18 Best Beach Towns in the US

After a heavy snowfall in the Southern California mountains
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A seaside sojourn is always a good idea, and, fortunately, you don’t need to travel too far to embark on a relaxing beach getaway. That’s because America is home to a slew of incredible beach towns, all of which boast stunning scenery and postcard-worthy vistas. And, should you end up needing a break from the beach, most of them also feature vibrant downtown areas (think: shopping, dining, drinking, and entertainment offerings) or can’t-miss nearby attractions (such as historic lighthouses and nature preserves). Here are a few of our favorite beach towns in the U.S., from Alabama to Oregon and beyond.

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Gulf Shores, Alabama

Sunrise Behind the Palm Trees
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Sugar-sand beaches, ample wildlife spotting ops, and stunning surroundings: find all this and more in Gulf Shores, Alabama. This enchanting oceanfront city is home to the expansive Gulf State Park, whose 6,000-plus acres include 2 miles of beach. Here, travelers can soak up the sun from the sand, hop into the ocean for a refreshing dip, and be on the lookout for sea turtles, otters, and deer. When it comes time to refuel, head to local favorites like The Hangout Restaurant, LuLu’s, Pink Pony Pub, and Tacky Jacks for some fresh seafood.

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Daufuskie Island, South Carolina

Daufuskie Island
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Fewer than 500 people live on Daufuskie Island year-round, so it still feels like a secret—for now, at least. This secluded South Carolina isle—which has no hotels and is only accessible via boat—is most notable for its 3 miles of unspoiled beaches (all of which are open to the public!) and excellent wildlife like dolphins, turtles, and horses. If and when you need a break from the beach, check out Daufuskie Island Rum Company, visit the Iron Fish Gallery, or golf at Haig Point. Also, don’t skip town without enjoying a meal at Daufuskie Crab Co. for Lowcountry cuisine with a seafood-forward twist.

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Long Beach, New York

The Long Beach Boardwalk at Sunset
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This vibrant Long Island beach town is an easy drive or train ride from NYC. Bike or stroll along the 4.5-mile-long boardwalk before making your way down to the shore to sunbathe, swim, surf, or play a game of beach volleyball. Then, head into town and check out one of the many bars and restaurants such as The Bungalow and The Beach House. Finally, rest your head at the centrally located Allegria Hotel, which is situated right along the boardwalk and offers chic accommodations, fantastic eats, and a rooftop pool.

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Sunset Beach, North Carolina

The Inter coastal waterway, Sunset Beach, North Carolina
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As you can probably guess by its name, Sunset Beach is renowned for its picturesque coastline and dreamy sunsets. The destination is known for the Bird Island Reserve, a 1,200-plus-acre barrier island featuring sugar-white shorelines and towering dunes. At the reserve, you will also find the Kindred Spirit Mailbox, which invites travelers to jot down their thoughts, stories, secrets, hopes, and dreams. Don’t skip town without enjoying a meal at The Boat Landing Restaurant, where you can chow down on staples like po’ boys, fried oysters, and crab dip.

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Lincoln City, Oregon

Siletz Bay in Lincoln City, Oregon

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Lincoln City is less than 100 miles from Portland, yet it feels worlds away from the city’s bustle. The quaint destination features 7 miles of beaches, as well as tranquil forests, stunning scenery, and ample shopping and dining options. You’ll also find several recreation areas, including Roads End State Recreation Site and D River State Recreation Site, both of which boast pristine beaches. Nelscott Beach is another popular spot for fishing and beachcombing, while hiking abounds at nearby sites like Cascade Head and The Knoll.

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Huntington Beach, California

Huntington Beach Pier
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Huntington Beach has been deemed “Surf City, USA” for its top-notch surfing ops. The SoCal beach town—about one hour from Los Angeles—claims the International Surfing Museum, along with 10 miles of wide-open beaches. Those traveling with furry friends will want to check out the leash-optional Dog Beach. The 1,850-foot-long Huntington Beach Pier, which is dotted with several stores and eateries, is another highlight. Consider staying overnight in one of several oceanfront properties such as Kimpton Shorebreak Huntington Beach Resort and Paséa Hotel & Spa; both are within easy walking distance to top restaurants and bars.

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New Smyrna Beach, Florida

Panoramic View Of Sea Against Sky During Sunset
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Also referred to as Florida’s surfing capital, New Smyrna Beach invites sports enthusiasts to explore its 17 miles of beautiful beaches. Here, visitors can kayak, surf, and, if they’re lucky, spot wildlife like dolphins or manatees. Before or after you visit the beach, enjoy a leisurely stroll down Flagler Avenue, located just five blocks from the ocean. The historic street is lined with mouthwatering eats and buzzy bars as well as galleries and boutique shops. Dog lovers will especially appreciate the destination’s pet-friendly beaches.

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Pass-A-Grille, Florida


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While Pass-A-Grille is certainly small in size, it’s loaded with character and natural beauty. What’s more, this charming beach town, which is just 15 minutes from St. Petersburg, entices visitors with its 4 miles of white-sand beaches and emerald-green waters. Adventure enthusiasts will be able to rent paddleboards and boats, while fishing enthusiasts can head straight to Merry Pier. Meanwhile, foodies and shopaholics will have their pick of restaurants and boutiques along historic 8th Avenue.

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Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, USA City Skyline
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Myrtle Beach boasts a whopping 60 miles of stunning coastline—but that’s just the beginning. Before heading onto the sand, stroll along the bustling, 1.2-mile-long boardwalk, home to the famous SkyWheel (where stunning views of the Atlantic are a given), an arcade, and a slew of other entertainment venues and rides.

Come nighttime, check out the massive Broadway at the Beach complex, where travelers can choose from an array of shops, restaurants, and other attractions. No trip here is complete without a visit to Croissants for some iced coffee and a pastry before hitting the beach, followed by a dreamy dinner over at Wicked Tuna for delectable sushi.

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Emerald Isle, North Carolina

Aerial view of Emerald Isle, North Carolina looking North along the beach
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Beachcombers should head straight to Emerald Isle, where you’ll find a 12-mile stretch of sand that’s chock-full of gorgeous seashells. The crystal-clear waters and sunny weather are both added bonuses. The Bogue Inlet Fishing Pier is a popular spot for—you guessed it—fishing, while The Point, which is located at the end of the Isle, offers panoramic water views that are even more spectacular come sunset. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, chow down at one of many mom-and-pop eateries like The Trading Post, Surf's Up Grill & Bar, Gaffer's, or Kathryn's Bistro & Martini Bar.

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Rockaway Beach, New York

USA, New York State, Rockaway Beach, Two female surfers walking on beach
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Rockaway Beach is actually part of Queens, but you’d never know it. This dynamic oceanfront community—easily accessible via car, train, or ferry—is a popular spot among surfers, and lessons are available year-round through Locals Surf School. If surfing isn’t your thing, simply lounge out on the sand or stroll along the 5.5-mile boardwalk before popping into local-loved spots like Tacoway Beach, Bungalow Bar, or Rockaway Beach Surf Club. Considering staying overnight? Look no further than the trendy—and totally Instagrammable!—Rockaway Hotel.

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Corpus Christi, Texas

Aerial Drone View Corpus Christi , TX Bayfront at sunrise long shadows behind the Twin Towers and Harbor Bridge with T-Head
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This Texas city is full of fun-filled activities and attractions—not to mention 100 miles of coastline for travelers to choose from! Whitecap Beach is famous for its white sands, while the expansive Mustang Island State Park has 5 miles of shore. North Beach (AKA Corpus Christi Beach) is one of the most vibrant stretches of sand in the area, thanks to its variety of great shops and eats. McGee Beach is also worth visiting, and it's just minutes from the lively Marina Arts District.

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Ocean Springs, Mississippi

Gulf Islands National Seashore
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Just 2 miles east of bustling Biloxi lies the quaint town of Ocean Springs. Spend the day swimming and sunbathing at Front Beach, known for its soft white sands and on-site fishing pier and playground. Alternatively, enjoy a beachfront picnic—plus lovely vistas—at Fort Maurepas City Park and Nature Preserve or Gulf Islands National Seashore. Additionally, downtown Ocean Springs has a number of shops and restaurants that are sure to delight travelers of all ages. Stylish boutique stays here include The Roost and The Inns of Ocean Springs.

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Montecito, California

Montecito, California

Elizabeth Preske

For a laid-back beachfront escape that’s just 90 minutes from Los Angeles, look no further than Montecito. This A-lister-approved locale—where Oprah, Rob Lowe, and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle live—is flanked by the Santa Ynez Mountains. Butterfly Beach, Miramar Beach, and Hammonds Beach are all beloved by locals and travelers alike.

In terms of accommodations, you can't go wrong with a stay at Rosewood Miramar Beach, an uber-luxe resort with 16 acres of beachfront. Don’t forget to stop by Coast Village Road, Montecito’s main hub for shopping, drinking, and dining. Who knows: You may even spot a celeb or two.

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Nags Head, North Carolina

Aerial View of Nags Head looking south during the golden hour
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Situated along North Carolina’s famed Outer Banks region, the town of Nags Head—which features 30 public beach access points—is not to be missed. Jockey's Ridge State Park is best known for its towering sand dunes, while the nostalgia-inducing Outer Banks Fishing Pier offers excellent fishing and an on-site restaurant. Speaking of food, gourmands will especially love Nags Head for its abundance of seafood spots like Sam and Omie’s, Owen’s, Tale of the Whale, and Sugar Shack Fish Market Oyster Bar and Grill.

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Avila Beach, California

Avila Sunset
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This charming village, located in San Louis Obispo County, is dotted with one-of-a-kind galleries and boutique shops, plus a handful of gorgeous beaches to choose from. A few of our favorites include Avila Beach City Beach (where you’ll find the 1,600-foot-long Avila Pier), Cave Landing Beach (which feels somewhat secluded), and Fishermans Beach (a tiny yet scenic stretch of sand). The historic Point San Luis Lighthouse is another must-visit, as is the Central Coast Aquarium.

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Cape May, New Jersey

Cape May, New Jersey
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It’s no secret that this seaside resort town boasts exquisite beaches—around 2 miles of them, to be exact. Must-visit attractions include the Washington Street Mall (a hub for shopping and dining), Cape May Point State Park (where you’ll find the Cape May Lighthouse), South Cape May Meadows (a coastal nature preserve that’s a popular spot for birding), and the Cape May Promenade (which is lined with retro-esque establishments like candy stores and arcades). Architecture enthusiasts will also appreciate the handful of ornate homes featuring Victorian design elements. The centuries-old Congress Hall, with its sunny yellow façade, is the perfect place to stay while in town.

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Chatham, Massachusetts

Beach Boardwalk And Ocean At Chatham, Cape Cod
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Located on the southeast tip of Cape Cod, Chatham is home to six major beaches, the most famous being Chatham Lighthouse Beach. (If you’re lucky, you may even spot seals!). For calmer waters, head to Oyster Pond Beach, Forest Beach, Harding's Beach, Cockle Cove Beach, or Ridgevale Beach, a popular destination among families. Meanwhile, Main Street in downtown Chatham is extremely walkable and is lined with charming souvenir shops and eateries that serve up everything from savory meals to sweet treats. Check into Chatham Bars Inn, which offers a stunning waterfront location, luxe accommodations, and a tranquil spa.