Above, the Bacara Resort and Spa combines stunning Spanish-style architecture with a breathtaking view of the Pacific Ocean in Santa Barbara, California. Photo by Bacara Resort & Spa/Courtesy of Visit Santa Barbara.

A beach trip isn’t necessarily about the sand and surf. What makes some destinations stand out comes through the architecture and natural landscape you’ll find within its borders. (For instance, there’s a big difference between a highly developed beach with a busy boardwalk versus a tiny shore village where quaint homes outnumber hotels.) If you’re looking for a beach town or city where you’ll find a scenic view no matter how far you are from the sea, here are a few of our favorite locales that fit the bill:

Santa Barbara, California

Photo by Mark Weber/Courtesy of Visit Santa Barbara

Nicknamed the “American Riviera”, calling this picture-perfect destination a beach town would be an understatement. Instead, every block has its own character — yet all is beautiful. From resorts overlooking the ocean to the downtown shopping district of State Street (above), there just isn’t a bad view to be had.

Palm Beach, Florida

Photo by Discover The Palm Beaches

Since the early 1890s, Palm Beach has become famous for exquisite estates and elegant resorts. For a quieter day of exploring, spend an afternoon among flowers and foliage in the gardens found throughout. Whether it’s the pocket gardens found on Worth Avenue, or the sculpture gardens at The Society of the Four Arts and the Norton House (across the lagoon in West Palm Beach), you’ll get to experience a very different side of a familiar destination.

Cape May, New Jersey

Photo by mbtrama via Flickr

If you like Victorian architecture, then you’ll love Cape May. Located on the southernmost tip of New Jersey, this beach town has a quiet atmosphere that makes it a welcome respite from a hectic schedule. Old-fashioned independent restaurants and shops abound — and inland, you’ll find a surprising number of wineries.

Aquinnah, Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts

Photo via Kindra Cline/Massachusetts Office of Tourism

This beautiful destination is undoubtedly popular, but not all parts of the island are packed with people. Take a side trip after taking in the Victorian cottages and classic New England architecture to Aquinnah, a rugged yet serene town of around 300 on the southern edge of the island. There’s unspoiled beaches, towering cliffs, and incredible views all around.

Kennebunkport, Maine

Photo by Doug Kerr via Flickr

After getting your fill of lobster rolls, spend time in Kennebunkport. Elegant 18th- and 19th-century architecture can be found throughout this historic New England town, giving it a more refined air than other beaches. Not surprisingly, it’s also a popular stop for those exploring the Southern Maine Antiques Trail.




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