Countdown to Summer: 9 Best East Coast Escapes
Powdery beaches, sunset cocktails, lobster rolls and corn on the cob. Chelsea Bengier hits the road in search of the best East Coast vacation spots. Get packing!
Shelter Island, NY
Set between North Fork's vineyards and the Hampton's glam beach scene is Shelter Island, a small, sleepy atoll where New Yorkers come to unwind on golden-sand beaches and eat farm fresh fare. Rent a bike at Piccozzi’s by the North Ferry dock and pedal down to Wades Beach for an afternoon by the water. Shelter Island Craft Brewery serves flights of local ales and IPAs for when you need a break from the sun. Just make sure to save room for dinner at Vine Street Café — the Montauk pearl oysters are a must-try. End the evening with a glass of rosé at the checkered tables on Sunset Beach's deck.
Where to Stay: The Chequit
This quaint seaside village has all the trappings of a quintessential New England getaway: a charming green, a boutique-lined main street and a white-steepled 19th-century church, just five minutes from the shore. Shop preppy-cool shops like Cape Chic, Vagabond Treasures and Twigs, then pick up a beach read at Eight Cousins bookshop. After a stroll through town, pop into Anejo Mexican Bistro for the signature guacamole, made tableside, and tequila (if you dare). Or nosh on classic French dishes — duck confit rillette, lobster strudel, pan roasted Atlantic swordfish — at The Glass Onion. For dessert, there's nearby Ben and Bill's Chocolate Emporium, where the homemade buttered lobster flavor (yes, you read that right) is a long-standing favorite.
Where to Stay: The Palmer House Inn
There's a reason Newport is Instagram gold. The Rhode Island gem has gilded mansions, gorgeous coastal drives and 17th-century captains homes. Hit Bellevue Avenue to see the massive estates owned by prominent families like the Vanderbilts (who referred to the chateaus as their "summer cottages"). We recommend touring Rosecliff, Marble House, and the grandest of them all, The Breakers. Leave enough time for a stroll on the Cliff Walk, a path that winds between the manicured gardens and the sea below. Then head into town to explore the nautical shops along Thames Street, and the fudgeries and seafood joints by Bowen's Wharf. The clam chowder at Black Pearl, a cozy eatery that looks like the cabin of an old ship, is the perfect post-retail lunch. Or, reserve a table at the White Horse Tavern, a Newport institution that's been serving customers since 1673. Come sunset, go for a drive along the winding Ocean Drive.
RELATED: Your Hot Summer in Newport
Bar Harbor, ME
While most tourists don't flock farther than Kennebunkport or Portland, Maine's northern hamlets are just as appealing. Take Bar Harbor, a tranquil fishing enclave on Mount Desert Island, where you'll find laid-back locals, kitschy storefronts and mouthwatering seafood. After a morning spent browsing the shops on Cottage and Main streets, make your way to Acadia National Park to hike some of the 120 miles of trails (look out for bald eagles, whales and moose). When hunger strikes, the lobster rolls at the roadside Travelin' Lobster are hands down the best around.
Where to Stay: West Street Hotel
Long Beach Island, NJ
Stretching across 18 oceanfront miles, it's no wonder why this swathe of sand is called Long Beach. A clutch of seaside towns dot the inlet, but our go-to is Beach Haven. Check out the area's seafaring history at the New Jersey Maritime Museum before hitting the beach. For dinner, head to the Gables Inn and Restaurant, set in a restored Victorian home. (The best seat in the house is in the hidden garden, which is strung with twinkling lights.) The menu changes daily based on the fresh catch, but you can't go wrong with the seared scallops with asparagus, artichoke and lemon risotto.
Where to Stay: The Gables
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What was once an overlooked tiny isle is now a swanky second-home getaway for big names like John Kerry, Tommy Hilfiger, and Jack Welch. Follow the regulars to the harborfront CRU for the best raw bar and shucked oysters. Still hungry? Meander over to Galley Beach's open-air dining room and order the Painkiller, a summer staple made with British Navy Pusser's Rum, pineapple juice, OJ, cream of coconut and shaved nutmeg. Though Nantucket's main draw is the powdery beaches, there's plenty more to see in the area; check out the Whaling Museum and The Oldest House, built in 1686.
Block Island, RI
The Block, as local Rhode Islanders call it, is notably less sceney than Nantucket or the Vineyard — and therein lies the appeal. Skip town beach and head to the quieter Mansion Beach. On the northern end, it's just one stretch of the island's 17 miles of soft sand. Stop by Ballard's and grab a buttery lobster roll, and eat it on the oceanfront restaurant's private beach. Or, head to Mohegan Bluffs, a ridge of massive seaside rock faces, dotted by two picture-perfect lighthouses. Once you've had enough sun, make your way to Oar to watch the sunset while sipping rum punches and mudslides.
Where to Stay: Spring House Hotel
RELATED: 72 Hours in Block Island, RI
Psst, want to hear a secret? Delaware is home to some of the East Coast’s most pristine beaches. Rehoboth has a popular strip of sand with a mile-long boardwalk that's been around since 1873. Walk along the wooden path and stop at Dolle's for fudge, caramels and saltwater taffy, then make your way to the bandstand to listen to live music (for free!). Round out the evening by sipping local craft beers and spirits at Dogfish brewpub. Cheers!
Where to Stay: Avenue Inn & Spa
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