Though the Northeast is typically associated with harsh winters and record-breaking snowstorms, the warmer months and sprawling coasts can provide the perfect atmosphere for a cheap beach vacation that won’t overheat you (or your wallet). So put aside those plans to head on down to Florida and look closer to home — we’ve got a list of beach towns that might surprise you.
Though Maine is as north as the Northeast gets, it isn’t all chilly temperatures. It’s coastline is home to a number of beaches, of which Wells boasts 7 miles.
When you’re not swimming, zipping on a personal watercraft or just enjoying the sun at one of four beaches, you could be kayaking or canoeing up the Webhannet River, or shopping at the antique stores along Route 1.
Highlight: Just a short drive away is Ogunquit Beach, a popular tourist destination in Maine. But since Ogunquit is so popular, the restaurants, hotels and shops nearby can get pricey. Staying in Wells ensures that you enjoy all of the views without breaking the bank.
The waters in Maine and New Hampshire are quite cold for some, but this beach town has enough for you to do even if you don’t care to swim.
Enjoy fresh seafood at any of the eateries along Hampton State Beach, go to the Casino Cascade Water Slide or take the family to the Blue Ocean Discovery Center, where the little ones can get up-close and personal with marine life.
Highlight: Treat yourself to a nice breakfast or lunch at the Hampton Airfield, which features an open deck cafe decorated with an aviation theme, and a chance for you to fly over the Hampton beaches in a historic 1930 New Standard open-air biplane.
As far as New England beach vacations go, it doesn’t get any better than the good ol’ Cape. One of the more inexpensive areas, Dennis lies right in the middle of the peninsula.
In Dennis, you decide which kind of beach you’d like to swim at — beaches with the mild waters of the Cape Cod Bay, like Mayflower Beach, or the even calmer waters of the Nantucket Sound, like at West Dennis Beach.
Highlight: The best part about Dennis is its proximity to everything else on the Cape. Whether you prefer the wilder waves of the Atlantic Ocean on the lower Cape, or a more historic getaway like Falmouth on the upper Cape, Dennis is central to it all.
A cheaper alternative to Newport, R.I., Narragansett also has beautiful beaches, plenty of opportunities to sample local seafood and a number of historic landmarks.
When you’re not swimming and soaking up the sun at Scarborough State Beach or Narragansett Town Beach, check out the Point Judith Lighthouse for a spectacular view of the coast. Then, head to Galilee for a bite to eat as you watch boats leave the harbor.
Highlight: The Block Island Ferry leaves from Point Judith, giving you the perfect opportunity to day trip on the island and enjoy a relaxing ride on the way there.
A quiet Connecticut getaway, Madison is not well-known by most tourists, so restaurant, lodging and entertainment prices aren’t driven by a high tourist demand.
Hammonasset Beach State Park is your one-stop shop for outdoor summer activities; swim and lounge in the sand on the beach, fish and hike the walking trails, or visit the Meigs Point Nature Center to have hands-on experiences with native animals.
Highlight: Main Street, aka Boston Post Road, is lined with independent shops and boutiques, family-owned restaurants and historic buildings, such as the crown jewel of the town, R.J. Julia Booksellers. The charm of this town is a welcome respite from everyday life.
Cape May, N.J.
Visit the part of Jersey Shore that is so unlike pop culture’s version of New Jersey, you’ll wonder where all the hair gel and spray tan is. Cape May, with its sprawling beaches and quaint Victorian architecture, is perfect for family vacations.
Not far from the coast are attractions like the Cape May Lighthouse, Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum, Willow Creek Winery and more. Also nearby are campgrounds, which provide cheaper lodging options for vacationers.
Highlight: Just north of Cape May is Jersey Shore Alpacas, where visitors can meet and feed alpacas on a tour of the farm. It’s an inexpensive way to be sure that your vacation is memorable.
Booking Your Cheap Beach Vacation
While vacationing nearby will save you from airfare, location isn’t the only factor to consider when you want to save. Reserving your hotel several months in advance will generally get you a lower rate. AAA members also get discounted rates at thousands of hotels, whenever they book.
Share your tips and tricks to having a great time without breaking the bank in the comments below!