Were postcards invented with New England in mind? Given how gorgeous these coastal towns are, it’s a good bet. We picked the 10 prettiest coastal towns in New England, from Down East harbors to Victorian island resorts.
The Kennebunk River adds even more waterline charm to the small shops, elegant ship captains’ homes, and fishing ports of this vibrant Southern Maine town of 3,474.
Unique view: The quintessential fishing village of Cape Porpoise.
See more: From the river and harbor on Rugosa Lobster Tours.
Bar Harbor, Maine
Perched on Mount Desert Island at the gateway to Acadia National Park, this historic resort town still resonates with the Victorian splendor of bygone days, not to mention the backdrop of Cadillac Mountain.
Unique view: From Bar Island, which you can walk to at low tide (plan ahead).
See more: Lighthouse and National Park Tour via catamaran.
New Castle, New Hampshire
This town of 968 residents at the mouth of the Piscataqua River is made up entirely of islands. The Victorian charm of the Wentworth by the Sea Hotel makes the setting even lovelier.
Unique view: Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse.
See more: From the water with Portsmouth Kayak Adventures’ tour of Little Harbor.
The self-dubbed “Jewel of the Coast” is a well-deserved moniker, and this Mid-Coast harbor town of 4,823 on Penobscot Bay is tucked where mountains reach down to the sea.
Unique view: Three windjammers making this narrow harbor their home.
See more: From the water, on the Schooner Surprise.
Newport, Rhode Island
Spectacular at every turn, from broad, sandy beaches to deep harbors bristling with schooners, racing yachts, and pleasure craft; from cozy Colonial taverns to opulent Gilded Age mansions.
Unique view: The twinkling span of the Pell Bridge just after twilight.
See more: From a historical point of view, with Newport History Tours.
New Shoreham, Rhode Island
All of verdant, windswept Block Island, just 13 miles off Rhode Island’s southern coast, is technically New Shoreham, but it’s the Victorian harbor-front that makes landing here forever captivating.
Unique view: Granite-blocked Southeast Lighthouse, perched at on one of the island’s iconic bluffs.
See more: From the water on trimaran Ruling Passion.
Painters turned this fishing village into an art colony for a reason—it’s an inspiration. Perched at the tip of Cape Ann, there are rugged shorelines, hidden coves, and a bustling, historic village.
Unique view: Motif No. 1, the most painted building in the world.
See more: By jeep, in personalized tours from Sweet Shots Secret Spots.
Stonington Borough, Connecticut
This delightful village of fewer than 1,000 residents boasts a wealth of 18th-19th-century buildings on its own narrow peninsula that juts into Fisher’s Island Sound and Little Narragansett Bay, with views in all directions.
Unique view: From “The Point,” a view of Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York.
See more: On foot, with a self-guided walking tour available at the Old Lighthouse Museum.
Oak Bluffs, Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
The brightly colored gingerbread Victorian cottages make this laid-back enclave on Martha’s Vineyard a true New England confection. And on one night each summer, the cottages lights up with Chinese lanterns, making it likely the loveliest place on earth.
Unique view: The nation’s oldest platform carousel.
See more: Of the historic cottages on the Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association Tours.
Learn more about the Gingerbread Cottages at Oak Bluffs Campground!
Set at the outermost tip of Cape Cod, surrounded by water on three sides and backed by vast sand dunes on the fourth, Provincetown is a colorful gem that’s drawn artists and writers for generations.
Unique view: A bird’s eye, from the top of the Pilgrim Monument.
See more: By jeep, of Provincetown’s famous sand dunes, with Art’s Dune Tours.
See more photos of Provincetown, Massachusetts, in the off season!
What are your picks for the prettiest coastal towns in New England?