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10 Prettiest Coastal Towns in New England

10 Prettiest Coastal Towns in New England
12 votes, 4.42 avg. rating (87% score)

Were postcards invented with New England in mind? Given how gorgeous these coastal towns are, it’s a good bet. We picked the 10 best of the best, from Down East harbors to Victorian island resorts.

Cape Porpoise Pier and Harbor in Kennebunkport, Maine.

Photo/Art by Brenda Darroch
Cape Porpoise Pier and Harbor in Kennebunkport, Maine.

Kennebunkport, Maine
The Kennebunk River adds even more waterline charm to the small shops, elegant ship captains’ homes, and fishing ports of this vibrant Southern Maine town of 3,474.
Unique view: The quintessential fishing village of Cape Porpoise.
See more: From the river and harbor on Rugosa Lobster Tours.

Read more about Kennebunkport and Cape Porpoise.

 

Bar Harbor

Bar Harbor, Maine

Bar Harbor, Maine

Perched on Mount Desert Island at the gateway to Acadia National Park, this historic resort town still resonates with the Victorian splendor of bygone days, not to mention the backdrop of Cadillac Mountain.

Unique view: From Bar Island, which you can walk to at low tide (plan ahead).
See more: Lighthouse and National Park Tour via catamaran.

New Castle, New Hampshire

New Castle, New Hampshire

New Castle, New Hampshire
This town of 968 residents at the mouth of the Piscataqua River is made up entirely of islands. The Victorian charm of the Wentworth by the Sea Hotel makes the setting even lovelier.
Unique view: Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse.
See more: From the water with Portsmouth Kayak Adventures’ tour of Little Harbor.

best new england coastal towns camden

Photo/Art by Flickr/Jeff Rosen
Camden, Maine

Camden, Maine
The self-dubbed “Jewel of the Coast” is a well-deserved moniker, and this Mid-Coast harbor town of 4,823 on Penobscot Bay is tucked where mountains reach down to the sea.
Unique view: Three windjammers making this narrow harbor their home.
See more: From the water, on the Schooner Surprise.

Newport, Rhode Island

Photo/Art by Onne van der Wal
Newport, Rhode Island

Newport, Rhode Island
Spectacular at every turn, from broad, sandy beaches to deep harbors bristling with schooners, racing yachts, and pleasure craft; from cozy Colonial taverns to opulent Gilded Age mansions.
Unique view: The twinkling span of the Pell Bridge just after twilight.
See more: From a historical point of view, with Newport History Tours.

New Shoreham, Rhode Island

New Shoreham, Rhode Island

New Shoreham, Rhode Island
All of verdant, windswept Block Island, just 13 miles off Rhode Island’s southern coast, is technically New Shoreham, but it’s the Victorian harbor-front that makes landing here forever captivating.
Unique view: Granite-blocked North Light, perched at the island’s tip.
See more: From the water on trimaran Ruling Passion.

Motif No. 1

Rockport, Massachusetts

Rockport, Massachusetts
Painters turned this fishing village into an art colony for a reason—it’s an inspiration. Perched at the tip of Cape Ann, there are rugged shorelines, hidden coves, and a bustling, historic village.
Unique view: Motif No. 1, the most painted building in the world.
See more: By jeep, in personalized tours from Sweet Shots Secret Spots.

Stonington Borough, Connecticut

Stonington Borough, Connecticut

Stonington Borough, Connecticut
This delightful village of fewer than 1,000 residents boasts a wealth of 18th-19th-century buildings on its own narrow peninsula that juts into Fisher’s Island Sound and Little Narragansett Bay, with views in all directions.
Unique view: From “The Point,” a view of Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York.
See more: On foot, with a self-guided walking tour available at the Old Lighthouse Museum.

best new england coastal towns oak bluffs

Photo/Art by Alyson Horrocks
Oak Bluffs, Martha’s Vineyard

Oak Bluffs, Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
The brightly colored gingerbread Victorian cottages make this laid-back enclave on Martha’s Vineyard a true New England confection. And on one night each summer, the cottages lights up with Chinese lanterns, making it likely the loveliest place on earth.
Unique view: The nation’s oldest platform carousel.
See more: Of the historic cottages on the Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association Tours.

Learn more about the Gingerbread Cottages at Oak Bluffs Campground.

Provincetown, Massachusetts

Provincetown, Massachusetts

Provincetown, Massachusetts
Set at the outermost tip of Cape Cod, surrounded by water on three sides and backed by vast sand dunes on the fourth, Provincetown is a colorful gem that’s drawn artists and writers for generations.
Unique view: A bird’s eye, from the top of the Pilgrim Monument.
See more: By jeep, of Provincetown’s famous sand dunes, with Art’s Dune Tours.

Please Note: This article was accurate at the time of publication. When planning a trip, please confirm details by directly contacting any company or establishment you intend to visit.

Tracey Minkin

Author:

Tracey Minkin

Biography:

Tracey Minkin is an award-winning freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared in magazines and online, including Travel + Leisure, Coastal Living, Outside, and Men's Journal. She lives in Providence, Rhode Island.
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19 Responses to 10 Prettiest Coastal Towns in New England

  1. Paul August 28, 2014 at 2:17 pm #

    No Nantucket? You’re kidding.

  2. Susan Pierog August 28, 2014 at 2:35 pm #

    I am so excited that Camden made the list! We fell IN LOVE with this perfect New England town! We can’t wait to go back! It truly is where I want to retire to someday!

  3. Roberta Hilligoss August 29, 2014 at 6:04 pm #

    No Mystic, CT???? It is one of the most beautiful places on earth.

    • Matt Beaudoin August 30, 2014 at 3:52 pm #

      Roberta, if it makes you feel better, east of the drawbridge is technically Stonington ;) btw, Clyde’s opened today in Old Mystic. if you are local, the donuts and hard cider are waiting. (not sure when the sweet cider starts to flow)

  4. Matt Beaudoin August 30, 2014 at 3:51 pm #

    Thanks for including our hometown of Stonington, CT. This is the place to be. Between all the bustle of the Rhode Island beaches, the landmarks in Mystic and the fantastic shops and restaurants here in Stonington, there is something for everyone. I love it here and rarely feel a need to ‘escape’ on vacation, we are already in the New England paradise.

  5. Mai Norton August 30, 2014 at 10:34 pm #

    I have been to all of them and Nantucket is be far the most beautiful, Watch Hill, Shelter Harbour, and Jamestown are very beautiful as well.

  6. roland kennedy August 31, 2014 at 8:26 pm #

    can’t believe bar harbor made it. it’s to commercially built up. booth bay harbor is way better than bar harbor and should have been on the list.

  7. Teresa Dall September 1, 2014 at 12:12 am #

    Where is the beautiful town of Mattapoisett, Massachusetts on this list? It should be.

  8. P.Coonley/Serendipity Traveler September 1, 2014 at 12:13 pm #

    Awesome list for exploring the coastal gems in New England. Rockport, Massachusetts a mere one hour from Boston is a gem in all seasons.

    • joan rossi September 2, 2014 at 9:20 am #

      I agree. I would have been disappointed if Rockport didn’t make it. It is a 20 minute drive for me, and my mini – day-cation destination.

  9. shawn September 4, 2014 at 5:34 am #

    it ‘s so wonderful and beautiful beach-coast.i wish to visit it one day .

  10. gkar222 September 5, 2014 at 7:56 pm #

    You missed Mystic Seaport. Much prettier than Kennebunkport.

  11. Nancy Hayes September 7, 2014 at 8:52 am #

    Watch Hill was beautiful stayed there for several summers. Many great memory’s it’s like Mayberry quiet nice views

  12. Jayne Duey September 16, 2014 at 8:48 am #

    Got married in Mystic Seaport, honeymooned on Block Island. Love the coast, when I can get there from Colorado.

  13. Judy Morley September 16, 2014 at 8:49 am #

    New England is a beautiful place!

  14. njd1117 September 16, 2014 at 9:49 am #

    Newburyport, MA should be on the list.

  15. Diana Potter September 16, 2014 at 2:58 pm #

    As I recall, Motif #1, Rockport, MA, was swept away in a storm a few years ago.

  16. Leonora September 16, 2014 at 11:10 pm #

    Morris Cove the east shore of New Haven harbor will always be the “prettiest” to me. I have fond memories of growing up on the Connecticut shoreline. ❤️

  17. Joann September 19, 2014 at 5:50 pm #

    How about Cape Cod…so many beautiful towns on CC

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