The 8 Cutest Small Towns on the East Coast
Travel experts say these are the spots that shouldn't be missed if you want that small-town feel.
Finding a quaint spot to visit on the East Coast isn't too difficult, as there are plenty of towns and cities to explore all year-round. There's something for everyone from the rocky shores of New England to the sunny Southeast, and along the way, there are a few particularly delightful stops that you don't want to miss. These towns may be tiny, but that doesn't mean there's a lack of things to do and see—especially if you're a history or movie buff. Read on to find out which eight East Coast towns travel experts say are the cutest.
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Port Clyde, Maine
Starting all the way up north in Maine, head to the coastal town of Port Clyde.
"When you imagine a cute, quintessential harbor town found along the East Coast, Port Clyde, Maine fits the bill perfectly," Carly Brown, travel blogger behind Seek Out Serenity LLC, tells Best Life. "This quaint town may only have a population of 228, but it boasts plenty of character for visitors driving up or down the coast."
While you're there, be sure to dine at The Dip Net Restaurant, which is owned by Lexi Zable. At the restaurant, Brown says you "can enjoy a warm lobster roll dockside, amongst other fresh seafood menu items."
The Port Clyde General Store is another cool spot, easily recognizable by its green siding and red trim and fixtures. Brown notes that the general store is owned by Linda Bean, who is the granddaughter of Leon Leonwood Bean, the founder of the L.L.Bean brand.
Hudson, New York
A visit to New York doesn't have to include a trip to the Big Apple—in fact, time is well-spent in a town two hours north.
"Hudson, New York, is a quaint spot with some bustling activities, both in nature and in great dining," travel expert Becca Siegel from Halfhalftravel.com tells Best Life. "It's totally charming for visitors, especially in autumn."
The town is situated on the Hudson River, and you certainly won't be bored. "The specific attractions that make it a great spot are its riverside location, along with its brewery, historic Victorian architecture, and nearby outlets for nature walks and hikes," Siegel says.
If you can wait until the fall to schedule your visit, you won't regret it either, as the Hudson Valley boasts some of the most beautiful foliage in the U.S.
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The New England fishing town of Mystic, Connecticut, made the perfect movie backdrop. One of its most well-known spots, Mystic Pizza, was the inspiration for the 1988 film of the same name, starring a young Julia Roberts. According to LocationsHub, shooting took place in Mystic, as well as the surrounding towns of Stonington and Groton, Connecticut, and Watch Hill, Rhode Island.
You can actually sit down and have a slice at the real-life Mystic Pizza, but that isn't the only attraction in this seaside town.
"Mystic oozes New England charm and offers the perfect blend of modern and historic appeals," Bradley Williams, travel writer and co-founder of Dream Big, Travel Far, says. "It's a cute small town with less than 5,000 residents, and home to the Olde Mistick Village, a unique mall that will transport you back to the 1700s with its cobblestone streets and antique building styles."
You'll also breathe in that salty air of the Atlantic Ocean, indulge in different seafood (if pizza doesn't strike your fancy), and interact with "extremely friendly and welcoming locals," Williams says.
Duck, North Carolina
If you're looking for that extra special Southern charm, add Duck, North Carolina in the Outer Banks to your travel bucket list. Leslie Carbone, travel blogger behind Sancerres at Sunset, points to "beautiful beaches, fabulous barbecue, and quaint shops" as some of Duck's key draws, but there's something else that makes it unique.
"It also has a fantastic boardwalk facing west to the Currituck Sound, making it a rare spot on the East Coast where you can watch the sunset over the water, as you stroll past charming restaurants and boutiques," Carbone explains.
You can easily stop in Duck if you're also visiting some larger historic spots like Fort Raleigh National Historic Site or the Wright Brothers National Memorial Park, she adds.
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If you're not looking for a seaside getaway, consider a trip to "Central Pennsylvania's Victorian Secret." Situated just 20 minutes outside of State College, home of Penn State University's main campus, the secret about Bellefonte is certainly well kept.
"I was blown away by this small town," Anna Cook, travel blogger and founder of Stuck On The Go, gushes. "Two things make downtown so cute—many buildings were constructed in the Victorian architectural style and Talleyrand Park is an absolute gem."
The park sits on the banks of Spring Creek, which flows through town and helped the town get its name. According to the Bellefonte Intervalley Area Chamber of Commerce, "legend has it" that Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord (yes, the park is also named after him) was taken aback when he spotted the Big Spring, exclaiming, "la belle fonte!" In English, the French ambassador's compliment translates to "beautiful fountain."
Walk along the creek and explore a "gazebo, sculpture garden, and towering willow trees," Cook says. In addition, a wide selection of bed and breakfasts, antique stores, and restaurants also make Bellefonte a must-see—and so does its proximity to other interesting attractions.
"Trout fishing is very popular—especially in Spring Creek—and there are countless options for hiking, including Rothrock State Forest, Mount Nittany, and Black Moshannon State Park," Cook says. "If you want to take part in the outdoor opportunities, then summer is the best time to visit, or fall for beautiful fall foliage hikes. Late spring, once the weather has warmed up, is also a good time."
St. Michaels, Maryland
Frequently mentioned by travel experts was the small town of St. Michaels, Maryland. "With just about 1,053 residents, St. Michaels is a beautiful small town," Lola Akingbade, founder of the Maryland travel and family blog Deyewa, says. "If you are looking for that boat life, this is the place to be." She directs visitors to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum for the popular "At Play on the Bay" exhibition.
If you're an Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, or Vince Vaughn fan, you'll get a kick out of booking a stay at the Inn at Perry Cabin, where the reception scene for the 2005 comedy Wedding Crashers was filmed. Looking for more of a boutique-y vibe? Lee Friedman, founder of Mango Tree Travel, recommends the Wylder Hotel, situated a quick 15 minutes outside St. Michaels.
The Italian food at Limoncello on Talbot Street is not to be missed, especially if you're in the mood for seafood pasta, Friedman says, but St. Michaels has a wide range of dining options.
"[The town] sits right on the Chesapeake Bay, so it has a boating feel, with waterfront restaurants, fresh seafood, and cute stores that make you want to decorate your beach house," he says. "There's an ice cream shop, and a brewery and distillery in town as well."
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Travel down south and you'll stumble upon Juliette, Georgia, a bit farther inland and an hour outside of Atlanta. You might recognize one key attraction in this small town—The Whistle Stop Cafe, where 1991's Fried Green Tomatoes was filmed, Allie Albanese, founder of Parched Around the World, says.
"While indulging in a plate of delicious fried green tomatoes at the Whistle Stop is an absolute must—and as a Southern girl, I can attest to the fact that they are some of the best I've ever had—a stroll through town to seek treasures at antique shops or to load up on some local delights (think: scuppernong jelly and pickled peaches) is also a fun way to get a sense of the charm and history," she says, adding that this "tiny blocks-long town" will really take you back in time.
"There's something so beautiful about its simplicity and the southern hospitality offered at every turn that makes Juliette a worthy stop," Albanese tells Best Life.
She recommends avoiding travel in the summer if you're not good in the heat, and visiting on a weekday will prevent you from waiting too long for a table at The Whistle Stop. But if you want to experience Juliette's unique charm, you can opt to visit on the fourth weekend in October for the town's annual Green Tomato Festival.
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Located near popular Rehoboth Beach is the quaint town of Lewes, Delaware. It's known as a "walking town," per its official website, founded all the way back in 1632.
"[Lewes] is a nice place you can easily explore on foot!" Williams says. "Walk along the waterfront streets filled with restaurants, local boutiques, and interesting museums for a relaxing afternoon. There are also boat tours and kayaks for hire, so you can admire the antique buildings from the water."
The views at Cape Henlopen State Park are not to be missed, and if you need to unwind after a day of travel, you'll be able to indulge in a nice glass of vino.
"Lewes is also renowned for its wine," Williams notes, directing wine lovers to Nassau Valley Vineyards, which became Delaware's first winery in 1993.