The Best Places to Live & Explore…
For Every Lifestyle


10 of America’s Best Beach Towns

Category: beach

By Shannon Keating

Who wouldn’t love living a beach lifestyle? Swimming, surfing, sun bathing, and other exciting water diversions are aplenty along lake and ocean coasts. From boardwalk classics, to sparkling seaside nightlife, to family-friendly relaxation and recreation, there is a plethora of different options when it comes to your own personal perfect beach town.

You’ve always dreamed of waking up to the sound of waves crashing on the shore, and walking out your front door to feel sand between your toes – the good news is that the distressed real estate market means that this is as good a time than any to find a beach-centric community that’s right for you.

The following are ten of our favorite American beach towns from across the country.

1. Traverse City, Michigan

Located on the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan, Traverse City is especially popular for boating and fishing. Off the lake, activities include skiing and golf. Traverse City also has a lively, vibrant arts scene, a historic downtown, cute restaurants, and the campus of Northwestern Michigan College. Visit the Interlochen Center for the Arts for concerts, exhibits and theater productions year-round, any of 13 museums, and of course, all the fabulous beaches.

2. Cape May, New Jersey

With a lovely Victorian setting, Cape May is a popular fishing beach community. Offering boardwalks, classic inns, and quaint shops, Cape May is a typically enjoyable summer town – but is also offers a little something more. Check out the park & zoo, or enjoy an outdoor concert. The downtown is interesting, the exquisite collection of Victorian homes, and the festivals, from film to jazz, are aplenty. Birding is also popular here.

3. Provincetown, Massachusetts

Provincetown, the terminus of Cape Cod, is nestled along the bay side of the cape, facing a large harbor. The main street is lined with cute and interesting shops and restaurants. Miles and miles of beach extend along the Cape Cod National Sea Shore, a playground for swimmers, fishermen, and sunbathers. Festivals, whaling opportunities, museums, a bustling literature/arts scene, and a bright LGBTQ community add spark to this friendly beach community, just a ferry ride away from Boston.


4. Rockport, Texas

Rockport boasts long stretches of clean beaches – one being Texas’s only certified Blue Wave Beach, making it one of the safest in the state. This makes Rockport a family-friendly beach town, great for kayaking, swimming and boating. Fresh sea food, entertainment and fishing abound on the Texas Coastal Bend. Rockport is surrounded on three sides by water, making it a beach-lover’s haven. Birdwatching is also a popular past time here.

5. San Clemente, California

As the former home of the Western  White House in the days Richard Nixon was president, millions of Americans became aware of San Clemente’s beautiful beaches. The town not only has endless beaches for legendary surfing and sunbathing, it has  an interesting downtown. It is located between Los Angeles and San Diego (2 other great beach towns!). The only drawback to San Clemente is sky high property values.

6. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Myrtle Beach is a rapidly growing community that offers fabulous shopping, golf and fishing. With more than 1800 restaurants, popular theater, and the Grand Stand, a sixty mile stretch of some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, Myrtle Beach is the idyllic beach town.

7. Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

Hidden on the end of the Delmarva Penninsula, Rehoboth Beach is the classic, old-school American beach town. With a boardwalk named the best in the country, small town charm, reasonable prices, malls, and an active sailing community, Rehoboth Beach draws crowds by the thousands. Diverse, gay-friendly, golf-oriented, and brightened by a frequent farmer’s market, this beach town has something for everyone.

8. Gulf Shores, Alabama

Gulf Shores is an upscale resort community located along Mobile Bay. Popular for golf and its white sand beaches, Gulf Shores is near historic Fort Morgan. Compact, clean, and the epitome of beach life beauty, there is plenty to love about Gulf Shores. Since it is fueled by an active tourist industry, there are many great restaurants. There’s also a very low crime rate.

9. San Juan Islands, Washington

Some of the absolute best in American island living, the San Juan Islands consist of 450 unique, pleasant island communities. Though the water is chilly, the coastlines, beaches, and general scenery are exquisite. Outdoor activities are central to life here: hiking, kayaking, birding, boating, and whale watching are all popular. The one incorporated town here is a lovely historical fishing village. Small town charm and a national state park complete the Islands’ appeal.

10. Newport, Rhode Island

Home to one of the largest concentrations of historic homes and mansions in the country, Newport is a beach town with an interesting and rich cultural heritage. The downtown is beautiful and charming, with many seafood-inspired restaurants ranging from quaint snack shacks to fine seaside dining. Salve Regina University adds an upbeat, intellectual and youthful twist to the community. Shopping here is top notch. Enjoy a stroll around the cliffs through the backyards of the old mansions and miles of fine beaches.

Want to know more? Check out other beach communities in California, Florida, and Connecticut. Use our simple navigation tool at the left to peruse ocean-side living in your other favorite states.

Comments about your favorite beach towns? Please leave them below!


Posted by admin on October 16th, 2011

Comments (4)
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John Brady says

I can’t help but think of Ocean City, NJ. Our family came here in the early 60’s and it was magical – all of those long, hard sandy beaches for sunning and body surfing. Came back in college for summer jobs. Even though originally a resort founded by Methodists, it was endless fun here!

October 21st, 2011 | #

Lynn Lennon, Realtor says

What about Virginia’s Northern Neck? We have some of the most beautiful and affordable waterfront and water-access properties in the mid-Atlantic region. And, it is a sophisticated, yet still, small-town life! We have low taxes, too.

October 24th, 2011 | #

Diane Probst says

Rockport Beach Park is awesome. Where can you go and enjoy a beach as a city park. It has a mile-long sandy clean beach. Amenities include wonderful playground equipment, walking trail, tiki hut and picnic areas, fishing piers, boat launch, fishing cleaning table and so much more. Also, it has great meeting rooms right on the water.

October 24th, 2011 | #

Katy says

I’d like to know the criteria used for your determination. Your site states best places to live and explore. You covered the explore part, but what about living in these towns.

What are the housing costs in comparison to the average income availability? Are there jobs or must you drive to find a reasonable paying position? Are there amenities for residents such a basic shopping needs or must residents travel for these as well?

Living in one of these towns is much different than visiting.
Editor’s Note: Thanks for the post and the good questions. Every city review has a section that addresses the cost of housing, which is also a good indicator of cost of living. Our perspective is to discuss from point of view of living there rather than visiting. We get our information from a number of sources and our main criteria is to find interesting places to live for each of the 19 lifestyles. We will try to keep your other points in mind as we go forward.

October 26th, 2011 | #

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