New England

7 Best Quiet New England Coastal Towns

On the water and under the radar, these seven towns offer a crowd-free summer escape.

By Yankee Magazine

May 02 2022


Stonington, CT

Photo Credit : Cate Brown
Winter Harbor, Maine
Photo Credit : Carl Tremblay

7 Best Quiet New England Coastal Towns

Winter Harbor, Maine

More than 3.5 million visitors each year have made Mount Desert Island’s Acadia National Park one of America’s most loved treasures. And rightly so. But a 30-minute ferry ride from Bar Harbor brings you to this fishing village gem along the Schoodic Peninsula. The six-mile Loop Road around the peninsula to Schoodic Point bestows breathtaking sea views that have brought artists here for years. Those who discover this village of fewer than 500 people all ask the same question: “Why haven’t we come here before?”

♦ Don’t Miss: Every table has a sea view at the Frazer Point picnic area along the Loop Road.

Order Up:J.M. Gerrish Café serves tasty breakfast and lunch fare, with lobsters right off the boats in the harbor.

Sleep Tight: The four-room Winter Harbor Inn sits in the village center, and it not only welcomes your pet but also offers grooming right on the premises. Prefer to rough it? Acadia’s Schoodic Woods Campground, the only mainland campground in the park, is just three miles from the village.

Oysters at the Shuck Station in Newcastle, Maine
Photo Credit : Michael D. Wilson

Damariscotta & Newcastle, Maine

Eight miles north of tourist-magnet Wiscasset on busy Route 1, you come to the twin villages of Damariscotta and Newcastle, linked by the Main Street Bridge over the Damariscotta River. The tidal river, some 20 miles from open sea, is known around the country for its oysters, and the 4,000 people who live in these two villages have long savored their location in the heart of the Pemaquid Peninsula, with its picturesque lighthouse, walking trails, and snug harbor with fishing boats at anchor.

Don’t Miss: Stroll the main streets of the twin villages and then drive the quiet, twisty roads of the Pemaquid Peninsula that offer photo stops around practically every bend.

Order Up: In the heart of oyster country, you can’t go wrong with local eateries. Favorites include the Shuck Station, King Eider’s Pub, Damariscotta River Grill, and River House.

Sleep Tight:The Newcastle Inn, once home to a sea captain, sits on the river just steps from Newcastle’s pretty downtown. The Mill Pond Inn, two miles from Damariscotta, provides a lakefront setting for freshwater lovers.

Aerial views of Stonington, Connecticut
Photo Credit : Cate Brown

Stonington, Connecticut

Only minutes away from Mystic Seaport is this peninsula borough (population less than 1,000) made for strolling with narrow streets lined with cafés, shops, and historic homes. Visitors can savor seafood harvested by local commercial fishermen, and plan short drives to vineyards that thrive close to the water.

Don’t Miss:Visit the Old Lighthouse Museum, and climb to the tower for a sweeping vista.

Order Up:Wherever you stop, ask for scallops and the local Stonington shrimp. Two Water Street standbys are Noah’s and Dog Watch Café.

Sleep Tight: Overlooking the harbor, the elegant Inn at Stonington has been touted by Yankee as one of New England’s most romantic inns.

Odiorne Point State Park in Rye, New Hampshire
Photo Credit : Carl Tremblay

Rye, New Hampshire

Amid only 18 miles of coastline in all of New Hampshire, this town of 5,400 stands out for its compact state park, beaches, and picture-perfect harbor.

Don’t Miss: Hit the walking trails at Odiorne Point State Park and stop in at the kid-favorite Seacoast Science Center, where getting your hands wet in tidepool demos is encouraged.

Order Up: Dine on the outside deck overlooking the sea at Ray’s Seafood Restaurant. Coffee lovers will want to linger at the roastery/café La Mulita, a labor of love for Colombian-born Max Pruna and his wife, Andrea.

Sleep Tight: The 27-room Inn at Rye Place is a modern motel a short drive from the ocean, while six miles north the historic grand hotel Wentworth by the Sea has reigned over the New Hampshire coast since 1874.

Jamestown, Rhode Island

This close-knit community of 5,500 sits at the mouth of Narragansett Bay, and while the bridge to nearby Newport is always present, locals take pride that their town’s seaside beauty still remains without streets filling with day-trippers. Concerts at East Ferry Memorial Park keep the feel of a small-town summer.

Don’t Miss: Historic New England’s working 285-acre Watson Farm allows visitors to walk a two-mile trail that includes a beach and meadows overlooking the bay. See the lighthouse at Beavertail State Park, then stay for the gorgeous sunset.

Order Up: Slice of Heaven is that local favorite you hope to find on vacation: a diner/café with specialty baked goods, sandwiches, and great burgers. Sitting outside by the bay is a bonus.

Sleep Tight: The cozy six-room East Bay Bed & Breakfast is a quick walk from the village center and the Newport ferry dock, and its bountiful breakfast will fuel you for the day ahead.

Scituate, Massachusetts

Beach lovers on their way to Cape Cod often bypass the towns south of Boston—and that’s fine with those who have already discovered places like Scituate, which after a detour from Route 3 brings you to a lighthouse, five beaches along the bay, and a snug harbor with shops and restaurants.

Don’t Miss: After purchasing a visitor’s pass from the harbormaster, you can take your pick of Minot, Sand Hills, Egypt, Peggotty, and Humarock beaches. The Maritime and Irish Mossing Museum honors the Irish settlers who came to Scituate to harvest its distinctive moss.

Order Up: Sit on the outside deck at Mill Wharf Restaurant, or feel the history in a former 17th-century home at Barker Tavern.

Sleep Tight: All 29 rooms at the Inn at Scituate Harbor look out to the harbor and lighthouse. A perk is passes to local beaches.