From Maine down to Florida, these are the best places to visit on the East Coast.
“West Coast, best coast” has a nice sound to it, but the debate is far from over when it comes to which side of the country wins the ultimate showdown. Although California weather is lovely, and the Pacific Northwest’s vivid green forests and majestic mountain views are a sight to behold, the East Coast is a true four-season region with diverse landscapes, ecosystems, and climates — each as gorgeous as the next.
Have you ever experienced an East Coast autumn? There’s nothing quite as intoxicating as witnessing the foliage of the Appalachian Mountains turn into bright oranges and reds seemingly overnight. What about a New England summer, when the hydrangeas bloom all over Nantucket Island and Martha’s Vineyard? The cherry blossoms in Washington, D.C. draw crowds from around the world in the spring, and there’s a reason so many people can’t get enough of the South’s beaches in the wintertime.
You could spend a lifetime exploring this section of the country, bookended by Maine and Florida, and still never witness all the glory of its many mountains, rivers, small towns, historic sites, national parks, and bustling cities — but it doesn’t hurt to try. While countless East Coast destinations can be described as “beautiful,” only a few made our list. From the glimmering waters of New York’s Lake George to the untouched wilderness of Cumberland Island, Georgia, here are 15 of the best places to visit on the East Coast.
Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia and North Carolina
The full Blue Ridge mountain range spans 550 miles from Pennsylvania to Georgia, but Virginia and North Carolina lay claim to the Blue Ridge Parkway. The meandering drive grants visitors access to over 200 scenic overlooks, where they can stop to take in the sweeping views accented by the blue haze that gives these mountains their name.
Highlands-Cashiers Plateau, North Carolina
Western North Carolina is home to more than 250 waterfalls, many of which are found in the breathtaking Highlands-Cashiers Plateau, a mountainous area 70 miles from Asheville. Whether you’re visiting during the lush summer or vibrant fall, a hike to nearby Dry Falls or Cullasaja Falls shouldn’t be missed.
Bluffton, South Carolina
You might expect Charleston to appear on this list, but the smaller coastal town of Bluffton with its moss-draped oak trees and location along the May River earn it the “most beautiful” spot. Montage Palmetto Bluff, named one of the best resort hotels in South Carolina in Travel + Leisure’s World’s Best Awards, is one of the area’s top highlights, but visitors should also explore downtown Bluffton and the surrounding Lowcountry.
Acadia National Park, Maine
Coastal Maine’s Acadia National Park is open year round, but you’ll need to visit between October and March to experience the famous “first” sunrise from Cadillac Mountain. Summer trips are just as magical, though, especially at popular spots like Thunder Hole, Jordan Pond, and Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse.