The Best Little Beach Towns To Visit in Spring
Ocean City, Maryland
With its weathered wooden planks and groovy neon lights, the country’s oldest continually operating carousel has been spinning mirrored, double-decker magic since 1912. Ocean City’s boardwalk starts hopping with three miles of delights even before Memorial Day hits the calendar. You can stroll or bike a roomier pier, savor famously tasty bites like Thrasher's vinegar fries, and on weekends in April and May, skip summer’s longer lines and marvel at the view atop the iconic Giant Ferris Wheel at the Pier. (Just check jollyrogerpieroc.com/hours for the most up to date park info.) Bonus: a walk along the wide, beautiful beach trades the summer crowds for a rejuvenating spring breeze.
Depoe Bay, Oregon
Who visits Depoe Bay like clockwork each spring? Around 18,000 migrating gray whales—as well as the humans who love to see them by land or sea here in this idyllic town known as the whale watching capital of the coast. During “Whale Week,” the last week of March each year, hundreds of volunteers man 26 sites along the shore, including Depoe Bay’s Whale Watching Center, to help visitors score those awe-inspiring sightings. You can get even closer by boat on one of several charter tours that dock in town. Or head to Boiler Bay State Scenic Viewpoint, a panoramic overlook that’s ideal for watching whales, albatrosses, pelicans, loons, and dramatic surf in the basalt-rimmed bay.
Ocracoke Island, North Carolina
If you’d like a spring break locale where the ethos is more peace-and-quiet than party-hearty, this secluded barrier island in the southern Outer Banks beckons. The majority of pristine Ocracoke, first discovered in 1585 and only reachable by ferry, is designated as part of the Hatteras National Seashore, including 16 miles of undeveloped, wild beaches. But quiet doesn’t necessarily mean sleepy: springtime brings exceptional shelling, fishing, birdwatching, windsurfing, kiteboarding—and bargain hunting, as island shops may offer discounts to make room for upcoming summer items. And should you want to raise a civilized glass to your cloistered spring break getaway, Zillie’s Island Pantry has popular wine tastings and a world-class selection of craft beer and wine.
Old Koloa Town on Kauai Island, Hawaii
There may be no better place on the planet to immerse yourself in the blooming wonder of spring than in Old Koloa Town, on the south shore of Kauai, “the garden isle.” In Allerton and McBryde Gardens, both part of the National Tropical Botanical Garden, you can take your pick of gorgeous trails to enjoy a leisurely stroll past heliconias, orchids, flowering trees, exotic spices, and rare and endangered tropical plants in the largest existing collection of native Hawaiian flora. Old Koloa Town, near the gentle waves of popular Poipu Beach, is the historic site of Hawaii’s first major sugar plantation, and its clapboard storefronts, galleries, and History Center are loaded with charm. Spring offers fewer crowds, better rates, and pleasant weather with average yearly temperatures from 75-85.
The seasonal opening of Ipswich's The Clam Box may be the most eagerly awaited signal that spring is around the corner in this historic New England town 45 minutes north of Boston. The more than 80-year-old restaurant, designed to look like a king-sized clam box, gets rave reviews for its perfect fried whole belly clams (they’re light and not greasy). The hype is deserved: in peak season, people wait in lines that can wrap around the building, so visit during spring’s faster queues and celebrate the quintessential fried clam’s return from winter hiatus. Bonus: nearby beautiful Crane Beach has more than five miles of trails winding through dunes and beachfront, so you can walk off your clam feast. Or stroll downtown, which boasts the most surviving First Period houses (built between 1625 and 1725) anywhere in the country.
There are few things more picturesque and joyful than the sight of brightly colored Easter eggs dotting a lush green lawn overlooking the sea. That’s exactly what you’ll find on Easter at the beautiful Hotel del Coronado, just across the bay from downtown San Diego. The famed red-turreted hotel, featured in the classic movie, Some Like It Hot, also hosts a lavish Easter Champagne brunch in the grand, Pacific-view Crown Room that’s over the top in all the best ways, featuring dishes like made-to-Order Vanilla Coconut Waffles and Lobster + Ricotta Tortellini—and a gourmet Bloody Mary bar. Another rite of spring in town, The Coronado Flower Show, brings locals and visitors to Spreckels Park for the largest tented flower show in the nation, held on the third weekend of April each year since 1922.
Kiawah Island, South Carolina
If you can say “spring,” you can say “spa.” It’s a fitting season for the renewal that a pampering, spa-centric vacation can bring, and a journey with your daughter or mom for Mother’s Day to Kiawah Island, 21 miles south of Charleston, doubles down on the blissful quality time. Sure, Kiawah excels during springtime in just about every activity, from golf to boogie boarding to boutique shopping, but it’s the top-rated The Spa at The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort that will send your tension packing and deliver you to your most tranquil, happy place. Choose from a mega-menu of treatments, including citrus-infused hot oil massage, collagen lift facial, private yoga, and even a Kiawah Golf Ball deep tissue massage. Or enjoy two-, three-, and four-hour “medleys” of treatments to keep the good vibes going.
Gulf Shores, Alabama
In this sunny, white sand beach town on the Gulf, spring means gorgeous weather and fresh seafood catch, but there’s one weekend in mid May that cranks the volume on Gulf Shores' magnetic appeal to 11: The Hangout Music Festival. The three-day fest mixes together great music (headliners have included Kendrick Lamar, Foo Fighters, and Mumford & Sons), toes in the sand, beach volleyball, carnival rides, Gulf-front hammocks, and starry nights. Spring also brings anglers in droves to catch Spanish mackerel, cobia fish, yellowfin tuna, amberjack and more. But the biggest draw in any season remains the 32 miles of wide, beautiful, sugar white shore.
Morro Bay, California
Let’s go fly a kite! Seriously, it’s breezy out, and we all could use a little respite of joy-filled kite flying, couldn’t we? Combine that with a scenic beach town like Morro Bay, and the serotonin levels will soar, especially the last weekend of April at the annual Morro Bay Kite Festival. The kites here are next level, and the professional skills on display are too—but amateurs and happy observers abound as well. Some professional kite-flyers say the best kite-flying wind on earth is right here. There’s also ocean-side golfing, sailing, kayaking, and biking in this seaside village on the Central Coast.
Sanibel Island, Florida
Out of the many sunny delights on Sanibel Island, west of Fort Myers on the Gulf of Mexico, one pastime stands out as the most pursued: shelling. It’s a preoccupation that’s somehow serious and ethereal all at once, and the reward of finding the biggest and best haul is most likely to happen in the early spring season at low tide. There are 250 types of shells to be found here, including Conch, Lightning Whelk, Cockle, Tulip, and Coquina. It’s also a pastime with a hefty history: the annual Sanibel Shell Show competition began nearly 80 years ago, held the first Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of each March, and it’s still one of the top shell shows in the country.