This year, “spring” pummeled the eastern seaboard with repeated nor’easters, and everyone from Maine to Manhattan is looking forward to warmer weather. One of the best summer destinations in the U.S., New England offers miles of coastline, fresh seafood and family-friendly outdoor fun on land and sea. If you’re ready to turn your sights toward sunshine and sandy beaches, come along with me as I explore the best oceanside destinations within a few hours of Boston and New York City.
CAPE COD, MASSACHUSETTS
This hook-shaped peninsula jutting into the Atlantic Ocean is lined with quaint villages, lighthouses and beaches facing both the sunrise and sunset, meaning visitors can enjoy every minute of daylight. Cape Cod is home to a highly competitive collegiate summer baseball league, and travelers can spend almost any night of the summer eating hot dogs and scouting new talent at ballparks, where admission is free. Visitors can spot marine life from whale-watching cruises, tuck into lobster rolls and attend performances at The Cape Playhouse, the country’s oldest summer theater.
Treehouse Lodge is on the quieter side of the peninsula and a half mile from the ferry terminal, where a 25-minute ride delivers passengers to Martha’s Vineyard, the quintessential beach town frequented by celebrities and presidents. The property’s garden offers fire pits, yard games and ample seating where guests mingle over cocktails at dusk.
CAPE ELIZABETH, MAINE
Five miles south of Portland, Cape Elizabeth was named for Princess Elizabeth, the sister of King Charles I of England, over 400 years ago. Today, a pair of white lighthouses on its craggy cliffs mark the entrance to Portland Harbor, and visitors can retrace history on the pristine beaches and shipwreck sites or learn about local wildlife at the bird sanctuary.
Named “Best Hotel in Maine” by Travel + Leisure in 2017, the Inn by the Sea welcomes the entire family, including four-legged members, to its property and private beaches. Every room looks out at the water, and guests can dine on freshly caught Maine lobster at the inn’s restaurant before sailing, kayaking and whale watching in Boothbay Harbor.
NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND
Famous for its Gilded Age mansions, patterned after Europe’s palaces, Newport has been a summer playground for wealthy New Englanders for centuries. Today, its yacht-filled harbor hosts the America’s Cup, a renowned annual sailing regatta, and many of the mansions are now museums for the curious public to tour.
Situated on 10 acres of bayfront real estate, Gurney’s Newport Resort & Marina delivers guests to Newport’s cobblestone streets via a complimentary water taxi in summertime. The sweeping property offers a three-level outdoor deck, fire pits, a saltwater outdoor pool, a 22-slip marina and a waterside seafood restaurant.
GREAT DIAMOND ISLAND, MAINE
For over 200 years, Great Diamond Island off Portland’s coast attracted vacationers, including artists like Harriet Beecher Stowe and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, seeking a quiet oasis of natural beauty and salty sea air. During the Spanish Civil War, the military converted the island into Fort McKinley, but today the car-free island’s northern shore is a gated community open only to residents and guests of the island’s only hotel.
Open Memorial Day through Columbus Day, the Inn at Diamond Cove is reachable by ferry through Casco Bay, and visitors are transported around the island via golf carts and bicycles. The oceanfront restaurant serves local seafood, and guests can soak up the sunshine on the property’s private beaches and miles of hiking trails.