Summer may be just behind us, but East Coast resort towns continue to flourish into late autumn with sailing and swimming turning to leaf-peeping and harvest fairs. For visitors from the rest of the world, here’s a visual guide to a few favorite East Coast gems.
Newport, Rhode Island
A leading Colonial port city by the mid-1700s, Newport began to take historic preservation seriously before the western half of the nation even came to exist. Its greatest era was the Gilded Age, so called because the wealthiest and most artistically brilliant denizens of the East Coast cities anointed it as their summer resort of choice. They built palatial mansions, held glittering parties, and set a standard for Newport that has never entirely disappeared — perhaps because many of the mansions still stand. These days though, the island is more accessible to ordinary vacationers, should they wish to weekend in a romantic inn, go sailing, or explore the charming and historic downtown streets.
Reasons to go: Tour the historic mansions, formerly owned by industrial giants and coal magnates, many now preserved under historic trusts or donated as museums. Three not to miss: Marble House (pictured), the Vanderbilts' Breakers, and Rosecliff, built by a silver heiress the townspeople called simply "Tessie."
Fall brings fairs like the Newport Harvest Fair in September, and Harborfest Waterfront Block Party in early October.
Nantucket Island, Massachusetts
A former whaling port now turned historic summer colony, this little gem 30 miles off the coast of Massachusetts has become a haven of the quietly wealthy and of celebrities wanting a break from the spotlight. All of Nantucket Island is on the National Register of Historic Places, so while you'll never be short of creature comforts and wonderful food, you'll be much happier staying in a charming inn and exploring on a bicycle than trying to find a W Hotel and a driver. Nantucket is just over two hours from Hyannisport by car ferry and one hour by high-speed ferry. Driving on-island is discouraged.
Reasons to go: The seasons are so dramatic on this island that three of them (spring, summer, fall) are considered events on their own. Fall on Nantucket is characterized by its gloriously colorful leaf-change and pleasant "Indian summer" temperatures. Spring season really kicks off with the annual Daffodil Festival Weekend in April, when three million daffodils come into bloom.
North Fork Long Island, New York
This is Long Island's wine region, located on the East End of Long Island, not so far from the Hamptons geographically but, fans promise, a million light years away in terms of ambience. Nearly 40 small wineries are dotted around the countryside, as well as inns and restaurants and parks.
Reasons to go: At harvest season, wine buffs can sign up for Harvest Wine Salons — short intro-to-viticulture classes which take place Saturdays in September at different wineries. September and December bring Vine University, a two-part intensive course in at-home winemaking. See liwines.com for information on these and other events.