When you’re craving a unique destination with a charming, easygoing atmosphere, plan your getaway in a small town on the East Coast. From villages tucked away in South Carolina to the quiet towns of New England, these quaint communities offer something for everyone. As for accommodations, there are many cozy vacation rentals to choose from, which include seaside cottages and rustic cabins. Check out the 15 most picturesque small towns along the East Coast.
1. Niantic, Connecticut
Niantic borders the shores of Long Island Sound, located two hours south of Boston and two hours north of New York City. It lacks the big tourist attractions, but instead features a beautiful main street running parallel to the Sound, where you can shop or stop for lunch. Drop by the Book Barn to pick up some books and pet the friendly book cats who live there, or take the kids to the Children’s Museum.
2. Lewes, Delaware
Cozy little Lewes beckons you to park the car and get acquainted by strolling through its historic district, joining boat tours, or stopping to enjoy the views over cocktails and dinner at waterside restaurants and inns. Walking tours lead you through the museums, fill you in on the town’s history, and point out the shops on Second Street where you can later browse for antiques. Your dining options include the Buttery’s fine dining, Half Full’s gourmet pizza, Agave’s upscale Mexican cuisine, and Striper Bites’ fresh seafood.
3. Kitty Hawk, North Carolina
You visit Kitty Hawk to see the Wright Brothers museum, swim, fish, hike, and take in other local attractions with the kids. The Outer Banks Water Park features more than 30 slides, rides, and attractions. Shoot down the water slides or float on Lazy River while the little ones swoop through the enclosed slides. Take the kiddies on the guided tour of the Maritime Forest offered by Kitty Hawk Kayak & Surf School.
4. Jekyll Island, Georgia
All paths on Jekyll Island lead to recreational activities, including golf courses, the Summer Waves water park, and Jekyll Island Dolphin Tours. The most popular sightseeing spot is Driftwood Beach. Be sure to take the kids to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center to meet the turtles. Giant live oaks, white sandy beaches, historic mansions, and reedy marshes make the island as pretty as a picture.
5. Camden, Maine
At the north end of Camden’s main shopping district, look for the library on the hill, with a lawn and benches above the harbor. There’s a great collection of schooners, sailboats, and yachts that make wonderful pictures. Stop by the Smiling Cow, the Cashmere Goat, and the Leather Bench for some unique gift ideas.
6. Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
Rehoboth Beach helps you escape the daily grind in a calm, family-friendly atmosphere. Kick back under a cabana at Jungle Jim’s Water Park while the kids dive into their much-needed vacation. It’s easy to spend a day going between the two mini golf courses, batting cages, water park, and the cafe. Funland on the boardwalk includes rides, arcades, and eateries that appeal to visitors of all ages. Downtown, Penny Lane open-air mall features a diverse selection of unique shops.
7. Tybee Island, Georgia
Just half-an-hour from Savannah, Tybee Island’s white, sandy beaches attract beach lovers of all types. Take the kiddies on a dolphin and whale-watching cruise with Captain Derek’s Dolphin Adventures or Captain Mike’s Dolphin Tours. The Tybee Island Museum and lighthouse tour includes military history and a climb inside the lighthouse. There are several quaint little shops to browse for unique gifts and locally-made art.
8. Ogunquit, Maine
Ogunquit means “beautiful place by the sea,” which makes it a must-see on your bucket list. While the beach remains the biggest attraction, other venues draw visitors each year, including the Ogunquit Playhouse theater, which includes a children’s theater. Take the 1.5-mile stroll along the Marginal Way to the small town of Perkins Cove. The trail is mostly at and easy with several places to sit and relax; and, you get a beautiful view of the Maine coast.
9. Kiawah Island, South Carolina
The Kiawah Island vacation paradise away from the hustle and bustle of the city features a number of golf courses and great restaurants situated amid 10,000 acres of incredible woodlands. For starters, book your tees for two at Osprey Point, Turtle Point, or Cougar Point golf courses. Then, whether you want to look for gifts, catch a movie, get a cup of coffee, or a glass of wine, dart over to Freshfields Village shopping center.
10. Lubec, Maine
Very close to New Brunswick, Canada, lies Lubec, Maine, America’s easternmost point. This little seacoast town exudes Victorian elegance with its 19th-century buildings surrounded by lavish tea gardens and dazzling ocean views. Foodies often stop at Water Street Tavern where the locals go for chowder and the lobster macaroni and cheese.
11. Narragansett, Rhode Island
The ferry from Newport to Jamestown transports you to a small town where time seems to stand still; where farms, fields, quaint shops, and quiet streets co-exist in a peaceful, friendly community. Take the kids to the museum at the Beavertail Light, the third-oldest light in the country. The solid granite 19th century Coast Guard station that overlooks Narragansett Bay houses the Coast Guard House Restaurant.
12. New Castle, New Hampshire
The smallest town in New Hampshire, New Castle consists of several tiny islands, and includes a 31-acre recreation area, the Great Island Common. Check out the sculpture of an artist whose empty easel frames a beautiful ocean view at the water’s edge. In town, look for the Salt Kitchen & Bar for fine dining and drinks, or grab a casual seafood lunch at Latitudes Restaurant.
13. Cape May, New Jersey
Block after colorful block, jaw-dropping beautiful Victorian homes line the streets of Cape May. The outdoor mall on Washington Street takes up three city blocks, and it includes stores, ice cream shops, cafes, and a bakery. Try the Washington Inn for some crab cakes with roasted red bell pepper cream.
14. Bald Head Island, North Carolina
To stay on Bald Head Island, leave your car on the mainland, ride the ferry over, and get around by walking or riding a golf cart. Your options for adventure on the island include island tours, charter fishing, kayaking, and gear rentals. Several bars and restaurants serve up BBQ and seafood.
15. Mystic, Connecticut
Your Mystic vacation rental gives you easy access to a model 19th century fishing village, complete with interesting museums and tours. Main Street includes lovely Colonial homes, charming shops, and a variety of restaurants, including Mystic Pizza, which the 1980s movie made famous.
Ready to go? Find the perfect rental on Tripping.com, the world's largest vacation rental search engine.