If you had a choice what would you choose, the ocean’s bounty on your plate or the sights of breaching whales few yards away? Fortunately New Englanders in America don’t have to choose as the visual and taste buds are satiated as summer beckons us to the coastal towns. While North East Coast of America braves one of the harshest winters, it also enjoys the warm and sultry summer along its coastline. Summer may not have officially begun though we’re almost there with Memorial day weekend drawing close. Finally those glorious 15 weeks are upon us to grab the flip flops and sunglasses, load up the woven tote with swim wear, sunscreen and head out to these 10 coastal towns of beautiful New England. You can practically spend half your summer in New England or at least drive up here for 10 of the 15 weekends.
Straight outta Chatham and into a Chowdah? Located in the Cape Cod region of Massachusetts, Chatham is an hour from Boston boasting a sandy stretch on the shores and retail boutique stretch on the Main street. In true New England fashion its town centre is cosy, quaint, manicured to perfection and lined by stores ranging from hats to home décor. In Chatham, the coastal lifestyle is like a window display of a chic store, anyone who walks by stops to admire it and wants to own a piece of it for themselves. A visit to the beach is inevitable on a good summer weekend but a caveat to swimmers from landlocked regions, the water is on the cooler side and don’t expect anything mildly warm anywhere along the coast of New England. But then you can always sunbathe or stroll the beach bare feet taking in the vistas of the ocean. Chatham like most coastal towns in the region is known for its gourmet outlets and if I were to revisit any of them I’d blindly choose the Impudent Oyster on any given day. The restaurant is bustling with visitors both local and tourists but the service is unaltered and the food is coma inducing. The entire menu is packed with seafood and its safe to say that I could have picked anything on the menu and would’ve loved it regardless. This is also a good place for a brunch while you might want to save up some space for some candy at Chatham Candy Manor on Main street. Main street is sprinkled quite generously with boutiques for fashion, beauty and home décor. Chatham’s Main street is every retail therapy seekers paradise. One of my favorite hats is from these boutiques. Chatham is very close to Provincetown and it would be a shame if you’d miss the first town to welcome the migrants from Europe to America. Cape Cod is known for its Lighthouses and you shouldn’t leave Chatham without a lighthouse picture moment.
Oh the calling for Instagramers all over the continent thy name is Nantucket. It is a town that seems to be designed pre-empting an era of Instagram travelers. Nantucket went from being the whaling capital of the world to the coastal home décor capital within a century. When the daffodils are beaming with joy in the window planters, it’s time to spend one of the summer weekends in Nantucket. From the Friday of the Memorial day weekend streets of Nantucket are packed with people like sardines in a can. OK fine! that’s an obvious exaggeration, but the locals did tell me that there is visibly no place to walk when Memorial day weekend inches closer. In my experience it’s better not wake up mid week and wish to visit the tres tres chic island of North East America. A rude awakening awaits for those who do (a.k.a moi last year), to the fact that all boats are booked two weekends ahead whether or not you are taking your car on the boat. Planning ahead never hurt anyone and its best done at the end of April when the island opens to tourists and other visitors. From the time you land on the island, Nantucket casts a spell on you from Brant Point Lighthouse to Broad Street to the end at Sconset and Great Light. If you wish to read about the island in detail I have blogged about my Romantic Getaway in Nantucket. Everything from sights to visit, streets to stroll, stores to shop, dining options and cute B&Bs are listed on my blog post.
Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
Move over East Hampton, Martha’s Vineyard is probably always going to be your arch rival for being the 1 percenters summer playground. The vacation homes at Oak Bluffs and Edgartown can give the likes of 1770 House a stiff competition when summer arrives to the East Coast. But apart from being the uber rich’s choice for a lazy Sunday in summer, Martha’s Vineyard is equally a great choice for anyone and everyone to enjoy a weekend bathing in the New England sun. There are boats leaving from Woods Hole to Oak Bluffs and Edgartown on the island and the principles of Nantucket apply to the island – plan in advance. There are taverns and diners waiting to treat visitors after an hour long journey on boat with one of the best clam chowder or as Bostonians would call it Chowdah. The beaches apart from the seafood are the reason this island attracts visitors all summer. There are long stretches of beaches and a good hike at times to get there. Since the island is the largest among the Massachusetts islands the towns are at driving distance but nothing a bicycle won’t achieve if you are into biking around. Among the many beaches are Lighthouse beach, Edgartown beach, Inkwell Beach and Katama Beach. Katama Beach also has a historic Airfield and diner called The Right Fork Diner some place to stop by after a good day at the beach. Oak Bluffs is known for its gingerbread cottages and you can see them lined up just like the ones in fairytales. Summer can never be complete without a visit to a local creamery or bakery. Martha’s Vineyard Gourmet Cafe and Bakery and Martha’s Mad Ice Cream are known in the town among locals for good ice cream, desserts and late night back door donuts. The island is known for its white cliffs standing above a sandy beach and crashing waves from the Atlantic Ocean. Let the feeling of being on an utopian island blur out your life on the mainland.
Whale watching is a thing in New England. Nothing like a close encounter with the ocean giants breaching mid air in the Atlantic. Locals in New England either take a boat into the ocean from the Boston Harbor or Gloucester. Gloucester is also known like every coastal town in New England for its seafood and if you love a good lobster you must try it at Gloucester House Restaurant – a cosy dining place on the wharf. We enjoyed a good meal while watching the local fishermen dock the barge loaded with fresh catch from the ocean. Gloucester is a great place if you wish to drive by the ocean enjoying the blue vistas on a good summer day. There is a great promenade to stroll and beaches to sunbathe. But I would visit for the whales, chowdah and the catch of the day.
Not far from Gloucester is the town of Rockport. During the summer Rockport comes alive with convivial streets, ice cream shops and pocket size boutiques. Rockport is an hour or less from Boston depending how early in the day you exit the city. Once you reach the town you have two options to either park your car at the free parking lot and board a dollar / person shuttle or be the first few to enter the main street of the town and street park your car for the day. Rockport is a cosy little town that is pedestrian friendly in its access to the beach or the shopping streets as much as if you want to set sail on your boat or kayak. Essentially a car is a handicap in Rockport. Sailing and Kayaking are one of the most favorite activities of visitors to Rockport and if it vibes with your interests you’re in the right town. Rockport and ice cream shops go hand in glove and perhaps is one of those towns with more ice cream shops per square mile. Roy Moore’s fish Shack is not only at the most strategic location as you arrive to the town centre, it is the place everyone visits for seafood. If you arrive for breakfast or brunch it’s even better with the best seafood menu you could possibly want in a coastal town. There are long waiting so it’s probably wise to get there sooner before everyone. While you may want a wide long stretch of sand ‘Rockport’ is known for its rocky beaches and quite smaller lengths than you can hope for, and makes for a good reason why you should brush up your boating and kayaking skills.
Portsmouth, New Hampshire
I certainly would visit Portsmouth again for the bustling town centre filled with cocktail bars, casual eating out and some fancy ones too. But Portsmouth being a port town on the borders of Maine and New Hampshire enjoys the harbor side coastal winds and a good retreat to do nothing but relax on your boat or poolside as it suits you. Portsmouth is in proximity to Portland, Maine and the idea of covering two cities in a weekend can be easily accomplished if time is of essence. When in New Hampshire always hit the coastal cuisine on arrival and don’t forget to enjoy that bowl of chowder in a mom-n-pop restaurant. The town has many an island clusters in the bay and the islands are some of the best escapes you can get in the region.
The one place where all of New Englanders agree has the best food scene in the region – Portland Maine. Locals from across the region travel an hour or two just to dine here. Portland is also known for the most serene Bay view on its east coast and you’d probably never leave after you take an evening stroll on the promenade. Sailing is a big thing here for obvious reasons and why not bring out the sailor in you while in the northern most state of New England and east coast. Portland has it all when it comes to the complete coastal town with a great city vibe. Nightlife is bustling (yes its not LA nor NYC but that’s not why you came here in the first place) and if you are adventurous with your palate this is the town for you.
Bar Harbor, Maine
Maine is abundant with beautiful coastal towns and Bar Harbor is one of those beauties. North of Portland, Bar Harbor is popular for its vintage victorian look and pretty architecture. While its name gives away its coastal town identity, Bar Harbor has many islands to venture around and immerse yourself into New England’s natural luxury of the ocean, bay and its bounty on the plate. You just can’t go wrong when visiting Maine and Bar Harbor in particular.
Newport, Rhode Island
If Gossip Girl were to exist in 1800s she’d have send letters about the secrets of Manhattan’s elite from Newport not the Hamptons all summer. Whisking you back into the gilded age of America and the lives of The Vanderbilts and The Astors is Bellevue Avenue in Newport, Rhode Island. The splendour of the 19th century built mansions aimed at flaunting the family’s wealth and power and sometimes fuelling a competition within siblings and their high society aspirant wives looks a bit too aspiring (if you’ve been to Europe or England you’ll get that same feeling). Though Newport was the original playground of America’s original one percenters it played a role in shaping the society and America’s role in the world as a leader of the free world. Newport was the summer hangout for the then unicorn entrepreneurs from Manhattan. But besides the mansions, which you can visit unrestricted for a year if you get a pass from the Preservation Society (like moi), Newport has beaches you’d rather be luxuriating on like an elite. The Easton beach is one of the most popular among them probably because its close to the Cliff Walk. Speaking of Cliff Walk its an approximately 3 mile stretch kissing the ocean while offering a complimentary backyard view of the luxurious mansions of the town. I enjoyed the walk however I couldn’t complete the entire stretch on both occasions. Flanked by the ocean and some astounding American structures while the breeze in your hair and the sunshine above join you as companions on the cliff, the pedal exercise is well worth every pixel view. Newport like every New England coastal town mentioned above has a good farmers’ market scene at the town centre and on a good day you’d be lucky to grab some locally produced fresh organic fruits and ocean catch if you are renting a home in town. The dining scene in Newport plays an equal to its illustrious past as well as boasts of being a Rhode Island progressive town where new cuisine experience can sprout in the main town or along the famous port side Thames street. If you wish to dine in Newport you should certainly experience the food at The Moorings, Annie’s and The Chanler. Try out the local Newport Creamery for some ice creams after a good day at the Second beach and shopping spree on Thames Street. The marina of Newport is lined by luxurious to mid size boats and you could take a boat out for a fee or even get your own to set sail into the ocean living the good ’ol New Englander coastal life.
Special thanks to photography contributor Phil Gioia Photography do check out his Instagram gallery for more details.
Narragansett, Rhode Island
Another summer hot spot in Rhode Island, Narragansett receives at least 10000 visitors every summer season thanks to its famous sandy beaches. This town is for your absolute beach fun and it is all the visitors like yourself will care about besides taking the boat out on the marina. Like a typical New England coastal town Narragansett is proud of its seafood and that translates merrily on he menu of every restaurant but particularly famous one Chaplin’s Seafood Restaurant which also has it sown retail market for seafood which you can buy and take home. There are other options in dining and Twin Willows is the next popular spot for a large group or a cosy romantic lunch date. But didn’t you travel here for the beaches? The town has quite a menu of beaches to choose from just like their seafood. Narragansett Beach, Scarborough State Beach are quite popular which only means they are crowded but don’t expect anything less of a crowd on other beaches in town. The Towers is the icon of the town and Rhode Island as well. Its historic and a giant standing in the middle of the street while looking at the ocean. It is also a great place to view the town and have an event for a special occasion.
So there you have it 10 weekends of the summer in 10 coastal towns of this beautiful region called New England.