10 Prettiest Coastal Towns in New England
No matter where you stop in New England, you’ll be welcomed by postcard-worthy sights. And we’re not talking about Boston, New Haven or Providence.
From the striking natural landscapes of Bar Harbor, Maine (the gateway to Acadia National Park), to the Victorian-lined streets of Newport, Rhode Island, the region is home to some of the country’s prettiest seaside towns, ports and waterfronts. But not only are the sights worth a visit, you’ll find plenty to do when you go – from biking and hiking, to sailing and world-famous seafood. Bottom line, a yacht charter in New England offers numerous photo ops atop stunning vistas.
Looking for some New England attractions that you can’t miss? These 10 New England ports are the most beautiful seaside towns in the region.
New Shoreham, Rhode Island
Roughly 10 miles off the coast of Rhode Island, you’ll find windswept Block Island. And the island’s only town, New Shoreham, is worth a trip. You’ll be captivated as soon as landing on the island, as New Shoreham’s striking harbor is lined with state 19th century Victorian buildings. But there are beautiful sights to behold all over the island.
Venture outside of town to find incredible beaches that back up to beachgrass-clad dunes. Mansion Beach is a favorite. Or head over to the camera-friendly Southeast Lighthouse for a picnic or afternoon hike.
What Makes It Great: The gorgeous harbor is quintessential seaside New England, and it’s matched with beautiful natural landscapes.
Newport, Rhode Island
Newport has it all: A bustling deepwater harbor full of racing yachts, opulent Victorian mansions, cozy chowder houses, and of course, and sandy, sun-soaked beaches. Those are all reasons the town has been a favorite resort destination for America’s rich and famous for more than a century.
In Newport, you’ll be welcomed by beautiful vistas wherever you go. From the Cliff Walk, a mansion-lined path that hugs Easton Bay, to busy pubs and shops along Thames Street, there’s plenty to keep you entertained. Plus, nearly every week in the summer, you can catch a yacht race in America’s sailing capital.
What Makes It Great: The mansions are Newport’s claim to fame, especially The Breakers, an Italian Renaissance-inspired castle, and Marble House, which was inspired by Versailles. Take it all in during a stroll along Cliff Walk.
Bar Harbor, Maine
Although Bar Harbor’s historic downtown is enough of a reason to visit, the real draw is the town’s natural landscapes. Located on Maine’s Mount Desert Island, Bar Harbor makes a perfect stop before a trip to Acadia National Park. Outside of town, you’ll find rugged, forested coastlines with Cadillac Mountain serving as a backdrop. This is hands-down one of Maine’s most picturesque ports.
On a visit, you’ll certainly want to visit the Victorian harbor, where schooners pass by super yachts. The charming waterfront is lined with clapboard shops selling arts and crafts, as well as chic boutiques and cocktail bars. Of course, a visit wouldn’t be complete without sampling the lobster; you’ll find plenty of places serving up fresh lobster rolls.
What Makes It Great: Bar Harbor’s natural coastline burns a picture in the mind: Waves crashing against granite cliffs, lush forests running up to lofty mountains, and of course, classic lighthouses towering over every hidden cove.
Located in Southern Maine, (in fact, the town was once a part of Massachusetts), Kennebunkport consistently earns praise as one of Maine’s most beautiful coastal towns. You’ll notice the beauty as soon as you pull into the harbor. The waterfront – a long-time vacation destination for New Englanders – features several 19th century Colonial-inspired resorts.
Yet, there’s plenty here to do and see. Shop in downtown, where artisans hock their wares, take a cruise up the Kennebunkport River, or explore the harbors and coves on a lobster tour. Plus, nearby, you’ll find the fishing village of Cape Porpoise, another gem which conjures up images of old-time New England.
What Makes It Great: Charming colonials, manicured cottages and bustling clam shacks make this a must-visit on Maine’s southern coast.
Rockport has long been an artist’s colony, and that makes sense. This seaside port, located on Cape Ann, offers inspiration around every corner. In fact, Motif No. 1, a fishing shack on Bradley Wharf, is well-known as “the most-often painted building in America.” Be sure to snap a photo with the red shack in the background!
Rockport offers something for everyone. From the hidden coves, to the classic New England waterfront with its artisan shops and galleries, you’ll remember this town long after you’re gone.
What Makes It Great: The town’s iconic waterfront symbolizes all that’s great about New England. Be sure to take in the scene, as the sun goes down.
Many New England visitors are charmed by all the rich early American history. And if you’re in search of history, Harwich is the place to go. Named one of the happiest seaside towns by Coastal Living, Harwich is rife with beautiful landscapes and cultural gems.
Head to Red River Beach to enjoy the sunset. This is one of Cape Cod’s best beaches for shelling. And Bank Street Beach is another must-visit, which is perfect for swimming. The bustling port also features numerous historical sights, and plenty of places to dine, see live music or relax.
What Makes It Great: This small community on Cape Cod draws visitors to its sandy beaches, charming Cape Cod cottages and lively port. Be sure to stop in for Port Summer Nights, for live music.
Ogunquit means “beautiful place by the sea” in the native Abenaki language, and it certainly lives up to the name. The town’s rocky coastline paints a dramatic picture, and you can take it all with a walk along Marginal Way, a scenic mile-long path that overlooks the coast. This town epitomizes the beauty of coastal Maine. From the lobster shacks serving up casual lunches, to the sloops in the harbor, Ogunquit looks good from every angle.
What Makes It Great: Quintessential Maine. Tour the rocky shoreline up to Perkins Cove, where aquamarine waters crash against the granite cliffs. Then, stop at one of the village’s seafood eateries for a classic Maine meal.
You might remember Mystic as the setting of the Julia Roberts cult classic Mystic Pizza. And it’s every bit as beautiful as it was on the silver screen. Mystic – which is located between New York City and Boston – is one of America’s most historic ports. In fact, the Mystic Seaport is the world’s largest maritime history museum, with more than 500 vessels on display. Be sure to tour the whaling ships and take a step back in time.
But the real draw is the town’s classic seaside vibes. Take in the scenery on River Road, which follows the Mystic River. Then head to Olde Mistick Village, a recreated village that gives a glimpse of early American life. You’ll also find plenty of shops, restaurants and pubs along Main Street in the historic and charming downtown.
What Makes It Great: Mystic is a classic coastal town. You’ll adore the waterfront, which features live music all summer long. And history is on display around every corner.
On Cape Cod, few towns are as charming as Provincetown. The small village – located at the tip of the cape – has long been one of the area’s top vacation destinations. And that makes sense. Provincetown is full of iconic New England views and things to do.
The beaches here are some of the best in all of New England. Head over to Race Point Beach, a sandy beach that backs up to Provincetown’s iconic dunes. Be sure to take an ATV tour of the dunes for some of the best views in town. And the nearby Race Point Lighthouse is one of the most beautiful on the Cape. Of course, you can’t miss Pilgrim Monument when in town. The towering monument offers sweeping views of the harbor.
What Makes It Great: Provincetown is a top destination on Cape Cod and New England. From the picturesque harbor (where the Pilgrims first landed), to the sandy dunes, it’s no surprise is this a favorite stop for artists and writers.
Portsmouth, New Hampshire
America’s third-oldest city, Portsmouth is a beautiful preserved town that’s rich in history and cultural attractions. The city’s streets are lined with beautiful historic buildings – featuring Colonial, Georgian and Victorian architecture. And if you’re interested in history, there’s plenty to explore. Stop by the Strawbery Banke Museum to explore Portsmouth’s Colonial past.
You’ll also want to venture up the Piscataqua River. A cruise offers world-class views of the region’s natural landscapes and the beautiful harbor.
What Makes It Great: Portsmouth earns praise for its beautiful early-American vibes, mixed with modern entertainment and dining options. You can step back in time in Portsmouth.