Labor Day doesn’t have to mark the end of your beach-bound weekend getaways. Even if the beaches aren’t open for swimming, as long as the temperature is moderate you can still take a stroll on the sand and dip your toes in the ocean. And beyond the sea, there’s plenty to do and see in many Northeast coastal cities. Here are a few of our faves.
1. Cape May
What to do: Climb the 199 stairs to the top of the Cape May Lighthouse (215 Lighthouse Ave., Cape May Point; weather permitting, open until January; $10 for adults, $5 for kids 3-12 and veterans, active military free), and enjoy a panoramic view of the Atlantic Ocean and the Delaware Bay. Bike to Sunset Beach to pick up “diamond” quartz pebbles and see the famous sunken concrete ship S.S. Atlantus. Spend an afternoon wine tasting; options include the family-owned Cape May Winery (711 Town Bank Rd., capemaywinery.com), with a hopping Friday happy hour, and the 50-acre Willow Creek Farm & Winery (160-168 Stevens St., West Cape May, willowcreekwinerycapemay.com) with a farm-to-table menu. Or grab a growler at Cape May Brewing Company (1288 Hornet Rd., capemaybrewery.com), known for seasonal and limited craft beers, and bring your own food to the small-batch Gusto Brewing Co. (3860 Bayshore Rd., North Cape May, gustobrewco.com).
Where to stay: This seaside Jersey Shore gem is dotted with Victorian home B&Bs including The Queen Victoria (102 Ocean St., queenvictoria.com), offering afternoon tea and Wilbraham Mansion (133 Myrtle Ave., wilbrahammansion.com), with a heated indoor pool.
Travel time from New York City: About three hours
What to do: Nicknamed “The End,” this sleepy hamlet turned getaway hotspot is known for fishing, surfing and dining al fresco. For picturesque views, walk along the rocky shoreline at Montauk Point State Park (2000 Montauk Highway, parks.ny.gov/parks/61/) and visit the neighboring Montauk Lighthouse (2000 Montauk Highway), the oldest lighthouse in New York State. For food and drinks, see and be seen at Duryea’s Lobster Deck (65 Tuthill Rd., duryealobsters.com) and come as you are for crisp pilsners, ales and IPAs at Montauk Brewing Company (62 South Erie Ave., montaukbrewingco.com).
Where to stay: The 107-room Gurney’s Star Island Resort & Marina (32 Star Island Rd., gurneysresorts.com/montauk-star-island) on Lake Montauk, which is the Hamptons’ largest marina, or the 19-cabin, adult summer camp-themed Ruschmeyers (161 Second House Rd., ruschmeyers.com), with a trendy restaurant.
Travel time from New York City: About three hours by car
3. Virginia Beach
What to do: Hike, camp and picnic in First Landing State Park (2500 Shore Drive, $4 per vehicle on weekdays and $5 on weekends; first-landing-state-park.org). Run and bike along the three-mile Virginia Beach Boardwalk (2100 Parks Ave., visitvirginiabeach.com/listing/boardwalk/508/) and visit sea turtles, seals and sharks at the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center (717 General Booth Blvd., virginiaaquarium.com). Dine at Rudee’s Restaurant & Cabana Bar (227 Mediterranean Ave., rudees.com) with indoor and outdoor seating with seasonal fire pits, and pick up vegan treats at My Vegan Sweet Tooth (3916 Virginia Beach Blvd., myvegansweettooth.com).
Where to stay: The restored Cavalier (4200 Atlantic Ave., cavalierhotel.com) is Virginia’s most iconic hotel. Or stay in the downtown arts and entertainment district at The Westin Virginia Beach Town Center (4535 Commerce St.,marriott.com/hotels/travel/orfwi-the-westin-virginia-beach-town-center/).
Travel time from New York City: About six and a half hours by car or train, or an hour and a half via direct flight to Norfolk. From Norfolk, Virginia Beach is 20 minutes away by car or shuttle.
4. Ocean City, Maryland
What to do: The surf’s always up in Ocean City, and select beaches are reserved every day for surfers. The classic wooden boardwalk is also a highlight for sport fishing, boating and kayaking. For family fun, play around at one of the indoor or outdoor Old Pro Golf mini-golf courses (six locations, oldprogolf.com), shop the Outlets Ocean City (12741 Ocean Gateway, outletsoceancity.com), and visit the oddities at the newly renovated Ripley’s Ocean City (401 S. Atlantic Ave., ripleys.com/oceancity/). Plus, don’t miss the regional favorite Thrasher’s French Fries (three boardwalk locations, thrashersfries.com) doused in vinegar.
Where to stay: Get a room with a view at the DoubleTree by Hilton Ocean City Oceanfront (3301 Atlantic Ave., hilton.com/en/doubletree/) and the Aloft Ocean City (4501 Coastal Highway, marriott.com/hotels/travel/sbyal-aloft-ocean-city/).
Travel time from New York City: About four and a half hours by car.