Whether you’re #TeamEastCoast or prefer the West Coast, there’s nothing like a beach town. Especially come summertime, what’s better than biking or walking around a quaint little coastal town? You’ve got your beautiful water views, lots of outdoor activities to do with the family, and of course, small-town shopping!
So, pack your favorite beach umbrella, beach tent and don’t forget the sunscreen. From the Jersey Shore to the beautiful coastal spots all along Highway 1, these are the 50 best beach and coastal towns in the U.S.
50 best beach towns
1. Cape May, New Jersey
Exit 0 is where it’s at! The absolute last destination along the Jersey Shore, Cape May, NJ is a small, but lively beach town where there is putt-putt golf aplenty, an outdoor shopping mall, and ocean views for days. The entire town is almost completely walkable, but if you want to travel to the outskirts to experience the local wineries, it’s a short drive away.
2. Carmel by the Sea, California
Carmel by the Sea—or simply, Carmel—is a small beach town (or really, city) on the Monterey Peninsula. Over the years, the town has seen some pretty famous residents including Clint Eastwood, Doris Day, and writer Jack London (who also helped found Carmel in 1906). Beyond the cultural resonance and history, visitors and locals alike love Carmel for its restaurants, beaches, cafes, and charming architecture. Trek the Scenic Bluff Path, bird-watch at Carmel River State Beach, shop at Carmel Mission and visit the Point Lobos State Natural Reserve.
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3. Newport, Rhode Island
When it comes to coastal towns, Newport, Rhode Island reigns supreme. Take a stroll (or a hike once the sidewalk changes to rocks) along the beautiful Cliff Walks and take a tour of The Breakers and other historic Newport mansions. There’s plenty of shopping to boot—definitely grab some bathroom essentials at Shore Soap Co. on Thames Street—and grab a plate of lobster nachos over at The Red Parrot.
4. Bar Harbor, Maine
Rich with history, Bar Harbor, Maine has long been a beloved outdoor spot thanks to its proximity to mountain ranges and Frenchmen Bay. In the mid-19th century, artists from the Hudson River School would come here to paint the beautiful, waterfront landscapes and today, Bar Harbor still has that old-timey feel. Home to whale-watching, access to Acadia National Park, Cranberry Islands, and Sand Beach, every single place you go in Bar Harbor is more beautiful than the next. Bonus points if you have a dog or are a dog-lover: Bar Harbor is known for being extremely dog-friendly. Take your pup to the top of Cadillac Mountain, to the huge dog park, or to Jordan Pond House for some popovers and blueberry iced tea! Dogs can even travel on the Acadia National Park free shuttles (paid for by L.L. Bean) to make it easier for the whole family to get around.
5. Cambria, California
Cambria is a gorgeous little coastal town just off of Highway 1 in California that’s a total must-visit. Walk (or bike!) Cambria’s most historic streets (spanning as far back as the 1870s), visit the famous Moonstone Beach (where you’ll find literal moonstones covering the beach), and be sure to look out for humpback whales, gray whales, dolphins, and otters. Oh, and make sure to pick up an olallieberry pie—even if it’s to go!
6. Fire Island, New York
If it’s summer in New York, you better be at Fire Island! This beach town is so unapologetically beachy, you have to take a ferry (from one of three Long Island locations—Bay Shore, Patchogue, or Sayville) just to get there. And every single corner of Fire Island is walkable. No cars throughout the length of the island (though some spots are drivable, like the lighthouse).
7. Santa Barbara, California
The sunsets in Santa Barbara are next level. Set against the stunning backdrop of the Santa Ynez Mountains, the charm of this Californian city comes from its Spanish colonial background. From the Mediterranean architecture to the shopping and vineyards, there are lots to do (and see!) in Santa Barbara.
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8. Pawleys Island, South Carolina
A barrier island, Pawleys Island is famous for its South Carolina beaches and of course, sand dunes. But apart from the beach, Pawleys also has wetlands, mansions, and a Historic District worth checking out.
9. Rockport, Massachusetts
Part of the North Shore in Greater Boston, Rockport, Mass. is nothing short of a perfect little New England coastal town. Here, the seafood is incredible, the coastal views are quaint, and the artistry goes way back (like all the way to 1840). Be sure to swing by Motif Number 1—the “most-often painted building in America”—and Halibut Point State Park.
10. Montauk, New York
Called The End by locals, Montauk is quite literally the end of Long Island. Keep going after Montauk and you’ll end up in the Atlantic! Climb the 137 steps to the top of the Montauk Point Lighthouse (which dates back to 1796) and be sure to visit the lighthouse keeper’s house, too. In the museum inside the keeper’s house, you’ll find historical documents actually signed by George Washington, but if you’re not a history buff, Ditch Plains, Gin Beach, and Terrace Beach will keep you busy.
11. San Luis Obispo, California
Affectionately called SLO CAL, San Luis Obispo is not only a top tourist spot but is also known as one of the Happiest Places in America. Visit the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art, take a picture (or two) at Bubblegum Alley, and be sure to visit the Downtown SLO Farmers’ Market. When it comes to beaches, choose from Fisherman’s Beach or Pirate’s Cove Beach—or stop by both!
12. Nags Head, North Carolina
Nestled in the Outer Banks of North Carolina is Nags Head, a beach town known for its boardwalk covered in native plants and flowers, salt marshes, and the Bodie Island Lighthouse, which was built in the 1870s.
13. Newport Beach, California
When you think of Newport Beach, you think of its harbor. Peppered with dozens of boats, the harbor offers classic coastal town views, but there’s more to Newport Beach, too. Take the family to the Newport Beach Pier and Balboa Pier—home to the Balboa Fun Zone—or catch a wave or two at the Wedge.
14. Niantic, Connecticut
Though Connecticut may not really be known for its beaches, you can’t pass up an opportunity to visit Niantic, a village inside of East Lyme. With only 3,114 residents, it feels like a small, charming coastal town out of a Lifetime movie. Be sure to eat at The Black Sheep, grab some seafood at Skipper’s, and of course, hit up Crescent Beach.
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15. Siesta Key, Florida
With a name like “Siesta Key,” tourists pretty much know what to expect when visiting this Floridian island. This FL town near the Gulf of Mexico is known for its quartz sand and sparkling turquoise waters and native marine life. Come winter, you’ll spot manatees and come summer, you’ll for sure see dolphins.
16. Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
The City of Rehoboth Beach is an Atlantic Coast town in Delaware known for its exciting boardwalk. It looks, smells, and feels like the Jersey Shore, but in Delaware! Beyond the fun-filled boardwalk dotted with rides, restaurants, and bars, there’s the Rehoboth Beach Museum, Cape Henlopen State Park, and a former military observation tower from 1941.
17. Newport, Oregon
There are a few Newports throughout the U.S., but just like the Newports in RI and CA, Newport, Oregon is a top beach spot. Especially for whale-watching! Even from the shore, you may be able to spot grey whales or orca whales.
18. Port Townsend, Washington
Also known as the City of Dreams, Port Townsend is situated in the Quimper Penninsula of Washington, adjacent to the Puget Sound. With charming Victorian-style homes and less than 10,000 residents, Port Townsend’s biggest draws are its beaches, museums, and of course, Fort Worden State Park.
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19. Sausalito, California
Sausalito—located across the Golden Gate Strait from San Francisco—is known for its floating homes community called the Richardson Bay houseboat enclaves. The houseboats are a real sight to see, as there are more than 400 throughout Marin County. Other things to do in this quaint beach town include paddleboarding, visiting the art museums, and more.
20. Tybee Island, Georgia
A barrier island not far from Savannah, Georgia, Tybee Island is known for its premier beach destination—South Beach. Massive, clean, and sandy (with not a rock in sight), the beaches have drawn tourists to Tybee Island since the late 1800s.
21. Long Beach Island, New Jersey
Long Beach Island is really quite aptly named. It’s a long island of beach in Jersey that’s the ultimate beach town. There is a lot to do for both families and single parties. Rent a bungalow right on the beach and explore the town come nighttime!
22. Chincoteague, Virginia
Not exactly a boardwalk type of coastal town, Chincoteague has a wild horse population that run and graze throughout the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge—which you can access by bike. Chincoteague is also known for its beaches, hiking trails, and the Museum of Chincoteague Island, which features artifacts from the oyster industry and model boats.
23. Old Saybrook, Connecticut
Old Saybrook is undoubtedly one of the more scenic spots in Connecticut thanks to it being nestled where the Long Island Sound meets the Atlantic. A casual drive in Old Saybrook looks and feels like you’ve entered a Bob Ross painting—with sprawling coastal views for days and roads flanked with water on both sides. While you’re here, be sure to hit up Johnny Ad’s Drive-In—best lobster rolls in town. Hands down.
24. Florence, Oregon
A small coastal town in Oregon, Florence is home to famous Mo’s Seafood and Chowder, which originated in Newport, RI and came to Florence in 1978. Besides the iconic food, the charming town, and the beach full of seashells, Florence also has one more thing going for it: the largest sea cave in the U.S., the Sea Lion Caves.
25. Camden, Maine
Located on Penobscot Bay in the MidCoast region of Maine, one of the main draws of Camden is its High Street Historic District featuring 19th-century homes. Nearby Curtis Island, there’s the 1830s lighthouse that’s worth visiting, as well as Camden Hills State Park and the Camden Opera House.
26. Crescent City, California
Named for its crescent-shaped beach, Crescent City, California is also close to other great beach spots: Pebble Beach and Point St. George to name a few. But beyond the beach, Crescent City also has plenty of other things to do and see—the SkyTrail gondolas, Redwood National Park, and the Battery Point Lighthouse.
27. East Hampton, New York
The Hamptons will forever be an iconic beach town destination, but rest assured: It’s expensive. The main complaint, of course, is that there aren’t oodles to do in East Hampton—but if you’re entertained by picturesque beaches and a few quaint streets with high-end shopping, you’ll fit in just fine.
28. Nantucket, Massachusetts
Off of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, there’s the quintessential fishing town on the coast: Nantucket. Its own island, Nantucket is a very popular summer destination for tourists, who love walking through the cobblestoned streets of town, shopping, and taking in the cedar-shingle homes.
29. Ocean Grove, New Jersey
Another standout beach town along the Jersey Shore is Ocean Grove. For music lovers, there’s an iconic concert venue in town that’s worth visiting but you’ll also enjoy those beautiful beachfront views, too.
30. Ocean City, Maryland
Ocean City is a resort town in Maryland that’s sandwiched between the Atlantic and Isle of Wight Bay. The boardwalk is massive and features everything from rides and games to restaurants and bars. When you’re done on the boardwalk, hop in a boat for a kayaking tour or some whale-watching.
31. Provincetown, Massachusetts
At the tip of Cape Cod is Provincetown, Massachusetts, a seaside town whose history goes way, way back. Like all the way to the Mayflower arriving in America in 1620! It’s a very LGBTQ+ friendly town with lots of history, art, and culture. Check out Commercial Street for shopping, cabarets, and stop by the Provincetown Museum.
32. Asbury Park, New Jersey
If you’ve heard of Asbury Park, NJ before, it’s likely because of Bruce Springsteen. But beyond Bruce, Asbury Park is enjoyable in its own right. Located right on the beach, it’s a classic spot for surfing, biking, and of course, eating. There’s a boardwalk with lots to do, plus in town, you’ll find plenty of foodie-friendly dining options—from Asbury Festhalle & Biergarten to Talula’s.
33. Assateague Island, Maine
To the North of Chincoteague is Assateague Island, Maine. There you’ll also get a good look at Chincoteague’s wild ponies, but there’s also lots more to do—beaches on the Atlantic, trails, marshland, forest, dunes, and even an opportunity to spot bald eagles in the wild.
34. Encinitas, California
Encinitas is the Flower Capital of the World, so not only will you witness some gorgeous beach views in this surfer-friendly town, but you can also expect to see dozens of poinsettias (depending on the time of year you go).
35. Amelia Island, Florida
A convenient 45 minutes from the Jacksonville airport, Amelia Island is a little-known secret amongst out-of-towners, but a fan-favorite local destination amongst Floridians. Go shopping at the historic downtown of Fernandina Beach and come evening, take a two-hour cruise around Amelia, looking for the island’s resident dolphins and wild horses that patrol the beaches.
36. Greenport, New York
If the Hamptons are feeling a little overrated, there’s always Greenport, which is undoubtedly a super-underrated coastal town. On the North Fork of Long Island, this tiny town has everything—gorgeous nautical vibes, water views at every turn, and of course, Claudio’s, where visitors can snag some of the best seafood Long Island has to offer as well as take in the beautiful harbor views. Bring kids to the Greenport Carousel and shuck your own oysters at Little Creek Oyster Farm & Market.
37. Hampton Beach, New Hampshire
Hampton Beach is a little slice of the Jersey Shore… but in New Hampshire. A beach resort town with a population of about 3,000, it has a big boardwalk filled with ice cream shops, arcades, and tourist-friendly shopping.
38. San Clemente, California
This surf town is a popular destination for beach-goers. Whether you prefer to swim, surf, tan, or kayak, there’s a beach for you—T-Street, Trestles, San Onofre State Beach, and of course, not far away is Laguna Beach.
39. Long Beach, New York
The surfing in Long Beach is legendary, so if it’s that Jersey Shore feels you’re looking for, but in New York, you can’t beat this Long Island beach town right outside of Queens.
40. Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
Just off the coast of Cape Cod is the quintessential Massachusetts coastal town of Martha’s Vineyard. Known for its boutique shops and quaint colonial beach bungalows, the entire town is bikable and the beach views are plentiful.
41. Old San Juan, Puerto Rico
Discover Puerto Rico! This island is known as the heart and soul of the Caribbean, but it’s the capital city you can’t ignore. Old San Juan is more of a lively city than a sleepy coastal beach town, but don’t you want an endless list of things to do and see while on vacation? Take a selfie on Umbrella Street—AKA Fortaleza street—where upside-down umbrellas create an art installation slash canopy above your head. Walk the cobblestone streets, taking in all the Spanish colonial architecture and shopping, and of course, take a full day (or two) to take in the local beaches.
42. Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey
Don’t want to travel too far down the Shore? That Garden State Parkway traffic can be a real bore. There’s Point Pleasant Beach, which is pleasantly named and pleasantly located. Make sure to stop by the ever-popular Jenkinson’s for some live music and a cocktail.
43. Key West, Florida
Part of the Florida Keys, Key West is Florida’s southernmost point, so naturally, it’s a classic destination. The town itself is known as a popular cruise-ship stop as well as its recognizable conch-style houses, but it’s the coral reefs that keep divers and snorkelers coming back each summer.
44. Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Fort Lauderdale, Florida didn’t get its reputation as a spring break destination for nothing. With a booming downtown full of live music, fun dining options, and of course, beach after beach after beach, there’s a lot to do for crowds of all ages.
45. Jekyll Island, Georgia
While Savannah is fun and rowdy and technically located on the water, Jekyll Island is the premier beach town destination you want to visit in Georgia. After all, there you’ll find the unique Driftwood Beach, named for the hundreds (thousands?) of pieces of driftwood sprawled along the sand.
46. Spring Lake, New Jersey
Spring Lake, New Jersey is known as the “Irish Riviera” of the Jersey Shore. Located in Monmouth County, Spring Lake is known for its sprawling Victorian houses as well as Spring Lake Beach.
47. Gilgo Beach, New York
West Gilgo Beach may be a private, gated community, but Gilgo Beach in Babylon is fair-game for tourists! And it still features all the best parts of West Gilgo. Adjacent to popular concert destination Jones Beach, Gilgo Beach is bookended by South Oyster Bay on one side and the Atlantic on the other.
48. Rockport, Maine
Not to be confused with the Rockport in Massachusetts, Rockport, Maine is a small, coastal town in Knox County. About a half-hour out of Augusta, Rockport is a fan-favorite amongst beach-loving tourists and art-lovers. Visit Glen Cove Beach, Walker Park, and grab a bite to eat at Offshore.
49. Matlacha, Florida
Matlacha may just be the tiniest town in Florida—with a population of 677, according to the 2010 census—but it’s also probably the most colorful. Part of Cape Coral-Fort Myers, this seaside town is known for its funky art as much as it is known for fishing. Visit the beaches of Sanibel and Captiva while you’re here or take a day trip to Marco Island.
50. Sag Harbor, New York
On the South Fork of Long Island, you’ll find the quaint coastal village of Sag Harbor. Technically, it’s nestled inside of Southampton and East Hampton, but Hampton Bays—home to delicious on-the-water dining options like Rumba and Cow Fish—is also just a quick drive away. There’s lots of expensive shopping to occupy your time in Sag Harbor and the million-dollar houses on the water don’t make for a bad view either!
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