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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
More travel tips
Planning: Your guide to traveling again, in 5 steps | How to move to Europe | Less busy national park alternatives |Protect your plans from covid chaos | Save on wedding travel | How to cook at a vacation rental | How to travel with kids under 5
Road trips: How to find a rental car | Snacks | National park tips | Rental car disasters | Try Kevin Costner’s road trip app | Trying a fancy bus from NY to DC | How to save on road trips as gas prices soar | What it’s like to rent from Turo
Flying: What to do about lost luggage | Getting through to airline customer service | How to get a refund | Extend your flight voucher | Find a good neck pillow | How to deal with chaotic airports | Cut the line at the airport | Get your kid a frequent flier account | Plane workouts | Why you should pick your seat | Can you fly with edibles? | When an airline bumps you | Your canceled flight emergency kit
Camping: Finding a campsite | Plan your meals | Solo camping | First-time tips | Watch out for wildlife | 6 surprising camping essentials
Greener travel advice: Should you bike to the airport? | How to find ‘greener’ flights | How to actually make your travel better for the planet | What it’s like to rent an EV
Hot takes: Get up early on vacation | Why you should dress up for a flight | Talk to strangers | In a relationship? Travel alone anyway