The 6 Cutest Coastal Towns in the U.S.
Whether you're partial to the East Coast or West, our travel experts have options for everyone.
Certain places just give you the warm and fuzzies. They tend to have friendly folks, picturesque views, and independently-owned stores peddling local wares. You can't help but smile when you turn every corner, because you just don't know what happy memory will be made one cobbled street over. If such a destination is on the coast, where you can breathe in that invigorating, salty sea air, even better. Yearning for this kind of comfort and clarity? Our travel experts have you covered. Read on to find out which six coastal towns in the U.S. they say are the cutest.
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Cannon Beach, Oregon
One of the most frequently recommended cute coastal towns is Cannon Beach, Oregon.
"Its small downtown consists of small coastal cottages, housing ice cream parlors, local breweries, and saltwater taffy stores," Jessica Schmit, of the travel blog Uprooted Traveler, tells Best Life. "Just steps away, you can enjoy the jaw-droppingly beautiful Cannon Beach itself, home to the iconic sea stack, Haystack Rock."
While at the beach, you can engage in a "variety of activities," Schmit adds, including everything from "exploring tide pools to watching for the puffins that nest atop Haystack Rock, come summer."
Alex Knoch, of the travel blog Travel Tips by Alex, also cites Cannon Beach as one of the cutest, thanks to its "laid-back vibe" and "small-town feel."
"The main street is lined with art galleries, unique shops, and delicious restaurants serving up fresh seafood," Knoch explains. "The quaint cottages and charming inns add to the town's charm and make for a cozy stay."
If you want to visit in the early summer, consider booking a trip in June during the Cannon Beach Sandcastle Contest. During this annual event, "dozens of artists create works of art on the shores of the Pacific," says Schmit.
Another West Coast town that should be on your bucket list of cuties is Carlsbad, California.
According to Kristin Lee, travel expert and owner of the travel blog Global Travel Escapades, this spot is often overlooked due to its proximity to San Diego and other popular areas.
"The quaint town is filled with boutique shops, eateries, and of course, gorgeous sweeping views of the coastal bluffs," Lee says, noting that spring is an ideal time to see the sights. "During this time of year, you'll not only be able to avoid the summer crowds, but also participate in seasonal activities. For example, if you visit before the end of April, you can take a boat out to see the whales as they migrate along the coast."
Also in the spring, The Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch are in full bloom. Starting March 1 every year, you can explore over 50 acres of the "most vibrant flowers," Lee says.
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Head to Florida and you'll find a quaint little gem on the state's northwest coast. According to Stacy Domanski, lifestyle blogger behind Life of Stacy, Seaside is a great place to "truly relax and unwind."
"Seaside is a shining example of new urbanism, with its carefully planned streets and sidewalks that are perfect for family walks and bike rides," she tells Best Life.
It has nine beach pavilions that were each designed by a different architect, which truly make the town unique, Domanski adds. "These pavilions serve as the beach entrance for each of the individual streets, adding to Seaside's charm and character," she says. Fans of the 1998 film The Truman Show will recognize Seaside's idyllic setting, too, as it provided the "picture-perfect scenery" for the satirical dramedy starring Jim Carrey.
Domanski recommends booking your trip in October, when you'll see smaller crowds but still enjoy warm weather. Traveling to Seaside at this time has a beautiful bonus, she says, as you can see the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico, which only happens between October and February. "There is nothing quite like watching the sun dip below the horizon while sitting on the soft, white sand of the beach," Domanski gushes.
Also making the list of cutest coastal towns is Kennebunkport, Maine, which is equal parts stunning and historic.
"This charming village is full of unique shops, galleries, and restaurants along the waterfront," Fred Hoffman, founder and chief editor of The True Wilderness, explains. "Spend the day visiting some of Kennebunkport's famous farms or take a leisurely boat ride around the harbor—there's something for everyone here."
Sveva Marcangeli, founder and writer for travel and lifestyle brand Svadore, also has Kennebunkport on her list. "Each person finds Kennebunkport special to them for their own reason," she says. "For me–it was the attention to detail in the food, architecture, and way of life that was pure and idyllically New England. There are more than 150 structures still up today and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, many [of which] have been turned into inns and restaurants you can now visit."
Marcangeli points out that Kennebunkport was home to several big-name artists and authors—and is also the site of former U.S. President George W. Bush's summer home. When you visit, don't forget to indulge in a whoopie pie at Dock Square, which is "a beautiful historic neighborhood floating atop the Kennebunk River on stilts," Margangeli says.
Both experts recommend taking a spring, summer, or fall trip to Kennebunkport. Summertime sees the largest crowds, thanks to the range of beach and water activities, but there are plenty of other "cozy" activities during the off season, per Marcangeli.
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If you're looking to explore all that the East Coast has to offer in terms of cuteness, look no further than Rockport, Massachusetts.
"Whenever anyone asks me what the cutest little coastal town in New England is, I always tell them Rockport without hesitation," Samantha Hamilton, creator and writer behind New England Wanderlust, offers. "New England is packed with cute towns, but Rockport just has a little something extra that makes it stand out."
She notes that the town is truly so cute, it's almost surreal. "It perfectly balances maintaining its roots as a true New England fishing village with all kinds of charm and cuteness at every turn," she says. But overall, Hamilton says that Bearskin Neck is the most adorable part of Rockport.
"This is the main shopping area where you'll find a row of independent boutiques in colorful buildings, as well as Motif 1, which is a red fishing shack that's widely regarded as the most painted building in the U.S.," she explains. "And the best part? All of Bearskin Neck sits along the water, so you have a gorgeous coast view around every corner."
Of course, Hollywood knows about this hidden gem, as it was used as a backdrop for the 2009 rom-com The Proposal, starring Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds.
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Rounding out this list of the cutest coast towns in the U.S. is Coupeville, Washington. Suzanne Howell, the writer behind Washington state travel website Wondrous Washington, tells Best Life that this West Coast hamlet is sure to give you that quaint and cozy feel.
"Coupeville is a historic seaside town filled with small-town charm that is located on Whidbey Island in the Pacific Northwest," Howell says. "One of the main attractions of Coupeville is Front Street, a picturesque waterfront street lined with historic buildings that house an array of art galleries, antique shops, and cafes."
You'll also catch gorgeous views of Puget Sound while the boats come and go—and don't forget to sample the local cuisine.
"Coupeville is known for its fresh seafood, particularly its famous Penn Cove mussels," Howell says. "The town has several seafood restaurants and cafes that offer delicious meals with a view of the water."
Looking to book a spur-of-the-moment getaway? Pack your bags for Coupeville and you'll be just in time for the annual Penn Cove Musselfest. This year, it's slated to kick off Friday, March 3, and run through that Sunday, March 5.