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Exploring the USA’s Atlantic Coast

Angela Wood

Senior Contributor

From Martha’s Vineyard to the Hamptons in the north to Wilmington, North Carolina and West Palm Beach in the south, we bring you the most iconic island and coastal destinations to visit on the USA’s Atlantic Coast.

Cape Cod

Cape Cod is classic Americana wrapped up in a cute stars and stripes bow – home to beautiful beaches, miles of cycle trails, alfresco movie theatres and museums which tell you all about the Pilgrim Fathers and the Kennedy’s. Forget high rise hotels and raucous bars, Cape Cod is all about dining on fresh lobster, sipping fine wines at sunset and walking along windswept beaches aside lonesome lighthouses. It’s a great place for nature lovers with Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge covering 7,600 acres of dunes, salt and freshwater marshes. It boasts a large grey seal population and welcomes hundreds of migratory birds throughout the year. Outdoor adventurers will enjoy exploring the Pilgrim Monument and Provincetown Museum especially if tracing ancestral roots. Alternatively, don your designer sunglasses and Hermes scarf and head for the JFK Hyannis Museum to learn all about the first family of Massachusetts before chartering a boat to Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard.

Martha’s Vineyard

You can access picturesque Martha’s Vineyard off the Massachusetts coast by boat and air. But why not travel A-list style via helicopter from New York? Martha’s Vineyard is split into 6 towns, each with their own unique characters. Once a popular whaling location, charming Edgartown is awash with narrow streets, art galleries and boutiques. It’s a pleasure to wander around, and there are plenty of high-end dining options along Main Street if you fancy a bite to eat or drink. In Edgartown you can charter a boat to go sea fishing, try your hand at a spot of kitesurfing or hop on the ferry to beautiful, unspoilt Chappaquiddick Beach. To the west of the island, behind Chilmark, you’ll discover Menemsha Creek. Fans of Spielberg movies will instantly recognise the fishing port as the filming location for 1970s classic - Jaws. This village boasts some of the best sunsets on the island and offers up some tasty fresh seafood too! If you are visiting Martha’s Vineyard during summer months, look out for the Farm. Field. Sea pop-up culinary events. Islanders host community cuisine and cultural days in different rural locations across the island. It’s a great way to get to know your neighbours and the region’s history while sampling delicious food and wine.

Virginia Beach

You’ve explored Washington D.C on your eastern seaboard adventure, now all you want to do is relax and sip cocktails on golden sands. You can! The beachfront resort of Virginia Beach is just 3 hours drive south of the US capital and a popular vacation destination for city dwellers. You can spend time searching for dolphins on a sunset kayak tour, learning how to paddle board, sampling bourbon in a hotel distillery or cycling along the 3-mile-long boardwalk. If you want to discover more about the history of this area head for the Military Aviation Museum then visit the town of Kitty Hawk, where on December 17, 1903, the Wright Brothers made their first controlled sustained flight with their craft the Wright Flyer. After dark, Virginia Beach comes to life with sports bars, comedy clubs, live music venues and laid-back restaurants where you can feast on surf n’ turf, gourmet burgers and sushi.

Wilmington, North Carolina

The charming southern town of Wilmington, North Carolina is a blend of historic and modern with colourful Victorian and Antebellum architecture, moss draped trees and picturesque waterfront walks. Its bustling Riverwalk attracts visitors for the sheer amount of locally owned outdoor restaurants, cafes, galleries, boutiques and markets, plus, there are also some pretty spectacular views of Cape Fear River. Historic exhibits such as Fort Fisher and USS North Carolina Battleship are ripe for exploration, and if you want to be at one with nature for a while, you can step into beautiful Airlie Gardens. The 67-acre park with shady tree lined pathways, freshwater lakes and a vast variety of blooms is the perfect place for a picnic with family and friends. Alternatively, kick back and relax in South Front District with craft beer, wood-fired pizza and the distinctive rhythms of Bluegrass music. 

Palm Beach

No visit to Florida would be complete without a stop-over in Palm Beach. This magnetic city has a small-town vibe, and everyone seems to know everyone. Its beach charm, upscale shopping, fine dining, museums and entertainment venues attract America’s affluent set each year. There are myriad activities to enjoy too. You can snorkel, rent a kayak, enjoy nature treks or even play a round of golf before dinner. If it’s retail therapy you seek, Worth Avenue has almost every big-name designer on the planet, or if you simply wish to relax with great food in opulent surroundings head for The Breakers Hotel. The sophisticated Circle Restaurant is the place to be seen, especially on Sunday mornings when they serve a brunch to rival all brunches. Sip unlimited glasses of champagne and Bloody Mary’s while feasting on Belgian waffles, omelettes, carved meats, fresh seafood and over 30 decadent desserts! Afterwards, venture to the luxurious spa to relax with a Deep-Sea Signature Facial or Rose Quartz Massage. Bliss.

Florida Keys

Rather than driving straight to touristy Key West, make your base in pretty Islamorada. Nestled between Key Largo and Key West it boasts a handful of 4-star hotels with spas, eateries serving fabulous fresh seafood and even a museum or two. It’s the world’s sea fishing capital, so if you wish to venture into the deep blue on an angling adventure you can do so from the marina. You can learn to dive, flyboard, sail or jet ski in Islamorada, or if you simply wish to browse local craft shops, laze in a hammock overlooking the Caribbean Sea or feast on key lime pie you can do that too. For incredible views continue your journey to Bahia Honda State Park. Known for its palm-lined beaches, crystal-clear waters and magnificent sunsets, this is the place to sip cocktails, stargaze and view rare wildlife and bird species, so don’t forget your camera.

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