Looking to explore the New England coast?
The New England coast has a timeless charm. Rooted in centuries-old fishing communities, its towns offer breathtaking views of the Atlantic and a daily supply of fresh local catch that is renowned worldwide. With their soft sandy beaches, rugged coastlines, and historic lighthouses, these coastal towns are true gems.
But the New England coast is known for more than just its natural beauty and seafood. From extensive bike paths to whale-watching excursions to vibrant art centers, New England is brimming with summer activities in its quaint communities.
While there are countless noteworthy communities along the New England coastline, these beach towns in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, and Rhode Island are an absolute must-visit on your next trip!
Table of Contents
Bar Harbor, Maine
Newport, Rhode Island
Block Island (North Shoreham), Rhode Island
Watch Hill (Westerly), Rhode Island
Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
New England Coast Map
Best Way to See New England
New England Coast FAQs
Conclusion: New England Coast
New England Coast: 11 Most Charming Towns
New England’s coastal states of Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut offer soft sand beaches and communities with a unique charm.
1. Ogunquit, Maine
Ogunquit consistently receives high ratings as one of the top coastal towns in New England. With its picturesque ocean views and charming town center, this small town spans only 4 miles.
Not only does it boast some of the most beautiful beaches in New England, but it also provides visitors with a variety of activities and attractions within walking distance. The main Route 1 strip is easily accessible on foot, allowing you to effortlessly navigate from your hotel to the beach, as well as explore charming artisan boutiques and traditional seafood restaurants.
Beyond beach-related activities, Ogunquit is home to the scenic Marginal Way, a one-mile cliff walk that leads to Perkins Cove, where you can enjoy unspoiled ocean views. If you’re looking for a break from the sun, you can catch a show at the renowned Ogunquit Playhouse or visit the Ogunquit Museum of American Art.
Top Pick: Where to Stay in Ogunquit
My top choice for Ogunquit is the Abalonia Inn, a historic building located within walking distance of the beach. Adorned with wood floors, and colonial-style furniture, you are sure to be transported back in time to New England’s past.
Book your stay at Abalonia Inn here! This charming inn will sell out quickly!
2. Bar Harbor, Maine
Bar Harbor, Maine offers an ideal beach town experience in New England, with a downtown area that is easy to explore on foot, delicious fresh seafood, and stunning ocean views. What makes Bar Harbor even more remarkable is its close proximity to Acadia National Park, the only national park in New England.
Visitors can enjoy hiking and camping in Acadia, or take a scenic drive along the Park Loop Road that winds through Mount Desert Island, offering breathtaking views of rock formations and crashing waves along the rugged coastline. Prefer to look out the window rather than drive? Book this popular guided van tour for Acadia National Park here!
Click here to book your narrated bus tour of Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor!
Don’t miss the chance to visit popular swimming spots like Sand Beach and Echo Lake Beach within the park. With Bar Harbor, you can have the best of both worlds – a charming New England coastal town and a national park – making it a perfect vacation destination.
Top Pick: Where to Stay at Bar Harbor
Enjoy a quaint stay at Sand Bar Cottage Inn a 5-minute walk from Town Beach. This accommodation comes with a complimentary American breakfast as well as amenities such as a garden, free private parking, a terrace, and a bar. This 4-star hotel offers a 24-hour front desk service.
Click here to book your stay at Sand Bar Cottage Inn! This accommodation will sell out quickly.
3. York, Maine
If you’re seeking a typical New England coastal town filled with lighthouses and delicious lobster, York Maine is an ideal destination. Just a short trip from Boston, York is comprised of York Village, York Harbor, York Beach, and Cape Neddick, collectively known as “The Yorks,” each offering its own unique charm. Indulge in fresh seafood, including lobster, during your stay.
No car, no problem! Take this guided van tour of coastal Maine from Boston. Book soon!
Renowned for its beaches, York boasts Short Sands Beach, which provides breathtaking ocean views and a glimpse of the Nubble Lighthouse on Cape Neddick. Take a leisurely stroll along the scenic Cliff Walk in York Harbor and delve into the history of the Old Gaol Prison, constructed in 1656.
Top Pick: Where to Stay in York
My top pick in York is this simple yet nautical oceanside Inn Cutty Sark Motel. This location is unparalleled as the Nubble Lighthouse is 1640 feet from Cutty Sark Motel, while Long Sands Beach is 656 feet from the property.
Click here to book your accommodation in York, Maine.
4. Newport, Rhode Island
Newport, Rhode Island is a charming coastal town that exudes the elegance of New England’s historiy. It offers beautiful sandy beaches, renowned sailing opportunities, and breathtaking views of mansions along the coastline.
Easton’s Beach and Second Beach, nestled by Sachuest Bay, are particularly known for their stunning panoramas. Explore the Cliff Walk, a raised paved path just a short distance from downtown, where you can enjoy the Atlantic Ocean gently crashing against the rocky shores.
This town is renowned for its rich history during the Gilded Age, with magnificent Newport mansions overlooking the sea. Take a tour of the mansions with a trolley tour which also includes access to the mansion! You’ll feel transported into the world of “The Great Gatsby”!
Click here to book your Newport Gilded Age Trolley Tour. This tour will sell out!
In addition to the mansions and beaches, Newport offers an array of nautical boutiques and attractions like the International Tennis Hall of Fame and the National Museum of American Illustration. If you’re visiting during the summer, don’t miss the chance to attend the Newport Jazz Festival or the Newport Folk Festival.
Top Pick: Where to Stay in Newport
My top pick in Newport is the Serenity Inn. This bed and breakfast is situated in a historic hill neighborhood, occupying a Victorian house constructed in 1855. It is conveniently located just a few blocks away from downtown Newport, where you can explore numerous shops and restaurants.
Within a 10-minute drive from the inn, you can find the 450-acre Norman Bird Sanctuary, boasting 7 miles of scenic hiking trails.
Click here to book Serenity Inn in Newport now! This residence will sell out very quickly!
5. Block Island (North Shoreham), Rhode Island
Experience the charm of Block Island by taking a ferry from Point Judith, just 9 miles south of Rhode Island. Known colloquially as Block Island, this beach town, technically called North Shoreham, offers secluded beaches, stunning cliffs, and delectable seafood.
Similar to other New England beach town islands like Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, Block Island is incredibly bike-friendly. Explore the 13-mile loop around the island, indulge in snacks from the local shacks, and enjoy some refreshing lemonade. Head north to Crescent Beach and bask in the sun alongside fellow beachgoers.
Aside from its beautiful beaches and biking trails, Block Island boasts two major attractions: the Southeast Light and the Mohegan Bluffs. The Southeast Light, a designated National Historic Landmark, was constructed in 1875 and stands proudly atop the cliffs, providing breathtaking views of the ocean and the offshore wind farm. The Mohegan Bluffs are a must-see, with towering cliffs that drop 200 feet directly into the ocean.
Top Pick: Where to Stay on Block Island
The Sullivan House on Block Island is a gorgeous 5-star accommodation. Located just steps away from the Ford Benson Town Beach, this 1904 built hotel offers family rooms, a garden and private parking for its guests as well as a terrace and bar. The hotel is conveniently located near Mosquito Beach and Scotch Beach – only 0.4 miles away!
Click here to book your Block Island accomodation!
6. Watch Hill (Westerly), Rhode Island
Westerly offers beautiful beaches, scenic views, and a charming downtown for shopping and dining. A must-visit in Westerly is the Watch Hill neighborhood, known for its upscale vibe, stunning mansions, boutiques, galleries, and Taylor Swift’s summer home. Don’t miss the Watch Hill Lighthouse and the breathtaking ocean view.
For relaxation, you can indulge yourself at Westerly’s Ocean House, a top-notch spa and hotel in New England. Come and enjoy Westerly’s white sand beaches, fresh seafood, and nature activities. Watch Hill in Westerly Rhode Island is the perfect destination for a memorable summer weekend!
Top Pick: Where to Stay in Watch Hill
Watch Hill Cottage is walkable to the beach in less than 5 minutes. Perfect for larger groups who want quick restaurants, shopping, and beach access.
7. Provincetown, Massachusetts
Provincetown, Massachusetts embodies the essence of an ideal summer destination. Situated at the tip of Cape Cod, it boasts pristine beaches and a tranquil atmosphere. Renowned for its stunning protected beaches, vibrant art scene, and diverse culinary offerings, it warmly welcomes LGBT+ visitors. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to immerse yourself in the vibrant galleries and exciting seasonal events.
Provincetown is a part of the Cape Cod National Seashore, a 40-mile stretch of unspoiled beaches, marshes, bogs, and trails along the Atlantic coast. Originally designated by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, the National Seashore allows visitors to relish in uninterrupted biking trails and uncommercialized ocean vistas. Experience the charm of Provincetown by exploring the Province Lands Bike Trail!
Top Pick: Where to stay in Provincetown
The Brass Key GuestHouse is located 4 minute drive from Herring Cove Beach on the Cape Cod National Seashore and a 5 minute walk to Providencetown city center. This charming adult’s only accommodations offers spa services and an outdoor pool.
Click here to book your accomodation in Provincetown!
8. Nantucket Island, Massachusetts
Nantucket Island, located 29 miles south of Hyannis, is a stunning and upscale beach town on the New England coast. Indulge in exquisite dining, browse through charming boutiques, or take a deep sea fishing tour. Explore the extensive network of bike trails to visit the various beaches, each offering its own unique charm.
Book a private guided fishing tour in Nantucket! Click here to reserve!
Don’t miss the opportunity to stroll along the Sconset Bluff Walk, which provides panoramic views of the Sankaty Head Lighthouse. Keep in mind that there are limited spots on the six daily ferries from Hyannis, so plan ahead accordingly. Sit back, relax, savor a glass of wine, and enjoy the refreshing coastal breeze!
Top Pick: Where to Stay Nantucket
Nantucket is full of upscale B&Bs but the Union Street Inn stands above the rest. This 12-bedroom boutique B&B offers easy access to Nantucket’s shops, restaurants and ferries. Enjoy a complimentary full breakfast and bike rental.
Click here to book your accomodation in Nantucket!
9. Martha’s Vineyard (Oak’s Bluff/Edgartown), Massachusetts
Oak’s Bluff is a charming beach town known for its soft sandy beaches, whimsical architecture, rich history, and a plethora of activities. Don’t miss the enchanting Campground Cottages (though they can be pricey to rent!) and the historic Flying Horses Carousel from 1876. And be sure to visit the Island Alpaca Company to meet and pet the adorable alpacas on a self-guided tour.
Head to the other side of the island and visit Edgartown. Edgartown stands out with its Greek revival-style historic homes. Take a leisurely stroll and marvel at the classic whaling captains’ homes dating back to the 1700s and 1800s.
For a nature-filled experience, hop on a ferry to Chappaquiddick and explore the secluded Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge. Enjoy guided kayaking tours along the scenic waterways.
Top Pick Where to Stay in Martha’s Vineyard
This historic Martha’s Vineyard hotel, Summercamp, is located in Oak’s Bluff and offers oceanfront views. The property is a renovated 1879 house with modern amenities and a 24 hour front desk. Walkable to many restaurants as well as the Oak’s Bluff Ferry less than 5 minutes away.
Click here to book your accomodation in Martha’s Vineyard.
10. Wellfleet, Massachusetts
While it can be argued that every beach town on Cape Cod deserves to be mentioned, Wellfleet stands out for its pristine beaches within the Cape Cod National Seashore.
Similar to Provincetown, Wellfleet is part of the protected area that spans 40 miles along the Atlantic coast, encompassing beaches, marshes, bogs, and trails. Established by President John F. Kennedy in 1961, the National Seashore safeguards these natural treasures.
Two must-visit beaches are Marconi and Cahoon Hollow Beach. Cahoon Hollow Beach offers a hidden vista of the Atlantic Ocean alongside towering 75-foot sand dunes. Venture up the dunes and enjoy a refreshing drink or indulge in some oysters at the iconic Cape Cod restaurant, Beachcombers.
For those seeking to explore Wellfleet’s natural beauty beyond biking, the Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail is highly recommended, and recognized as one of the finest hikes in Cape Cod! Follow the boardwalk path to observe the enchanting swamp marshes and sand dunes.
Top Pick: Where to Stay in Wellfleet
The Lodge in Wellfleet is a cute vacation home within close proximity of Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary and 3.7 miles from Cape Cod National Seashore.
Click here to book your stay in Wellfleet!
11. Hyannis, Massachusetts
Hyannis offers a fantastic beach ambiance, with numerous popular beaches and fresh seafood. Explore the area by renting bikes or paddleboards, either on land or at sea! Kalmus Beach, a renowned white sands beach, is a must-visit spot to enjoy the sun.
Aside from the beautiful beaches and enjoyable coastal atmosphere, Hyannis is famous for being the long-standing family compound of The Kennedys. To discover the Kennedy family and their Massachusetts legacy, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the John F. Kennedy Memorial. For art enthusiasts, a visit to the Cape Cod Museum of Art is highly recommended.
Top Pick: Where to stay in Hyannis
Seacoast Inn is a charming renovated home in close walking distance to the shops and restaurants of Main Street. A 5 minute walk to the ferries to Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard and a 5 minute walk to the John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum.
Click here to book your accomodation in Hyannis!
New England Coast Map
What Is The Best Way To See New England?
The best way to see the New England coast would be to fly in and then drive to the coastal towns. The largest (and cheapest) airport to fly into would be Boston Logan but Providence’s TF Green is also a great central option. There are many iterations of a classic New England road trip that you could take from either location.
Traveling from Cape Cod to Maine offers an incredible small road trip experience with numerous scenic routes to choose from. If you appreciate lighthouses, pristine waters, and delectable seafood, Cape Cod to Maine is a dream come true. For a complete coastal journey, begin in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and explore the New England coastline until you reach Bar Harbor, Maine (or vice versa!).
If you’re interested in driving along the entire coastline from southern Rhode Island to northeastern Maine, it would take around 7 hours on 1-95, plus a few extra hours if you decide to visit Provincetown, MA.
However, you can easily make this road trip shorter by skipping the outer cape or not going all the way up to Bar Harbor. Or just take a condensed roadtrip from Boston to Portland, Maine.
Need to rent a car for your New England road trip? Check out some of the best rental car prices here!
Ferrys to Islands
Block Island, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket are only accessible by ferry, however depending on your ferry booking you can take your car with you.
To get to Block Island you can take a ferry from Point Judith or Newport, Rhode Island, New London, Connecticut, or Long Island, NY. The trip will take approximately one hour depending on the speed of your vessel.
To get to Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard you have to take a ferry from Hyannis or Falmouth.
Can you get around New England without a car?
Not really- many of the small New England coastal towns are only accessible by car. However, there are some public transit options to see some of coastal New England via train or private tour.
Amtrak to Portland ME
The Amtrak Downeaster takes 5 daily roundtrips from Boston’s North Station to Brunswick, Maine starting at 8:30 am. The trip via Amtrak takes about 2.5 hours with several stops along the way.
Train fares vary by destination but cost anything from $3-30 depending on the level of the ticket. Reservations are required before boarding. Bikes and small pets, with pre-booking and a fee, are allowed to board which means you could plan to bike around Portland!
Bus: Greyhound and Concord Coachlines
Another affordable way to get to around New England without a car is the Greyhound or Concord Coachlines bus. Tickets start at just $15 one way from South Station in Boston. Concord Coachlines, a regional interstate bus system, also offers direct service to Portland ME and Providence RI from Boston’s Logan Airport.
Trying to get to Newport by public transit? Complimentary shuttle bus service between the Providence train station, convention center, downtown, and the Providence to Newport ferry terminal, open seasonally, when booking Amtrak directly to Newport, RI.
The best way to see the New England coast would be to rent a car, but if that isnt an option for you, then a private tour may be the solution!
There are many private tours that transport you from Boston to coastal Maine, Provincetown or Martha’s Vineyard for only $100-250 including hotel pickup!
Get picked up in Boston and drove with a private tour and guide to Provincetown. The all-day tour will take stops at Pilgrim Monument, and will allow for a few free beach hours. Finish the day with an opportunity to go whale watching. An easy way to get to see Provincetown without renting a car!
- Professional Driver and Guide (or Driver-Guide) .
Click here to book your day trip to Provincetown!
Leave the trouble of driving to someone else and enjoy a day trip to Martha’s Vineyard from Boston. Take a short cruise to Martha’s Vineyard then enjoy free time to explore or upgrade to add an island tour.
- Transportation on a Air-Conditioned 24 passenger Mini-Coach
- Bus Hotel Pick-Up/Drop-Off included at select Boston hotels
- See all 6 Martha’s Vineyard Towns during your island tour including Vineyard Haven & Aquinnah
- Drive through charming downtown Falmouth and along the Cape Cod Canal on the way to the ferry
- Scenic 35-45 min ferry cruise from Cape Cod to Oak Bluffs or Vineyard Haven
- Complimentary Bottled Water, Snacks and Island Guidebooks
- Narration during Mini Coach Bus Ride 5.5 to 6 hours total time on the island
Click here to book your tour to Martha’s Vineyard!
Spend a day away from Boston and experience southern Maine’s picture-perfect coastal towns. Visit the southern Maine coast and Kennebunkport on a day trip from Boston. Swap self-drive for hassle-free transport and a guide for added insight. See the Nubble Light, stroll Marginal Way and explore Kennebunkport
- Snacks and an Air-conditioned vehicle
- Pickup and drop off at one of five strategically located Boston locations
- 2.5 hours of free time in Kennebunkport for lunch and shopping or whatever you choose
- 11-Hour Boston to Coastal Maine & Kennebunkport Guided Daytrip
- 1-Hour Scenic Trolley Tour of Kennebunkport
Click here to book your guided tour to Southern Maine!
New England Coast: FAQs
The New England coast offers a variety of activities, including beach visits, fishing, kayaking, and exploring historic lighthouses. Take a stroll through charming towns, soak in the delightful seaside ambiance, and indulge in some of the freshest seafood you’ll ever taste.
What is the New England coast?
The New England coast is a beautiful shoreline along the northeast United States touching Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. The Maine shore is known for its lighthouses, surfing, and rocky beaches while the southern New England shore, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, is known for its soft sands, dunes, and marshy areas.
What is the prettiest New England state?
This is completely up to your opinion, what season you are visiting in and what you are looking to do! Every New England state is beautiful. Vermont and New Hampshire are known for their idyllic fall foliage and ideal skiing conditions, while Massachusetts, Maine, and Rhode Island are known for their beaches, sailing and quaint sea towns.
What is the nicest coastal town in New Hampshire?
Hampton, Portsmouth, and Rye in New Hampshire are all charming coastal towns. Hampton, known for its Hampton Beach State Park, is a popular destination for families looking for a great beach experience. You can enjoy various kid-friendly activities like dance contests, live music, fireworks, and talent shows.
Portsmouth is a quaint coastal town with a wide range of unique shops and delicious restaurants. Rye is a hidden gem and a well-kept secret of New Hampshire. This adorable small town offers stunning views and beautiful beaches, along with unique excursions. Explore Wallis Sands State Beach for gentle waves and views of the Isle of Shoals, or Jenness State Beach for a sun-soaked day.
What is the best time to see the leaves change in New England?
Peak foliage will start in early October in the northern states- Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine and will be a few weeks behind, mid-late October, in the southern New England states of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. Anytime between late September and late-October is an ideal time to see the leaves change in New England.
Conclusion: New England Coast
The towns of New England are known for their timeless charm, rooted in centuries-old fishing communities. With stunning views of the Atlantic and an abundance of fresh local seafood, these towns offer a unique experience.
From sandy beaches to historic lighthouses, they are true gems. But there’s more to these towns than just their natural beauty. They are vibrant and full of life, with bike paths, whale watching, and art centers. Whether you want a relaxing day or an adventurous outing, New England has a beach town for you.
While there are many notable communities along the coastline, these towns in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island, and Connecticut are a must-visit on your next trip.