New England’s coastline is dotted with idyllic islands where flawless beaches are abundant and natural beauty is around every bend. Low-key island pleasures include salty sea swims, sandy sunset strolls and eating fresh seafood at casual lobster shacks.
It’s a low-impact getaway, as a bicycle or your own two feet are favored methods of transportation. Islands have a remote, rustic feel and sense of seclusion that’s a balm for these times. In truth, they’re easily accessible via causeway or breezy ferry ride.
If you’re looking to satisfy your wanderlust on a getaway with plenty of nautical charm, consider these 10 scenic islands, all with hotels for a comfortable overnight stay.
Mount Desert Island, Maine
Mount Desert Island is Maine’s largest coastal island. Home to Acadia National Park, its beauty is so intense it borders on mystical. Hikers, cyclists and horseback riders will find trails interlaced with wide carriage roads carpeted with crushed stones, winding past ponds and woodlands.
These Atlantic waters are a tad chilly for many swimmers, though nature cruises and lobster boat rides put you in pole position to glimpse seals, porpoises and whales frolicking.
Stay: Overlooking Frenchman’s Bay in Bar Harbor, Harborside Hotel, Spa & Marina is a relaxed retreat at Acadia National Park’s doorstep.
Block Island, Rhode Island
Block Island is a nautical paradise with 17 miles of sandy beach, hundreds of freshwater ponds and water so blue that you might think you’re in the Caribbean. With over 250 bird species landing here annually, it’s an avian wonderland. A web of walkways connects miles of unspoiled habitat with stunning vistas. Ponder the immensity of Mohegan Bluffs and hike rolling trails at Rodman’s Hollow.
Foodies shouldn’t miss a meal at Champlin’s Galley House, where the chef spins magic with just-caught seafood.
Stay: Overlooking Crescent Beach, Block Island Beach House has vintage-inspired rooms with sea views and a wrap-around porch. Warm hospitality wraps it in a bow.
Great Diamond Island, Maine
Great Diamond Island was once a retreat for American literary greats such as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Harriet Beecher Stowe. Today, visitors may explore this car-free jewel’s Casco Bay landscapes and maritime tranquility on a bike or golf cart. Sheltered beaches, old-growth forest and historic Fort McKinley are just a speedy ferry ride from Portland’s Old Port district.
Stay: Inn at Diamond Cove offers 44 condo-style units. A heated pool, firepit, tennis courts and restored turn-of-the-century duckpin bowling alley are surrounded by peaceful walking trails.
Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
Old-fashioned lighthouses and pristine beaches are some of Martha’s Vineyard’s seaside charms. Enchanting villages include Edgartown, its narrow lanes framed with dignified Greek revival homes once inhabited by whaling captains.
Kids (and kids at heart) will enjoy a ride on a painted pony at Oak Bluff’s Flying Horses Carousel and a nostalgic nibble at Murdick’s Fudge, where they’ve used the same delicious candy recipes since 1887.
Stay: Edgartown Inn’s village location and farmhouse aesthetic are a winning combination.
Peaks Island, Maine
Just a 17-minute ferry ride from Portland, Peaks Island feels a million miles away. It’s a close-knit community with both rocky and sandy beaches and a quirky Umbrella Cover Museum, which is exactly what it sounds like. Swim or kayak to Catnip Island from Sandy Beach for an easy adventure.
Simple pleasures include enjoying a cup of island-roasted coffee at Peaks Island Coffee Roasters and a just-baked cinnamon bun at Peaks Café.
Stay: Inn on Peaks offers seven cottage-style rooms with Jacuzzi tubs and private decks.
Nantucket’s cranberry bogs and windswept bluffs paint a dreamy panorama. Understated elegance and 82 miles of enviable coastline help to explain why loyal beachcombers return each year.
Shady bike paths are ideal for cycling. Pedal to Siasconset, a fairytale hamlet brushed with rose-covered cottages. Stop by the Nantucket Lightship Basket Museum and view unique hand-woven rattan and wood baskets that have been made here for centuries.
Stay: Occupying a prime in-town location, boutique Greydon House offers 20 stylish rooms.
Monhegan Island, Maine
Monhegan Island is a rocky haven where lobster traps line unpaved roads leading to yesteryear villages, verdant meadows and high ocean cliffs. Known for its robust art community, watch artists create in their studios, visit a crafts co-op, and explore Monhegan Museum of Art & History. Build an appetite traversing miles of hiking trails and sample some of Maine’s freshest lobster.
Stay: Fall asleep to the sound of the sea at Monhegan House, a simple bed and breakfast with 26 rooms and lighthouse views.
New Castle, New Hampshire
Located off New Hampshire’s 17-mile sliver of seacoast, New Castle captivates. Visit Fort Constitution’s Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse and soak in history, as the American Revolution’s first victory took place here. Stop by Great Island Common, a shoreline green space with sailboats breezing by.
Connected by bridge to neighboring Rye and Portsmouth, it’s perfectly situated to investigate Portsmouth’s dynamic food scene or jump waves at Jenness State Beach.
Stay: Upscale Wentworth by the Sea is nestled on flower-filled grounds with harbor views, swimming pools and delectable dining options.
In the middle of Penobscot Bay sits Vinalhaven, an oasis of pink-hued granite that was once used to build important monuments throughout America. Home to one of Maine’s most lucrative fleets of lobster boats, it’s a working island with a vital year-round population that swells in summer.
Known for its commitment to conservation, the island’s patchwork of walking trails is an excellent way to soak in suggestive scenery. When it’s time to cool off, jump in crystal-clear water at one of two refreshing swimming holes, Booth’s Quarry and Lawson’s Quarry.
Stay: The Tidewater offers homey rooms, some with private terraces.
Chebeague Island, Maine
Postcard-pretty Chebeague island is Casco Bay’s largest unconnected island. Crab traps hang from the dock, local children fish for striped bass, and harbor seals sun themselves on nearby rocks. At low tide, stroll over to Little Chebeague Island via sandbar. Come in summer and pick abundant wild blueberries until your fingers are stained purple.
Stay: Chebeague Island Inn has been thoughtfully restored to capture Maine’s commitment to fine craftsmanship. Stone fireplaces and local artwork give sense of place.
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