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3 off-the-beaten-path oceanside destinations for a fall vacation

Oct. 02, 2021
5 min read
Hatteras National Seashore, Nags Head North Carolina
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There’s no better time to enjoy East Coast beaches than in the fall. Gone are the hordes of families, the crowded restaurants, the peak-season prices for accommodations.

Instead, it’s all light sweaters and long walks on the beach without dripping in sweat. The seafood is better (hello, oysters!) and the locals are much happier. If you’re lucky, you might catch a few days warm enough to get a light tan.

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If you missed the summer season or just find yourself in need of a little more waterfront time, here are a few destinations that offer the best of autumn beach time.

St. Michael’s, Maryland

Located an hour and forty-five minutes from Washington, D.C., and just over two hours from Philadelphia, St. Michael’s is a great spot for an easy weekend away. It faces, admittedly, not the ocean, but the Miles River, which feeds into the Chesapeake. These calmer waters make it excellent for water activities like kayaking or paddle boarding that are tough on the open waters of the ocean.

Related: 12 fall hotel openings we’re looking forward to for autumn travel

Base yourself at The Inn at Perry Cabin, a luxury waterfront property in a 19th century manor house, or the more casual new hotel The Wildset, run by sister team Allie Balin and K.C. Lager, who also worked on Nashville’s hit restaurant Henrietta Red. The Wildset’s restaurant, Ruse, is the perfect place to enjoy Maryland crabs, as well as other local seafood like tilefish and plenty of oysters. The Inn at Perry Cabin offers bikes and kayaks to guests.

If you’re in need, head to Shore Pedal and Paddle to grab bikes, stand-up paddles boards, or kayaks for an afternoon or the whole weekend. For a longer outing on the water, book a two-hour sailing tour with Sail Selina, or up the ante with a sunset sail (paired with Champagne). Back on land, enjoy spicy blue crab nachos from Gina’s Café, and wash it down with a beer from Eastern Shore Brewing, a local microbrewery.

Nags Head, North Carolina

If your fall beach dreams include miles-long walks on semi-abandoned beaches, with gorgeous sunrises and waves rolling in, then the Outer Banks of North Carolina are your spot. These barrier islands in North Carolina are known for their long, flat beaches with incredible horizons.

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Related: Looking to live out your Outer Banks dreams? Here are 5 towns you should visit.

Base yourself at an Airbnb in Nags Head, ideally opting for a spacious condo or house at affordable offseason prices. For the best fall beach vibes, pick a rental with a heated pool or hot tub, and make sure you’ve got a patio overlooking the water, perfect for savoring an end-of-the-day glass of wine or your morning cup of coffee.

When (if!) you get tired of beach walks and gazing at the ocean, head up to Corolla to see the wild horses, believed to be descendants of horses that survived a shipwreck in the 1400s. Grab dinner (or lunch) at Basnight’s Lone Cedar Café, a local favorite that offers excellent seafood and nice views of the water. Rent kayaks or jet skis, take a parasailing tour, or go sailing with Kitty Hawk Water Sports, which has something for everything — including tiki boats for a cheesy but fun afternoon.

Cape May, New Jersey

If you’re from the Philadelphia area, Cape May is certainly not considered off-the-beaten-path. But for people coming from farther afield, you might be surprised to learn about the natural beauty and small town vibes of this area just South of Atlantic City.

Related: You can see fall foliage even in or near these big cities — here’s how

If you’re coming from Philadelphia, stop by Sweet Amalia’s Market and Kitchen for a fried oyster roll and some of the best raw oysters in the region, then continue on to the tip of the Cape May peninsula, where you have your choice of affordable, off-season rentals, or cozy hotels like the historic Southern Mansion.

Enjoy a meal on the wrap-around porch, then walk down to the beach and enjoy a stroll without the bother of the summer crowds. Enjoy local seafood at Fish & Fancy Seafood, where you’ll have your choice fried or broiled seafood platters, or taking home your own ingredients for a homemade meal. For something less seafood focused, try out Exit Zero Filling Station, where you’ll find an internationally inspired menu with a specific focus on curries of all kinds. Wherever you go, you’ll be charmed by Cape May’s history, hospitality, and beach-y vibes.

Related: 7 easy Philadelphia escapes you can get to in 3 hours or less

Photo by Eric Peterson/Getty Images

Featured image by Getty Images/iStockphoto
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023