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12 East Coast Getaways Locals Want to Keep Secret

From Assateague Island to Cape May, these hidden gems are waiting to be discovered. Go now, before everyone else does.

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Wooden fences lining the entrance to the Rhode Island beach.
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Watch Hill, Rhode Island

Unless you own a home in Watch Hill, you’ve probably never even heard of this affluent coastal enclave. Here’s what you’re missing: a walkable village with cedar-shingled cottages, waterfront mansions (ahem, Taylor Swift), blue hydrangeas, beautiful beaches, an ice cream shop, and an old-timey carousel. If you want to stay the night, can book a room at the Ocean House, an enduring grande dame hotel, or the recently revamped Watch Hill Inn.

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Dusk at a Rocky Beach in Hammonasset State Park located in the county of Madison, Connecticut

Madison, Connecticut

Madison proves that good things come in small packages. It may measure just 37 square miles and have a population of 18,200 residents, but this Connecticut shoreline community delivers a major dose of quintessential New England charm. In fact, Madison made such an impression on Bill Clinton during his time at Yale that he mentioned it in his memoir, My Life, calling it “especially old and beautiful.”

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Historic Ocracoke Light on Ocracoke Island, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, North Carolina
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Ocracoke Island, North Carolina

We’ll admit getting to Ocracoke Island is not easy (it’s accessible only by ferry or charter plane), but that’s part of its off-the-beaten-path appeal. According to legend, this far-flung refuge was the favorite hideaway of the infamous pirate Blackbeard. Well, that is, before he lost his head in 1718. Fast-forward 300 years, and this Outer Banks treasure is as secluded and subdued as ever—and fans wouldn’t have it any other way. Check out these trending summer travel destinations in the U.S.

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Bourne Bridge in Cape Cod at Sunset

Bourne, Massachusetts

The lure of vacationing in Cape Cod is nothing new; this crescent-shaped peninsula on the easternmost edge of Massachusetts has attracted high-profile visitors for decades. Despite the notoriety of Hyannis (the location of the Kennedy compound) and Provincetown, Bourne has managed maintain a relatively low profile—making bike rides along the Cape Cod Canal and fishing at the pier all the more enjoyable.

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Remains of an old asphalt road along one of the sand dune trails on the northern, Maryland end of Assateague Island.
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Assateague Island, Maryland and Virginia

Assateague Island, off the Delmarva peninsula, comprises 48,000 acres of unspoiled wilderness, including  tidal marshes and maritime forests. Sunbathe on the protected beaches and swim in the plankton-rich ocean while keeping your eyes peeled for sea turtles and fish. See free-roaming horses in their natural habitat, and hunt for clams in the shallow waters of the bay. Find out where else you can see wild horses across North America.

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A Beautiful Spring Day View across the harbor at St. Michael's Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in Maryland.
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St. Michaels, Maryland

Those who know St. Michaels on the Eastern Shore love it, and those who don’t are missing out. This historic hamlet flaunts a photogenic harbor that dates back to the 1600s, fresh seafood (no trip to Maryland is complete without an order of crab cakes), independent boutiques, art galleries, and an array of outdoor activities. A night or two at the scenic Inn at Perry Cabin is well worth the splurge. It’s no wonder that locals want to keep it under wraps—or that it landed on our list of the best weekend getaways in every state.

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Summer Beach at Historic Lewes,Delaware
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Lewes, Delaware

Rehoboth Beach may get the glory, but laid-back Lewes doesn’t seem to mind. On the contrary, this sleepy little town likes it that. The promise of peace and quiet is what draws relaxation-seekers to this placid part of the Delaware shore. Well that, plus scenic trails, bird sanctuaries, family-run restaurants, B&Bs, and a farmers market (held Saturdays between May and November). Don’t miss these top 20 family beaches to visit this summer.

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Boulders On The Shore At Sunset With Lighthouse In The Distance
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Rowayton, Connecticut

Don’t let its small size fool you, Rowayton, an atmospheric district of Norwalk, packs a lot into 1.4 square miles. This former oystering hub has turned into a prosperous (yet remarkably unpretentious) community and is undeniably picturesque with its boatyards, well-maintained public beach, compact parks, and pedestrian-friendly streets. A meal at the Restaurant at Rowayton Seafood is not to be missed. Locals love the coastal lifestyle, and best-kept-secret vibe—and would prefer to keep it that way. Looking for more options? Here are the best hidden gems from every state in the US.

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Charleston lighthouse located on Sullivan's Island in South Carolina
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Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina

In the last couple of years, Charleston has leapfrogged to the top of every travel bucket list, and for good reason. What many people don’t realize is that if you venture 10 miles east of the bustling downtown area, you’ll find the ease of Sullivan’s Island. With its sun-splashed shores, casual eateries (head to The Obstinate Daughter for fresh oysters and wood-fired pizza), and rich Revolutionary War history, it’s a detour you won’t want to miss. Here are 12 awesome islands you can visit without leaving the country.

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Wooden stairs on deserted beach dunes in Vero Beach, Florida
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Vero Beach, Florida

While spring breakers flock to Miami and Fort Lauderdale, less touristy Vero Beach to the north flies under the radar—although we can’t imagine it will stay that way for long. It boasts blue skies and wide sandy expanses with volleyball courts. Plus, there are plenty of interesting attractions to choose from, including the National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum in nearby Fort Pierce and the McKee Botanical Garden.

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Wild Horse Grazing on the Beach in Cumberland Island, GA.
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Cumberland Island, Georgia

Picture this: oak trees swaying in the ocean breeze, wild horses, and sprawling estates that once belonged to steel tycoons. Cumberland Island is as postcard-perfect place as any—which could explain why John F. Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette Kennedy chose to tie the knot on this 40-square-mile isle. It’s a pretty magical getaway, particularly if you post up at the Greyfield Inn.

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Colorful Victorian style houses alongside a road. Beautiful wooden homes with balconies and porches, painted red, blue, white and orange, under a blue summer spring sky, in Cape May, NJ.
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Cape May, New Jersey

There’s the Jersey Shore you see on MTV, and then there’s Cape May. Victorian buildings, romantic ambiance, quaint bistros, and historic hotels make it a fan favorite. Wondering where to stay? America’s oldest seaside resort, Congress Hall, of course. Fun fact: William Henry Harrison chose the first floor as the Summer White House when he was president. Here are 21 more of the nicest small towns in America to visit before you’re 50.

Lindsay Cohn
Lindsay Cohn is an avid traveler who has visited 46 countries across six continents. At Reader’s Digest, she covers both domestic and international travel. When she's not writing, you can find her hanging out with her son, doing yoga and adding to her ever-growing list of future adventures.