The 30 Best Coastal Towns in America from The Best Coastal Towns in America

The Best Coastal Towns in America

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The 30 Best Coastal Towns in America

What defines the “best” beach town? Is it all about waking up with a nice breeze, enjoying world-class seafood at just about any small restaurant, and/or feeding off positive energy because of the art and music festivals? Sounds about right, but these towns are as much about the beach as they are about their residents, local vibe, culture and nightlife.

A great beach town can be its own island with secluded or crowded beaches, with overwater bungalows and luxurious lodgings; it can be a barrier island where youngsters are looking to save money while still having an amazing experience; or it can also be a surfing mecca, where people can also watch big-wave surfers in action during the wintertime.

Regardless of the definition that suits you, such places are located all over the U.S.


Sarasota, Florida

Soak up the sun along white-sand beaches every day and treat yourself to diverse dining, inspiring arts and culture. Sarasota is also among the beach towns with the most nightlife establishments, restaurants and coffee shops per capita.


Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

California is a big state and you will find many different beach town, but Carmel Beach is something else. The small and artsy chic town along the state’s amazing coastal highway has an old-fashioned vibe. The main beach also has a laid-back atmosphere, which you may not expect from a beach in California.


Port Townsend, Washington

This is Washington’s Victorian seaport and arts community. It is an easily accessible base camp to the Olympic Peninsula and beyond, according to Enjoy Port Townsend. October is the best time to visit to see stunning fall foliage that offers a riot of glorious shades of amber, pumpkin and russet. It’s also a month of exciting events such as theatre performances and dance parties.


Seaside, Oregon

This is a place with many reasons to visit - family reunion, a sports competition, a weeklong vacation, or a last-minute day trip. You will find locals who call the town “the see-and-do capital of the Oregon Coast.” Biking, riding, golfing, surfing, kayaking, hiking, birding…there is never a dull moment there.


Kihei, Hawaii

The town is a beach-combing territory on Maui’s southwest shore, the sunniest, driest end of the island, according to Go Hawaii. Enjoy the six miles of beaches, clear views of Kahoolawe, Molokini, Lanai and West Maui. Swimming, surfing, snorkeling and kayaking are everyday activities.


Chatham, Massachusetts

Known as “the first stop of the East Wind,” it has first class beaches. Seafaring sights include the Fish Pier where you can watch the day's catch come in, Stage Harbor, and the romantic Chatham fog. Hikers and bikers will love the Old Colony Rail Trail, a side trip off the Cape Cod Rail Trail.


Yakutat, Alaska

Surfing in Alaska? Absolutely! Home to the state’s first surf shop, Icy Waves, this tiny town on the northern end of the Inside Passage bills itself as the “Far North Shore.” During the summer months, intrepid surfers make the trip by ferry and plane to surf in view of towering Mount St. Elias.


York Beach, Maine

What attracts people to this charming village in Maine is its fascinating beaches, mainly Long Sands Beach, Short Sands Beach and Harbor Beach. They are especially popular in the summer turning into hot spots for family fun outdoors. Sohier Park and the Nubble Lighthouse in Cape Neddick are among the most photographed landmarks in the country.


Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina

Visit Sullivan’s Island for beautiful beaches, delicious restaurants and unique shops. Take up a new water sport or break out your favorite book and relax. The town is right by Charleston, which is one of the country's most beloved cities.


Niantic, Connecticut

This is a census-designated place in the town of East Lyme. Did you know that you can become a part of the Niantic Main Street Park forever? All you need to do is buy a brick – for $275 or $475. The picturesque seaside community offers a typical New England experience – antique shops, unique boutiques and extravagant bookshops.


Beaufort, North Carolina

Beaufort is the third-oldest town in North Carolina, established in 1709. It was named by Travel + Leisure as “America’s Favorite Town.” Take in some history at the Beaufort Historic Site and NC Maritime Museum and then go kayaking in Taylor’s Creek.

Rachel Grazias/

Cape May, New Jersey

Cape May is very popular in the summer but it has something to offer year-round. Go on romantic walks along large stretches of pristine sand, and see gorgeous Victorian buildings to see why the city is designated as a National Historic Landmark. The Willow Creek Winery alone is worth the trip.


Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

The town lies along the Mississippi Sound (an embayment of the Gulf of Mexico) at the entrance to St. Louis Bay, 58 miles northeast of New Orleans, Louisiana. It used to be a resort for wealthy planters and, later, for tourists. It sustained severe storm damage in 2005 from Hurricane Katrina, but it has bounced back since.


Stillwater, Minnesota

The city is known as the “birthplace of Minnesota.” You will have lots of fun in the town, which is easy to get to anyway. It’s not far from the Twin Cities. Warm summer air welcomes outdoor art fairs, festival events, restaurant patios, boating, and historic sightseeing, according to Discover Stillwater.


Traverse City, Michigan

Traverse City is known for its outdoor recreation, according to Pure Michigan. The Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, a magnificent mix of water, sky and towering sand dunes is a famous attraction with an abundance of hiking trails. Fall is the favorite season of many locals and visitors mostly for the exceptional wine tours, colorful displays, hay rides, and cider and doughnuts.


Chincoteague, Virginia

You won’t find any high rises, board walks or traffic jams. Chincoteague Island, Virginia’s only resort Island which is just 7 miles long, is a serene, yet fun filled, tourist destination. It is home to the famous Chincoteague Wild Ponies. They are free to roam across Assateague Island's National Shoreline.


Laguna Beach, California

The small coastal city in Orange County is very popular when the weather gets even a bit warm. Some say this is a problem. Still, the city is a gorgeous place filled with stunning beaches, art galleries, tide pools and coves.


Falmouth, Massachusetts

Falmouth is a quiet town with more public beaches – over 68 miles of coastline and 12 miles of shorelines, and some of the finest restaurants on Cape Cod. The city is also an ideal base for day-tripping to Martha’s Vineyard, Plymouth, and Nantucket, according to Falmouth Visitor. The average summer water temperature is 70 degrees—the warmest on the Cape.


Narragansett, Rhode Island

If you try to picture what a classic New England coastal town would look like, you’re probably going to imagine everything Narragansett has – clean beaches, delicious food, nice surfing conditions with reliable swell of waves, and sandy beachfront.


Gulf Shores, Alabama

This small coastal city is growing in popularity. The Alabama Gulf Coast offers something for everyone. Swimming, sunbathing, surfing, and skim boarding are equally enjoyable on the beaches. Fishing is big there, too. As for nightlife – there is a concert or another kind of music event happening almost every day.


Long Beach, Washington

Long Beach is located on Washington’s southwestern coast where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean. The city is rich with coastal beauty and fresh Northwest cuisine. Adventurers will like kayaking and clam digging, nature lovers will love the horseback riding and bird watching opportunities.


Lewes, Delaware

This quiet but modern town, situated where the Delaware Bay and Atlantic Ocean meet at Cape Henlope, attracts people for its sun, sand, and sea. What more do you need of the seaside? Nature lovers will love the many hiking trails and bird sanctuaries as well.


Capitola, California

The relaxed atmosphere, the laid-back feel, the neighborhood gatherings…this up-and-coming vibrant town is the perfect getaway. The city on the coast of Monterey Bay is one of The Golden State’s oldest resort towns.


Hilo, Hawaii

This is a historic town with great attractions, shops and cultural sites. As the largest settlement on the Big Island, did you know that Hilo is home to the only ski destination in Hawaii? It sits atop two volcanoes. Hawaii is well-known for its popular cliff diving spots, one of which is Kawainui Falls in Hilo.

Jay Yuan/

Ogunquit, Maine

This is a popular beach getaway in Maine. Live like a local and enjoy the bonfires on the beach, unique shopping at antique stores, and desserts tastings. Ogunquit Beach boasts over three miles of white sand and is an ideal destination for everything from surfing and paddling to simply floating around on a lazy summer day.


Folly Beach, South Carolina

Fun on the water, fun on land – day and night. Folly Beach is actually known as one of the premiere surfing destinations on the East Coast. The most popular spot is The Washout. Go to the Folly Pier for fishing, walking, birding, and enjoying breathtaking views of the “Edge of America.”


Tybee Island, Georgia

Tybee Island is also known as Savannah Beach. It is easily accessible and located just 18 miles away from the Hostess City of the South, historic Savannah, Georgia. Rich in both history and natural beauty, Tybee Island is famous for its diverse cuisine and a variety of exciting recreational activities, according to Discover Tybee Island.


Morro Bay, California

This coastal city is mostly known for Morro Rock, which is an ancient volcanic hill at the end of Morro Rock Beach.  Golf, surf, cruises, RV camping, a picnic and a BBQ on the beach, kayak tours of Morro Bay National Estua, mountain biking…anything you want you will find it in Morro Bay.


South Padre Island, Texas

This barrier island in Texas, the only one in the state, is where you can go to enjoy powder-soft beaches, 34 miles of beautiful white sand and clear emerald water, sun-soaked shores, postcard-perfect settings, and a lavish nightlife. The island is preferred by all kinds of travelers – a family, a newlywed couple, fishing enthusiasts, and people who want to swim with dolphins and sea turtles.


Nags Head, North Carolina

Nags Head is worth a consideration if you’re looking to relax on a secluded beach and hike in a scenic paradise that is the Nags Head Woods Preserve. People interested in American history will find it interesting as well. Visit in time for the annual Seafood Festival in October.