In the mood for a beach vacation that feels uniquely yours? Escape from the bustle of big cities and find reprieve in the quiet, quaint, and often quirky.
Small towns mean big opportunity for something new—find a local festival you’ve never heard of, scope out the best spot for soft serve, or take a stroll downtown and stumble upon a beach to yourself. We’ve rounded up a few charming small towns to explore along the East Coast. What might be your new favorite walkable, bikeable, beautiful place by the sea?
Midcoast Maine is the perfect spot for outdoor adventurers and foodies alike, with lobster rolls, local seafood festivals, and state parks aplenty. With its own lively harbor, Boothbay is known for its sea life and boat tours, making it just the place for a fun small town to visit. Head to Reid State Park for hiking trails, book a boat tour to sightsee the four surrounding 1800s lighthouses or explore the charm of downtown for art galleries, antique stores, and bakeries for more family fun.
If you’re looking for a small beach town vacation and want to escape the crowds of Cape Cod, Brewster is your getaway. Downtown, you’ll find the family-friendly Cape Cod Museum of Natural History, clam shacks, golfing greens, and sportfishing charters, along with bookstores and cafés. This tiny corner of the coast is famous for its Brewster Flats phenomenon, when the low tide recedes, exposing miles of beach thriving with sandbars, clam beds, and tidal pools, so make sure to check the tide schedule when you visit.
The Outer Banks has long attracted adventurers for romantic scenes and family vacations, but the barrier islands of Hatteras might be its hidden gem. Kept away from commercialization, Hatteras offers more of the natural and wild experience of the outdoors, with two nearby lighthouses, sportfishing charters (the island is considered the world’s blue marlin capital), and plenty of coastal small-town charm. Soak up some sun or horseback ride at the beach, peruse the stores downtown, visit the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum, or along with our other favorite activities, make room for lunch and climb Cape Hatteras Lighthouse (it’s the tallest lighthouse in the United States, so pack your sneakers).
With beautiful beaches, rich history, and a lack of commercialization, Edisto Beach is an easy pick for a small-town vacation spot. Located an hour south of Charleston, Edisto Island is surrounded by wildlife refuges and nature preserves, guaranteeing adventure and unspoiled scenes. Dig into a slice of key lime pie at Kings Farm Market, snake your way through the Edisto Island Serpentarium, and enjoy the soft sands as long as you like—Edisto Beach State Park is regularly crowd-free.
A quaint vacation destination and barrier island along the Atlantic coast, Tybee Island is home to wide beaches and a historic downtown area. Just a short drive from Savannah, Tybee Island enjoys year-round warm weather and sweet Southern hospitality. Spend the day savoring ocean views at Fort Screven or the Tybee Island Light Station, hit the waters with a dolphin cruise, or crack into some seafood at The Crab Shack (food is available for purchase to feed baby gators at the onsite gator lagoon—yes, you read that right).
There’s no shortage of beauty in the five small beach towns of Boothbay, Maine, Brewster, Massachusetts, Hatteras, North Carolina, Edisto Beach, South Carolina, or Tybee Island, Georgia. For more eye-catching getaway spots, set your sights on Stowe, Vermont, Moab, Utah, and Orcas Island, Washington. Find a dream destination in the mountains, desert, or lakeside with a vacation rental.