1. Stone Harbor, NJ
2.5 hrs by car
Some of the most underrated winter destinations are actually off-season summer hot spots, like this charming town on the southernmost corner of the Jersey Shore. A mashup of tiny shops, cottages and beaches, the three-block-wide community is populated by beach-going families and longtime renters and vacationers during summer. During the winter, trees are bedecked with Christmas lights and those quaint streets are a bit roomier, offering a peaceful setting complete with views of gentle snowfall over the picturesque bay.
What to do: Along with Avalon, Stone Harbor is one of two beach towns located on Seven Mile Island, which was first established in 1887. Nature lovers will enjoy the coastline’s beautiful, protected sand dunes. (You can look, but don’t touch!) In the summer, good winds and short walks to the waterfront make this beach a favorite for surfers and boogie boarders, but during the winter, don’t miss Stone Harbor Point at the southern tip of the beach, which offers beautiful views of the cape and a lighthouse at Hereford Inlet.
Where to stay: The aptly coastal chic Reeds at Shelter Haven is one of the town’s main destinations, with fine dining at Sax Restaurant & Lounge, live music events at the bar, and 37 beautifully-appointed guest rooms and suites that each offer the feel of a New England coastal escape in the middle of south Jersey. In the early winter, the waterfront dining area stays open for guests to cozy up with blankets on lounge chairs and catch views of the untouched beach which seems to go on for miles. One of the best parts? Rooms are equipped with working fireplaces—ideal for keeping warm while enjoying floor-to-ceiling views of the bay.