—the pristine shores, fresh seafood, fruity cocktails. Jetsetter has the lowdown on where to get your beach fix now, whether you're looking for a splashy see-and-be-seen hotspot or an off-the-radar hideaway.
Shelter Island, New York
The 12-square-mile atoll sits between the tony North Fork and the Hamptons—but feels a hushed world away (more than a third of the area is fiercely protected by the Nature Conservancy). Here, it’s all about unwinding, from the golden-sand beaches and hiking paths to farm fresh produce and sunset cocktails. The island’s newest place to bed down is Chequit Hotel, with 37 shabby-chic rooms, C.O. Bigelow toiletries, and complimentary breakfast. For dinner, don’t miss the Montauk pearl oysters and lobster pot pie at Vine Street Café (or pick up goodies to go at the food market out back).
Brewster, Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Nestled in the elbow of Cape Cod, Brewster is a charming hamlet with classic New England flair. Power up for the day in the airy Brewster Fish House, where the local cod fish and chips are a cult favorite (get there early—they don’t take reservations), then dive into the 1900-acre expanse of thick oak woods and sun-lit, glacier-formed ponds at Nickerson State Park. The 22-mile Cape Cod Rail Trail, once used by the Old Colony Railroad Company, connects Brewster with Wellfleet and Dennis and can be traversed by foot, bike and horseback. Or, spend the day at the beach (our favorite spot is Crosby Landing), where low tide reveals a mile stretch of sand. End the evening with a sundowner on the sprawling terrace at Ocean Edge Resort.
St. Michaels, Maryland
Fronting the Chesapeake Bay, St. Michaels is a low-key escape just a quick hop from D.C., Philly and Baltimore. Take the 90-minute Frederic Douglass walking tour with the St. Michaels Museum to learn more about the iconic slave-turned-abolitionist, then wander the town’s quaint sidestreets; you’ll find a selection of carefully edited antique shops like Guilford & Company, which specializes in estate jewelry, from Boucheron to Bvlgari. Come nighttime, locals pack the tables at Ava’s Pizzeria & Wine Bar, as much for the vino as for the the oak-fired prosciutto, arugula and balsamic pizza.
Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
The Vineyard has been a preppy-chic getaway off Cape Cod since the Kennedy days (the old family compound was just sold). The best way to explore the island is from the seat of a Fuji carbon bike, available for day rentals from Edgartown Bicycles (we love the 18-mile round-trip trail between Edgartown and Vineyard Haven). You’ll need to unwind after the ride, so head to Lucy Vincent Beach, with its crystal-blue water, pristine sand and craggy cliffs. For dinner, L’etoile is a must, loved for its on-point desserts like Toasted Coconut Rum Creme Brulee.
Long Beach, New York
Just a forty-minute ride on the Long Island Railroad from New York City lies this diverse coastal enclave—with a two-mile wood boardwalk built in the early 1900s. Stop for breakfast at Laurel Diner, an Art Deco dinette that's been in business since 1932 (The Elvis Stack, pancakes topped with banana and housemade peanut butter sauce, is a must-try). After taking in the scene at the beach, make your way to Corazon de Cuba, where ginger mojitos and chicharrones de pollo—fried garlic chicken—make you feel like you’re in the Caribbean. Top off the day with a boozy horchata or rum raisin ice cream at nearby Frozen Cows.
The Hamptons, New York
This group of waterside villages is everything you’ve heard: stylish, exclusive and so moneyed that some of the wealthiest Manhattanites arrive for the weekend by helicopter. There are plenty of beaches to lay out on, trendy boutiques to check out and cocktails to drink. Rent a stand up paddleboard at Amagansett Beach & Bicycle, and go for a spin in Accabonac Harbor, then head to farm-to-table Topping Rose House in Bridgehampton for dinner, where chef Kyle Koenig runs the show. Their monthly pig roast is required eating (think spit-roasted pig with housemade Andouille, served in a gorgeous Italianate barn). Bed down for the night at the elegant Quogue Club at Hallock House.
This teensy 14-mile isle was once a Quaker capital; it’s now a swanky second-home getaway for big names like John Kerry, Tommy Hillfiger, and Jack Welch. In the mornings, locals line up to taste the buttery Portuguese bread at Something Natural; make sure to get there at 8 a.m. Owned by the Silva clan since 1958, Galley Beach is Nantucket’s only restaurant on the sand. Order the Painkiller, a summer favorite made with British Navy Pusser’s Rum, pineapple juice, OJ, cream of coconut and shaved nutmeg. Nantucket's main draw is the white-sand beaches, but there’s plenty more to explore in the area; check out the Whaling Museum, which pays homage to the island’s onetime bread and butter, the restored 1847 candle factory, and The Oldest House—yes, the oldest home on the island⎯built way back in 1686.
We all know Kennebunkport is Bush territory but there’s a lot more to this quaint Maine village. Chic boutiques selling beachy house décor and antiques, and artisanal shops line the streets, and the rocky coastline is dotted with postcard-perfect lighthouses. Keep an eye out for eagles and osprey on a kayak tour of Mousam River Estuary with Coastal Maine Kayak & Bike or try your hand at lobstering from a 65-foot boat with Kylie’s Chance Scenic Lobster Tour. Don't go home without sampling the bonfire dinner at Earth, where James Beard award-winning chef Ken Oringer uses mostly local, just-picked ingredients; the Birch glazed short ribs with pickled chanterelles are worth the trip alone.
Montauk, New York
The end of the line in Long Island feels about as far as you can get from New York City—and that’s likely how locals like Paul Simon and Julian Schnabel like it. Early mornings, you’ll find surfers riding the waves at Ditch Plains beach where a killer food truck comes to serve potent coffee and buttery egg burritos. Buy a $40 day pass and take a dip in the ocean-fed seawater pool at Gurney's, before an alfresco shrimp skewer dinner and live music at 668 The Gig Shack. Not ready for bed yet? Head to the deck at the Surf Lodge for another round of cocktails.
Outer Banks, North Carolina
Once home to Blackbeard, the notorious English pirate, this 200-mile chain of barrier islands is now an ideal respite for modern-day buccaneers. At 70 miles long, Cape Hatteras National Seashore is the largest accessible swath of protected beach on the East Coast; climb the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse for a birds-eye view. The lines at Blue Moon Beach Grill, in Nags Head, get long even in off-season, but it’s worth the wait for the fried oysters with jalapeno remoulade. Another go-to: Avenue Waterfront Grille, in Moanteo, which overlooks Shallowbag Bay. Everything here is house-made, from the ranch dressing to the sliders.
North Fork, New York
It may be known as a burgeoning wine region, but the North Fork is also filled with colorful roadside fruit stands, antique markets and picturesque farms. Start at Croteaux Vineyards, the only stateside vintner that makes roses alone, and sit (and sip) in the leafy tasting garden. In Mayberry-esque Greenport, Main Street is lined with art galleries including Fiedler Gallery, which sells works by regional artists. Nearby, the 1970 Claudio’s is still the best spot for lunch—grab a table on the deck and order the classic lobster roll, rumored to be the best in Long Island.
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