6 Boston-Area Beach Towns That Are Actually Better in the Fall

Seaside vistas and seafood feasts—all with no tourists in sight.

Kennebunkport, Maine
Kennebunkport, Maine | Lamar Sellers/Shutterstock
Kennebunkport, Maine | Lamar Sellers/Shutterstock

Don’t get us wrong, Boston’s nearby beaches are great and all, but the sandy shores are not exactly a peaceful respite during the bustling summer months. There’s the traffic, the long lines, the tourists, and the stressed-out service industry folks. Fall, however, is really where it’s at. The ocean temps peak in September, the air is temperate, hotels start introducing cheaper rates, and crowds have thinned to manageable levels. Plus, you have more of an excuse to check out all those indoor attractions you avoid when the sun is out!

From cozy getaways on the coast of Maine to other escapes all around New England, don’t forget about our nearby beach towns when dreaming about fall travel. We’ve rounded up six seaside getaways that get even better as fall rolls around, so you can take advantage of gorgeous views and the freshest seafood—no tourists in sight.

Kennebunkport, Maine
Kennebunkport, Maine | Lamar Sellers/Shutterstock

There’s a reason Kennebunkport calls itself “the place to be all year”—but fall is really the region's time to shine. Let’s start with the beaches. The waves are higher and the crowds scarcer, but the water is about as warm as it gets all year during the early months of fall. Hit up Goose Rocks Beach for the full photogenic experience, then head to The Tides Inn for a garden cocktail. If you crave more sand, head over to Gooch’s Beach for the dog walkers (dogs are allowed on the beaches all day long in the off-season), or the smaller Mother’s Beach to join the evening swimmers. And you can pick up your autumnal mums and decorative gourds at either Wallingford Farm or Snug Harbor Farm.

What to eat: On top of seasonal classics like The Clam Shack, Mabel’s Claw, Nunan’s, and Arundel Wharf (all open through mid-October), you can now make your leisurely way through new four-season gems like Wandby Landing and Via Sophia by the Sea—and Earth at Hidden Pond is now open year-round as well. Be sure to save drinking room for a cocktail or two at the new Rabbit Hole, which boasts the latest hours in town (open until midnight!).

Where to stay: The Wanderer is the area’s newest hotel offering and is, in a word, divine: 17 freestanding cottages decked out in surf-inspired decor with a pool, a fire pit, and bocce on the grounds—and they’re having a great fall sale (did we mention the property is adults-only?). For indoor folks, there are newer spots like the Kennebunkport Captain’s Collection and AWOL KPT, plus the brand-new White Sails Inn. And here’s a little secret: Just a few miles away from downtown KPT, Lincoln Hotel is a gorgeous new boutique hotel one town over in Biddeford, which is fast becoming a hot dining destination (and Biddeford Pool Beach is a hidden gem).

Wellfleet, Massachusetts
Wellfleet, Massachusetts | Danita Delimont/Shutterstock

Fall means no more beach-sticker agony—you’re free to park anywhere you wish. Dip a toe in one of the kettle ponds or go full bore at Cahoon Hollow Beach (insert requisite shark warning here). Once the crowds are at bay for the season, the region hosts its marquee event: What is perhaps the area’s marquee event: Oysterfest. It’s back from October 15-16 in its full, glorious form this year for the first time since the pandemic. Nearby Truro Vineyards stays open year-round for tastings and is hosting its annual Vinegrass Festival on October 2. And the drive-in may be closed, but the flea market goes strong through Indigenous Peoples Day. End a day with the essential walk across Uncle Tim’s Bridge to take a foliage hike in Hamblen Park.

Where to eat: While some beloved dining institutions close right after Labor Day (sniff, Beachcomber, sniff), Mac’s Shack stays open through the end of October, prix-fixe gem Ceraldi seats diners through October 15, and spots like The Bookstore and Restaurant and Winslow’s Tavern are open year-round.

Where to stay: The Wagner at Duck Creek is a refreshed boutique hotel that combines classic Cape comforts with some higher-end touches. The Holden Inn, a no-frills but charming throwback in the middle of town, is open until mid-October.

Newport, Rhode Island
Newport, Rhode Island | solepsizm/Shutterstock

After your umpteenth shuffle along the Cliff Walk or two-hour crawl down Bellevue Avenue, you tend to get a little tired of Newport’s summer masses. But when said masses dissipate, the whole area suddenly feels accessible. You can take your time at The Tennis Hall of Fame or iconic mansions like The Breakers and Marble House. Take a schooner cruise of the harbor (there’s no better way to enjoy the changing leaves than from the ocean), or get fully immersed in the water with a last dip at Easton’s Beach. If you’re feeling peppy, take some surfing lessons in nearby Narragansett with Warm Wind—they provide wetsuits once the temps drop.

Where to eat: For starters, fried clams at Flo’s are a must. If you want the full Bowen’s Wharf experience, get drinks at Wharf Pub before dinner at Fluke. Or head to the patio at The Reef, which is equipped with fire pits and breathtaking sunset views. If you wait until Restaurant Week, which runs from November 4-13, you can check out as many spots as possible for a lesser price.

Where to stay: Now’s the time to check into the newly opened Chart House Inn—the seven-room inn will inevitably sell out in summer. For a party and epic sunsets, book a room at Gurney’s and be sure to pet the goats. Or go completely nuts and splurge for a night at Castle Hill Inn—after all, it’s where the Real Housewives stayed! Oh, and they also have cozy fire pits for s’mores on the lawn.

Nantucket, Massachusetts
Nantucket, Massachusetts | mchipokas/Shutterstock

Post-Labor Day, the island resets to its original pleasures, like bucolic beaches and accessible, first-rate restaurants. And of course, scallop season begins October 1. Bike to Siasconset Beach without fear of a rental Jeep plowing you down, then do the indoor things you’d never bother with in summer, like visits to the Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum and Whaling Museum. Luxuriate at an actual table at Cisco Brewers. New this year is the Nantucket Harvest Fair from October 1-2, a marriage of the Cranberry Fest and the Island Fair.

Where to eat: Call for reservations at Straight Wharf or Topper’s without fear of being laughed at. Or, The Whale lets dogs into its dining room and has the perfect Sunday brunch menu—and patio views. Sister Ship, a relative newcomer, sources the bulk of its ingredients from New England farmers and purveyors. And Brotherhood of Thieves is now a four-concept destination spot, with a beer garden, a whiskey bar, the original restaurant, and a surfer bar (think sushi and tacos).

Where to stay: Faraway, one of the newest boutique offerings, charms with nautical decor and a stunning courtyard. The spiffed-up Nantucket Hotel & Resort—topic of the latest Elin Hilderbrand novel—is a rare year-round resort that fully embraces the season with fire pit fondue, a hot cocktail hour, and an inviting hot tub.

Provincetown, Massachusetts
Provincetown, Massachusetts | FotoKina/Shutterstock

P-town is the prime off-peak destination: The restaurants and bars are accessible, the shop owners can stop and chat, and the dunes are gorgeous in the autumn light. Check out the fall lineup at the Provincetown Theater. Clear your home so that you can refurnish it at the Monumental Yard Sale (October 8-10). Start sewing your costume for the epic Halloween weekend and the annual Black and Gold Ball. And prepare to do some serious shopping: prices start dropping in all your favorite Commercial Street boutiques this month, which usually go into fire-sale mode in October.

Where to eat: Plan a visit around Cape Cod Restaurant Week (October 8-14), or just book a last-minute table at Jimmy’s Hideaway. There’s never a bad time to visit The Canteen, but in the fall you’ll actually get an outside seat. Same goes for the Red Inn—no guilt as you lounge in one of your adirondacks facing the ocean, enjoying the famous raw bar happy hour.

Where to stay: The new Mercury Hotel is funky and cozy at the same time. Now’s the time to rent that waterside cottage you can’t even pretend to swing in July (we’re always suckers for Captain Jack’s Wharf, open until October 10). AWOL gives you those stunning water views and the serenity that comes with the West End.

Ogunquit, Maine
Ogunquit, Maine | Firefly_NewEngland/Shutterstock

The crowds were out of control in Ogunquit this summer, but sanity lies ahead. Book your plans now for Ogunquifest Weekend (October 21-23). The Ogunquit Museum is the most beautiful gallery you don’t hear enough about; the sculpture garden overlooking the ocean is alone worth a visit. At the famed Footbridge Bridge, savor the autumn colors reflecting off the water surface. And Marginal Way is a lot more enjoyable when the crowds have thinned and you can take in unencumbered views.

Where to eat: The best restaurant in town, MC Perkins Cove, is open for bookings through the end of October. Northern Union is the wine bar of your dreams and stays open year-round. Barnacle Billy’s is the perennial favorite for lobster and calms down a bit come fall (it’s open until the end of October). And while there’s almost always a line at Flo’s Hot Dogs, it gets more manageable once the temperatures drop.

Where to stay: The Cliff House is your splurge. Think s’mores at the firepits, lobstering trips, seasonally inspired meals at The Tiller, treatments at the 9,000-square-foot spa on rainy days, and the indulgence of a suite that hangs over the Atlantic and includes a soaking tub and multiple terraces. Beyond that, the Meadowmere Resort places you just a few blocks away from the water and offers some great fall specials.

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Meaghan Agnew is a Thrillist contributor.