Plan a family weekend getaway to one of these beautiful East Coast beaches where you can relax with ocean views and let your kids have fun surrounded by water. Our list includes secluded islands, popular beach resort towns and other beautiful family-friendly options in every state along the East Coast of the United States. Here are the best East Coast beaches (other than Florida). Certain attractions may be temporarily closed or require advance reservations. Hours/availability may have changed.
1. Tybee Island, Georgia
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Tybee Island is a popular retreat among Savannah residents as well as out-of-town guests. Families will find plenty of fun at Tybee Island's parks, some of the best East Coast Beaches, and playgrounds. Island visitors can enjoy watersports, venture along miles of biking and hiking trails, or lounge on the beach.
Arts and culture are also a central focus on Tybee Island, and The Mary Ingalls Art Glass Studio, and Tybee Post Theater are welcoming to visitors. Local events such as festivals and parades also pay tribute to Tybee Island's unique heritage. Visiting families will find plenty of options for accommodations as well as dining. Find more Things to do on Tybee Island.
2. Newport, Rhode Island
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Best known for its annual music festivals, Newport has a lot more to offer in addition to fantastic jazz and folk music. Those who love nature will find the environment is perfect for walking and enjoying the out of doors. Whether watching birds in the 325 acres of the Norman Bird Sanctuary or walking the famous Cliff-Walk, the bucolic environs of Newport will relax and invigorate.
For family oriented fun, Easton Beach offers opportunities for numerous water sports, a skate park, seasonal free concerts and a snack bar, a children’s playground, and many other beach oriented activities.
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3.Ocean City, New Jersey
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Ocean City has a wealth of outdoor activities and entertainment options to keep visitors with or without children busy for days. Trained lifeguards consistently patrol the eight-mile stretch of pristine shoreline, home to some of the best East Coast Beaches. There are restrooms and changing areas directly on the beach. The Ocean City beach is also an alcohol-free area. The boardwalk is another exciting area for visitors of all ages.
During summertime family nights, children can get their faces painted or participate in karaoke. For times when the weather is poor, Ocean City holds indoor activities like storytelling, arts and crafts, and indoor sports. Parents can stay entertained with Ocean City's wide range of dining and shopping options. Ocean City also seeks to be a budget-friendly destination, so families can find a variety of options for accommodations.
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4. Cape Cod, Massachusetts
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A beautiful island, Cape Cod boasts miles of sandy seashore, and it is also a nature lover’s destination with its marshlands, forest, and freshwater ponds. A visit to Cape Cod can mean lying on the beach, a trip to a working cranberry bog, gallery hopping, whale watching, or a night on the town. Shopping and dining are two of the favorite pastimes of visitors.
Variety in these areas means just about any taste or budget can be accommodated. Lighthouse tours, chartered fishing cruises, and bicycle trail rides are also in abundance on the island. Cape Cod is home to some of the best beaches on the East Coast. Things to do in Cape Cod
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5. Best Beaches on the East Coast: Virginia Beach, Virginia
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Virginia Beach offers not one but three beaches where families can play and relax. These beaches are Resort Beach, Sandbridge Beach, and Chesapeake Bay Beach. All are family-friendly, and each has a unique feel. Resort Beach is great for high-energy activities and provides a wide array of options for shopping, dining, and entertainment. The pace of life at Sandbridge Beach is a bit more relaxed. It is surrounded by oceanfront vacation rentals and long walking paths. Chesapeake Bay Beach is very family-friendly.
Its long boardwalk provides visitors with beautiful views of the bay, First Landing State Park, and Cape Henry Lighthouse. No matter which beach guests choose to enjoy, there are an abundance of accommodation options to fit every budget throughout Virginia Beach.
Chesapeake Bay is part of the Virginia Beach area. It is particularly popular among families because of its stunning views of nature and wealth of family-friendly activities. First Landing State Park and Cape Henry Lighthouse are two of its most popular attractions. The state park contains lagoons and a variety of rare plants, and there are areas for fishing, boating, and picnicking, and there are plenty of walking trails visitors can use to explore different parts of the park.
The park also has cabins and campground space for rent. At Cape Henry Lighthouse, guests can learn a bit about the history of shipping and military activities in the Chesapeake Bay. The lighthouse is located on a military base, so it's important that guests over the age of 18 bring a form of ID when they visit. Things to do in Virginia Beach
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6. East Coast Beaches: Montauk, New York
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Montauk is a small beachside community well-known for its sandy beaches, abundance of wildlife, and outdoor recreation scene. Some of the most popular land-based activities in Montauk are mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding, tennis, and golf. The waters surrounding Montauk are perfect for almost every water-based activity imaginable, including SCUBA diving, snorkeling, kite surfing, kayaking, and sailing.
Visitors also have plenty of options for dining, shopping, and family-friendly entertainment in town. There are a series of beautiful hotels for guests to choose from, and camping is available in certain parts of Montauk as well. Things to do in Montauk
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7. Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
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Rehoboth Beach is a favorite spot among East Coast vacationers because of its great hotels, a long boardwalk, lavish homes, and numerous entertainment and dining options. Shoppers will also love the abundance of tax-free stores in the area. Outdoor enthusiasts will find a wealth of activities to try, including kayaking, surfing, walking trails, nature cruises sailing, and more.
There are activities to entertain families with children of all ages year-round. Parades, contests, and 5Ks are among the most popular get-togethers. Special celebrations, including an Elvis festival, a pet festival, and a film festival, also take place throughout the year. Things to do in Rehoboth Beach
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8. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
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Known for its beautiful resorts and 60 miles of pristine waterfront, Myrtle Beach attracts a slew of visitors from all over the globe throughout the year. If you are looking for weekend getaway ideas in South Carolina, Myrtle Beach is one of the best East Coast Beaches. Watersports, including boating, surfing, and fishing, are very popular among Myrtle Beach visitors. Families also enjoy strolling along the boardwalk, riding the 200-foot-tall SkyWheel, and playing on one of the area's 50 mini golf courses.
Other forms of family-friendly fun in Myrtle Beach include visiting historic ships, taking a pirate cruise, driving Go Karts at the Broadway Grand Prix track, or taking an ATV for a spin in the backwoods of South Carolina. Out-of-town visitors will find that Myrtle Beach has plenty of accommodation options to suit everyone’s needs. Things to do in Myrtle Beach
9. East Coast Beaches: Kennebunk, Maine
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Kennebunk and Kennebunkport in Maine have long been a destination of America’s well-heeled, but today they have something for everyone. Known for not only it’s stunning, white sandy beaches but also for its world-class shopping, Kennebunkport is a delight to the eyes.
With small specialty shops, numerous art galleries, whales, and homes of the rich and famous, the available sights are numerous and varied.
Though all seasons in the Kennebunks are full of activities and sightseeing opportunities, this area of the country is truly at its best during the fall when nature paints the trees in oranges, golds, and reds. Things to do in Kennebunkport
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10.Jekyll Island, Georgia
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Jekyll Island has an abundance of spectacular natural areas that draw thousands of visitors each year and is home to some of the top beaches on the East Coast. The island's fragile environment includes marshlands, maritime forests, and beaches. Jekyll Island is also home to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, a facility dedicated to the conservation of sea turtles and their habitat.
Bird spotters can see all sorts of bird species on Jekyll Island, including the bright pink-colored Roseate Spoonbill. Alligators and crocodiles that rest quietly in the marshland areas also occupy the island. Jekyll Island offers various types of accommodations to visitors, including hotels, resorts, villas, and vacation rentals. Jekyll Island Club Hotel is a luxury place to stay on the island.
11. Ocean City, Maryland
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With more than 100 free activities geared toward families, Ocean City is among America's best places for a family vacation. The beach provides plenty of room for fun on land and in the water. Some family favorites include movie nights on the beach, the Family Beach Olympics competition, beach volleyball, and parades and special functions that take place throughout the year.
Festivals celebrating everything from art to kite flying are held on a near-weekly basis. For out-of-town visitors, Ocean City has a wide selection of hotels, vacation rentals, bed & breakfasts, and campgrounds available. There are also dining, entertainment, and shopping options to fit every budget. Things to Do in Ocean City
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12.Hampton Beach, New Hampshire
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Family friendly fun is in abundance in Hampton Beach, NH. The only sandy beach on the New Hampshire coast, Hampton Beach is the area’s premiere destination for seekers of sun and fun. Fun comes in the shape of children’s arcades, clam shacks, carnival food vendors and all the traditional beach activities.
The area’s plethora of accommodations virtually insures an affordable beachfront stay. Festivals throughout the season celebrate sailboat racing, sand sculpting, and kite flying, among many other activities. In the summer, nightly concerts are offered at the Seashell outdoor music venue.
13. Ocracoke Island, North Carolina
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Located off the coast of North Carolina, Oracoke Island appeals to visitors of all ages. The island has 16 miles of undeveloped beaches. There is plenty of room for relaxation, but visitors can also take advantage of the great windsurfing, parasailing, and kite-flying conditions that are part of the Oracoke Island experience.
Guests will also see plenty of wildlife and marine life during their stay, and more than 400 bird species have been spotted in recent years on Oracoke Island. In the Oracoke Village there are plenty of places for tourists to dine, shop, and stay.
14. Block Island, Rhode Island
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A visit to this small island off the shore of Rhode Island takes you back in time and back to nature. Over 40% of Block Island remains undeveloped, and those parts that are developed provide a very laid-back, easy-going vacation destination. 17 miles of beautiful beaches and rolling green hills provide gorgeous backdrops for leisurely bicycle rides or a paddle boarding adventure.
A focus on seafood permeates the dining opportunities on Block Island with local favorites including clam cakes and fish sandwiches. BI’s culinary offering is not limited to just seafood, however, and visitors will find a variety of choices, including at least one microbrewery.
15.East Coast Beaches: Kiawah Island, South Carolina
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Located just a little more than 30 miles from the Charleston Airport, Kiawah Island is a popular spot among vacationers. Visitors enjoy pastimes such as relaxing by the beach, golfing, watersports, dining, shopping, and more. Marshlands and thick forests contribute to the uniqueness of Kiawah Island's environment, and the area is also rich in wildlife and sea life.
The 10,000 acre island is home to more than 300 bird species, 18 types of mammals, and 30+ species of reptiles. With only 1,400 permanent residents and plenty of space for exploring, Kiawah Island is the perfect place for families to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Kiawah Island Resort is a popular place to stay for families.
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16. Best Beaches on the East Coast: Bar Harbor, Maine
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One of New England’s most popular tourist destinations, Bar Harbor is a village perched on the seaside rocks of Mount Desert Island. Located in quintessential Maine, Bar Harbor is perfectly situated for whale watching tours, scenic shore walks, lighthouse touring, and many more of the activities that have made Maine a vacation destination for generations.
A highlight of any trip to Bar Harbor is a visit to Acadia National Park and the famous Sand Beach. As most beaches and shorelines in this area of Maine are dominated by rock, this nearly 300-yard-long beach provides a lovely, sandy spot from which to enjoy the sea and mountains simultaneously.
17. Nantucket, Massachusetts
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Few places in the United States can claim to be more historic than Nantucket. In fact, the entire town of Nantucket is a National Historic District and provides the opportunity to walk through streets mostly unchanged since the 1850’s.
Visitors will find the town is filled with small, boutique shops and gourmet, chef-operated restaurants. Renting a bicycle on which you can tour the small town and its waterfront is a perfect way to enjoy the charm of this national treasure. If you tire of the history and architecture of the area, a respite on one of the island’s 10 beaches is the prescribed activity. Things to Do on Nantucket
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18.Wildwood Crest, New Jersey
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Wildwood Crest is a great beach in New Jersey to visit with kids. Aside from having beautiful coastal areas, Wildwood Crest keeps families safe by staffing its beaches with trained lifeguards during the peak months for tourism. Alcohol, dogs, and fires are not permitted on the beach at any time.
Surfing enthusiasts have a designated area called Rambler Beach where they can surf without disturbing swimmers. In the summer months, Wildwood Crest offers plenty of events to help bring families together. Concerts, fitness classes, and massive yard sales are commonplace occurrences for this close-knit town. Visitors will find plenty of choices for accommodations, dining, and entertainment during their stay at Wildwood Crest.
19. Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
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Hilton Head Island is home to nature preserves, gorgeous beaches, and a range of kid-friendly activities. Outdoor adventurists can enjoy the Island's miles of bike trails as well as its endless array of watersport options. To see deer, alligators, foxes, and other animals, visitors can pay a visit to Pickney Island National Wildlife Refuge or Sea Pines Forest Preserve.
Both areas offer ample room for wildlife spotting and hiking. For a taste of local history and art, families can head to the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina or to the Coastal Discovery Museum. Younger kids will find plenty of fun at the Sandbox Interactive Children's Museum. Lastly, parents and adults can wind down at one of the island's jazz clubs, The Jazz Corner. Things to Do on Hilton Head Island
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20.Best Beaches on the East Coast: Dewey Beach, Delaware
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Dewey Beach is a combination of a beach and a bay along the Delaware coast. Dewey Beach has plenty of options for outdoor activities, a lively nightlife scene, and lots of family-friendly events. Water lovers can tap into their adventurous side by going boating, parasailing, jet-skiing, or windsurfing.
Sailing and whale watching are other popular water-based activities. Dewey Beach regularly hosts bonfires and screens movies on the beach, events that are open to guests of all ages. Festivals, parties, and other family events are held year-round. Parents will find endless opportunities for shopping, dining, and entertainment along the resort's “mile of style” road.
21.East Coast Beaches: Ogunquit, Maine
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Ogunquit, the “beautiful place by the sea,” is an aptly named gem on the Southern Maine coast. A mecca for artists since the 19th century, Ogunquit continues to attract people from all over the world, who enjoy its seashore and beautiful light.
Though many people come to visit the galleries and shops in town, many others are drawn here to visit the famous beach. Ogunquit beach provides 3 miles of white sandy beach and grassy dunes. Perfect for shell hunting, body surfing, or simply a day lying in the sun, Ogunquit beach has been rated one of the top 25 beaches in the country.
22. Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
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Martha's Vineyard is the largest island in New England and in many ways feels like a world unto itself. Though accessible from the mainland, the island has remained a quaint and individual destination, eschewing chain restaurants, hotel chains, and shops.
This is the perfect destination for those looking for owner-operated dining and shopping opportunities. In addition, it offers a variety of experiences at numerous price points, making it an oasis for those looking for 5-star dining or family and budget friendly options. The beautiful beaches are, of course, popular, and opportunities for boating and other water sport activities are abundant. Things to Do on Martha's Vineyard
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23.Bald Head Island, North Carolina
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Bald Head Island sits two miles off the coast of Southport, North Carolina. It is popular among day trippers and long-term travelers because of its unspoiled beaches, forest preserve areas, and temperate weather. The island offers plenty of family-friendly outdoor activities, and there are also several historical sites on Bald Head Island that visitors can see as part of the Historic Island Tour. They can also visit the Smith Island Museum or participate in a treasure hunt with the island's performing troupe at the local sail shop. For accommodations families can choose from motels, hotels, or beachside condominiums and homes.
24. Bridgeport, Connecticut
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For those taking a family-friendly day trip to the sea, Seaside Park in Bridgeport is a unique location. Combining history and nature, Seaside Park boasts a 3-mile long beach in a park originally designed in the 1860’s. The beach has gentle waves, making it easy for swimming and safe for children.
Walking the length of the park to its western tip will bring adventurous nature lovers across the breakwater rocks and into the nature preserve of Fayerweather Island. The entirety of Seaside Park and its development and preservation are largely credited to the famous circus man P.T. Barnum, and it is a beautiful place to spend the day communing with Connecticut’s seashore. Things to Do in Bridgeport
25 Best East Coast Beaches
- Tybee Island, Georgia, Photo: Courtesy of Tomov - Fotolia.com
- Newport, Rhode Island, Photo: Courtesy of SeanPavonePhoto - Fotolia.coalwood photo
- Ocean City, New Jersey, Photo: Courtesy of novack 7 - Fotolia.com
- Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Photo: Courtesy of steffstarr - Fotolia.com
- Best Beaches on the East Coast: Virginia Beach, Virginia, Photo: Courtesy of sherryvsmith - Fotolia.com
- East Coast Beaches: Montauk, New York, Photo: Courtesy of biegles - Fotolia.com
- Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, Photo: Courtesy of CBH - Fotolia.com
- Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Photo: Courtesy Melpomene - Fotolia.com
- East Coast Beaches: Kennebunk, Maine, Photo: Courtesy of Enrico Della Pietra - Fotolia.com
- Jekyll Island, Georgia, Photo: Courtesy of brianw_45 - Fotolia.com
- Ocean City, Maryland, Photo: Courtesy of steheap - Fotolia.com
- Hampton Beach, New Hampshire, Photo: Courtesy of jon bilous - Fotolia.com
- Ocracoke Island, North Carolina, Photo: Courtesy of sbgoodwin - Fotolia.com
- Block Island, Rhode Island , Photo: Courtesy of monamakela.com - Fotolia.com
- East Coast Beaches: Kiawah Island, South Carolina, Photo: Courtesy of kmm7553 - Fotolia.com
- Best Beaches on the East Coast: Bar Harbor, Maine, Photo: Courtesy of jumpingjammie - Fotolia.com
- Nantucket, Massachusetts, Photo: Courtesy of Niklas Kratzsch - Fotolia.com
- Wildwood Crest, New Jersey, Photo: Courtesy of Jorge Moro - Fotolia.com
- Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, Photo: Courtesy of qingwa - Fotolia.com
- Best Beaches on the East Coast: Dewey Beach, Delaware, Photo: Courtesy of gravescreative - Fotolia.com
- East Coast Beaches: Ogunquit, Maine, Photo: Courtesy of alwayspp - Fotolia.com
- Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, Photo: Courtesy of jiawangkun - Fotolia.com
- Bald Head Island, North Carolina, Photo: Courtesy of foto - Fotolia.com
- Bridgeport, Connecticut, Photo: Courtesy of Ritu Jethani - Fotolia.com
- Cover Photo: Courtesy of Ruth P. Peterkin - Fotolia.com
More Ideas: Chebeague Island
Located in Casco Bay off the eastern coast of the United States, Chebeague Island, also referred to as Great Chebeague Island, is one of 12 major islands within the Calendar Islands and is the largest island within Casco Bay not connected to mainland Maine by a vehicle bridge.
Chebeague Island, also known as Great Chebeague Island, is located approximately 10 miles off the coast of Portland, Maine. The name of Chebeague Island is thought to have evolved from the Wabanaki Confederacy term chebiscodego, which roughly translates to “island of many springs.” Prior to the arrival of Europeans in North America, the island was used by indigenous tribes as a fishing and gathering location during the summer months. In 1746, European settler Zachariah Chandler purchased 650 acres on the island. In the following years, much of the island’s land was cleared for farmland, with early island commerce developing around the fishing and stone sloop construction industries. Throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the island became a popular tourist spot for New England urbanites looking for weekend getaways and vacations in more natural, non-industrial settings. In 2002, the island began to pursue secession legislation to become an independent entity from the town of Cumberland, Maine, which it had been affiliated with since the late 19th century. In 2006, the island’s independence vote successfully passed in both Maine legislature houses, and the island’s secession officially took place on July 1, 2007.
Today, Great Chebeague Island is the largest of 17 islands that comprise the Town of Chebeague, which was officially incorporated in 2007. As the largest island within Casco Bay that is not connected to mainland Maine by a bridge, the island is one of only two islands within the bay with a substantial year-round population. The three-mile-long island has a year-round population of approximately 350, with summer population more than tripling due to tourist activity. During low tides, a foot-travel sandbar connects the island to nearby Little Chebeague Island, which is owned by the Maine Bureau of Parks and operated as an undeveloped public park area offering camping and swimming facilities.
A single paved loop road spans the length of the island and provides access to most attractions, though some beaches and attractions are only accessible via unpaved roads. All beaches on the island are considered state land and are accessible for visitors at any time. Visitors are advised to take caution on shorelines and while boating, as ocean floor geography and tide conditions can vary drastically and cause dangerous conditions at short notice. As water conditions in the ocean rarely reach above 60 degrees Fahrenheit even in the summer months, visitors should use shoreline inlets and coves for public swimming, which offer warmer water conditions. A variety of wildlife may be observed on the island, including deer, red foxes, loons, and gray and black back gulls. Harbor seals and porpoises may also be observed along the island’s shoreline.
The island’s historic schoolhouse, which was closed in 1956, has been converted into a museum facility for the Chebeague Island Historical Society, which is open to the public during the summer months and offers a variety of exhibits on the island’s social and cultural history. Year-round public facilities include the Chebeague Island Library and the Chebeague Island Boatyard, which offers storage and mooring services for boaters. The island’s only church, the Chebeague Island Methodist Church, is its oldest public institution, dating back to the late 18th century. A community center also offers public event programming, including a variety of themed summer camps for local youth.
Nine holes of golf are offered at the Great Chebeague Golf Club, with shoreline views at every hole. Several restaurants are located on the island, including the Slow Bell Cafe and the Niblic, located at the Chebeague Island Boatyard. A gift shop at the Niblic also sells crafts and goods created by local artisans. Produce and goods are sold at Doughty’s Island Market and the seasonal Second Wind Farm. Overnight accommodations are offered at the Greek Revival-style Chebeague Island Inn, a restored 1920s-era hotel with 21 guest rooms and a full-service fine dining restaurant.
Chebeague Island is accessible from the mainland via the Casco Bay Lines passenger transit service, which transports more than one million annual travelers to eight islands within Casco Bay and provides mail service and education transportation for island residents. The service, which began year-round transit in 1878 as the Casco Bay Steamboat Company, was rebranded as Casco Bay Lines in 1919 and taken over by the nonprofit Casco Bay Island Transit District corporation in 1981. Daily ferry service is provided from Portland and nearby Bailey, Peaks, Great and Little Diamond, Long, and Cliff Islands and Diamond Cove. A variety of scenic tours and special excursion cruises are also offered, including music cruises featuring local musicians and special event cruises in correlation with major holidays. Ferry service is also provided by the Chebeague Transportation Company, which departs from Cousins Island, and by several private water taxi services.
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More Ideas: Great Cranberry Island
Located in Cranberry Isles, Maine, Great Cranberry Island is the largest of the town’s five islands, measuring approximately two miles long and one mile wide and offering attractions such as a history museum and public visitor trails.
The recorded history of Great Cranberry Island dates back as far as 1688, when the land that now comprises the Cranberry Isles was deeded as part of the Sieur de la Mothe Cadillac Grant. In 1762, the islands were granted to Massachusetts Governor Francis Bernard, who named the islands after the 200-acre cranberry marsh on Great Cranberry Island. Several other islands were granted to the governor, including Little Cranberry Island and nearby Baker, Bear, and Sutton Islands. The island’s early settlers included Benjamin Spurling, who moved to the island from Portsmouth, New Hampshire in 1768, and Samuel Hadlock, a lumber industry worker who moved to the island in the late 18th century for the purposes of creating fishing trade in the area. In 1830, the town of Cranberry Isles was incorporated, and in 1849, additional land was annexed to form the current town borders.
Today, the town of Cranberry Isles is comprised of Great and Little Cranberry Islands and nearby Baker, Bear, and Sutton Islands. Great Cranberry Island’s year-round population was 40 at the time of the 2000 census, though its summer population expands to over 300 due to regional tourism. The island has been depicted in a variety of books and artistic pieces, including the fictional children’s book My Kindergarten and the oil and watercolor paintings of artist Wini Smart.
A number of tourist attractions are offered on the island, including the Cranberry House museum, which was opened in its current location in 2008. Permanent collections of items related to island life are showcased throughout the museum’s first floor, including handmade quilts, indigenous artifacts, fishing industry equipment, and artifacts related to the history of rusticator tourism in Maine’s coastal islands in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Exhibits connected to the Newberry Award-winning children’s book Hitty, Her First Hundred Years, written by island summer resident Rachel Field, are also displayed, along with an annual rotating temporary exhibit. Several educational videos on the history of the Maine islands are also offered upon request. The museum complex also includes the Hitty’s Cafe restaurant, the restored Sammy Sanford Cabin, three public gardens, and a public access trail along the island’s shoreline at Whistler’s Cove. The museum is open daily and offers public restroom facilities, free wireless internet access, and a dog lapping basin for visitor pets.
Island transportation is provided during the summer and fall months by the Cranberry Explorer public shuttle service, operated by the Great Cranberry Island Historical Society. Visitors may observe ongoing boat repairs at the island’s Cranberry Island, Newman and Gray Boatyards. Other amenities and public services offered on the island include a post office, school, and library facility, which is open to visitors on weekday mornings. The Seawich Cafe serves light fare such as sandwiches, soups, and hot and cold beverages. The nearby Cranberry General Store also sells farm-fresh produce, baked goods, and meat cut to order.
The island is accessible via ferry service from nearby Mount Desert Island’s Northeast and Southwest Harbors. Three regularly-scheduled ferries travel to the island, including the Beal and Bunker Mail Boat, the Cranberry Cove Ferry, and the Cranberry Isles Commuter Service. Fare on ferries is valid for trips to both Great and Little Cranberry Island. Several water taxi services also offer service, including Delight, Cadillac, and Downeast Sailing Adventure Water Taxis. Car, van, and truck access to the island may be arranged by special arrangement with Beal and Bunker Mail Boat. Private boat docking is also offered at the island’s Spurling Cove.
Public overnight accommodations are not offered on the island, though short-term rentals of private residences are offered periodically. Rental houses include the Hawes Cottage, the Brown House, the Freeman Little House, and the Red House Compound. All private rentals must be arranged by contacting the property owner directly via phone or email.
Cranberry Isles Attractions
In addition to the attractions of Great Cranberry Island, a number of visitor attractions are offered on Little Cranberry Island, including the Isleford Historical Museum, which offers a variety of exhibits related to the islands’ social and cultural history. Work by local artisans is showcased at Isleford Pottery and Isleford Artisans, and daily lunch and dinner are served at the Isleford Dock Restaurant. Though visitors are not permitted on Bear, Baker, or Sutton Islands, the Bear and Baker Island Light lighthouse are visible as part of ferry and water taxi tours of the region.
More Things to Do in Maine, Best Maine islands
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More Ideas: Southport Island
Located in Lincoln County, Maine, the community of Southport includes the villages of Southport, West Southport, Cape Newagen, and Squirrel Island, with most residents and town activity located on the main island of Southport Island. The rugged coastline of the state of Maine was formed as the result of glacier retreat at the end of the last Ice Age approximately 11,700 years ago.
Today, more than 4,000 islands, inlets, and bars are located off the coast of Maine. A large number of Maine’s islands remain uninhabited or are preserved as natural refuges, including the islands preserved as part of Acadia National Park. Many islands have been developed and house seasonal or year-round populations, offering historic lighthouse facilities, New England-style towns and villages, and outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, and kayaking. Most of the islands within the Gulf of Maine are accessible via ferry or water taxi service from coastal harbor cities such as Portland, Boothbay, and Portsmouth.
Southport Island’s Cape Newagen, located on the island’s southern tip, served as an early fishing outpost for European colonists in North America. The island was historically referred to as Cape Newagen Island and was formerly incorporated as part of the town of Boothbay, but in 1842, it was incorporated as a separate township under the name of Townsend, in honor of Lord Townshend. In 1850, the town’s name was changed to Southport.
Today, Southport is located within Lincoln County, Maine and is home to a year-round population of more than 600 people. The town’s land area encompasses more than 17 square miles on several islands located at the mouth of the Sheepscot River, including the main Southport Island. The islands are connected to nearby Boothbay Harbor by a green swing bridge and are crossed by Maine State Routes 27 and 238, offering cultural attractions, dining experiences, and overnight accommodations in a historic, quaint atmosphere.
The history of Southport is on display at the Hendrick’s Hill Museum, which is hosted within a historic house facility constructed by John Cameron in 1810. The home served as a residence for local fishermen for more than a century before it was sold to Elsworth Besaw in 1910, a baker from Bath, Maine. After Besaw sold the home to Ezra Pratt, it stayed in the Pratt family until it was donated to the Southport Historical Society in 1987 and moved from its original Pierce’s Cove location. Today, the home is operated as a living history museum facility showcasing original furnishings and exhibits about the island’s history. It is open to the public on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays in July and August throughout the morning and afternoon hours.
Restaurants within Southport include Robinson’s Wharf, which is one of the most acclaimed seafood shacks in the state of Maine and serves fresh lobster, oyster, and shrimp dishes. The restaurant offers dock seating overlooking nearby Townsend Gut. Overnight accommodations are offered at the Ocean Gate Resort, which also rents canoes for tours of the island’s surrounding waterways, and the Newagen Seaside Inn, which offers premium guest room and cottage accommodations. A pub is also offered at the Newagen Seaside Inn, serving cocktails, locally-produced seafood dishes, and dishes with farmstand-sourced produce. Live local music is presented at the restaurant on Thursday and Sunday nights, and on Tuesday nights throughout the summer, lobster bakes are held on the inn’s lawn.
Outdoor activities on the island include Southport Beach, which overlooks the historic Hendrick’s Head Lighthouse. The present two-story keeper’s house and tower structure of the light station, which was established in 1829, was constructed in 1875. Though the light station was deactivated temporarily in 1933, it was reactivated in 1951 and is continuously lit, with white light shown on its west side and red light on its east side. In 1987, the station was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors should be advised that the community and natural area of Squirrel Island, which is incorporated as part of the town of Southport, is a private island community and tourist travel is discouraged by area residents.
Southport is located near the community of Boothbay Harbor, which has been named as the number two destination on Downeast Magazine’s list of prettiest Maine villages. The area serves as a popular tourist destination for visitors throughout the New York and New England regions, offering a variety of family and visitor attractions, including the Maine State Aquarium, which offers a 20-foot touch tank. Other cultural attractions include the Boothbay Railway Village and the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens.
More Things to Do in Maine, Best Islands in Maine
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