9 beaches for living out your best ‘coastal grandmother’ summer

Pack your linen and straw hats

(Haley Tippmann/for The Washington Post)

In case you’ve missed it: The “coastal grandmother” aesthetic is the vibe of the summer. After TikToker Lex Nicoleta brought the concept to life this spring, the cardigan-wearing, chardonnay-drinking, beach-loving lifestyle of women of a certain age has captured the hearts of a younger audience.

The trend isn’t a far cry from 2020′s fascination with cottagecore, another style with a zest for coziness, picnics, gardening, sweaters and cottages (obviously). If Taylor Swift was the patron saint of cottagecore, Ina Garten is the coastal grandmother queen.

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To embrace the essence of a Nancy Meyers movie, you don’t necessarily have to be on the coast — but if you have the time and budget, the coastal grandmother vibes are best enjoyed with a sea breeze in your hair and a white linen shirt. These waterfront destinations are all perfect for living out the viral fantasy.


San Francisco

Lands’ End, the Marina, the Presidio, Ocean Beach: San Francisco has an abundance of neighborhoods to channel your cioppino-loving coastal grandma. No matter where you stay, you’re within ferry-ride distance of peak C.G. territory: Marin County, one of the wealthiest in the United States. Best yet, even in the summer, San Francisco requires layering, so pack your cashmere.

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Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario

A quick drive from Niagara Falls, Niagara-on-the-Lake has it all: historic sites, breweries and a collection of small islands connected by bridges. The port town on the shores of Lake Ontario is surrounded by Canadian wine country and filled with wholesome boutiques, galleries, quaint inns and hotels like the Harbour House Hotel.


An island in Maine

Maine has a ton of islands, so we’re not going to limit your potential trip plans to just one. To get the best views of the sea for hours of pensive wave-watching, stay in a houseboat. You could also go for a lighthouse. The Little River Lighthouse in Cutler offers restored keeper’s quarters built in 1888 that overlook the Bay of Fundy. (For lighthouse accommodations elsewhere, here’s a helpful list from the United States Lighthouse Society)

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Saugatuck, Mich.

The lake town of Saugatuck is on the “art coast” of Michigan, and we know coastal grandmothers love a gallery. You’ll also find them in the bed-and-breakfasts of Saugatuck, like Beechwood Manor Inn & Cottage, the Maplewood Hotel and the Belvedere Inn. After breakfast, you may spot them doing yoga, relaxing at one of the town’s spas or renting a beach cruiser bike.


Cape Cod, Mass.

The Kennedys used to vacation here, and coastal grandmothers love Jackie Kennedy. So pack some boat shoes and Breton shirts, and make time for Jackie-approved activities, such as sailing the Nantucket Sound or horseback riding. But make sure you’re home in time for cocktail hour. You could stay in a traditional Cape Cod saltbox-style vacation rental or splurge on a historic inn like Chapter House. The 21-room inn’s origin story goes back to 1716, and it has a Victorian boat house that now serves as a bar.

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Cape San Blas, Fla.

This Emerald Coast gem in Florida’s panhandle is famous for white sand, the Cape San Blas lighthouse and St. Joseph Peninsula State Park. Head to the Scallop Cove general store to pick up recreation essentials, from bikes and canoes to beer and wine.


Montauk, N.Y.

With Ina in East Hampton, Montauk is C.G. central with its dunes and nature preserves, not to mention Deep Hollow Ranch, which claims to be the country’s oldest working ranch. Fondly known as the “end of the world,” Montauk sits at the tip of the Long Island peninsula and provides visitors with many opportunities to eat oysters. Don’t miss Morty’s Oyster Stand for a dozen on the half shell and a vesper martini.

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Nova Scotia

The coastal grandmother may be an American concept, but there’s no reason you can’t emulate it in our northern neighbor. A boat ride away from Maine, this wild Canadian province is also beloved for its seafood and lighthouses. Before you head to the kitchen to prepare the fresh lobster you bought in town, gaze at the ocean from the comfort of your Bayside guesthouse adirondack chair, lunch in Lunenburg, or enjoy garden walks at your “art house” rental on Cape Breton Island.


Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif.

This list wouldn’t be complete without a nod to “Big Little Lies” — a coastal grandmother mood board. There are a number of Central California coastal towns that would fit the bill, but Carmel-By-The-Sea hits the nail on the head. Look for a vacation rental with giant windows or perhaps a Spanish Colonial Revival house a la Diane Keaton to set the scene for your stay. Don’t forget — coastal grandmothers know how to prepare elegant meals. If you’re not quite there yet, take some time for a cooking class to learn CG specials, like this one on macarons from Viator, or Italian classics at Happy Girl Kitchen, or this preserves Airbnb Experience.