8 Beach Towns Beloved by U.S. Presidents
Kennebunkport, Maine: President George H.W. Bush
Houston may have been the permanent home for the Bush family, but Kennebunkport was where the 41st president found peace. “I have called it my ‘anchor to windward,’” Bush told Down East magazine in 2015. “Even when I was President, I could find peace here, even when dealing with serious issues. The sound of the sea, the salt air, even the fog horn of Goat Island Lighthouse calms the soul. And yes, clears the brain.” During his presidency, Bush hosted many world leaders at their longtime family compound at Walker’s Point, where menu staples were—what else?—Maine lobster and blueberries.
Palm Beach, Florida: President Donald Trump
Long before Donald Trump became president, Trump the businessman was busy snatching up one of the swankiest slices of real estate in Palm Beach. His 128-room mansion dubbed Mar-a-Lago was built by cereal heiress Marjory Merriweather Post in 1927. Trump purchased the property nearly 60 years later and turned it into an exclusive club with a reportedly hefty $100,000 initiation fee. Today, President Trump uses Mar-a-Lago as his “Winter White House,” and has hosted leaders like Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the estate.
Sag Harbor, New York: President Chester A. Arthur
It’s not just modern-day sun-kissed celebs who jet off to the Hamptons for summer vacations—back in the 1800s, our very own 21st President, Chester A. Arthur, called the East End his second home. Arthur’s “Summer White House” was a three-story Georgian Revival stunner in the heart of Sag Harbor’s lively downtown (once thriving due to the whaling industry). The 18th century home was recently renovated, and if gorgeous former president’s homes are your thing, you’re in luck: Arthur’s historic escape is currently on the market for $13.5 million.
Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts: President Barack Obama
With its charming lighthouses, shingled cottages, and picturesque beaches, Martha’s Vineyard is understandably a treasured summer escape for many people—President Obama included. The New England island became an annual vacation tradition for the Obama family, who were regulars at some of the Vineyard’s favorite hangouts. (Youngest daughter Sasha even got her first summer job at Nancy’s, a local seafood restaurant.)
Key West, Florida: President Harry S. Truman
The Sunshine State’s southernmost island might be known for its bars, sunsets, and eccentrics, but packed into its seven square miles is also a whole lot of American history. President Truman’s “Little White House”—a plantation-style charmer that’s now a museum—served as the naval station’s command headquarters during the Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II, before being claimed as Truman’s winter base from 1946 through 1952. While here, the 33rd president—who famously ditched suits in favor of tropical shirts while on the island—made decisions involving the rebuilding of Europe, Civil Rights, and the Cold War.
Cape Cod, Massachusetts: President John F. Kennedy
There’s perhaps no other president who’s left such an indelible mark on a beach destination than JFK on Cape Cod. President Kennedy grew up on his family compound in Hyannis Port, and later used the estate as his presidential campaign base and as a summer White House until his assassination in 1963. Today, in Hyannis alone, there’s a JFK Museum, a JFK Memorial, and a JFK Legacy Trail that explores sites in Cape Cod that are significant to the Kennedy family.
San Clemente, California: President Richard Nixon
As a SoCal native, our 37th President is one of the few who kept his second white house out west during his term. Nixon’s escape was a sprawling 15,000-square-foot compound in the town of San Clemente, where he’s said to have hosted 17 heads of state before his resignation in 1974. La Casa Pacifica, as Nixon called it, was put on the market in 2018 for a grand total of $63.5 million.
Long Branch, New Jersey: President Ulysses S. Grant
Long before MTV and “GTL,” the Jersey Shore was a presidential paradise. Famous Civil War general Ulysses S. Grant is said to have put the town of Long Branch on the political map in the mid-1800s; back then, his beachfront cottage was his oval office, where he reportedly oversaw post-war reconstruction and tried to annex the Dominican Republic as a U.S. territory. After his term, presidential successors including James Garfield and Rutherford Hayes would follow Grant’s footsteps to the glistening Jersey Shore for vacations.