Perfect Beach Towns for Fall Traveling

A glorious hush falls over the country's favorite beach towns in autumn. Crowds disappear and locals exhale. While the water's still warm and the weather's still mild, scoop up a cheap oceanfront cottage rental and enjoy the golden moments of the season. Here are 10 iconic U.S. beach towns where you can pedal along quiet boardwalks, kayak among fall colors, and score excellent post-Labor Day deals.

Newport, Rhode Island

A quiet post-Labor Day calm envelops Newport after the families that crowd Easton's Beach return to the daily grind and couples arrive in town for romantic New England getaways. Just above the beach, you can walk hand-in-hand along the 3.5-mile Cliff Walk, where opulent mansions are set among mature trees turning brilliant shades. It's not uncommon to see a cruise ship in the harbor this time of year, since Newport is a popular leaf-peeping stopover en route to Nova Scotia or Quebec. Vineyards and pastures are part of the stunning coastal landscape, and you'll find plenty of farmers' markets, you-pick berry farms, and venues for wine tasting. In fall, there's hardly ever a wait for a fantastic table downtown, even in the most popular restaurants.

Best Fall Events: Bowen's Wharf Seafood Festival (October), Norman Bird Sanctuary Annual Harvest Fair (October), and International Oktoberfest! (October).

Post-Labor Day Deals: Check Discover Newport for last-minute deals and packages; rates drop in autumn.

Gulf Shores, Alabama

In fall, Gulf Shores visitors still linger on miles of sugar-sand beaches and play in the clear, turquoise Gulf of Mexico waters. The town's marinas, home to one of the world's largest fleets of charter fishing boats, offer anglers one last hurrah before the weather turns. Big runs of bull redfish continue through autumn, with opportunities to snag a keeper right from the Gulf State Park Pier. With less humidity in the air, golfers are more comfortable on the area's nine signature courses. Thrill seekers welcome cooler days on zip-lines and paddleboards at the new Gulf Adventure Center at Gulf State Park. But no visit is complete without a stop at King Neptune's Seafood Restaurant on the main drag for a heaping plate of royal reds (shrimp), a local delicacy.

Best Fall Events: Annual National Shrimp Festival (October), Alabama Coastal BirdFest (October), and Oyster Cook-Off (November).

Post-Labor Day Deals: Check for fall specials on condos and beach houses. For golf-vacation deals, check the Gulf Shores Golf Association website.

Nantucket, Massachusetts

Vice President Joe Biden, for one, skips Nantucket's high-season crowds and visits in the fall, when the Gulf Stream ushers in an Indian summer and the ocean is the warmest it's been all year. Under beautiful blue skies, you can relax on a lonesome beach or rent a bicycle and ride past weathered cedar-shake cottages and old whaling captains' mansions. Once the world's top whaling port, Nantucket's Historic District is now a National Historic Landmark, with more than 800 pre-Civil War buildings still standing. Crisp fall days are perfect for pulling on a cable-knit sweater and wandering the cobblestone streets to browse boutique shops and stop for steamy Nantucket Bay scallops. At the Nantucket Whaling Museum, learn about the Nantucketers who inspired Melville to write Moby-Dick.

Best Fall Events: Nantucket Restaurant Week (September 30-October 6), Cranberry Festival (October), and Nantucket Historical Association's 14th Annual Harvest Fair (October).

Post-Labor Day Deals: In fall, Nantucket Island Resorts' Hot Dates, Cool Rates promotions start at $135 per night.

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Jamie Moore,
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