I’ve mentioned before that I’m not quite the beach bum; swimming back and forth in the same area or sitting under the sun watching people pretend they aren’t self-conscious about their swimwear seemed awfully boring to me. But that’s my preference – relaxing by the beachside is perfect for some people but with my mind running a hundred miles a minute I need to always be doing something with a destination or goal in mind. (see: hiking.) But if there’s one thing that feeds my anxious soul is aesthetic af coastal towns with quaint reading spots and interesting architecture. I’ve been blessed to see a handful of the best (biased) and I’ve narrowed it down to four.
- Cape Neddick, York, Maine. This small resort town screams secluded summers with picnics on the boulders jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean. I visited during summer and the air was still crisp and the water freezing. The village consists of just over 2,000 people, and most of the houses lining the beaches are beautiful mid-sized beach houses with white shutters donning the windows. The most notable landmark is the Nubble Lighthouse, which stands at 12-metres and has a red-roofed house beside it. Though it is not accessible to the public, the mere ambience of sitting on a boulder with feet in tide pools watching the lighthouse is bewildering.
- Portsmouth, New Hampshire. On the same coast, but this town reminded me of all the small mid-west towns in the U.S. that seem to have the same blueprint of the town square. However, this had the charm of being on the Piscataqua River. Everything was within walking distance, and apart from kick-ass burger joints by the port and to-die-for gelato, the popular streets were riddled with performers with all kinds of talents. You had your basic fire-breathers and unicycle-ers, but entertainment was not amiss. Yet, the place did not feel overwhelming or like a ‘tourist town;’ for such a small place, it was teeming with life and just…happiness. The locals always had a genuine smile to greet you and did I mention there were so. many. dogs. (perhaps explains the happiness) I was basically fangirling the whole time I spent there. As the evening came in, we were even able to cop a place at a Romeo and Juliet at a Shakespeare in the Park. Magical.
- Arraial do Cabo, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. My memory may not paint this place as exactly as it is since it was so long ago (2013). But I do remember what a dreamy little town this small place was. Even at 17, I knew what kind of places stuck with me and which made me feel uncomfortable. There’s no getting around it, this town’s main attraction was the beach. But I think the experience mostly had to do with the people I was with. We had just traveled around Brazil for 20-odd days (mostly on foot) and the bond we had created was so close that with Arraial being our last stop, it painted a bittersweet memory that stayed with me. I remember the water being a rich blue, and so secluded that we were literally the only ones there. It took a while for us to get to the beach walking, but the small local shops and cobblestone streets made it worth it. We were even able to take a boat ride to stretches of silky sandy beaches, and see jutted cave-like rocks rising from the water. We even had lunch at a floating restaurant and on the way back the sunset from the top of the boat will forever be burned in my mind.
- Hopkins, Stann Creek, Belize. Best for last? Kidding, but I can’t not include my own country in the list, and I’m sure we can all objectively agree Belize is known for its award-winning beaches and turquoise waters…right? Hopkins is my perfectly-tempered cup of tea, with its laid back living and strolling locals. It fits my personality much more than Placencia, another coastal town that’s more popular and dotted with resorts. Though Hopkins does have high-end luxury stays, I prefer to drive down there just for the day and enjoy walking along the beach and eating delicious Belizean food. It is considered to be the center of Garifuna culture, and with artistic shops and the quiest resonance of the village, I think would make the perfect place for a solitary retreat.
Though I’m aware this is a very subjective list, the theme that is shared among these beaches is that of seclusion and restoration. I’ve been to the infamous Miami Beach, for example, and while some may agree there rarely are others to beat that – or Coney Island, for that matter – for those who prefer their own company, I’d highly recommend to take this list into regard.