The 10 Best Beach Towns in the United States, Ranked


In the United States, a beach vacation often means clutching your towel on a crowded, noisy stretch of sand. But if you know where to look, you can find solitude without having to travel to the Caribbean. Our picks here aren’t the coastal hubs you already know. They’re charming, under-the-radar spots with vast stretches of empty shoreline, low-key accommodations, and a want-to-be-here-now vibe. If you’d rather stay in a rustic ocean-view bungalow than a flashy mega-resort over the water, these are the beach destinations for you.

10. Port Townsend, Washington

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Located a two-hour ferry ride from Seattle on the Olympic Peninsula, the sleepy seaside enclave of Port Townsend, Washington, comes alive during the warmer months. Hiking in Olympic National Park isn’t far, but you’re coming for a beach getaway, this hideaway delivers. Fort Worden State Historic Park is a former military base one mile from downtown that features 12 miles of trails, bike and kayak rentals, a fishing pier, campground, and two miles of sandy shoreline with views over the Olympic Mountains and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Kayak among killer whales in Port Townsend Bay or stroll the beaches at low tide to admire the Point Wilson Lighthouse. Townsend Sail Harbor offers two-hour afternoon sailboat cruises. Flaunt yourself in one of three private downtown suites at The Washington (from $179) and you’ll be just blocks from the water.

9. Biddeford, Maine

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The old mill town of Biddeford, 20 minutes south of Portland, is quietly becoming a new coastal alternative to Maine’s more popular beach towns. The old mill buildings are transformed into modern breweries and shops, such as the pepper milla former textile factory along the Saco River that is now filled with restaurants, artist lofts and Band brewing. There is also the lincoln, in the former Lincoln Mill, which will soon house a new 33-room boutique hotel, restaurant, pool and rooftop bar. For time in the sun, choose from Fortune’s Rocks Beach, Middle Beach and Biddeford Pool. Elements has coffee, books, and craft beer, and you can’t beat breakfast at Palace dinner. Do you have a view of the ocean from your room? Cape Arundel Inn (from $224), near Kennebunkport.

8. Sapelo Island, Georgia

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You won’t come to Georgia’s Sapelo Island for fine dining or nightlife – there are no restaurants on the island, though a few locals offer cooking services – but exquisite beaches, outdoor adventures and a true getaway are what you are looking for. Accessible by ferry and about an hour from Savannah, this 12-mile-long, largely undeveloped barrier island seems remote, but there’s plenty to do here, from birdwatching to shrimp fishing. Take a guided history tour Reynolds Mansion, or stroll along Nanny Goat Beach or Cabretta Beach on the southern end of the island. Groups can stay at Reynolds Mansion (from $850 up to 25 people) or the Campsite Cabretta (from $35). Alternatively, book a well-appointed gite from Sapelo Island Birdhouses (from $155).

7. Bandon, OR

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Bandon, four hours south of Portland on Oregon’s southern coast, has laid-back beaches and stunning ocean views. Towering boulders dot the coastline, including the iconic face rock, where, according to legend, you can hear a woman’s voice in the wind if you listen carefully. Nearby, cycle over 22 miles of specially designed mountain bike trails on the Whiskey Running Trails through the Coos County Forest. Get Applewood Smoked Cheddar Cheese at Face Rock Creameryfish and chips and clam chowder with Bandon fish marketand local pinot noir at Alloro Wine Bar. Each room at Windemere on the beach (from $165) has an ocean view, or book this two bedroom A-frame by the sea on Airbnb (from $155).

6. Rockport, Mass.

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An hour north of Boston at the tip of the Cape Ann Peninsula, the coastal village of Rockport, Massachusetts is easy to get to but feels quiet and uncrowded. Stroll through the local souvenir shops on the small peninsula of Bearskin Neck and take a quick detour for a photo in front of the iconic replica of a historic red fishing shack known as Pattern #1. Grab rolls of lobster and fried pickles lobster pool, where you’ll dine at picnic tables overlooking Ipswich Bay. Explore the tidal pools and rocky cliffs of Halibut Point State Park, or spread out on a towel on Front Beach or Back Beach, the latter being a popular launch point for snorkelers. Rent a kayak from Adventures on the North Shore to paddle from Rockport to Thatcher Island, about a mile offshore, where camping is permitted from June to August. Eagle House Motel (from $116) offers affordable rooms just steps from Front Beach.

5. Chincoteague, Virginia

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You’re more likely to spot a herd of wild horses than a high-rise hotel in Chincoteague, a seven-mile-long Atlantic island off Virginia’s east coast. Chincoteague Island Outfitters provides all the beach gear you need, from boogie boards to cornhole, and Assateague Tours offers guided sea kayaking trips. NASA has been launching small rockets from a nearby island since 1945, and you can read more about it on the NASA Wallops Flight Facility. Dinner is a dozen raw oysters (or lightly breaded and fried, Chincoteague style) at Don’s Seafoodwhile the dessert is a ball of Island Creamery. the Refuge Inn (from $109) has its own herd of ponies and a distant view of Assateague Lighthouse.

4. Block Island, Rhode Island

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You’ll take a high-speed ferry from the mainland to Block Island, a serene island 12 miles off the Rhode Island coast that’s home to more than 70 species of migratory songbirds in the Block Island National Wildlife Refuge. Once there, enjoy more than 27 km of public beaches. Watch the sunset from Charlestown Beach, accessible via a dirt road on the west side of the island, or head to the often empty and rocky Vaill Beach on the south coast. DiamondBlue Surf Shop rents surfboards, SUPs and beach chairs. The newly renovated Block Island Beach House (from $505) overlooks Crescent Beach and has a bar and cafe which serves up waterside treats like watermelon and grilled corn.

3. St. George Island, Florida

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You can’t beat the miles of undeveloped beaches on this 22-mile-long barrier island off Florida’s northern Gulf Coast, a tranquil alternative to the state’s flashier beach destinations. Island adventures rents bicycles to pedal on the roads and cycle paths. Take a walk on the beach or hike the trails of St. George’s Island State Park. the Auberge Saint-George (from $112) offers pet-friendly accommodations near the water; otherwise, stay on the mainland at the stylish Gibson Inn (from $199) in the town of Apalachicola, where you must have a drink at the hotel’s historic Parlor Bar.

2. Cambria, California

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The charming coastal town of Cambria in central California, four hours south of San Francisco, makes a great weekend getaway or stopover on a Highway 1 road trip. Hearst Castle was closed due to the pandemic and road repairs, but is expected to finally reopen this spring. Explore Moonstone Beach’s tidal pools, filled with brightly colored sea anemones and starfish. Will stay Living Water (from $259), a lodge that opened just steps from the ocean in 2020, or pitch a tent at the ocean-view campsites in Hearst San Simeon State Park (from $35), a few minutes north. Have a brunch of waffles and smoothies in a hidden alley in the hidden kitchenthen head to the beginner-friendly surf break at Cayucos, a low-key town 20 minutes south.

1. Paia, Maui

(Photo: Peter Unger/Getty)

Most people pass through Paia as the last stop before the Road to Hana, a scenic coastal drive on Maui’s North Shore that passes through rainforests and waterfalls. But it’s worth making this bohemian, laid-back beach town a destination in its own right. You won’t find any towering resort hotels here. Instead, you’ll see plenty of kitesurfers and windsurfers taking off from the famous Ho’okipa break, yoga studios and artsy shops lining the main drag, and sandy enclaves around every turn. Start your day at Paia Bay Cafestroll along Baldwin Beach, then enjoy pancakes or curry at the Friends Cafecrowned with locally made scoops next to Artisan Ice Cream. the Hostel Paia (from $399) is located in a historic building in the city. If you have a limited budget, the Aloha Surf Hostel has beds from $52 or private rooms from $147 and offers free guided tours for guests.

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