Beat the crowds, the heat, and the astronomical prices and book a trip to one of these dreamy seaside escapes this autumn.
Who knew seaside cities could be even better enjoyed in the fall? When the summer season fades, the warm weather tourists take off. And as temperatures cool down, the colors of the leaves heat up–and fall festivals take over the town. In autumn, lodging and package prices become more affordable and experiencing these coastal escapes stays just as enjoyable. Here are 20 of the best seaside destinations in the U.S. to plan a fabulous fall escape.
Beaufort, North Carolina
Beaufort is a charming coastal seaside escape. It’s a destination steeped in rich heritage, seamlessly blending new trends with old tradition. The downtown neighborhood is lined with eclectic shops alongside both casual and world-class dining opportunities. At the harbor, boats dot the waterfront—from private yachts to massive sailboats—even trawlers catching “fresh from the dock” seafood for the 20-plus local chef-or-family owned restaurants in town. Across the water is Carrot Island, which is home to some of North Carolina’s famed wild horses (seen frequently in the fall months). Visit the two-acre Beaufort Historic Site on Turner Street which offers a sense of history, featuring six authentically restored historic buildings and Old Burying Ground tours. Visitors can spend the night at centuries-old Hammock House, which claims to have once housed Blackbeard himself and inspired two Nicholas Spark novels, The Choice and A Walk to Remember.
Cannon Beach, Oregon
Cannon Beach is not only home to the iconic Haystack Rock, one of the Pacific Northwest’s most well-known landmarks—it’s a fantastic destination for a fall getaway on the Oregon coast. Walk the beach and reset as the waves roll in across the shore, or explore the bustling downtown area. For a tasty bite to eat, visit Public Coast Brewing Co. (named after one of the only true public coastlines in America: the Oregon Coast)—a brewhouse offering fresh and delicious locally sourced food and the finest of beers. Here, visitors will find a large pet-friendly patio, a wrap-around bar, and windows showcasing an up-close look at the brewhouse itself. After a day of adventure, spend the night at The Stephanie Inn, which features stunning views of the Pacific coastline with Haystack Rock, the vast ocean seascape, and the Coast Range.
Perched on the California coast sits a one-square-mile European-style village, Carmel-by-the-Sea, which inspires visions of fairytale adventures—complete with stone-paved alleyways, curlicue-roofed shops, and secret passageways to the ocean. It’s the picture-perfect backdrop for an idyllic fall escape. Fall can be the best season to visit Carmel, as late September, October, and November offer comfortable weather paired with special off-season prices on lodging. To experience fall at its finest, spend an afternoon hiking on a nearby nature trail amidst the towering redwoods, or explore the tranquil white sands of Carmel Beach while watching for the autumn whale migration. After a day of adventure, visit one of the village’s 50 full-service restaurants, or visit a wine tasting room. Spend the night at L’Auberge Carmel for a luxurious getaway, or at the romantic Lamplighter Inn for a historic, quiet sea cottage-style escape–both of which are just blocks from the water.
Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Portsmouth hosts nature, culture, and history blended with unspoiled New England charm. Drive down the picturesque Coastal Byway for some of the finest vistas or get more active with a hike to see the incredible sights of fall foliage on various trails like the Harbour Trail. Dine at any one of local favorites, which include The Black Trumpet, a cozy neighborhood bistro and bar, or Surf which serves fresh-caught seafood. Check out New Hampshire’s craft beer scene—including seasonal brews like ciders, which can be enjoyed indoors or on the patio at Portsmouth Brewery. For a comfortable overnight stay, guests will find a myriad of bed and breakfasts and inns scattered across the town with quaint Victorian architecture and beautiful views of the harbor. Stay at the Ale House Inn, which is located in the historic Portsmouth Brewing Co. building and in a great location for exploring.
Norfolk sits where the Chesapeake Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean—and early fall is a perfect time to enjoy this classic beach town sans humid summer heat. Visitors in September and October can still embark on some late-season water sport adventures, relax on a harbor cruise, or simply enjoy one of the city’s 600+ owner-operated restaurants and breweries. Norfolk’s beaches even begin to allow leashed dogs in September, so furry friends can join along for the vacation! Be sure to visit the Ocean View Fishing Pier, which is the longest free-standing fishing pier in North America at 1,690 feet—and a great place to grab a cocktail on the rooftop restaurant deck. Norfolk also hosts multiple large festivals happening, including the Point Virginia Fall Wine Festival from October 16-17. Spend the night at the artful Glass Light Hotel.
Charleston, South Carolina
Explorers searching for a coastal fall getaway must be sure to add Charleston, South Carolina to their travel list. There are multiple beaches for wandering, such as Sullivan’s Island and Folly Beach, alongside experiences to appreciate Charleston’s rich history, culture, and charm. Check out the city’s historic houses, museums, and organizations that make up the Charleston Heritage Federation—which has recently relaunched their Essential Charleston Passport program. Dine at Fleet Landing Restaurant & Bar which hosts a spacious patio overlooking the water, and serves Southern-style seafood staples in a modern, bright setting. Plan a stay at Hotel Emeline, a storied, luxurious boutique hotel located downtown in the historic district. This property offers easy access to experience the city’s iconic architecture, delicious cuisine, and bustling shopping district on foot.
Delray Beach, Florida
For a coastal fall escape in Florida, check out laid-back beach town Delray Beach. After the summer rush, Delray becomes an even more fabulous vacation destination (sans summer traffic) hosting relaxing sands and a vibrant downtown. Here, visitors can find a range of bustling, trendy restaurants, bars, markets, and boutique shops. Visit the Delray Beach Market which opened in spring of 2021 and offers an upstairs bar and couch seating with games like giant Jenga and foosball alongside a variety of food stands. Wind down with a drink at Deck 84, showcasing live music and laid-back afternoon drinks by the water. Make a visit to one of the various art galleries on Atlantic Ave. Spend the night at the Seagate Hotel, a boutique property set right in the heart of downtown Delray, with access to the beach and city life right outside its doors.
Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
Although normally thought of as New England’s “summer” playground, Cape Cod’s colors come alive in fall once warm weather traffic departs. Peak fall foliage on the Cape can be found from late October into November, enjoyed via a scenic car trip, or bike ride. The Cape also hosts a variety of annual events throughout the season, ranging from road races to festivals. Check out Chatham, where the blue Atlantic seas mix with the gold sands and the leaves turning a bold mixture of orange, yellow, and red. Spend the night at the Chatham Inn, Relais & Châteaux, a historic and charming inn that has recently undergone an extensive luxurious renovation. Also be sure to make a visit to Martha’s Vineyard which is just across the water, to taste some superb world-class wines and dine on the freshest of New England caught seafood.
Bar Harbor, Maine
Bar Harbor offers scenic views of mountain tops paired with the beautiful coastlines of Maine. This city resides on Frenchman’s Bay and is known as the gateway to Acadia National Park. Here, guests will encounter spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean paired with quaint shops, boutiques, and restaurants. Autumn brings mild temperatures, vibrant colors, and fewer visitors than in the busy summer months creating ideal conditions for a leaf-peeping trip. Those who want to enjoy scenes from the comfort of their car can drive the 27-mile Acadia National Park Loop Road. Be sure to check out fall events like the Acadia Night Sky Festival or the Bar Harbor Fine Arts Festival. Plan a stay at the Terramor Outdoor Resort, located just five minutes from the park and offering 60 acres of wilderness to roam with 64 upscale canvas tents set among the trees.
Seabrook is a vibrant beach town nestled into seaside Pacific Northwest, on the Washington coast overlooking the water. Autumn in Washington State offers one of the most unique and popular bucket list activities travelers can find: razor clam digging! Visitors travel thousands of miles for this opportunity to harvest fresh clams right off the beach. Check out fall-timed Bigfoot Brewfest, one of the Washington Coast’s biggest beer festivals. For the outdoorsy types, there are hundreds of acres of mountain-bike and hiking trails that offer dynamic views of the changing foliage. There is also kayaking, paddle boarding, year-round surfing, and miles of wide-open beach. This city is just three hours from both Seattle and Portland, Oregon, making it an ideal easy access home base to visit Olympic National Park, Lake Quinault, and other top outdoor destinations made for leaf-peeping.
With a fabulous location two hours north of NYC and an hour and a half from Boston, Mystic, Connecticut, hosts the ideal waterfront location, offering a unique display of New England fall foliage. Spend the day adventuring along the waterfront by paddleboard, kayak, bike, or boat. Explore historic landmarks like the Mystic Drawbridge, and check out the bustling downtown district and charming waterfront neighborhood, with a variety of restaurants and shops nestled among former sea captain’s homes. The quaint, picturesque colonial-style architecture of the buildings is a can’t miss sight. Stay at the Whaler’s Inn, a historic 45-room hotel in downtown Mystic, which offers a variety of fall-themed packages like the Boos and Brews package–a 90-minute walking tour that highlights Mystic’s local legends and haunting history, along with two pints at Mystic’s local Barley Head Brewery.
Newport, Rhode Island
At a coastal town like Newport, leaf peepers can climb aboard a boat like the Coastal Queen for a fall foliage cruise (while sipping on some apple cider of course). Visit a pick-your-own orchard, brimming with fresh, local harvest, or embark on a ghost tour, hayride, or fall food and music festival. On Mondays in October and Saturdays in November embark on a 90-minute lantern-led evening Ghost Tour where participants can explore the dimly lit alleys harboring centuries of dark history, including some of the area’s most haunted sites like Jailhouse Inn—Newport’s former jailhouse. Stay at the luxurious, boutique-style Hammett’s Hotel which just opened in June of 2020, and is located right along the harbor offering superb views of the water.
Eureka is a charming landmark Victorian seaport nestled along California’s redwood coast. Eureka’s entire historic Old Town, which encompasses 150 Victorian buildings along the waterfront, is even a part of the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Visitors can explore the shops and restaurants in Old Town on foot, or take a scenic horse-drawn carriage ride. There’s also the opportunity to book an Old Town Haunted History Tour or drive or hike through the majestic redwood forest land where the deep evergreen trees will be punctuated with brightly colored maples turning yellow and orange throughout October and November. Spend the night at Carter House Inns, a collection of five luxurious Victorian buildings settled in the historic district of Old Town Eureka, offering a feeling of cozy, upscale luxury.
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
Rehoboth Beach in Southern Delaware is a mid-Atlantic destination full of bike-friendly beaches, open-air adventures, and fresh local seafood and farm-fresh produce. When the leaves begin to change, the ocean remains warm enough to swim–and visitors can take advantage of the exciting autumn events, affordable prices, and getaway packages that focus on fall foliage. Check out the beloved Apple-Scrapple Festival, an annual celebration of the region’s agriculture featuring hundreds of vendors serving Southern Delaware classics like apple dumplings and scrapple sandwiches. Other spectacular outdoor autumn events in Southern Delaware include The Maxima Hispanic Festival, Oktoberfest in Lewes, The Rehoboth Beach Garlic Festival, and The Sea Witch Halloween and Fiddlers Festival. Stay at the luxurious boutique-style Hotel Rehoboth, the newest hotel in the heart of downtown Rehoboth Beach which is within walking distance to everything visitors would likely want to experience on a Southern Delaware autumn escape.
Jekyll Island, Georgia
Jekyll Island was once known as a winter retreat for America’s elite including the Rockefellers, Pulitzers, and Vanderbilts–but now, it’s a playground for travelers who desire to experience 10 miles of unspoiled beaches (which are even more uncrowded and scenic in September and October). Visit the 4-H Tidelands Nature Center which leads kayak tours, coastal ecology programs, and island nature walks. There’s also a selection of award-winning golf courses with built-in tee time leaf-peeping opportunities, as well as Georgia’s only rehabilitation center for endangered sea turtles. Spend the night at The Jekyll Island Club Resort which encompasses an impressive 5,700 acres, and is home to outstanding restaurants and picturesque resort grounds.
St. Michaels, Maryland
St. Michaels in fall hosts numerous outdoor and water-based activities abound such as biking, sailing, boating, and fishing. Visitors can stroll the uncrowded picturesque streets and explore the local shops or ogle at the historic homes along the narrow cobblestone streets that head toward the water. Check out Lyon Rum Distillery or St. Michael’s Brewing Company for a seasonal drink, before enjoying dinner at Ruse, one of the best restaurants in town known for its a seafood-centric menu, unique oyster bar, and locally sourced wines and beers. Visit Family Affair Farm for its fantastic corn maze, or a local pumpkin patch which is a treat for all ages. Stay at The Wildset hotel on the edge of the town’s Eastern Shore–a newly opened boutique hotel hosting a luxurious, classic New England atmosphere.
Bristol, Rhode Island
Fall in Bristol offers a sea of color with golden and red hues covering its Colonial and Federal buildings. The town’s miles of accessible coastline is nestled between Narragansett Bay to the west and Mount Hope Bay to the east. This city is considered one of the “hidden gems” of the Northeast and hosts a classic quaint, cozy New England vibe right off the coastline. Take a leisurely bike ride along the East Bay Bike Path which goes all the way up to Providence to explore the destination’s rich history, striking architecture, parks, museums, independently-owned shops, and waterfront activities. Bristol’s downtown area is pedestrian friendly, and offers foodies a range of eclectic dining options to explore. Spend the night at Bristol Harbor Inn.
Oceanside sits at the northern tip of San Diego county, featuring a quaint New England-style harbor, historic wooden pier, and a plethora of seaside fall activities. Explore California history at the “King of Missions,” Mission San Luis Rey, or experience the deep-rooted surf culture and learn more about the history of surfing itself at the California Surf Museum. Go for a bike ride on one of the miles of trails, on a bike tour, or a solo exploration. Visit the beach to encounter this destination’s sweeping three miles of coastline, before stopping into a locally owned and operated restaurant like Privateer Coal Fire Pizza to refuel. Spend the night at one (or both) of the brand new upscale boutique-style sister properties, Mission Pacific Hotel and Seabird Resort which each offer their own unique ambiance and are directly across from the train station for easy access, sans car.
Montauk, New York
Montauk is known for its fantastic summer surf–but when the warm weather season comes to an end, this town perched on the peninsula of Long Island still offers numerous options for outdoor fall fun. Take a trip to the top of the Montauk Lighthouse for the best views of crystal-clear waters and foliage peeping from above. Visit the woods of Camp Hero State Park for sights of the changing leaves and scenic beaches. Stop by Montauk Brewing Company for a seasonal Pumpkin Ale, with just the right amount of spice. Check out Montauk’s Fall Festival, which hosts activities like clam-chowder tasting contests, farmers’ markets, pumpkin decorating, live music, and a range of tasty food. Spend the night at Marram, Montauk’s newest boutique resort, which is just a five-minute walk to town and offers a range of fall-focused programming–such as stargazing, cozy evening fires with s’mores, and more.
Half Moon Bay, California
California’s Half Moon Bay is located just 45 minutes south of San Francisco on the NorCal coast. It’s an easily accessible, charming seaside city full of local artists, purveyors, restaurants, and farmers–and this destination truly shines in fall. Each autumn the city hosts the Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off which draws the attention of locals and visitors alike for miles. Fall fanatics can encounter a range of whimsical pumpkin patches, homegrown fall harvest provisions, and ample hiking trails with water views—as well as long, calm walks along the sand. Head to Half Moon Bay Brewing Company to try their seasonal signature Pumpkin Harvest Ale. Spend the night at the Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay—the SF Bay Area’s only oceanfront resort—which is perfectly perched atop a towering bluff overlooking 50 miles of pristine Northern California seaside scenery.