Part of the appeal of the Jersey Shore is the fact that it offers something for everyone, from the historical charm of Cape May to the hopping boardwalk action of Seaside Heights. But for people like myself who’ve spent pretty much every summer at the shore since they were born, sometimes a change of scenery is in order. Fortunately, the East Coast offers a plethora of beach spots perfect for vacations, no matter your travel style. We offer five destinations worth exploring this summer.
For Large Families: The Outer Banks
A 200-mile sandy stretch of barrier islands largely off the coast of North Carolina, the Outer Banks is the South’s version of the Jersey Shore (minus the MTV cast). One of the biggest draws to its this sunny destination is the enormity of the houses—seriously, take the biggest house you find in Stone Harbor, and that’s the norm in the Outer Banks. The sheer size of these homes makes them quite comfy for large families or for several families looking to save money by splitting the rental fee. (And like the shore, May and September offer additional deals on rental prices, although September drops you in the middle of Hurricane season.) Aside from lazing on the beach, the Outer Banks offers kayaking, fishing, kiteboarding, and windsurfing, and plenty of lighthouses to explore. Keep in mind, you won’t find any boardwalks in this Southern getaway, but you will be able to keep kids entertained with the mini golf courses, museums, and aquariums in town. Bonus: If you head south on 12, you can visit the Nags Head Woods Nature Preserve—1,400 acres of stunning maritime forest and other soundside ecosystems.
For Couples: Lewes, Del.
Just a short ferry ride from Cape May, Lewes oozes much of the charm and character that attracts people to its counterpart across the bay. It’s that quaint atmosphere makes it the perfect getaway for couples. After checking into one of the many B&Bs or inns, visitors can explore the Victorian homes in the historic district, wander in and out of shops or grab a bite to eat on Second Street, or bike along the Lewes Canalfront. And from late spring to early fall, visitors can enjoy the Historic Lewes Farmer’s Market, shopping for fresh produce, baked goods, flowers, and more.
For Stargazers (or a girl’s weekends): The Hamptons
No, not those kinds of stars. Playground to the elite of New York City (and beyond), The Hamptons is a place where you definitely want to see (and maybe be seen). The celebrities who own homes in The Hamptons include Gwyneth Paltrow, Alec Baldwin, Billy Joel, Jerry Seinfeld, Kelly Ripa, and more. Many, many more. The posh destination has also been the setting of Puff Daddy’s infamous White Party as well as episodes of both “Sex in the City” and “Girls.” (Old money gravitates to Southhampton, new money to East Hampton.) In addition to rubbing elbows with the 1 percent, The Hamptons is known for its spectacular beaches, seafood shacks, chic boutiques, and charming wineries. Just be prepared to spend some coin.
For History Buffs: Newport, RI
Before The Hamptons had their white parties, the rich and famous of the Gilded Age flocked to Newport, R.I. Evidence of this once elite escape are the massive homes scattered along the shoreline cliffs (I wouldn’t be surprised if several Outer Banks beach houses could fit inside The Breakers alone.) The famous 3.5-mile public cliff walk takes visitors passed the former mansions of the Astors, Oelrichs, Vanderbilts, and other old-school titans of industry. Although you could probably spend your entire vacation exploring the ins and outs of these mega-homes, there’s plenty of other activities in Newport, including vibrant shopping and dining strips, sailing excursions, art galleries galore, and, of course, the beach.
For Naturalists: Block Island
If you and your crew prefer more remote, less developed getaways, then Block Island might be the place for you. About 12 miles off the coast of Rhode Island, 40 percent of the island is protected for conservation, and the Nature Conservancy once listed it among “The Last Great Places.” The lush island is famous for its 200-foot Mohegan bluffs, network of hiking trails and miles of pristine beaches, and it attracts bird-watchers from across the region. Old Harbor is the main hub for the island, and the seaside town has an independent bohemian vibe. The island also offers plenty of charming inns and B&Bs for overnight accommodations.