7 Summery East Coast Getaways That Aren’t the Hamptons
There’s a reason people are willing to spend a small fortune on trips to the Hamptons. Celeb-frequented restaurants, exclusive beaches, box-hedged mega mansions—they’re all there, scattered among a few affluent hamlets. If you’re sick of crowds and see-and-be-seen nature of the Hamptons, though, the Northeast has plenty of other destinations to offer. From Rhode Island’s scenic coast to New York’s Adirondack mountains, here are seven alternate trips to take this summer.
A Brooklyn-based writer and editor, Chelsea's work has appeared in Matador Network, The Huffington Post, the TripAdvisor blog, and more. When not planning her next trip, you'll usually find her drinking way too much iced coffee (always iced—she’s from New England) or bingeing a Netflix original series.
Cape Elizabeth, Maine
On the rocky coast of southern Maine, just eight short miles from Portland, quaint Cape Elizabeth offers every New England diversion. Settle into a suite at Inn by the Sea for Atlantic Ocean views, oversize soaking tubs, private outdoor space, and lots and lots of sea glass lanterns and white wainscoting. The resort unfurls along the mile-long Crescent Beach, where you can partake in early morning yoga sessions or unwind at nightly bonfires. Though the inn has its own on-site restaurant, you’ll want to hightail it to the Lobster Shack at Two Lights, a bluff-side joint that isn’t anything fancy but has been winning “Maine’s Best Lobster Roll” accolades ever since it opened in the 1920s. Swing by to celebrate its 50th year with fried haddock or a clam boat, then walk it off in Fort Williams Park, a 90-acre sprawl just 15 minutes north that encompasses some of Cape Elizabeth’s best-loved sites including the Portland Head Light and the ruins of Goddard Mansion—one of the town’s first grand estates.
Greenport, New York
The tiny village of Greenport, which sits just across the Peconic Bay from East Hampton on Long Island’s North Fork, enjoys many of the same spoils as its seaside sister—high-end dining, pastoral environs—yet feels worlds away. Tuck your things away at American Beech on Main Street, a 19th-century horse stable that's been flipped into a boutique hotel with 11 delightfully minimalist rooms. Once you’ve settled in, head for Kontokosta Winery (the North Fork is known for its vineyards), where you can pair Rosé and Riesling tastings with views of Long Island Sound. If pale ales, IPAs, and porters are more your style, Greenport Harbor Brewing—just 12 minutes west—is the spot for you.
Aurora, New York
Hugging the shores of Cayuga Lake in upstate New York, the college town of Aurora may be less than one square mile in size but it’s charming as can be. (Queen Anne–style mansions and cozy cottages are just two things that lend this village a storybook feel.) Drop your bags at the Aurora Inn, a Federal-style manor that’s been welcoming guests—originally by stagecoach—since 1838. Today, you'll find modern amenities like luxe marble baths along with old-world Oriental rugs and working fireplaces. Of course, no trip to the Finger Lakes wine region is complete without experiencing what it does best. At Heart & Hands Wine Company, you can swirl glasses of Pinot Noir and Riesling while enjoying vineyard vistas. Down for a little shopping? Flex your wallet at MacKenzie-Childs, a homeware shop known for its majolica pottery and hand-painted furniture. If retail therapy isn’t your thing, it’s still worth the trip; visitors are welcome to wander the 65-acre farm grounds where—among other things—you’ll run into a Gothic-Revival-style chicken palace and a herd of Highland cattle.
Lake George, New York
Are you a fan of crisp mountain air and outdoor festivals—be they food-, drink-, or craft-oriented? Lake George might be the summer destination for you. Each month offers its own set of diversions, from BBQ jamborees to white-water rafting competitions, so you’ll have no issue finding something to do no matter when you visit. One of June's bigger highlights is the annual Adirondack Food & Wine Festival, which welcomes more than 120 vendors from wine and craft beverage producers to artisan food purveyors and food trucks. Whether you’re in town for festivities or just some lakeside leisure, make The Sagamore your home base. The landmark 390-room hotel sits on its own 70-acre island and offers plenty of chances to relax or explore. Cruise around the lake aboard the Morgan (a 72-foot replica of a 19th-century ship), play a round on the Donald Ross-designed 18-hole golf course, fish off the resort’s dock with guest-ready equipment, or treat yourself to a full day of pampering at the on-site spa.
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Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts
Martha’s Vineyard shares a lot of commonalities with the Hamptons. The summer colony encompasses a number of seaside towns; it’s filled to the brim with charming lighthouses and coveted beaches; and, of course, celebs love to holiday here. So, what’s the difference? MV pleasantly lacks the flashy events and relentless paparazzi of Southampton and Sag Harbor, therefore delivering plenty of laid-back R&R. Skip the fancy restaurants and follow New Englanders to local joints like Larsen’s and Menemsha’s fish markets for seafood specialties like fresh clam chowder, lobster, mussels, and swordfish. Afterwards, walk along the quiet, clay Aquinnah Cliffs or take to the trails of Chappaquiddick Island, which connects to MV proper via a barrier beach. At the end of the day, rest your head at The Sydney in Edgartown, a recently expanded boutique that features 22 guest rooms split between a new building and a 19th-century Victorian captain’s home.
Cape May, New Jersey
Who knew a trip to the Jersey Shore was all it would take to see the second-largest collection of Victorian gingerbread homes in the U.S.? (The first being San Francisco, of course.) Cape May is one of America's oldest resort towns, and while the tiny, 2.7-mile town certainly swells in size each summer, it gets nowhere near as many visitors as the Hamptons. Make a reservation (well in advance) at the Virginia Hotel, an 1879 grand dame on Jackson Street in the historic district—and be sure to free up time for at least one dinner at its farm-to-table restaurant, the Ebbitt Room. Cape May is also known for its active dolphin and whale population, so you’ll want to sign up for a Cape May Whale Watcher excursion if you're visiting in season. The company whisks sightseers out into Delaware Bay—less than 10 miles offshore—to witness the mammoth creatures breach the Atlantic waters. If you prefer to stay on land, Higbee Beach and Poverty Beach are two of Cape May’s most adored spots.
RELATED: America's Best Seaside Inns
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Little Compton, Rhode Island
Gilded Age mansions and sailing regattas make Newport one of Rhode Island’s most popular cities, but just across the Sakonnet River, Little Compton offers its own coastal treats. Laid out in 1682 by settlers of Plymouth Colony, the tiny town of just 5,000 is still dotted with 17th- and 18th-century Quaker meeting houses, town halls, schoolhouses, and churches. Spend a few hours exploring RI’s forested wetlands with a trip to Dundery Brook Trail, a half-mile path that follows an elevated boardwalk that’s both toddler- and grandma-friendly, so you can sightsee at your leisure. Feeling parched after your visit? Head for Carolyn's Sakonnet Vineyard, a 150-acre winery that hosts daily tastings. Once you’ve tried a few varietals and bought a few take-home bottles for good measure, unwind at Stone House, a four-story estate that was once the private home of a Civil War hero. Today, 14 guest rooms feature luxe details like breezy French doors, custom millwork, deep-soaking tubs, and private sitting rooms with views of Martha's Vineyard and the Sakonnet Lighthouse.
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