Aerial view of Key West. Florida. USA.

The 10 Best Beach Towns on The East Coast

The East Coast of the United States features a variety of charming beach towns, each with unique attractions and atmospheres to suit every traveler's taste. From peaceful, family-friendly spots to lively destinations with vibrant nightlife, these coastal gems offer the perfect setting for memorable vacations.

If you're interested in historic Victorian architecture, the excitement of amusement parks and boardwalks, or the calm of pristine natural landscapes, there's a beach town on the East Coast that will capture your heart. Learn about the best beach towns on the East Coast, each with its blend of attractions and activities for your next seaside escape. So pack your bags, grab your sunscreen, and get ready to explore the best coastal destinations the East Coast has to offer.

Cape May, New Jersey

Panorama of beach with Cape May Lighthouse in Cape May, New Jersey.

Cape May, New Jersey, is a historic gem that captivates visitors with its Victorian charm and timeless beauty. Walk through the well-preserved Victorian houses that line the streets, each reflecting the town’s rich architectural heritage. History buffs will enjoy the Emlen Physick Estate, a restored 19th-century mansion that offers insights into the life of Cape May’s elite during the Victorian era.

Nature lovers can find peace in Cape May Point State Park, where scenic trails lead to the iconic Cape May Lighthouse. This lighthouse has been in operation since 1859, offering stunning views from its top. For a unique experience, visit Sunset Beach, famous for its beautiful sunsets and Delaware Bay, where you can search for Cape May Diamonds, the smooth and translucent stones found on the shore. Cape May's mix of historic charm and natural beauty makes it a must-visit destination on the East Coast.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, USA city skyline.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, is a coastal town known for its lively boardwalk, entertainment options, and beautiful natural and historical landmarks. Myrtle Beach State Park is a must-visit for nature lovers, offering diverse ecosystems, scenic trails, and pristine beaches. Bird watching and fishing are popular here.

To learn about the history of the area, head to Brookgreen Gardens, which features sculptures, botanical gardens, and a wildlife preserve, showcasing the area's artistic heritage and natural beauty. Don’t miss Huntington Beach State Park, home to the historic Atalaya Castle, the former winter residence of sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington and Archer Milton Huntington, showcasing their life and work. The bustling Myrtle Beach Boardwalk offers entertainment, dining, and shopping, capturing the town's lively spirit. 

Nantucket, Massachusetts

The entrance of Nantucket, Massachusetts.

Nantucket, Massachusetts, is an island full of unique New England charm and history. Known for its cobblestone streets and well-preserved colonial buildings, this picturesque destination is a delight. For history buffs, the Nantucket Whaling Museum is a go to destination to learn about the island's 19th-century whaling past. The museum's exhibits offer insights into Nantucket’s maritime heritage.

For nature lovers, the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge is perfect for hiking and bird watching, with its sand dunes, salt marshes, and beautiful wildlife. Another spot is the Sankaty Head Light, a lighthouse that has guided sailors since 1850, offering remarkable island and ocean views. Downtown Nantucket's shops, boutiques, and eateries showcase the island’s cuisine and individual style. The busy Nantucket Harbor is ideal for enjoying waterfront restaurants and local seafood. If you're interested in history, nature, or shopping, Nantucket promises an unforgettable visit.

Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston, South Carolina skyline over Marion Square.

Charleston, South Carolina, is a city where history and charm merge seamlessly, offering you a rich mix of cultural and natural landmarks. Start at the Historic Charleston City Market, a busy spot since the 1800s, where you can shop for local crafts, sweetgrass baskets, and unique souvenirs. You can also explore Charleston’s history at Fort Sumter National Monument, where the first Civil War shots were fired.

You can get there by boat, and guided tours highlight its role in American history. Visit Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, established in 1676, with beautiful gardens, a petting zoo, and a scenic tram tour. Nature lovers shouldn't miss the Angel Oak Tree, a majestic live oak estimated to be over 400 years old, located in Angel Oak Park. Lastly, walk through the Battery and White Point Garden, lined with pre-war homes and statues, offering stunning views of Charleston Harbor and the waterfront. If you are shopping or exploring historical and natural sites, Charleston promises a fulfilling experience.

Virginia Beach, Virginia

Aerial View of a Ferris wheel and amusement park at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront. Editorial credit: Kyle J Little /

Virginia Beach, Virginia, combines commercial energy with natural and historical charm. Start your visit at the Virginia Beach Boardwalk, a lively promenade stretching three miles along the coast, filled with shops, eateries, and entertainment. For nature lovers, the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge offers a peaceful retreat with dunes, woodlands, and wetlands, ideal for hiking and bird-watching.

History buffs will enjoy the First Landing State Park, commemorating the 1607 arrival of English settlers who established the first permanent English colony in North America. The park features scenic trails and educational exhibits on its historical importance. Finally, the Cape Henry Lighthouse, one of the oldest in the US, provides stunning views of the Chesapeake Bay and insights into maritime history. This mix of attractions makes Virginia Beach a diverse and enriching destination.

Key West, Florida

Colorful Higgs Memorial Beach Park Restaurant Pier Palm Trees Blue Water Reflection Key West Florida.

Key West, Florida, is a lively island city known for its rich history and beautiful scenery. Start your visit at the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum, where the famous author lived and wrote many of his works. The historic house, with its lush gardens and resident polydactyl cats, offers an interesting look into Hemingway’s life. Another place worth seeing is the Key West Lighthouse and Keeper's Quarters Museum, which offers great views of the island and insights into its maritime history.

For a mix of history and nature, take a relaxing walk through the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory, home to hundreds of butterflies and exotic birds. On the commercial side, Duval Street is the center of Key West’s nightlife and shopping, with its diverse boutiques, vibrant bars, and unique restaurants. This charming blend of attractions makes Key West an engaging and enriching place for visitors.

Bar Harbor, Maine

Bar Harbor, Maine aerial view at sunset, with Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park at the background.

Bar Harbor, Maine, is a charming destination that combines natural beauty, historical significance, and vibrant commercial life. Start your visit with Acadia National Park, which features a rugged coastline, granite peaks, and scenic trails that are perfect for hiking and wildlife spotting. Cadillac Mountain, the highest peak on the Eastern Seaboard, offers stunning sunrise views and panoramic vistas.

For a touch of history, visit the Abbe Museum, which focuses on the Native American history and culture of Maine with its extensive collection of artifacts and exhibits. After exploring the natural and historical sites, stroll down Main Street, which is filled with charming boutiques, local craft shops, and delightful eateries. Be sure to try freshly caught lobster at one of the town’s renowned seafood restaurants. Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast or a history buff, Bar Harbor offers a multifaceted experience.

Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Editorial credit: Michelangelo DeSantis /

Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, is a charming coastal town that combines commercial vibrancy with natural beauty. Start your visit on the iconic Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk, a mile-long stretch along the Atlantic coast filled with shops, eateries, and entertainment options. For a dose of history, check out the Rehoboth Beach Historical Society and Museum to learn about the area's rich past and cultural heritage.

Nature lovers should visit Cape Henlopen State Park, which offers scenic trails, pristine beaches, bird watching, and fishing. Don't miss Gordons Pond at Delaware Seashore State Park, known for its beautiful landscapes and diverse wildlife. Whether you're shopping, dining, or exploring the outdoors, Rehoboth Beach offers an enriching and memorable experience.

Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

Harbor Town Hilton Head Island South Carolina.

Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, is a top destination known for its clean beaches, luxury resorts, and extensive golf courses. Start your visit with a relaxing day at Coligny Beach Park, ideal for sunbathing, swimming, and enjoying coastal views. Golf lovers can enjoy over 20 championship courses designed by top architects, offering both challenging play and beautiful scenery.

Nature enthusiasts can explore the island’s ecosystems at the Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge, with walking trails through salt marshes, forests, and ponds filled with wildlife. To learn about the island's heritage, visit the Coastal Discovery Museum for educational exhibits and guided tours on the area's history and ecology. For dining and shopping, head to Shelter Cove Towne Centre, which features upscale boutiques, diverse restaurants, and live entertainment. Hilton Head Island offers a mix of natural beauty, recreational activities, and cultural experiences, making it a perfect destination for all travellers.

Outer Banks, North Carolina

Two beautiful horses walking on the sandy beach in North Carolina.

The Outer Banks of North Carolina offer a perfect mix of natural beauty, historical significance, and vibrant commercial life, making it an ideal destination for any traveler. Begin with the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills, where the first successful airplane flight occurred. History buffs will enjoy Roanoke Island, home to the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, which tells the story of the lost colony of Roanoke. Nature lovers shouldn't miss the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, featuring miles of unspoiled beaches, sand dunes, and opportunities for surfing, fishing, and bird-watching.

For a unique experience, visit Jockey’s Ridge State Park, which boasts the tallest natural sand dunes on the East Coast, perfect for hiking and hang gliding. Complement your outdoor adventures with a stroll through the charming town of Duck, known for its boutique shopping, waterfront dining, and lively boardwalk. The Outer Banks promises a rich and varied experience that beautifully combines its historical roots and natural splendor.

Discover Your Perfect Beach Town

The East Coast of the United States offers a variety of charming beach towns, each with unique attractions. From the historic streets of Cape May to the vibrant nightlife of Key West, these coastal spots cater to all types of travelers. Whether you’re looking for the tranquility of nature, the thrill of adventure, or a dive into history, there's a beach town for you. From the serene landscapes of Bar Harbor to the lively boardwalks of Rehoboth Beach, each destination promises a memorable getaway. 


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