On Long Island, any day can be a beach day. But sometimes — and maybe especially this year — you might need a brief change of scenery.
The Northeast is home to plenty of beach towns within driving distance if you’re aiming to avoid plane travel this spring break. They’re full of history, waterfront views, shopping and pizza that’s (almost) as good as what you’ll find in these parts.
If you need to get away consider a grown-up spring break in one of these charming but close-by Northeastern beach towns.
A peaceful slice of the Jersey Shore in Lavalette
The Jersey Shore is often known for its fist pumps and party scene. But Lavalette offers a quieter escape. About three miles from Seaside Heights (where Snooki, The Situation and company famously partied), Lavalette bills itself as a more mature town. Guests have access to the boardwalks at Seaside Heights and the tamer Point Pleasant, but they can step away from the scene at their leisure. There are plenty of Airbnbs, or you can stay in a traditional one at Mathis House. The Victorian bed & breakfast takes guests back to the turn of last century with furnishings straight out of the period. Guests can also book a tea party.
Lavalette’s boardwalk is more low-key than others — there are no arcade games, but it allows walkers to take in the shoreline in peace. For lunch, grab pizza at one of two local favorites, Lavallette Ristorante and Pizzeria or Lenny’s, and dig your toes in the sand for a low-key quintessential Jersey Shore experience.
The Maine coast without the crowds in Kennebunkport
A favorite summer retreat of both the Kennedy and Bush families, Kennebunkport is an ocean community that blends the laidback vibes you’d expect from a beach town with an opulent history. Treat yourself to upscale accommodations at the Kennebunkport Inn. Set in an 1890s mansion that once belonged to a tea merchant, the inn balances timeless elegance with contemporary flair. Think four-post beds, floor-to-ceiling drapes and vibrant throw pillows. It’s a 10-minute drive from Goose Beach, a public beach made for walking or a mid-morning nap. It’s not as crowded in the spring as it is in the summer, but if you prefer a more private place to lounge, head to the smaller Arundel Beach, about 15 minutes away.
Take a trip down memory lane — literally — at the Seashore Trolley Museum, the largest museum of mass transit vehicles. The museum, which includes restored streetcars, buses and light rail vehicles, plans to reopen the weekend of April 3-4. For lunch, a trip to The Clam Shack is a must. It may look humble, but the lobster rolls, doused in butter, draw people from East to West.
A little bit of luxury in Newport, RI
A 45-minute drive from the state capital of Providence, Newport is part beach town, part Gatsby. It boasts harbors full of yachts, ocean beaches and streets lined with beautifully restored mansions. If you enjoy visiting spots like Oheka Castle or Sands Point Preserve, consider booking a mansion tour through the Preservation Society of Newport. You can also catch a glimpse of the mansions while strolling the shoreline and waking in wildflowers and birds on a cliff walk.
Unless you have serious connections, you won’t be bathing at Bailey’s Beach, an elite beach club. But on the other side of a fence is a small, lesser-known beach lovingly called “Reject’s Beach” (there’s no parking, so plan to hang there after competing the cliff walk). The name sounds harsh, but not many people know about this spot, so you’ll get to relax in socially distant style. Or, you could head back to your car and relax on Easton’s Beach (known as 1st Beach to locals). You’ll find it at the beginning of the cliff walk.
Shake out sandy shoes and cool sun-kissed cheeks at Castle Hill Inn. The Victorian-era mansion-turned-inn gives guests a taste of the bygone era and has its own private beach. Ocean views, fireplaces and soaking tubs are among the amenities guests may have.
The road less travelled in New Castle, N.H.
Its neighbor, Portsmouth, is a destination for tourists. But New Castle, the smallest and easternmost town in New Hampshire, often gets overlooked. That makes for a quieter respite while still giving guests easy access to Portsmouth if they choose. Wentworth by the Sea is a pet-friendly Marriott Hotel with ocean views and a spa that offers facials and massages. It’s also home to upscale chic eatery SALT Kitchen & Bar, where the filet mignon and lobster rolls are to die for.
Take a history lesson on foot with the New Castle walking tour, where you’ll see the New Castle Historical Building (built circa 1879), the centuries-old Fort Point Light and Fort Constitution, which has Revolutionary War ties.