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10 Oldest Beach Towns In The U.S.

The United States boasts a rich history that is beautifully mirrored in its coastal towns. From the Atlantic to the Pacific, each beach town has a unique story, often deeply intertwined with the nation’s past. This article explores the 10 oldest beach towns in the U.S., offering a journey through time and culture, set against the backdrop of stunning shorelines.

10 Oldest Beach Towns In The U.S.

Here are the ten oldest beach towns in U.S.

1. Bar Harbor, Maine

A significant portion of Mt. Desert Island in Maine is encompassed by Acadia National Park, which is renowned for its John D. Rockefeller Jr.-funded carriage roads and ascents such as Cadillac Mountain. However, delightful Bar Harbor in the northeast corner of the island is a destination unto itself.

Bar Harbor, which skirts Frenchmen Bay, first attracted visitors in the middle of the 19th century, when members of the Hudson River School, which included artists such as Frederic Edwin Church and Thomas Cole, were captivated by the Down East landscapes of Maine. Bar Harbor has evolved into a bustling tourism destination with a main street that is still picturesque, whale-watching excursions, and convenient access to Acadia.

2. Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts

Daily ferries transport day trippers to this Martha’s Vineyard village, and Oak Bluffs is renowned for its picturesque gingerbread houses, which seem to have been plucked from a fairy tale. Guests disembark directly from their vessels into Ocean Park, a circular green space that overlooks the sea and is enclosed by the aforementioned residences.

At its core, a delicate, frothy pavilion can be found. Having historically been a place that has embraced African Americans, Oak Bluffs is currently the site of the annual African-American Film Festival.

3. Newport, Rhode Island

While Newport is a beach town similar to Oak Bluffs, it is distinguished by a very distinct type of architecture. Along the renowned cliff walk, ten colossal, historic mansions that were once the summer residences of the Vanderbilts, Nevada silver heiresses, and other Westerners of unfathomable wealth stand. However, they are now institutions.

The two most well-known are Rosecliff and The Breakers. In her essay The Seacoast of Despair, author Joan Didion infamously criticized the Newport mansions, stating, “To stand in the dining room of ‘The Breakers’ is to imagine escaping it while pleading migraine.” In lieu of lawn parties reminiscent of The Great Gatsby, where swans once roamed the grounds, Newport now hosts events such as the Newport Folk Festival, which draw visitors of all colors.

4. Montauk, New York

As the last settlement on the easternmost point of Long Island, Montauk is aptly referred to as the End. Ample preserved land, strong winds, and rough surf contribute to the sense of being on the edge of the globe at this location. (Although some residents of the most remote community on Long Island contend that, upon closer inspection, it is the start.)

Montauk is more tranquil and understated than the opulent and flashy Hamptons. It is recommended that every visit to Montauk encompass a visit to the Montauk Point Light House, an architectural structure inaugurated by President George Washington in 1796. The apex offers unparalleled panoramic vistas and continues to function.

5. Cape May, New Jersey

Cape May, characterised by pink triple-decker Victorian houses and a vibrant, festive promenade that represents the ideal seaside town in the collective imagination of the United States, is the type of idyllic summer destination that conjures up images of Fourth of July picnics and melted ice cream trails across the hot pavement.

Cape May was also named a World’s Best Destination for Birding by National Geographic, which stated, “During their spring and fall migrations, songbirds use the peninsula’s narrow peninsula as a funnel.”

6. Nags Head, North Carolina

Nags Head is situated on the Outer Banks, an archipelago consisting of barrier islands and islets that are formed between the North Carolina mainland and the Atlantic Ocean. Jockey Ridge State Park is renowned for its sand dunes, which are the tallest genuine sand dune system on the East Coast.

The area’s shifting sands and extensively trafficked waters have resulted in hundreds of shipwrecks in the vicinity, which have earned the waters around it the moniker “Graveyard of the Atlantic.” Additionally, scuba divers frequent the USS Huron.

7. Siesta Key, Florida

While we adore the aforementioned coastal towns, the lower half of Florida is the only region on the East Coast with a truly tropical climate. The beaches in this region are naturally quite lovely.

Siesta Key is renowned for several notable attributes, including its exceptional waterfront dining and imbibing, its cool and reflective quartz fine sand sourced from the Appalachian Mountains, and its prowess in water sports such as parasailing. Turtle Beach, Crescent Beach, and Siesta Beach are the three beaches that merit a visit while on Siesta Key.

8. Carmel-By-The-Sea, California

In the early 1900s, artistic types had already begun to favor the picturesque Carmel-by-the-Sea as their retreat destination. Carmel-by-the-Sea has maintained its small-town allure despite decades of tourism and celebrity-induced fame (Jack London was an early admirer, and Clint Eastwood is among its former thespian mayors).

The charming, pedestrian-friendly downtown resembles something from a fairy tale; its cobblestone streets are bordered by galleries, restaurants specializing in wine, enchanting cottages from the 1920s, and secluded gardens and courtyards. Visit Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, Carmel River State Beach, and Garrapata State Park in order to behold the town’s wind-chiseled cliffs and alluring white-sand harbors.

9. Port Aransas, Texas

Situated directly across the Gulf of Mexico from Sanibel is Port Aransas, an area that boasts the moniker “Fishing Capital of Texas.” Dedicated enthusiasts of the activity have access to 18 miles of beach and arranged deep-sea excursions. In addition to fishing, activities such as parasailing, kayaking, swimming, golfing, dolphin watching, and birding are available.

Hundreds of bird species inhabit the marshy nature preserves and estuaries of Port Aransas, including ducks, pelicans, and the regal roseate spoonbill, the flamingo-pink official bird of the destination. The undeveloped barrier island Padre Island National Seashore features 66 miles of pristine shoreline, undisturbed sand dunes, and lagoon-like waters, making it a worthwhile detour.

10. Cannon Beach, Oregon

Cannon Beach gained notoriety due to the prominent Haystack Rock, a 235-foot-tall basalt structure that protrudes from the shoreline. Cannon Beach, featuring Haystack and numerous other stacks dispersed along the shoreline, is among the most recognizable and visually appealing locations in the state.

Miles of beach provide an idyllic setting for activities such as bird viewing, walking, kayaking, and swimming. Visit Hug Point (surrounded by misty old-growth forests and cliffs) during low tide, when the ocean recedes and exposes caverns and marine life. By implementing progressive regulations, the town has managed to prevent excessive development and chain commerce, thereby preserving its understated atmosphere.

These ten oldest beach towns in the U.S. offer more than just sun and sand. They are portals into the country’s diverse and rich history, each telling a unique story of the American experience. Whether you’re a history buff, beach lover, or both, these towns are must-visit destinations that offer a glimpse into the nation’s past, set against the beauty of its present.

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