The 10 Best East Coast Resort Towns In America (& What To See First When You Get There)

Looking for the perfect destination for a summer escape on the East Coast? With so much choice, it’s hard to know exactly which idyllic resort town to choose. There are so many hotspots in the eastern part of the country that offer fantastic beaches, gorgeous ocean views, historic landmarks, and summer activities that will keep the whole family entertained. Choosing the right one can be tough!

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We’ve narrowed it down to the top 10 best East Coast resort towns in the country. Between these hidden gems (with a few old favorites thrown in), you’ll have your summer vacation sorted in no time!

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10 Cape May, New Jersey

If you’re looking for a quiet escape for the summer, Cape May in New Jersey might be the way to go. Peaceful and old-fashioned, this is the perfect East Coast getaway with a spectacular ocean view.

There’s plenty to do in Cape May. Number one on your list should be getting acquainted with the town by taking a tour. You can either see it by trolley—and if you’re going at night, you’ll be in for a ghost tour—or by romantic horse-drawn carriage. Everything about the town, from the carriages to the Victorian homes, has an old-world feel.

9 Newport, Rhode Island

History-lovers looking for a summer vacation should head to Rhode Island’s Newport, a town known for housing mansions owned by the likes of the Vanderbilts and the Astors. There’s a relaxed vibe all through the summer in the town, which hosts two music festivals and serves as a hotspot for yachting enthusiasts.

When you get here, explore some of the historic buildings overlooking the water. You can take guided tours inside many of the mansions, and check out the country’s oldest restaurant, The White Horse Tavern, which was established in 1673.

8 Ocean City, Maryland

Ocean City just sounds like a summer fun spot, and it won’t leave you disappointed. Boasting 10 miles of beach, the town won’t make you feel crowded as you soak up the sun. The boardwalk runs for three miles and has been labeled the best in the United States. Walk, skate, or cycle along the boardwalk, stopping along the way for funnel cakes, cotton candy, and salt water taffy.

Head to the amusement park when you arrive and ride the famous Ferris wheel. You’ll also want to check out the carousel that was formerly powered by steam and dates back over a century.

7 Shelter Island, New York

Nestled between the Hamptons and North Fork, Shelter Island is an ideal summer getaway on the East Coast if you’re looking to escape the crowds and the theatrics. Wholesome with a remote feel, the island offers plenty of opportunities to relax on the beach, hike through the untouched land, and sample fresh produce.

As soon as you get a chance, visit Vine Street Café for a seafood treat. Serving up fresh pearl oysters and lobster pot pie, the café also has its own food market at the back in case you want to pick up some groceries.

6 Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts

If it’s good enough for the Kennedys, it’s good enough for us! The island, located south of Cape Cod, is renowned for being a summer destination for some of the most famous families in American history. There’s a prestigious feel to the Vineyard, which is only accessible by boat or air and features old-fashioned lighthouses, lavish beaches, and quaint harbor towns.

While at Martha’s Vineyard, you should rent yourself a bike and take a look around. There’s an 18-mile round-trip trail between Vineyard Haven and Edgartown, in case you’re feeling energetic!

5 Bar Harbor, Maine

A haven filled with fresh lobster and sublime sunrises, Bar Harbor is one of the jewels of Maine. With the Acadia National Park nearby and Bar Island only a walk away at low tide, there’s always something to do here.

If you’re not in the mood to browse through boutiques or craft breweries, why not check out the Abbe Museum? The Wabanaki tribe, who were the earliest residents of the community, are showcased at the museum. There are also other museums in town which highlight the local and natural history of the area.

4 The Hamptons, New York

Perhaps the best-known group of resort villages on the East Coast, the Hamptons never fails to impress. A famous summer colony, the resort is connected to both New York City and the rest of Long Island by private bus service. You can also use the ferry service from Shelter Island, New York, and Connecticut.

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Take a load off and enjoy some water sports while in the Hamptons. You can rent a stand-up paddleboard and have some fun in Accabonac Harbor before checking out the chic boutiques in Southampton and East Hampton.

3 Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

Delaware’s Rehoboth Beach is an ideal resort town that the whole family won’t be able to get enough of. Though there’s a chance to swim at the beach, you can also check out the local waterpark and try the water slides, bumper boats, and lazy river. If you’d prefer to stay dry, you can always opt for Funland, which has everything from daring rides to those suitable for toddlers.

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In Rehoboth Beach, you’ll want to take advantage of the tax-free shopping available in the boutiques. There are also the nearby Tanger Outlets offering more discounts for those who want to exercise their credit cards.

2 Montauk, New York

If you’re looking for a town with a little less pretense than the Hamptons, check out Montauk. Here you’ll have a chance to sunbathe, look for seashells, ride horses, and enjoy watersports like kayaking and paddling without dealing with the extra crowds.

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The top thing you should do in Montauk is visit the lighthouse, which was authorized by George Washington. Still providing help to sailors, the lighthouse offers visitors the chance to climb to the top, where they’ll have views of the surrounding Atlantic Ocean, as well as Long Island Sound.

1 Hyannis, Massachusetts

The largest village in the town of Barnstable, Hyannis in Massachusetts boasts a relaxed vacation vibe during the summer. The historic village boasts phenomenal views of the surrounding cliffs, beaches, and sand dunes, and is the perfect place to unwind and recharge your batteries.

Hyannis is home to the Kennedy Compound, which you can get a glimpse of from the local boat tours. That should be the first thing to see on your list since you’ll also get the chance to spot some wildlife before the tour is over.

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