Bust out your crisp linen and the “good” vodka. It’s time to live life like Ina Garten
You sip cold white wine on a patio as you watch the ocean. Blue waves cascade into puffs of white foam once they meet the sand. You delight in the world’s natural beauty. As the sun sets in streams of pink and apricot over the sea, you take off your trusty straw hat, shake your head and savor the salt on your scalp. Time to go home. Barefoot at dusk, you mosey toward your house, nodding at a neighbor and foraging some gorgeous lavender on your way. As you step inside, the scents of roasting chicken and fresh linen tell you you’re home. You step into your kitchen, where the wainscoting is white, and the silver is vintage. After dinner, there will be freshly picked berries and freshly whipped cream. The space is full of cool tones, but the fire keeps it warm.
You’re a chic coastal grandmother, babe. Doesn’t it feel good?
For digital creator Lex Nicoleta, it feels great. Not only did Nicoleta coin the term “coastal grandmother” as a viral aesthetic trend on Tik Tok, but she’s also a committed lifestylist who considers Ina Garten her hero and Nancy Meyers’ movies her essential inspiration.
I mean, who needs to idolize Bella Hadid’s style when you can reference Diane Keaton’s character in Something’s Gotta Give every time you get dressed instead? Think oversized white linen blouses and only the coziest trousers, either in matching linen or washed-out denim.
But for Nicoleta, the coastal grandmother aesthetic isn’t just about interior design and clothes.
Like another luxe lifestylist, the inimitable Martha Stewart, Nicoleta shares all the “good things” that pass her coastal grandmother’s approval matrix on her platform. Think coastal grandmother wedding inspo, coastal grandmother approved Pinot Noirs, and coastal “granicures” (short, sensible nail looks). With nearly three million likes on Tik Tok and social media shout-outs from Diane Keaton and Anne Hathaway, key players in the Nancy Meyers universe, Nicoleta’s made it trendy to live like you’re old on the app dominated by the young.
Nicoletas’ stream of content clarifies that she knows exactly how she’s spending her summer with her coastal grandmother, but here are some ideas if you’re less sure. You may not be a wealthy white lady with a stunning beach house, endless privilege, and guaranteed safety, but with these locales, you might be able to LARP like one. And, of course, all genders are welcome to vacation like Coastal Grandmothers. Cheers to feeling rich and cozy…at least for the weekend!
Top Picks for You
Carmel is an ideal destination on California’s Central Coast, best known for its charming beaches, European village-like town square, and cottage homes. It feels like a beachy fairytale. Find a spare room to rent in one of these cottages or book L’ Auberge Carmel for a full-on luxury experience (complete with Coastal Grandmother-approved red brick patios, soaking tubs, and heated bathroom floors).
Nicoleta, the trademarked Coastal Grandmother on Tik Tok, recommends staying at La Playa, having dinner at Seventh & Dolores, and wine tasting on a quaint patio like at KORi.
Other ideas? Spend time at Carmel Beach for white sand and stunning views of the Pacific Ocean. Wander around the surrounding neighborhood before sunset, admiring the beachy architecture and carefully selecting which of the homes you’d most like to own one day, no matter how far-fetched.
Also, visit Cottage of Sweets on Ocean Ave, a candy store that’s been a favorite to visitors since 1959. Located in a space preserved since 1922, Cottage of Sweets feels like you’re stepping into another time. Plus, candy tastes better on the beach. Try housemade fudge, saltwater taffy, and specialty confections imported from Europe.
After an earthquake shook up San Francisco in 1906, tons of writers and artists fled the city and moved to Carmel. Langston Hughes, Upton Sinclair, and Jack London are among the greats who spent significant time writing in Carmel. The influence of this artist colony remains today, and no visit to Carmel is complete without a visit to one of many locally-owned galleries.
INSIDER TIPSave a bag of saltwater taffy or two for when you’re back home. Simply pour them into a glass dish for charming party decor that doubles as dessert.
Santa Monica is great, but it’s also the perfect home base for Coastal Grandmothering throughout L.A.’s other coastal communities (Pacific Palisades and Malibu to the North, Venice and Playa Vista to the South).
Stay at Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica. In addition to its prime location just steps from the sand, the namesake shutters in every room make for impeccable light and a covetable breeze. Sleep with the shutters open to hear the ocean and savor the salty scent. The beachside balconies and white wicker furniture scream Coastal Grandmother, as do the blue-and-white striped pool accessories, chic sun loungers on the sand, and seasonal al-fresco dining experiences. The oceanview rooms are great, but whatever accommodation you select, the entire place is designed to feel like your own majestic beach house.
If you’re already in Santa Monica on a Coastal Grandmother journey, you must visit Brentwood, where the film director and Coastal Grandmother matriarch Nancy Meyers lives. While not entirely coastal itself, Brentwood is a great place to cosplay your life as a Coastal Grandmother. Pop over to the Brentwood Country Mart for the full Nancy Meyers fantasy. It’s been there for 75 years. The shopping center looks like a big red farmhouse, a far cry from a typical LA strip mall, and contains a bounty of restaurants and shops. If you go on Sunday, get the fried chicken at Farmshop, a restaurant popularized by famous fans like Gwenyth Paltrow. You can visit Paltrow’s Goop store at the Country Mart, then browse books at Diesel. Grab a matcha or coffee at Cafe Luxxe (the name says it all), which often stocks the best Anis de Flavigny mints in violet, mint, and lemon flavors (packaged in beautiful tins worth collecting). Pick some up to replace your coffee breath with some French farm freshness.
Savor Brentwood’s ambiance by admiring the homes, although many won’t be fully visible from the street. In Meyers’ film The Holiday, the older gentleman Kate Winslet befriends lives in Brentwood. They filmed those scenes at an authentic Old Hollywood property in Brentwood, the former home of Phyllis Diller. If you’re up to sneak a peek of the facade, visit 163 S Rockingham Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90049. Just don’t try to get inside! Admiring the property is legal; stepping foot on it is not!
WHERE: Rhode Island
Watching a little too much of The Gilded Age? Me too. Come see if you enjoy Newport as much as Nathan Lane’s character Mr. Ward Mccallister on the HBO Max period piece does. My bet is yes. For those not streaming this Coastal Grandmother-esque historical fiction series, the show features characters vacationing in Newport, Rhode Island. Lane plays one of the characters actually based on a historical figure, the lawyer who makes Newport a destination for the elite in the 1880s. Many of the homes depicted in the show are actual Gilded Age mansions, some of which you can tour during your trip.
Buy tickets to tour the largest of these mansions, The Breakers, and stay within walking distance from there at The Vanderbilt. Enjoy $1 Oyster Hour from four to five-thirty Sunday through Monday at the hotel. What spells out celebration for a Coastal Grandmother better than a plate of fresh oysters on the half-shell? Don’t forget to head to the rooftop at the Vanderbilt for sunset cocktails with views of the Atlantic.
In the morning, watch the sunrise and sip your coffee while doing the Cliff Walk, a 3.5-mile stroll down Newport’s coast. Not only is it miraculous, it’s free.
WHERE: New York
Sag Harbor is a leisurely village in Southampton and East Hampton with a small-town feel. It’s also known as a historically Black community in the Hamptons. Stay at American Hotel, with architecture dating back to 1846 and only eight guest rooms onsite. Conveniently located on Main Street, a stay at the American means you’re just steps away from the best shops in town.
The hotel owner will rent you his own luxury motoryacht for cruising through Sag Harbor and New England, but if a simple harborside stroll is more your speed, stop at The Dock House on Long Warf for a meal.
Think chalkboard menus highlighting freshly caught seafood, outdoor seating, and thick bowls of chowders. Tuck a bottle of crisp white and some paper cups into your bag for a no-frills supper.
Staying at a rental house? Purchase fresh lobster and other local seafood to prepare back at home. After all, there’s nothing more Coastal Grandmother than spending the day shopping for local ingredients and then preparing a simple, aesthetically pleasing meal that highlights their natural perfection. Ina Garten’s warm lobster rolls, anyone?
You won’t find a chicer Coastal Grandmother destination on the west coast than Montecito, a wealthy enclave in Santa Barbara County. With stunning views of both the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez Mountains, there’s no bad place to look in Montecito. The picturesque Butterfly Beach makes for an excellent spot to watch the sunset, but you’ll enjoy an even more private experience if you grab a coffee and rally for sunrise. The water…the light…the light on the water. It’s spectacular. You can also follow the walking path parallel to the sand for a longer, oceanside stroll.
While the natural beauty is the true star of Montecito, the town is known around the world for its current crop of A-list residents, such as Oprah, Ellen, Prince Harry, and Meghan Markle.
However, the star power in the region is nothing new. In the early 20th Century, Santa Barbara was known as the “Hollywood of the North” because of a giant silent film studio located there. It’s also where everyone’s favorite It Girl, the Warhol muse Edie Sedgwick, was born and where she died. This is all to say, Kourtney Kardashian and Travis Barker making headlines with their Montecito proposal at the Rosewood Miramar Beach and courthouse civil ceremony in Santa Barbara is nothing new for the area.
Unlike many luxury hotels, you don’t have to stay the night at the Rosewood Miramar Beach to visit it. The vicinity is open to the public and full of restaurants and shops to browse, while pale in comparison to the glory of the beach itself. If you go wandering there, remember this quote from the American artist David Horvitz: “Nobody owns the beach.” However, the hotel is owned by property billionaire and LA mayoral candidate Rick Caruso.
Try Loquita in nearby Santa Barbara for memorable Spanish tapas on a cozy patio that feels like home. Have dinner at Lucky’s Montecito for that Americana steakhouse feel with a beachy twist (their Malibu location is popular too). Save room for a scoop of ice cream at Rori’s Artisinal Creamery, with flavors such as brown sugar banana, black pepper pistachio, malted milk ball, and passionfruit.
INSIDER TIP: If you love plants and botanicals, you must schedule a visit to Lotusland! Formally known as Ganna Walska Lotusland, this epic sanctuary was once a private garden imagined and maintained by a wealthy Polish immigrant named Ganna Walska. Basically, every time one of her marriages ended, she used either her divorce or estate settlements to build a new garden area with its own theme. There’s the Blue Garden, Tropical Garden, Topiary Garden, and many more, consisting of more than 35,000 individual plants. Reserve tickets at least three weeks in advance during busy seasons.
What’s better than a Coastal Grandmother? A gay coastal grandmother. Or, at the very least, an ally with a deep appreciation of this region’s history of gay joy and genius. This coastal town at the tip of Cape Cod has strong ties to the LGTBQ+ community, which began with the artists who flocked to the area in the middle of the 20th century. After the U.S. Supreme court legalized gay marriage in 2008, Provincetown became a popular venue for destination weddings (although gay and lesbian weddings have been permitted there since Massachusetts ruled gay marriage legal in 2004.)
Visit Commercial Street for restaurants, bars, clubs, and sweet treats. The three-mile stretch feels quaint but gets busy. Browse bikes, surfboards, and books at the local shops. In Provincetown, even the CVS Pharmacy looks like a whitewashed farmhouse, but not everything’s as clean as it seems. John Waters, the filmmaker, and King of Filth, spends every summer in Provincetown (beginning Memorial Day weekend and ending Labor Day weekend).
Earlier this year, he auctioned off a dinner with him at the Provincetown trash dump in support of the Provincetown Film Festival (June 15th – 18th this year!). Long story short, look out for John Waters and catch a movie if you can.
For time by the sea, Race Point Beach. Pack a picnic of shrimp and chicken salad sandwiches, fresh tomatoes, and peaches and upgrade the experience with a white linen tablecloth (even if you spread it on the sand). You can walk a couple of miles to the Race Point Lighthouse for a tour (or just stand in front of it to snap some Coastal Grandmother vacation pics). Check out the Atlantic White Cedar Swamp Trail for a unique hike.
INSIDER TIPStay at Eben House, a hotel nestled in a historical house. Located right in the heart of town, Eben House offers a homey experience with all the five-star hotel amenities. Recline against overstuffed blue-and-white-striped pillows and sun by the saltwater pool.
WHERE: North Carolina
Nights in Rodanthe, Baby! Some of you may be familiar with this town from the mature rom-com starring Diane Lane and Richard Gere and based on a Nicholas Sparks novel by the same name. Nights in Rodanthe is the Southern Coastal Grandmother rom-com equivalent to Something’s Gotta Give and its picturesque depiction of the Hamptons. The protagonist’s husband leaves her. Her teen daughter hates her. But luckily, her friend owns an inn in Rodanthe and needs someone to watch it for a week…
The actual beach house depicted in the movie is now among the most popular rentals in the Outer Banks, the infamous stretch of island beaches off the coast of North Carolina. It sleeps twelve, and its huge shutters and spacious patio are quintessentially Coastal Grandmother. The sea is gorgeous, but so are the dunes and beach grasses characteristic of the area. Also, wild horses roam free, just like in the movie. You might see one on the beach with you if you’re lucky.
There’s not tons to do in town, which is sort of the point of going. Try your hand at fishing on the Rodanthe pier during the day, but the region’s beauty doesn’t end at sundown. Stargazing in Rodanthe is some of the best in the world. The lack of light pollution by the Rodanthe shore makes for a glorious show in the sky night after night. Go try to find the Milky Way.
INSIDER TIPHead to the beach later in the day with a picnic and soak up the sunset before watching the stars sparkle and the moon rise.
Kennebunkport is one of many coastal towns in Maine, a famous retreat alongside the Atlantic Ocean. All summer long, lobsters are abundant in Kennebunkport, so venture off on a lobstering expedition and catch your lunch or dinner. You can also go out to sea for whale watching, with many local tours available in the area. Or just rent a catamaran and enjoy some of that crisp white many Coastal Grandmothers sip.
Stay at the Inn at English Meadows, a pretty bed and breakfast about a mile from the beach, or The White Barn, a gorgeous property with guest rooms, suites, and cottages. The White Barn also boasts a five-star restaurant with picturesque views from the dining room.
If you need an outing, check out Goat Island Light, a lighthouse that dates back to 1835. Enjoy the view from shore or charter a little sailboat out for a better look.
WHERE: South Carolina
Southerners are Coastal Grandmothers too! Hilton Head Island is an island off South Carolina in the Lowcountry region. Visitors love how low country slow it is in the area, even compared to the busier Myrtle Beach. Move slow through the Lowcountry. Stroll the boardwalk. Stop to sip some sweet tea (or a sweet tea vodka). Enjoy an oyster roast and pop a few handfuls of boiled peanuts by the shore.
Marvel at the gigantic Southern Live Oak trees and Spanish moss. Visit the wildlife at the Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge, located between the island and the mainland, where tons of birds and alligators wander. Bobcats and deer too.
At the Coastal Museum, you can check out art exhibitions, farmer’s markets, and book-guided tours of the region’s distinctive waters and salt marshes. Keep your eyes peeled for blue crabs and bottlenose dolphins! The land and water tours also explore the unique history of human life in the region — from indigenous Americans from the Yemassee and the Cusabo tribes (who spoke the Muskogean language) to the arrivals of European settler colonialists and the revolutionary war, slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction and the emergence of Gullah Geechee culture.
Gullah Geechee refers to the traditions that once supported enslaved West African people in the Southern, low-country sea islands and helped establish new, sustainable communities once these enslaved people got their freedom. For the best window into Gullah culture, book a Gullah Heritage tour.
Try crab rice or okra soup for a taste of Gullah Geechee cuisine, although many ingredients originally brought to America by the Gullah people are now considered American staples (peanuts, watermelon). The influence of Gullah Geechee cuisine on not just Southern food but American food as a whole can’t be overstated. Plan for a meal at A Lowcountry Backyard. With a recent residency by Gullah Geechee culinary icon BJ Dennis, you know the food is going to be great. I’d get blue crab dip, shrimp and grits, fried green tomatoes, and lima beans. Remember, Coastal Grandmothers love to eat local! Add in a Moonshine Punch for good measure.
INSIDER TIPRent a cottage on Hilton Head to enjoy your very own patio for sipping sweet tea and feeling the ocean breeze.
Known to sailors and whalers as the Gray Lady of the Sea because of its powerful fog, Nantucket is an island off Massachusetts and the priciest vacation home destination in America.
There’s a long history of wealth in the area, beginning with the start of the whaling industry in the 17th century and deep-sea whaling in the 18th century. Before this, people on that land would only use whales for their natural resources on the chance occasions they washed ashore.
For whalers, finding a whale meant “greasy luck” because of their ability to generate massive wealth through the refinement of whale oil. Some of these expeditions were up to five years long.
The whaling industry is long gone, but you can still go out on a much shorter whaling trip in Nantucket today. Enjoy the cobblestone streets and buildings with cedar shingles in the downtown district. Visit the gorgeous Jetties beach and take in the homogenous architecture of the seaside homes. Nantucket residents cannot build or design homes freely, instead of having to abide certain by community design rules like only having pitched roofs and unpainted shingles.
For peak Coastal Grandmother, visit the Nantucket Lightship Basket Museum to appreciate basket-making history in the region.
INSIDER TIPVisit Siasconset for a stroll through the fairytale-esque neighborhood and fishing village.