Where to get a dose of vitamin sea
In the far south of the USA’s most northerly state is Ketchikan, centered on a small cluster of colorful clapboard stilt houses perched over Ketchikan Creek. The city is known for its indigenous (mostly Tlingit and Haida) heritage and is the best place in the country to see intricately carved and brightly painted totem poles in their intended environment. And what an environment it is, with lush green forests, glacier-carved valleys and looming mountains just outside the city. Here’s everything you need to know if you’re traveling to Alaska from another state.
Friday Harbor, Washington
Wild and rugged, the San Juan Islands are an archipelago right by the American-Canadian border, facing Vancouver Island across the Haro Strait. The lively seaport town of Friday Harbor, on San Juan Island itself, is historic and walkable with plenty of shops and restaurants. Enjoy a slightly slower pace of life in this enticing destination, then head off to explore the other islands or hop on board a whale-watching cruise.
A stroll around Carmel-by-the-Sea will quickly reveal that it’s not your typical West Coast surf town. With thatched cottages like something out of a British village, Carmel-by-the-Sea is one-of-a-kind. Just off the famous Highway 1, it’s a perfect stop along Big Sur as it offers everything from art galleries and boutiques to restaurants and wine-tasting rooms. The town’s beach has earned a stellar reputation for its pristine white sand and azure waters, too. Check the latest travel alerts here.
Just one of the many stunning seafront towns in Maine, Stonington is located at the tip of Deer Isle in Penobscot Bay. This coastal village is best known for its extensive lobster fleet of more than 300 boats, which is the largest in the state, so obviously you can expect to eat first-class seafood here. If you stay at the waterfront Inn on the Harbor, you can watch the boats leave at sunrise and then see them come back in with the day’s catch ready for you to sample for dinner – check here for the latest travel information if you’d like to book.
A top spot for theater and live music, especially during summer, Westport is one of the most affluent areas in America. Just an hour’s train ride from New York’s Grand Central Station, the town feels a million miles away from the rest of the world. Enjoy paddling on Saugatuck River, or even the Long Island Sound, then head to the Black Duck Cafe for a restorative bite – think wings, burgers and lobster rolls. There is both indoor and outdoor seating, or you can order for pick-up. Take a look at the state travel advisory before planning your trip.
A 30-minute drive from bustling Tampa will take you to Clearwater – a sunny, relaxed and utterly Floridian destination. Dolphin sightseeing trips and fishing charters typically leave the marina every day, there are parasailing and jet ski rentals at the beach, and the Cleveland Street District has plenty of shopping – check the latest travel information here. However, you won’t want to miss Blast Friday when it’s back – usually held on the last Friday of every month, this outdoor food festival brings together live music, various contests and food trucks for excellent family fun.
Tybee Island, Georgia
Orange Beach, Alabama
It might be hard to believe that this Caribbean-like beach is in Alabama, but it’s one of the most popular destinations on the state’s Gulf Coast. Whether you’re in the mood for active fun or just lazy days on the beach, there’s something for all travelers here – everything from amusement parks and deep-sea fishing to nature trails and water sports. There are also concerts, festivals and other events throughout the year – check what’s on here.
Nicknamed the jewel of the Maine coast, Camden is a quintessential seaside town with a charming harbor, an old lighthouse, jagged rock bays and sunset cruises. Many visitors enjoy hiking up nearby Mount Battie or indulging in the town’s many coastal restaurants. Check the latest travel information before planning a trip.
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
A breathtaking holiday spot in South Carolina, Hilton Head Island has excellent sandy beaches, great golf courses and an extensive network of hiking and biking trails. You can enjoy a bird’s-eye view of the Atlantic as you climb the Harbour Town Lighthouse, kayak through scenic marshland or tuck into the freshest seafood. It’s also well-suited to family holidays as there are plenty of fun activities for the little ones, including playgrounds, a pirate ship and miniature golf.
Nags Head, North Carolina
There’s not much Nags Head doesn’t offer – there are secluded beaches and fresh seafood aplenty, family-friendly attractions and a bit of history as well. Just off the North Carolina coast, the town is perched on the southern end of the northernmost of the three islands known as the Outer Banks. Major attractions include Jockey’s Ridge State Park and the Bodie Island Light Station. For an even more special experience, rent an oceanfront late 19th-century cottage along the historic Cottage Row, where the wealthy planters of the South used to come for their summer holidays.
Saint Michaels, Maryland
One of the most atmospheric towns located on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and the Chesapeake Bay, Saint Michaels is rich in maritime history. For many visitors the highlight is the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, which features an impressive collection of artifacts and vessels, a working shipyard and includes the Hooper Bay Lighthouse. In town, Talbot Street is lined with picturesque Victorian buildings, charming storefronts and plenty of top seafood restaurants. If you’re after a quiet, relaxing break, Saint Michaels is the place.
Located on Cape Cod’s elbow, facing the Atlantic Ocean, Chatham is known as “the first stop of the East Wind” and has buckets of old-school New England charm. Check out the gorgeous South Beach and its endless stretch of pristine sand, then head to the Chatham Lighthouse to discover its two centuries of history – its story goes back to the 1800s when President Thomas Jefferson commissioned it. There are also plenty of seaside lodging options, so you can experience the famous Chatham fog first-hand. Just make sure to check Massachusetts travel restrictions first.
Rye, New Hampshire
Just over an hour away from Boston, this charming coastal town feels like a world away with its rugged rocky shore, peaceful beaches and the fantastic Odiorne Point State Park. Sandwiched between The Hamptons and Portsmouth, Rye is a much more laid-back destination with excellent lobster shacks dotting the area between Rye’s two beaches. Remember that if you’re traveling to New Hampshire from non-New England states for an extended period of time, you’re asked to self-isolate for two weeks.
Cape May, New Jersey
A stroll along the seafront is a must-do when visiting this coastal charmer. Admired for its pristine beaches, the waterfront is also lined with pretty, colorful Victorian buildings. The preservation of these eye-catching structures helped the city earn its title of National Historic Landmark in 1976. Before traveling, check the latest information on travel restrictions in New Jersey.
Defined by its sandy beaches, thriving theater scene and an abundance of independent restaurants and shops, Ogunquit has evolved from a little-known fishing village to a must-visit destination on Maine’s southern coast. According to a legend, the town was named by the Abenaki tribe because Ogunquit means ‘the beautiful place by the sea’. As expected, there are plenty of restaurants serving fresh Maine lobster and there’s also a wealth of activities to try, from surfing to paddling or simply enjoying a stroll on the beach. Check the latest travel information before you go.
Beaufort, North Carolina
Cannon Beach, Oregon
This destination in northwest Oregon is a top weekend getaway for the locals living in the area and has a rich offering of microbreweries. But its breathtaking beach is the main attraction. The most recognizable landmark, the Haystack Rock, stands 235 feet (72m) above the sprawling sandy beach. A perfect spot for tide pooling, wildlife viewing and surfing, it’s close to the Ecola State Park, too, making it the ultimate nature escape. Check the park website and Travel Oregon for the latest alerts and advisories.
Bar Harbor, Maine
Whether you want to kick back and relax in the picturesque setting of Bar Harbor, or you’re looking to explore Acadia National Park, you’re guaranteed a gorgeous coastal escape here. From boutique B&Bs to woodland camping, and from some of the best restaurants in New England to simple seafood shacks, Bar Harbor knows how to cater for everyone. And it’s pretty as a picture, too. There are some travel restrictions in place so check the latest information before planning a trip. Now read 28 camping and RV hacks that are borderline genius.
The romantic coastal town of Rockport in Massachusetts, located on Cape Ann, is surrounded by beautiful beaches and is home to Motif Number 1 – a red fishing shack often cited as the most-painted building in America. Head to the town’s Main Street to discover quirky art galleries, a pottery studio, gift stores and Tuck’s Candies with its delicious salt water taffy. Remember to check Massachusetts travel information first as some restrictions apply.
Siesta Key, Florida
Off the coast of Sarasota in western Florida, Siesta Key is a barrier island that resembles the Caribbean more than it does the USA. Best known for its impeccable white-sand beach that’s often recognized among the best in America, it’s a brilliant destination for a relaxing family holiday, thanks to the shallow, calm waters and the wide range of accommodation available. A short stroll from the beach lies Siesta Key Village – a top destination for outdoor dining, cafés and shopping. Check the latest travel information here.
Folly Beach, South Carolina
Just a stone’s throw from Charleston, this little South Carolina city is often referred to as ‘the edge of America’. One of the top surfing destinations on the East Coast, Folly Beach is a great place for fun activities like fishing and birdwatching, as well as shopping or just enjoying a restorative walk on the beach. The Folly Beach Pier stretches more than 1,000 feet (305m) into the ocean, while the nearby Folly Beach Country Park, with its pelican rookery, is a nice spot for picnics.
Only an hour’s drive from Houston lies Galveston Island and this cute beach town. With 32 miles (51.4km) of shore to discover, Galveston is a top beach lover’s destination that’s well-suited for families too. The beach is extremely clean, and the Pleasure Pier offers good old-fashioned seaside entertainment, like carousels, roller coasters and a Ferris wheel. Don’t miss the historic homes in the downtown area, and finish the day with a sundowner at one of the many restaurants on offer.
San Clemente, California
With around 300 annual days of sunshine, San Clemente is a dreamy beach destination. Built in the 1920s as a Spanish village by the sea, the place used to be a major hub for surfers and military personnel from Camp Pendleton, and now it’s a sought-after holiday destination. The town’s Mediterranean-style architecture is still very noticeable and there’s recently been an influx of boutique shops and gourmet restaurants. Think old-school SoCal vibes, but with a touch of Los Angeles’ luxury – check the latest travel alerts here.
The adorable Chincoteague Island is just seven miles (11km) long and three miles (4.8km) wide, but bursting with nostalgic charm. The area is dotted with cottages and surrounded by sandy shores, and there’s a distinct lack of fancy resorts, high-rises or boardwalks. Head to the Chincoteague Wildlife Refuge to spot the wild horses roaming the neighboring Assateague Island, or attend the annual Chincoteague Pony Swim to watch the animals enjoy a dip in the water. Although the event is canceled this year, there’s hope it’ll be back in 2021.
Port Townsend, Washington
A gateway to the rest of the Olympic Peninsula and beyond, Port Townsend is a Victorian seaport, located at the tip of the Quimper Peninsula. It’s a lively destination that usually has events and festivals on pretty much every month, although, sadly, most have been canceled this year due to the pandemic. Come here in October and nature puts on its own spectacular show: a stunning autumn foliage display that offers various shades of russet, amber and bronze.
New Shoreham, Rhode Island
New Shoreham on Block Island is the smallest town in the smallest state in America. It’s far quieter than the more famous destinations of Newport or Narragansett, but it still has all the quintessential charm of Rhode Island. Here you’ll find sandy shores, stunning lighthouses and miles of nature trails. Be sure to check the latest travel information before planning a trip. Love this? Take a look at the most beautiful weekend road trip in every state.
Perched on the northern tip of Cape Cod, Provincetown is one of Massachusetts’ and, in fact, the USA’s most historic destinations. It is the site of the Mayflower’s landing in 1620, and the historic event is marked by the Pilgrim Monument and the neighboring Provincetown Museum, which currently remains closed. Each summer and autumn, the town celebrates its maritime history by hosting a number of tall ships – most of them offer a tour of the ship or even sailing excursions. Make sure to check Massachusetts travel restrictions before heading out.
Rockaway Beach, Oregon
Dubbed as the place where ‘mountains meet the sea’, Rockaway Beach is surrounded by incredible natural beauty, namely the Twin Rocks (pictured). Once you’ve spent time on the beach, check out the Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint, as well as the lighthouse (temporarily closed), then head into town. During summer, the nearby Tillamook Creamery is the place to visit for its ice cream and cheese, while in winter you’ll get to enjoy the fresh crab fishermen harvest in December.
Old Orchard Beach, Maine
With seven miles (11km) of pristine beach and a beachfront amusement park, Old Orchard Beach in Maine is brilliant for a family escape. Simply enjoy time on the beach, take in the stunning New England scenery from atop the Ferris wheel, or explore its adorable pier. Once the sun sets, the town is dotted with lively restaurants and bars serving only the best lobster in Maine. Check the latest travel information before planning a trip.
One of the Golden State’s oldest resort towns, Capitola is a relaxed, laid-back destination where summer never really ends. The Mediterranean-style bungalows and the brightly painted houses might give an impression of an Italian coastal town, but the first-class waves and excellent surf shows it’s Californian through and through. Stroll along the unmissable Venetian Court (pictured) that’s now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, step on a surfboard yourself, or simply enjoy a drink at one of the many waterfront cafés.
Next up, discover the world’s most underrated historic small cities
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