Help me find the perfect vacation spot on the Northeast US coast
June 14, 2012 10:24 AM   Subscribe

The perfect east coast vacation spot?

Hey all,
I'm setting up a bit of a last minute vacation and kind of drawing a blank, and random googling isn't helping because this is the sort of thing that requires local knowledge. I'm looking for the perfect vacation spot, northeast coast of the US.

Do NOT want: Martha's Vineyard, Cape Cod or Nantucket- would like something a bit less packed to the gills with tourists and kitsch. But am looking for that same vibe, in terms of coastal town- just somewhere less well known and developed. I also would prefer to avoid Connecticut because that's where I'm from so it wouldn't feel like a vacation, if you know what I mean.

So what I'm looking for:

Something no more than a 6 or 7 hour drive from NYC. Would consider heading up to Maine for the perfect place, although that's a bit farther than ideal.

-Right on the beach. Think, steps down from the b&b and smack right into the ocean. An actual island would be absolutely perfect.
-Nice New England village with good restaurants/seafood
-Prefer to stay in a b&b or an inn rather than a hotel
-Places that offer short-term boat rental are a plus
-Anywhere right on the Northeast coast.

Any thoughts? And sorry for putting "DO NOT WANT" in bold but I knew if I didn't I'd just get 80 people saying Martha's Vineyard.
posted by Dormant Gorilla to Travel & Transportation around Ebor, Australia (19 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
Cape May, NJ. With its Victorian architecture and cozy beach, Cape May is the best. Wildwood is nearby and that's the touristy place for the kids, but Cape May is mature and just beautiful. I always fall in love. Plenty of B&Bs overlooking the beach.
posted by inturnaround at 10:30 AM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Cape May, NJ is kind of the poor man's Cape Cod. It's a fun little town and is far enough removed from the Jersey Shore/Boardwalk bullshit that you needn't worry about drunk yahoos. They find it boring, anyway, since it's filled with all kinds of fun historical society stuff and cute little vineyards. Some pretty awesome lighthouses to visit, too.
posted by InsanePenguin at 10:31 AM on June 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

What about maryland or Delaware? If you stay away from ocean city, it's not super developed or touristy, especially down near assateague.
posted by empath at 10:32 AM on June 14, 2012

Block Island. Cuttyhunk.
posted by mareli at 10:36 AM on June 14, 2012

Ogunquit, Maine is on the outer bound of your drive time (especially with weekend traffic in mind) and isn't too deep into Maine but certainly isn't as mobbed as the Cape or Nantucket.
posted by bl1nk at 10:36 AM on June 14, 2012

Block Island and Narragansett/South Kingstown area of Rhode Island fit the bill.
posted by LouMac at 10:46 AM on June 14, 2012

Response by poster: Awesome suggestions- keep them coming! Although I might have to go with Ogunquit because of the Stand. I never knew that was a real place...
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 10:59 AM on June 14, 2012

Assateague Island, Chincoteague Island, VA. Google maps says 5-6 hours.
posted by COD at 12:08 PM on June 14, 2012

If you want to avoid the traffic of Cape Cod while maintaining a lot of the feel. Instead of going to the cape, go to the north shore in Massachusetts.

Salem, Gloucester, Newburyport, Essex, Ipswitch, Cape Ann, Marblehead

Quaint towns with tons of seafood restaurants, beaches, boutiques, antique shops, etc and not horrendously crowded. There's a number of B&B's there and you can also easily rent a beach house for days or a week if you plan ahead.
posted by seppyk at 12:09 PM on June 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

If you're willing to consider a compromise on the "Not Cape Cod" front, then I would direct your attention to this listing on Airbnb. I grew up less than a mile from there -- I'm actually about to go for two weeks to visit my mom -- and I think the village of Cotuit might be exactly what you're looking for.

It's small and laid back and not touristy at all. The local restaurants and beaches are frequented by residents and their guests, and are never crazy crowded even at peak times. You'd be a longish walk or a very quick bike ride away from several restaurants of varying levels of fanciness (I recommend the stuffed quahogs at the Kettle Ho), a small but well-stocked grocery store, the town dock, several beaches of varying sizes, and the field where the Cotuit Kettleers play minor league ball games. It's a charming, quiet little town and I'm sorry I don't have a chance to spend more time there.

If you want to avoid the drive, you can take a bus direct from NYC to Hyannis, rent a car at the airport and then drive about twenty minutes to a half hour back down 28.

If any of this sounds remotely appealing to you, feel free to memail me for further details about what to do in the area!
posted by Narrative Priorities at 12:11 PM on June 14, 2012

Block Island and Narragansett/South Kingstown area of Rhode Island fit the bill.
posted by LouMac

I agree - Narragansett and SK fit what you're looking for... but I can't imagine actually taking a vacation there- although lots of people do. You'll likely have a crowded beach experience, unless you know a local who can help you get to the out of the way spots or those that are local-only. Personally, having grown up in those two towns, I'd go elsewhere. Cape Hatteras has a lot to offer but is probably farther than you'd want to travel. If you don't mind isolation and cold water Monhegan island in Maine is terrific. If you want an amazing place, my friends are renting their place in Jamestown RI by the week or weekend (I think) - here's the article about it in Yankee Magazine.
posted by blaneyphoto at 12:20 PM on June 14, 2012

Ogunquit is less kitschy than Cape Cod (or maybe equally kitschy, but in a different way) but it's not necessarily any less crowded (at least at the beach).

If you're willing to go just a little further into Maine, the islands of Casco Bay might be a good fit - Peaks (more town-ish) or Great Chebeague (more summer resort-ish) are the most obvious choices. You take the ferry from Portland (or Yarmouth, if you're going to Chebeague). I think the beaches tend to be pebbly, though.
posted by mskyle at 12:32 PM on June 14, 2012

I'm a local, but Plum Island, MA is pretty great- lots of houses for rent, kind of a cape cod vibe, but not as well known, so way less crowded.
posted by jenkinsEar at 12:46 PM on June 14, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks to all of you! Think the Mass north shore is exactly what I was looking for.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 2:42 PM on June 14, 2012

you want to come to my town (and I see someone else has already suggested it). feel free to message if you want more info/suggestions.
posted by FlyByDay at 8:03 PM on June 14, 2012

I'd throw Rye NH into the mix.
posted by schoolgirl report at 9:12 PM on June 14, 2012

Kennebunk, Maine (not Kennebunkport) is like this. Inns and B&Bs right on the beach, check. Spectacular seafood and good food generally, check. Boat rental, check (for this, might have to go into neighboring Kennebunkport, which is more touristy). Traffic getting there can be a pain, but it's mostly Ogunquit traffic, so it eases up as you get closer.
posted by oinopaponton at 4:26 AM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah! I didn't think of the North Shore because it's where I'm from. The beach at Plum Island is great and generally uncrowded and there are lots of great vacation rentals there but you're a little ways from the town (Newburyport). Rockport has more beach areas right in town but the beaches are not as nice. Both Newburyport and Rockport have adorable downtowns with lots of cute shops and restaurants. Kayak tours/rentals for sure, probably motorboat rental too. Newburyport is right off of I-95, so it's very easy to get to; Rockport is a little bit more of a hassle, IMO.

Ipswich is less touristy than Newburyport and Rockport and has the wonderful Crane Beach. Marblehead is at a similar level of touristy-ness, but with a little bit more of a yacht club vibe.

Gloucester less touristy still, and more of a working-person's town but has good restaurants and several excellent beaches (large and small).

Essex and Manchester-by-the-Sea are very quiet but cute.
posted by mskyle at 8:14 AM on June 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Am loving the idea of the north shore but while researching inns and stuff, I keep hearing that the beaches will be infested with greenflies/ horseflies for all of late July/early August. Can any locals confirm? The Internet seems to classify the problem as a massive pain in the ass, but you know how it tends to exaggerate.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 9:58 PM on June 16, 2012

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