Last Updated on May 25, 2023
Planning an East Coast vacation and want to get away from the crowds? Discover some of the best secret destinations and hidden gems on the East Coast.
From hidden sinkholes in Florida, to wild islands off Georgia’s coast, to little-known historic towns in Virginia and Maine, you’ll find plenty of vacation spots to escape the seasonal hordes of tourists.
Whether you’re looking for weekend getaways near you or vacation spots for your next trip, whether you want to spend your time outdoors in remote places or discover America’s history in small towns full of charm, or anything in between, these destinations are sure to satisfy your wanderlust.
Keep on reading to discover all the best hidden gem vacation spots on the East Coast for your next getaway!
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A small town of 500 inhabitants on the coast of Maine, Cutler is the perfect secret destination to get away from it all. Enjoy the peaceful vibe, stroll around the village, and go on hikes to explore the stunning scenery around town.
You won’t find any hotels in Cutler, but there are a couple of gorgeous cottages facing the sea available for short-term rent. Otherwise, you’ll need to stay in the nearby town of Machias.
One of the best things to do in Cutler if you are there during summer is to go on a half-day excursion to Machias Seal Island to see puffins. Bookings usually open in January and are fully booked quite quickly so make sure you reserve your spot as early as you can.
Summer is also the prime time to go whale watching in the area (May to October). Drive to Lubec and go on an excursion from there.
In town, make sure to take a tour of the historic Little River Lighthouse and maybe plan to stay overnight for a unique experience.
The area is also ideal for hiking. The Cutler Coast Public Reserved Land features moderate to strenuous trails along the Bold Coast where you might catch a glimpse of a whale and see plenty of birds.
A top hidden gem vacation spot on the East Coast, Harpswell is a scenic town located in Southern Maine known for its scenery, quaint shops, and beautiful beaches. The best time to visit is during summer, but the shoulder seasons are also ideal. It’s the perfect destination if you are looking for a blend of outdoor adventures and historic sights.
One of the best things to do in Harpswell is to go hiking, you’ll find plenty of trails in the area from easy strolls to strenuous day-long hikes. Reid State Park and Popham Beach State Park are known for their wild beaches while Otter Brook Preserve is home to a lush forest, marshes, and streams.
You can also plan a road trip through the area’s many islands and islets, most are connected by bridges and feature rugged landscapes, wild beaches, and charming coastal towns. Make sure to drive through Cribstone Bridge, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and considered an architectural marvel for its time.
Several tour operators in town offer cruises to explore the coast from the ocean and wildlife watching excursions.
Take a day trip to Eagle Island to hike, enjoy the beach, and visit the late’s Admiral Robert Peary’s house now turned into a museum. To get there, take a ferry from Seaport.
History buffs can take a self-guided tour of the historic part of town. Don’t miss the Old Town Meeting House, one of the oldest buildings of its kind in the state, and the Harpswell Historical Society where you can learn more about what’s going on in town.
For a place to stay, you can rent an oceanfront cottage if you want privacy and to enjoy some peace and quiet. Otherwise, book a room at the charming Harpswell Inn, which is perfect for couples and families.
Located on Penobscot Bay, Camden is a charming small town known for its well-preserved historic district and its many trails leading to impressive overlooks and viewpoints. The town is a well-kept secret and will make for a perfect vacation spot on the East Coast.
Stroll around town to explore the town’s history. The High Street Historic District features 19th-century buildings, of which, make sure to visit the Camden Public Library, with its landscaped amphitheater, the restored Camden Opera House where you can catch a show, and the Camden Harbor Park.
If you have a sweet tooth, stop by Uncle Willy’s Candy Shoppe to get your fill of traditional and modern candies.
When it comes to outdoor activities, Camden offers plenty of options for all seasons.
In summer, you’ll find plenty of places to go hiking, biking, or swimming. In winter, head to Camden Snow Bowl where you can enjoy skiing, snowboarding, tobogganing, and snowshoeing on 5 miles of trails and 20 ski runs of various levels of difficulty.
During the warmer months make sure to go on a cruise in one of the historic sailboats anchored in town to explore the coast from the ocean.
The area is full of hidden gems, and Megunticook Lake is one of them, pack a picnic and head for the beach, where you’ll probably only find a handful of people, especially during the week.
A hike to Mount Battie in Camden Hills State Park is a must. The 2-hour hike will take you to one of the best views of the area. The State Park offers 30 miles of hiking trails through forests, hills, lakes, and cliffs.
You’ll find plenty of cozy inns and bed & breakfasts in town. The Blackberry Inn is one of the best-rated hotels in Camden – the location is perfect, the rooms are well-decorated, and the inn offers free breakfast and free parking.
You can also book a cottage or go camping.
Franconia Notch State Park, New Hampshire
Outdoor lovers looking for a little-known vacation spot where they can be by themselves and away from the crowds will love taking a trip to Franconia Notch State Park.
Located in the heart of the White Mountain National Forest, Franconia Notch is a striking mountain pass featuring a parkway that extends from tFlume Gorge to Echo Lake. The park can be visited year-round and offers plenty of outdoor activities for all tastes, from hikes and road trips to water activities and winter sports.
Although the park can be visited anytime, one of the best times to visit is during September and October when the fall foliage turns different shades of orange and red.
You’ll find many trails within the park, the most popular one is the trail to Flume Gorge where you’ll pass through several covered bridges, boulders, falls, streams, and caves. You can also hike the Artist’s Bluff Lookout Trail to reach a stunning viewpoint over Echo Lake.
In summer, you can enjoy the beach at Echo Lake, swim, go kayaking, boating, or canoeing – while you can ski, snowboard, or snowshoe during winter.
For something more relaxing, drive the 35-mile Kancamagus Highway stopping at scenic overlooks and going on easy and short hikes along the way.
The park offers several campgrounds (even in winter) and RV parks. The Lafayette Place Campground is well located, near many trails and attractions.
If you’d rather stay at a hotel, you’ll find plenty of options in the towns of Lincoln to the south and Franconia to the north. The Franconia Inn is well-rated and conveniently located. In Lincoln, Woodwards White Mountain Resort is a nice option.
You can also book a cabin or lodge nearby for more privacy and access to a kitchen.
Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Portsmouth is a quaint coastal town in New Hampshire that is a perfect vacation spot if you are looking for something far from hordes of tourists. This little hidden gem is perfect for experiencing the charm of a New England coastal city, learning more about the area’s history, and enjoying outdoor activities.
Start by exploring the town and learning about its past. Start at the Strawbery Banke Museum retracing the history of Portsmouth and the life of its early settlers, visit some historic buildings within the ground and enjoy the gardens. During the winter months, you’ll find an ice skating rink there.
You can also take a walking tour of the town’s top tourist attractions.
If the weather is bad or you like tea, you can book a tea blending class at one of the town’s apothecaries where you’ll learn about plants, their benefits, and how to blend them to craft the perfect cup of tea.
During summer, you can go on a cruise to explore the nearby Isle of Shoals or go wildlife-watching. If you like hiking or biking, you’ll find a couple of trails nearby.
Portsmouth is a great year-round destination in New England, you’ll find things to do during all seasons, but summer and the holidays are perfect times to visit. Portsmouth has often been ranked among the top Christmas town in the US.
Mount Washington State Forest, Massachusetts
Mount Washington State Forest is a paradise for hikers. There you’ll find plenty of trails for all abilities leading to stunning natural hidden gems. With its 30 miles of trails for hiking and mountain biking, the park is perfect for a weekend getaway.
The most popular hike is the South Taconic Trail leading to the summit of Alander Mountain offering breathtaking views. You can also go for a hike on the Guilder Pond Trail at the Mount Everett State Reservation or check out the Appalachian Trail.
During winter, you can do cross-country skiing there as well or head to Catamount Mountain Resort for skiing or snowboarding.
Hikers and outdoor lovers will love visiting Bash Bish Falls State Park as well. This hidden gem features 3 different trails of different difficulty all leading to Massachusetts’s highest waterfall where the Bash Bish Brook drops about 80 feet into an emerald plunge pool.
If you ever get tired of the outdoors or want some entertainment, you’ll find museums, art galleries, shops, restaurants… in nearby Great Barrington. Don’t miss the Bernay Fine Art, the Housatonic River Walk, Taft Farms, and Robin’s Candy Store.
Bound Brook Island Beach, Massachusetts
If you are looking for hidden beach getaways on the East Coast, then Bound Brook Beach near Wellfleet in Cape Cod is the perfect vacation spot for you! This little-known beach is gorgeous, secluded, and perfect to get away from the crowds.
Apart from enjoying the beach and all the water activities that come with it, you can visit the Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary where you can hike one of the easy boardwalk trails, trying to spot birds, and enjoying the scenery.
You can also rent a bike and explore the 26-mile Cape Cod Rail Trail passing through many cute villages.
On weekends, you can stroll through Cape Cod’s biggest flea market in Wellfleet with over 250 vendors. In town, you can also visit Wellfleet Historical Society & Museum.
For a fun night out, head to the drive-in movie theater in Wellfleet before grabbing dinner at the chic PB Boulangerie Bistro.
You’ll find a couple of beachfront cottages right on the beach or you can book a stay at one of the hotels in Wellfleet. The Wagner at Duck Creek is a charming inn featuring views over Duck Creek, a stunning garden, and free breakfast.
Stockbridge is a charming village in Western Massachusetts that is little known and will make a perfect vacation spot away from the crowds. Often described as a quintessential American small-town, Stockbridge features plenty of small shops, art galleries, and restaurants.
Stroll around to see perfect examples of Gilded Age architecture and gardens – don’t miss the Berkshire Botanical Garden and the 1886 mansion and gardens at the Naumkeag Estate.
The main attraction in Stockbridge is the Norman Rockwell Museum where you can see the artist’s work and tour his studio. Art lovers will also enjoy touring Chesterwood, the home of the late sculptor Daniel Chester French, with its outdoor rotating sculpture exhibition in the gardens and studio you can visit.
There are two scenic train rides you can take in the area, the Lenox Jitney train ride at the Lenox Station Museum, and the 10-mile Hoosic Valley train ride from Adams to North Adams and back – check the schedule beforehand as they don’t run year-round.
Venture outside the city to find nature trails for some hiking or biking. The most popular ones include the Mary V. Flynn Trail through the woods along the Housatonic River, the Laura’s Tower Trail leading to panoramic views, and the Ice Glen Trail if you’re up for some adventure.
The Red Lion Inn is a popular place in town, known for its many rocking chairs on its front porch, and is a great place to stay. Built in 1773, the inn features historic rooms, a year-round outdoor pool and hot tub, and a restaurant serving award-winning food.
You’ll also find plenty of cottages and cabins, some with river views, around town.
Bristol, Rhode Island
Bristol is a quaint coastal New England destination that is often off of most tourists’ radar which makes it the perfect hidden gem vacation spot to get away from the crowds. Stroll around town, enjoy the local food, and take a boat tour to explore the coast.
Considered one of America’s most patriotic towns, Bristol is home to the oldest continuously held Fourth of July celebration, since 1785!
Start by strolling around town, seeing the colonial architecture, window shopping, and sampling some local treats. You shouldn’t miss the Blithewold Mansion, Gardens & Arboretum from the 19th century, Bristol Historical & Preservation Society and its exhibits about the town’s history, and the Linden Place Mansion built in 1810.
The Herreshoff Marine Museum and the Coggeshall Farm Museum are also worth visiting if you like museums. For something quite unique book a guided tour at the Musee Patamecanique.
Outdoor lovers can spend a day hiking and enjoying the beach at the nearby Colt State Park, where you’ll find hiking and biking trails and unspoiled beaches.
You can also take the ferry to Prudence Island where you can enjoy nature and try to spot wildlife – make sure to visit the Narragansett Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and the lighthouse.
The William’s Grant Inn Bed and Breakfast is the perfect place to stay during a weekend getaway. This historic inn is one of the best-rated accommodation options in town with gorgeous rooms and a tasty breakfast – the location is ideal as well.
You’ll also find plenty of historic homes you can rent on VRBO.
If you are looking for a secret spot on the East Coast, look no further than Guilford in Connecticut. This picturesque small town is the perfect blend of history, culture, and nature, with plenty of things to do during a vacation.
The town is notorious for the Guilford Historic Town Center district, where you’ll find New England’s most significant collections of historic buildings (over 600!).
Among the town’s top sights, you’ll find the Henry Whitfield House, the Hyland House, and the Dudley Farm, all turned into living history museums. Make sure to tour the Bishop’s Orchards farm facility and market, the Guilford Art Center, and the Guilford Keeping Society Museums as well.
Outside of town, the New England National Scenic Trail starts in Guilford and spans 215 miles up until Royalston, MA, and interconnects several trails.
There are a few hotels in town, but nothing too exciting. Your best bet is to rent a cottage either on the coast or around town, you’ll find plenty of vacation rentals on VRBO.
Groton is an ideal destination for families, couples, or groups of friends looking to spend their vacation outdoors while still having some entertainment options.
Surrounded by state parks, beaches, and lakes, Groton will keep you busy and entertained.
Outdoor lovers will love spending a day hiking at the little-known Bluff Point State Park. Featuring plenty of wooded hiking and biking trails as well as spectacular wildlife viewing opportunities and stunning scenery, this small state park is perfect to get away from the overdeveloped coastal area.
Other state parks worth visiting include Rocky Neck, Haley Farm, Harkness Memorial, Fort Trumbull, and Fort Griswold.
In town, you can visit the Avery Point Lighthouse, the Monument House Museum to learn more about America’s revolutionary history, and the Submarine Force Museum. The 18th-century Avery-Copp House and the Ebenezer Avery House are also worth touring.
For something quite unique visit the Gungywamp, a 4,000-year-old archaeological site that still keeps archaeologists puzzled.
You’ll find all the chain hotels you’re used to in Groton. For something a bit more authentic, book a stay at the stunning House of 1833 Bed and Breakfast near Mystic or book a vacation rental in Groton.
Green Lakes State Park, New York
Featuring two glacial lakes surrounded by upland forest, Green Lakes State Park in New York is a true hidden gem that will make a perfect vacation spot for outdoorsy people.
The park is known for its 18-hole golf course designed by Robert Trent Jones, and its 10 miles of hiking trails, 15 of which can be used for cross-country skiing or snowshoeing during winter. In summer, you can swim in some areas, rent a boat, or go hiking or biking.
You’ll find several campsites and lodges within the park (think of booking ahead) or you can stay in the nearby town of Fayetteville.
If you have more time, you can also plan to visit the Old Erie Canal State Historic Park, Chittenango Falls State Park, Clark Reservation State Park, Verona Beach State Park, or Lorenzo State Historic Site featuring natural wonders and historical attractions.
Cooperstown, New York
A quintessential year-round vacation spot in central NY. The quaint village of Cooperstown offers spectacular views of Otsego Lake, small crafts shops, fascinating museums, delicious bites and of course, plenty of baseball!
Start your trip by visiting the National Baseball Hall of Fame, probably Cooperstown’s number 1 attraction. Learn more about the history of baseball and its key players with the museum’s 40,000 artifacts.
The Farmers’ Museum is also a must-see when you’re in town. It showcases ancient farming tools and equipment and a 19th-century historic village with traditional buildings.
Art lovers can visit some of the exhibits at Fenimore Art Museum featuring folk art, photography, Native American art, and fine art, as well as an exhibit on the Coopers, the family who founded the village.
For outdoor activities, head to Glimmerglass State Park where you can enjoy the beach and water sports, see the oldest covered bridge in the US, and tour Hyde Hall, a 50-room mansion. You’ll find a couple of easy to intermediate hiking trails as well – for a panoramic view over the lake, take the uphill trail through the forest.
In winter, you can go tubing, cross-country skiing, ice skating, snowshoeing, ice fishing, and winter hiking at the state park.
For entertainment, you’ll find a couple of breweries and distilleries you can visit and have a drink at. Cooperstown Distillery and Red Shed Brewery are among the most popular.
Another fun thing to do is to head to Brookwood Point where you’ll find a charming historic cottage and a garden. Its best feature is the view of the Kingfisher Tower you get from across the lake.
You’ll find a couple of chain hotels and independent inns in town. The Landmark Inn is a traveler’s favorite. Set in a historic house, this restored bed & breakfast offers well-appointed rooms, free breakfast, and a nice garden, right in town.
You’ll find plenty of vacation rentals as well, in town and around the lake.
Trap Pond State Park, Delaware
Trap Pond State Park is an enchanting outdoor destination offering plenty of activities and amenities that make for a fun and easy vacation.
Within the park, you’ll find campgrounds, RV hookups, cabins, and yurts (book as early as you can).
The park can be visited year-round, you’ll always find something to do, no matter when you can. Summer is popular for birding, while fall offers vibrant colors, winter, crisp snow, and spring, the perfect weather.
The park boasts around nine miles of water trails for kayaking and canoeing, and you can rent everything you need at the park. Hikers, bikers, and birders can enjoy the 12 miles of trails.
You can go on a guided tour as well to explore the cypress swamp, cemeteries, and a church from the 1800s.
In summer, the park often organizes events and concerts.
Conveniently located near many major cities, Wilmington is the perfect vacation spot for a city break. The city offers plenty of entertainment, history, cultural activities, and outdoor recreational areas, and you’ll only be a short drive away from beaches and state parks.
In town, make sure to tour the gorgeous Nemours Mansion and Garden and check out the riverfront.
Downtown, you’ll find the DuPont Environmental Education Center where you can learn more about the local ecosystem and take a stroll through marshes and gardens. Nearby, the Russell W. Peterson Wildlife Refuge features boardwalks through marshes and is an ideal spot to see local fauna.
You’ll also find a couple of interesting museums, such as the Delaware Museum of Natural History, the Delaware Art Museum, and the Hagley Museum and Library.
Outside of town, the Alapocas Run State Park is perfect to go hiking, biking, or rock climbing. The park is open year-round and also features a couple of historic sites worth seeing.
You can also take a day trip to the nearby historic town of New Castle where you can tour the Read House and Gardens from the early 19th century. The Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library is also worth the drive.
If you want to spend some time at the beach, head to Rehoboth Beach for the day (about an hour’s drive away.)
Assateague Island, Maryland and Virginia
To get away from it all and find some peace and quiet in the middle of nowhere, plan a trip to Assateague Island, a true hidden gem for nature lovers.
The island offers plenty of paved and unpaved hiking and biking trails through marshes, forests, and coastlines, kayaking or canoeing opportunities, and during summer, you’ll find lifeguards on duty on many beaches around the island.
The visitor center will give you tips on where and how to see wildlife, the island being famous for its wild horses – you might also see deer and waterfowls.
The charming town of Frederick in Maryland is off most tourists’ radar and will make a perfect destination for your next vacation. Enjoy the small-town vibe, explore historic sights, join cultural activities, and go for a walk in the countryside.
Stroll around downtown, stopping by some of the city’s many shops, art galleries, and restaurants. You can take a walking tour of the historic part of town to learn more about the city’s past and see the historic buildings. Make sure to stop by the National Museum of Civil War Medicine.
If you want to tour historic buildings, don’t miss the Schifferstadt Architectural Museum, Winchester Hall, Rose Hill Manor, and Hessian Barracks
Another fun activity, wine lovers will enjoy sampling the region’s finest wine along the Frederick Wine Trail.
If you are traveling with kids, you’ll find plenty of entertainment for them. Many museums feature hands-on and interactive exhibits. You’ll also find arcades, VR rooms, and mini-golfs around town.
For some outdoor fun, you can head to the Catoctin Mountains in Cunningham Falls State Park where you can hike, see wildlife, go on a road trip, camp, and swim. The nearby Crystal Grottoes Caverns feature some incredible formations and is the only public cave you can visit in Maryland.
Civil war enthusiasts shouldn’t miss the Monocacy National Battlefield where you’ll find 1500 acres of farm fields, many historic buildings, and amazing scenery.
You’ll find all the usual chain hotels in town. For something with more charm, check out the historic 10 Clarke Inn or the Hollerstown Hill Bed and Breakfast. Both feature gorgeous architecture and decoration and are highly rated.
Cape Charles, Virginia
If you are looking for a secret beach getaway on the East Coast, then Cape Charles will make the perfect vacation spot. The town boasts incredible vistas, stunning beaches, and a relaxing vibe.
You’ll find plenty of beaches to explore, picnic, or stroll through, as well as many water activities. Make sure to check out Savage Neck Dunes State Natural Area for wild beaches, bird watching, and hiking.
When you’re tired of the beach stroll around Cape Charles Historic District placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991. Among the places you shouldn’t miss, you’ll find the Seafood Headquarters, the A.L. Detwiler House, the Kellogg House, and the US Post Office. In town, you’ll also find a public beach and a pier.
In winter, you can go bird watching at Kiptopeke State Park, and enjoy hiking and swimming there in summer as well.
You can book a cottage by the beach if you want some peace and quiet, or in town, to be near restaurants and bars. You can also camp at one of the nearby state parks.
Richmond, the capital of Virginia, is often overlooked by tourists, yet the city has a lot to offer. Rich in history, nature, and culture, you’ll find plenty of things to do in and around the city.
The Belle Isle Historical Park features hiking and biking trails, a rock-climbing area, and many recreational facilities.
Among the best neighborhoods and areas to visit, make sure to tour the Canal Walk, the Church Hill Historic District, where you’ll find 70 antebellum houses, the St. John’s Episcopal, the Edgar Allan Poe Museum, and the downtown area (don’t miss the murals!).
When it comes to museums, you shouldn’t miss the American Civil War Museum which is divided into 3 locations and features over 120,00 artifacts. The Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and the Valentine Museum and Richmond History Center are also worth visiting.
If you are traveling with kids, visit the interactive exhibits at the Children’s Museum of Richmond and at the Science Museum of Virginia.
If you have some extra time, you can take a day trip to Fredericksburg or go hiking at Pocahontas State Park.
Whether you’re planning a family trip or a romantic getaway, The Commonwealth is the perfect place to stay in Richmond. Located in the downtown area, you’ll be close to many sites, and the hotel features many useful amenities.
Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Roanoke is the perfect blend of culture, entertainment, and outdoor activities. People wanting to enjoy stunning scenery and wilderness, without being too far from a city, will love spending their vacation there.
In town, don’t miss the Taubman Museum of Art, the city market, the Mill Mountain Star and Park, the Virginia Museum of Transportation, and if you are visiting with kids, the Science Museum of Western Virginia & Hopkins Planetarium, there’s also a waterpark if you are looking for indoors activities.
The town is famous for its food scene, many operators organize food tours – make sure to book one to sample some local food and learn more about the city’s past.
To explore the city on foot or by cycling, pass through some of the 26 miles of trails from the Roanoke Valley Greenways. For some outdoor and water activities, head to the Carvins Cove Natural Reserve, bordering part of the Appalachian Trail and offering over 60 miles of trails.
For an easy hike to a nice lookout, head to Read Mountain Preserve, and for some adventure, go to Explore Park.
Boone, North Carolina
A charming historical town, Boone is nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of western North Carolina. It has a lively student-town spirit, but don’t let it put you off, as you’ll find plenty of cultural activities and historical sites to visit.
The town’s surrounding area boasts some of the United States’ best outdoor adventures, with fast, clear rivers perfect for rafting or kayaking, and plenty of trails for hiking and cycling. Part of the Appalachian Mountain Range, Howard’s Knob features a couple of trails and stunning lookouts.
If you are there in winter, you can plan to spend a day at the Appalachian Ski Mountain where you ski and snowboard on one of the 11 slopes or 3 terrain parks.
In and around the downtown area, tour the beautiful Daniel Boone Native Gardens and its rich fauna. Next, head to the Hickory Ridge Living History Museum to learn more about the town’s past.
If you are there any time between May and October, don’t miss the Watauga County Farmer’s Market that takes place every Saturday morning.
The North Carolina Daniel Boone Heritage Trail is also a must-visit to learn more about Daniel Boone and his life. The trail will take you through several places that played important roles in Daniel Boone’s and North Carolina’s history.
The Greenway Trail and The Cascades Trail are 2 easy and quick trails that are worth seeing and popular among locals.
You can also take a trip to tour the Flat Top Manor, a 1901 Grand Colonial Revival mansion, located in the heart of Moses H. Cone Memorial Park on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
You’ll find plenty of vacation rentals in town or cabins in more secluded areas. You can also book a stay at the comfortable La Quinta by Wyndham Boone.
Ocracoke Island, North Carolina
Part of North Carolina’s coastal Outer Banks region, Ocracoke Island is the perfect destination to escape the crowds. This hidden gem features plenty of historic landmarks, cultural activities, and natural sights.
There is no bridge to reach the island, so you’ll need to take the public ferry to get there, either from Hatteras or Cedar Island.
You’ll find plenty of beaches on the island, some pretty wild, and others with many amenities and lifeguards on duty. For a couple of easy hikes, head to Springer’s Point Nature Preserve or hike the Hammock Hills Nature Trail.
Make sure to visit the Ocracoke Lighthouse, the second-oldest operating lighthouse in the country, stroll around Historic Howard Street, before stopping by the Ocracoke Preservation Society Museum.
Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina
Just outside of Charleston, lies the hidden gem that is Sullivan’s Island. Many tourists skip it when visiting Charleston, making it a perfect vacation spot for people wanting some peace and quiet, and to enjoy the slow-pace feel of the town.
History buffs can visit Fort Moultrie from 1776 which played an important role in history. Stella Maris Roman Catholic Church built in 1869 is also worth checking out.
Take the elevator to reach the top of Sullivan’s Island Lighthouse for panoramic views of the island and its surroundings.
Edgar Allan Poe lived on the island for a while and a couple of its short-stories take place there. Visit the Edgar Allan Poe Library, housed in a renovated four-gun battery used during the Spanish-American War.
For outdoor activities, hike the Sullivan’s Island Nature Trail and the Old Bridge Landing Trail.
Blackville, South Carolina
A former transportation hub, the town of Blackville is known for its Healing Springs that were believed by Indians to have healing properties, even today some locals swear by it. A few years ago, Mennonites settled there and share their crafts and cooking.
Blackville is ideal for people looking for a small-town getaway far from the crowds. The downtown is worth a stroll, with its quaint shops, coffee shops, and dinners. You’ll also find plenty of interesting things to do outside of town as well.
Your first stop should be God’s Acre Healing Springs, where you can see for yourself if the stories are true. Then go for a stroll at Barnwell State Park or along the banks of the Edisto River.
The South Carolina National Heritage Corridor encompasses places nearby, so you can plan to visit part of it as well.
In town, you can stop by Lill’s Herb Garden to learn more about herbs and how you can use them for cooking and decorating, before having a meal at the Mennonite-run Millers Bread Basket.
On Mondays and Saturdays, you can drive to Springfield to check out the flea market, where you’ll find everything from antiques to fresh produce.
Cumberland Island, Georgia
A barrier island off Georgia’s southeast coast, with protected beaches and a maritime forest, Cumberland Island has a lot to offer, from nature and outdoor activities to history and cultural activities. The peaceful island is the perfect destination to disconnect and enjoy some peace and quiet.
The island offers 18 miles of unspoiled beachfront, centuries-old live oaks draped in Spanish moss, crushed shell paths, and a wide variety of wildlife.
There’s only one hotel on the island, the gorgeous and all-inclusive Greyfield Inn, built in 1890, furnished and decorated according to its past. You’ll also find 3 wilderness campgrounds on the island and 2 campgrounds with basic amenities (make sure to book ahead and to check the ferry schedule).
During your trip, make sure to visit the Dungeness Ruins from 1884, the Plum Orchard Mansion, the First African Baptist Church, and the Ice House Museum.
You’ll also find plenty of hiking and biking trails on the island as well as ranger-led activities. You can also go kayaking.
To get around the island, rent a bike near the dock at the concession store (or bring your own). It’s recommended to bring your own food as there are no shops or restaurants there.
Providence Canyon State Park, Georgia
Known as Georgia’s Little Grand Canyon, Providence Canyon State Park features stunning scenery, plenty of hiking trails, and well-maintained campgrounds.
All the trails start at the visitor center, where you can pick which areas you want to visit. The 2.5-mile Canyon Loop Trail is an easy and popular hike. For something a bit more strenuous, try the 6-mile Backcountry Trail. If you’re lucky, you might spot some small mammals and birds along the way.
Make sure to bring plenty of snacks and water, and be ready for some heat if you are visiting during the warmer months. You might have to walk through a bit of water, so pick your shoes accordingly.
You can choose to camp there (book ahead) or stay in the nearby town of Columbus (30-minute away). You’ll also find cabins at the nearby Florence Marina State Park on Lake Walter F. George (also worth visiting if you have more time!).
Indian Rocks Beach, Florida
Florida might be a popular destination in the US but you can still easily find some unspoiled beaches and undeveloped small towns. Indian Rocks Beach on Florida’s Gulf Shore is off most tourists’ radar, yet. the beach is gorgeous there and you’ll find plenty of amenities for a perfect vacation.
You can enjoy spending your time at the beach, make sure not to miss the sunsets, and do some water activities such as paragliding, snorkeling, or kayaking… Spend a day at sea by joining a cruise or a boat tour (many depart from Clearwater).
Apart from enjoying the beach, go birdwatching at the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary, trying to spot some of the 200 bird species found there.
Don’t miss the beautiful Florida Botanical Gardens showcasing local flora and go for a walk through mangroves at Indian Rocks Beach Nature Preserve.
You’ll find plenty of vacation rentals near the beach. As Indian Rocks is not that commercialized, you won’t find many hotels. For something nice, you can check out Barefoot Beach Resort in nearby Indian Shores.
Ocala National Forest, Florida
While everyone flocks to Florida’s pristine beaches, head inland to the little-known Ocala National Forest. This Florida hidden gem boasts a dense pine forest, plenty of springs, lakes, ponds, and sinkholes, a varied wildlife, and many hiking and canoe/kayak trails.
People who love outdoor activities will love spending their vacation in Ocala. There you can hike, bike, go on boat trips, kayak, swim, dive, snorkel, waterski, and even take a road trip!
With several campgrounds across the forest and 2 cabins, you won’t even have to leave the park!
Check out some of our other East Coast Travel Guides:
- Best East Coast Winter Vacation Destinations for the Perfect Getaway
- 20 Best Family Ski Resorts on the East Coast
- Best Kid-Friendly Beaches on the East Coast for a Family Vacation
- 16 Romantic Getaways on the East Coast
- Best Family Vacation Spots on the East Coast