By Tara Donaldson, for CNN
The tall ships will tell you when you've reached Mystic, Connecticut's cute coastal town and the muse behind Julia Roberts' first film, "Mystic Pizza."
Mystic's maritime history dates to its days as a shipbuilding center, a time well preserved at the Mystic Seaport Museum, the world's leading and largest of its kind, home to the famed 1800s whaleship, Charles W. Morgan.
It's the perfect jumping off point for a sail at dusk or a trip on the 1908 coal-fired wooden steamer, Sabino.
The menu changes daily at the Oyster Club, save the hot buttered lobster roll -- and the coconut mussels are a win.
Secure a spot in the Treehouse, the Club's outdoor bar and deck, and you'll eat with a view of Mystic River.
Nantucket: Pretty houses, pretty mellow.
If you love the sea but loathe the thought of hobnobbing in Martha's Vineyard, Nantucket is your place.
One of Cape Cod's (relatively) quieter haunts, this fisherman's island 30 miles out to sea preserves its old seaport appeal.
You can rent a jeep to get to Great Point Light for secluded sea time on a remote beach where grey seals pop out from below the surf.
Cisco Brewers houses Triple Eight Distillery and Nantucket Vineyards, where you can drink it all from the comfort of an Adirondack chair.
At low-key Sayle's seafood market you can sit for scallops and quohaug (local hard-shell clam) chowder or have your 3.5-pound lobster of choice bagged to go to eat on your bungalow's balcony.
This York county town is a playground designed to lure Northeast lobster lovers.
After a morning spent aboard The Silverlining sailboat that sets out from Perkins Cove, where any present passerby is called to open the manually operated drawbridge for boats, you can head out lobstering.
Then snag a stool out front at Lobster Shack.
While simply made lobster quarter-pounders are the draw, the clam chowder is among Maine's best.
The beach here has been dubbed the state's prettiest.
The scenic route along the Marginal Way gets you from Perkins Cove to the shore on foot or bike.
Pacific Grove: A beach retreat with room to run.
Pacific Grove, California
Beauty is a requisite for any place where butterflies breed.
In Pacific Grove, a California coastal town close to Monterey but far from its many tourists, Monarchs migrate every year, as do people looking for a hometown hideaway.
At the famed Asilomar Beach you might spot a sea otter among the tide pools.
Stroll along Oceanview Boulevard and eventually you'll happen upon the oldest continuously operating lighthouse on the West Coast, Point Pinos.
You can spend the night in a historic Victorian home turned inn -- there are more homes that style per capita than anywhere else in the country.
Passionfish is the place to eat -- meals are made with as much heart as its name suggests.
You won't tire of straightforward whitefish. The innovative menu changes every day though staples include dishes like basil-stuffed rainbow trout and sea scallops in tomato-truffle butter.
Watch Hill, Rhode Island
In Watch Hill, a tiny town on a Block Island Sound peninsula, residents give directions by point of interest -- the village has just two main streets.
So you'll walk ten paces past the beach to get to Flying Horse Carousel, the oldest operating suspended horse carousel in the United States.
Fort Mansfield on Napatree Point was a prime lookout during the Revolutionary War.
Seafood fans know to bypass the more upmarket venues and get their fish fix at the down-home spots locals frequent.
In Watch Hill, you can get a hot lobster roll with butter-toasted buns at Two Little Fish.
Or have it packed to picnic at the Cooked Goose and enjoy it at East Beach.
Black raspberry ice cream is a seasonal Rhode Island specialty available around town.
The water's edge Ocean House is a Victorian-era hotel and the only five-star, five-diamond resort in the state.
Even if you don't sleepover, drinks at dusk on the grand porch are a should-do.