Forget the Hamptons — Visit New England for a Quintessential East Coast Summer Weekend
When you think of an idyllic summer getaway, the Hamptons and Montauk are probably the first places that come to mind. Buy why not head north this summer to New England for a more laid-back, equally gorgeous weekend on the East Coast instead? Whether you prefer lakes or oceans, mountains or rolling hills, these destinations up and down the Eastern seaboard have everything you need for an unforgettable weekend away. So read on to find out which New England town is perfect for you, and plan your trip before Labor Day!
1. Newport, Rhode Island: If you’re over the Hamptons (and we are), then you’re in luck: A 90-minute ferry service from Gurney’s Montauk provides an easy escape to Gurney’s second outpost in the New England sailing capital. One weekend trip to this nautical town on Aquidneck Island leaves no doubt as to why Newport has been a popular destination since the Gilded Age. Nights out on Thames Street are always a guaranteed good time for all ages (prepare to party with 18- and 80-year-olds). Head to the Clarke Cookehouse for not one but three levels of fun, each with a distinct vibe. The Boom Boom Room downstairs is a nightclub; the mid-level boasts an open-air, classic New England dining (and drinking) ambiance; and upstairs, the Sky Bar is for the jacket-and-tie crowd. So, if you plan to go all the way up to the top floor, look sharp to get past that velvet rope. As for your stay, book a room at Castle Hill, order a mudslide, and watch the boats go by.
2. Kennebunkport, Maine: Maine is home to some of the most Instagram-worthy seaside towns. For a totally authentic New England experience, we recommend a trip to Kennebunkport for lobster rolls and karaoke at Federal Jack’s. If you can’t get up to Maine by Labor Day, don’t fret: In February, Kennebunkport celebrates Valentine’s Day with an annual Paint The Town Red event that justifies its reputation as New England’s most romantic town.
3. Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts: The Bush family may be devoted to Kennebunkport, but for the Obamas, there’s nowhere in New England quite as beautiful as Martha’s Vineyard. Less inundated with weekend revelers than other New England destinations, Martha’s Vineyard has a more bucolic ambiance (think grassy, rolling hills and sand dunes overlooking the Atlantic). Grab drinks and lobster rolls at the Seafood Shanty in Edgartown, and be sure to visit Island Alpaca in Oak Bluffs to cozy up to the friendliest (and softest) animals on Earth.
4. Nantucket, Massachusetts: Our next pick is another island off the coast of Massachusetts famous for its whaling history and gorgeous cottages. Nantucket may be close in proximity to Martha’s Vineyard, but the vibe on each island is markedly different, and lifetime visitors usually vehemently prefer one or the other. While Martha’s Vineyard is more low-key, Nantucket boasts a thriving nightlife, from live music venue the Chicken Box, to restaurant and bar Straight Wharf, to Cisco Brewers, the spot for post-beach cocktails. And forget Montauk because the nightlife on Nantucket is just as #lit and way more nautical. If the bar scene isn’t your thing, Great Point Lighthouse is gorgeous at sunset; one visit and you’ll be sure to come back every year.
5. Rye Beach, New Hampshire: The coast of New Hampshire is vastly underrated, with endless white sand beaches along the Atlantic. Rye Beach is quaint and charming, ideal for a peaceful East Coast weekend. Visit the Beach Hut for an ice cream taco — yes, you read that correctly — and head to Rye Harbor Lobster Pound for New England’s most iconic cuisine. After all, if you go to New England and don’t Instagram a lobster, were you really even there?
6. Mystic, Connecticut: There’s more to visit in this Connecticut town than just Mystic Pizza. An easy trip from NYC, this locale is an oasis for city dwellers longing to escape the hustle and bustle. Take a sunset cruise on the 81-foot schooner Argia and relax. We may have been all about the lobster roll in New Hampshire, but we recommend the shellfish over the crustaceans in Mystic: The Oyster Club and S&P Oyster Company are too good to miss out on.
7. Portland, Maine: Didn’t you know Portland, Maine, is cooler than Portland, Oregon? This Maine city boasts an exploding culinary scene and a thriving cultural identity. Experience both by visiting the Portland Museum of Art before going to dinner at Woodford F&B; the regional menu features oysters, crab cakes, and steak, and the go-to spot is also famous for their burgers, so you’re destined to taste only the most delicious food Maine has to offer.
8. Green Mountains, Vermont: The mountains aren’t just for wintertime and skiing anymore. Venture to the Green Mountains and stay at the Equinox in Manchester Village for a vacay that’s equal parts wellness and adventure. It’s popular year-round, though we recommend visiting in the summer to take advantage of the water sports. You’ve probably spotted the Equinox on Instagram, as countless weddings have been held here, and you’ll understand why after your trip to the Green Mountains.
9. Jackman, Maine: Jackman is in the far northern part of Maine, which is packed with moose and lacking in tourists. If you’re really looking for a getaway that’s off the beaten path, set out for Maine Huts and Trails in nearby Kingfield for a WiFi-free vacation. Explore the rivers and lakes of the Kennebec and Moose River Region with a day of kayaking or canoeing. The reflection of the mountains on the water will make even the most devoted beach-lover consider becoming #TeamLake. Drink in your pristine, untouched surroundings, and relish in the bliss captured in the state’s slogan: The Way Life Should Be.
10. Narragansett, Rhode Island: More laid-back (and affordable) than Newport, Narragansett is two bridges (and a lifetime) away from our top spot. Narragansett Beach is extremely popular with surfers and worth a visit even if you don’t like to hang 10. Walk along the Narragansett Sea Wall to check out the rock sculptures meticulously arranged on Narragansett Town Beach. At night, go straight to Coast Guard House — one of the most fun bars on the East Coast. After spending the day on the water, there’s nothing better than kicking back on the terrace there, suntanned with a drink in hand. It’s only fitting that we’re starting and ending our list with Rhode Island towns: When it comes to New England summers, the Ocean State is undeniably king.
What’s your favorite summer getaway in New England? Let us know @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty)