Let’s be honest: there’s no easy way to sum up the East Coast and its many characters. This region is made up of several states with distinctive identities—from the charming Carolinas to the four-seasoned New England—that make it near impossible to pick just one destination.
For those who want to tackle the East Coast for a spring break adventure, we’ve narrowed our list down to four unique spots worthy of a visit.
Witness Maritime History in Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Known as the third-oldest city in America, Portsmouth is a historic gem that you’ll want to scratch off your travel list. This city is home to the country’s first Naval shipyard, and was a focal point for the shipping industry until the late 1800s. Portsmouth is filled with several educational attractions highlighting its past—from restored New England homes at Strawbery Banke Museum, to a full-scale replica of the sailing barge called Piscataqua.
But the seaport doesn't only represent history. Take advantage of the waters with a narrated cruise along the Piscataqua River, or sail to the Isles of Shoals just six miles off the New Hampshire coast. And just south of Portsmouth is Hampton Beach, where Adventure Lobster Tours get passengers up close and personal with the clawed creatures.
Two States, One Assateague Island
This island stretches across 37 miles of territory in both Maryland and Virginia, making it a unique destination for coastal residents and tourists alike. Assateague was officially declared a National Park in 1965, where the sandy beaches, salt marshes, and pine forests—also known as the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge—serve as home to wild ponies and several bird species.
This barrier island protects Chincoteague Island in Virginia from the Atlantic Ocean, which are connected by a short bridge allowing back and forth access. In addition to viewing the wildlife, take advantage of the several nature trails, surf fishing, and boat tours that give you a different perspective of the narrow, natural landmass.
Become Charmed by Charleston, South Carolina
Follow the coast a bit south and vacation in Charleston, where the hospitality goes hand in hand with the warm and welcoming weather. Pick your stay from a wide range of inns, fully furnished cottages, and vacation rentals nestled right inside the city. The walkable area makes it easy to see the sites right outside your door, unless you’d prefer to take a bus tour or a classic carriage ride.
The attractions for out-of-towners go well past the norm—from notable brewery and distillery excursions to tours of 19-century mansion with gardens still tended to this day. We would know from our AFAR Experiences 2015 trip to Charleston, where we ate homemade biscuits, stomped our feet to bluegrass music, and spoke with local experts about the old-school destination.
An Off-Season Adventure on Block Island in Rhode Island
No matter what time of year, there’s always a reason to visit Block Island—and spring is no exception. With the end of the cold, foliage will begin blossoming all over the island. Plus, visitors get first dibs on the many businesses reopening for the year, ranging from restaurants serving freshly caught seafood to quaint bed & breakfasts that are booked for the summer season.
Take a stroll on the clean beaches, hike through the Greenway Trails, and sail around the New Harbor—a salt pond with three marinas. Also, keep an eye out for the large glass orbs hidden throughout Block Island, part of the Glass Float Project that ends when all 500 have been found (finders, keepers).