Whether it's a quick break with a loved one, an adventure jaunt for just you and the surfboard, or a family escape from the Rat Race, a coastal cottage could be just what you've been looking for. Spilling down to ocean-washed sands from Massachusetts and Maine to the Florida Panhandle and lots of other enthralling shorelines beyond, they sit in some amazing destinations. And that's not even mentioning the unique character and design that runs throughout.

Where to search for coastal cottages in the US

Amazing coves and salt-washed fishing towns abound around New England, while the Sunshine State beckons with lengths of sub-tropical sand and glowing lagoons where dolphins play. Then comes Hawaii and its jungle-topped cliffs and whale-splashing seas, backed up by California, where the shacks house surfers fresh from some of the planet's finest waves.

Magical Maine and its rustic pull

Maine is the jewel of New England and comes with cottages by the sea that have a classic Atlantic flavor to them – and we're not only talking about the abundance of clam chowder and uber-fresh lobster you're bound to eat. Wooden decks overlooking rocks topped with handsome lighthouses coverage on clapboard cabins that huddle with the pine trees and boulder-speckled coves of the Acadia National Park for something extra special.

Fun-filled Florida and glowing beaches

While condos and swish villas might be the name of the game in Florida's most happening towns, there are usually plenty of cottages to settle in on the shores of the Sunshine State, provided you're willing to hop away from the buzz of the pier or the boardwalk. Most will come with a trademark Southern character, which means Victorian flurries inside, dashes of vibrant Caribbean colors, and gardens laced with sea grapes and palms.

Cape Cod for East Coast living

Cape Cod is the land of the sea dog and the sailor. It's got cottages to fit – expect shingle-clad abodes with steep gables and wrap-around porches where you can just imagine Captain Birdseye swinging in a creaking rocking chair. Look for your place on Massachusetts's famous shoreline between the chowder taverns and sail rigging of old Hyannis. Or, head out by the pine-sprouting dunes of Nauset Beach – one of the region's very best.

Picture-perfect Hawaii

When most people think of vacationing in Hawaii, it's a sleek condo or a sprawling resort hotel that springs to mind. But a seaside cottage in the Aloha state is also an option – one that can really help crank up the romance and get you living by the pearly blue Pacific Ocean. You might need to skip the more famous reaches of the islands to find a secluded spot that's steeped in Tiki charms and built in the traditional Polynesian fashion. The windward east coast of Oahu and the less-trodden villages around Waimea on Kauai could be good picks.

California for classic surfer shacks

California isn't hailed as bucket-list surf territory for nothing. This is where the sculpted rollers of Huntington and Surf City USA caress the shores, where Malibu has coves washed with waist-high waves, and where San Diego's Ocean Beach draws lovers of the long ride to its pier. All of the above come with cottages and little homes just a stone's throw from the beach, so you can suit up and be the first on the crest come morning.

Alluring seaside cottages abroad

You're certainly not limited to vacationing in your own backyard if you're on the trail of coastal cottages. You can jet off over the Atlantic to find hearty Gaelic dwellings clinging to dramatic Irish shores or seal a stay within eyeshot of a whitewashed Greek town. Check out some of the destinations below for a bit more exotic inspiration.

A coastal cottage in Ireland

The whole of the Irish west coast is a wild affair of wave-clattered cliffs and bracing bays. Heading from north to south, you can case out the curious rock formations of the Giant's Causeway, be blown around atop the Cliffs of Moher, and hop ale-sloshing pubs by the jagged geology of the Ring of Kerry. Cottages are quaint, cute, and cozy, with features like real-wood fires and slate-topped roofs.

Your cottage by the sea in Cornwall

Cornwall is one of England's most attractive coastal counties. It juts out of the south-western edge of the UK to offer two very different shorelines. Towns like Padstow are the jewels of the north, with ancient harbors ringed with tasty seafood restaurants. Down south, the land is given over to laid-back fishing towns like Polperro, and long, wide arcs of pristine sand at Praa and Porthcurno.

Cottages by the sea in Europe

If you're looking over the Pond for your cottage by the sea but still want a vacation that's splashed with sunshine, Europe could be the answer. Greece is a fine choice. Summers that last from May to October are the norm on isles like Crete and Rhodes. You'll discover little cottages hidden in ancient fishing marinas, along with others nestled on sweeping olive farms that cascade straight into the Aegean Sea.