TOP 20 Best USA Beach Towns in 2023
The United States offers beaches to suit every taste. And the cities that spring up around these idyllic beaches—from New England to New Jersey, California to Michigan—are world-class destinations in their own right. The 20 destinations listed below are the finest of the best, where the dunes give way to charming villages, where people mingle with guests, and where the food and drink become the stuff of countless summer memories. Bring extra sunscreen.
Ocean Springs, Mississippi
This eccentric Gulf Coast community has a modest historic downtown with a powerful impact. Every street has a stylish pub with live music on a vast outdoor terrace mixed with hip galleries and artists' studios, independent stores, a massive art museum, and excellent, imaginative restaurants. The streets are lined with live oaks and colorful old cottages, there's lots of catfish and barbeque, and, of course, the beach. After getting your fill of culture and entertainment, you may take a paddleboard out to appreciate Mississippi's natural beauty. Take a boat to the barrier islands to view beaches so secluded and beautiful that any Floridian would be envious.
Places to eat/drink: The Greenhouse on Porter's pioneering gourmet biscuits. This converted greenhouse is doing for biscuits what Voodoo did for doughnuts, dishing up jalapeno chili biscuits alongside live music and yoga on the weekends.
Slightly out of topic, but from here you may want to spend one hour drive to see the Longest bridge in the united states.
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Virginia Beach has two distinct personalities. One has long been known as a laid-back, middle-class family summer vacation destination, complete with a busy boardwalk, high-rise hotels, and an inexhaustible supply of frozen-custard stores. The second face, formed over the last decade, supports the burgeoning local artists' community in the Vibe Creative District, attracting a younger demographic not previously visiting Virginia Beach, particularly in the off-season. Suddenly, Virginia Beach is more than just a beach destination: Just ask Pharrell, a neighborhood icon whose Something in the Water event returns this year.
Places to eat/drink: Visit the airy Commune and Esoteric for the sustainable food scene, where the meals (including sky-high burgers) look ideal for Instagram. While adolescents roam the boardwalk, Waterman's Surfside Grill has a welcoming family atmosphere.
If you decide to travel outside of US, you need to take a look at the list of the best beach destinations in 2023.
Carmel (by the sea), California
Carmel-by-the-Sea, a little and picturesque town 1000, proudly shows its Spanish colonial history in the slightest features, from Spanish tilework to houses appearing taken from a fairy tale. As you stroll this wonderfully accessible, transportive community where Clint Eastwood served as mayor for two years in the 1980s, soak in California's coastal beauty—winding hiking paths, cypress trees, and pure white sand beaches. Don't miss the sun-bathing sea lions at Point Lobos Natural Reserve, or poet Robinson Jeffers' stone-by-stone home. If you're feeling posh, play some golf at Pebble Beach. Alternatively, enjoy the area's bohemian vibes at the Sunset Cultural Center, which produces hundreds of acts each year.
Places to eat/drink: Cultura Comida y Bebida is your one-stop shop for delicious Oaxacan fare—think 30+ mezcals and a variety of tacos, including chapulines (toasted grasshoppers).
Narragansett, Rhode Island
The greatest surfing in New England can be found in tiny but mighty Rhode Island, and the best spot to do it is Narragansett. The historic Coast Guard House also houses one of the top beach bars in America, where views of Narragansett Bay go nicely with a platter of oysters and an ice-cold can of—take a wild guess. In the summer, Gansett's population more than doubles as surfers, families, and college students rush to some of the region's greatest beaches. The always-busy Narragansett Town Beach has spectacular views of the "Towers," the famous remnants of the bygone Victorian-era Narragansett Pier Casino—but if you'd rather save the entry costs, head to one of the state beaches, such as Roger Wheeler.
Places to eat/drink: Obviously, seafood. Visit Aunt Carrie's Clam Shack or Iggy's Doughboys and Chowder House, both of which include dining rooms as well as takeaway windows. They're not quite downtown (they're closer to Point Judith), but they're well worth the journey.
Wellfleet and Provincetown, Massachusetts
The ultimate holiday paradise Cape Cod boasts 77 miles of sandy beach, lobster rolls, and Rockwell-esque communities. Few are cuter than Wellfleet on the Outer Cape, where life is calmer and the pace is slower. Marconi Beach, which is part of the Cape Cod National Seashore, boasts vast beaches with large sand dunes. The water is a little colder here, and the waves are a little rougher as they sweep in from the Atlantic. The water is warmer on the bayside of Duck Harbor Beach, and it feels like you're at the end of the earth.
Provincetown, near the point of the cape, is only a short drive from Wellfleet on Route 6. P-town is well-known for its LGBTQ population, but a stroll along bustling Commercial Street reveals a beautiful mix of drag queens, families with children, locals, and a young creative crowd from all over. Visit one of the numerous art galleries downtown, then shop till you drop at the Lobster Pot (a favorite of Anthony Bourdain) or Pepe's Wharf for a lobster roll.
Places to eat/drink: Mac's Seafood serves fried clams. Travel along Commercial Street until you reach the pier overlooking Wellfleet Bay. Order clams and fries from the shack's take-out window and relax at one of the shared sand picnic tables overlooking the port and Mayo Beach, a low-key, grassy bayside location ideal for swimming and watching the sunset.
Gulf Shores, Alabama
Aside from hosting the extremely entertaining annual Hangout Music Festival, Gulf Shores is undoubtedly Alabama's aesthetic showpiece, a gorgeous mash-up of pastel homes and high-rises. The sand is immaculate powdered white, and the sea is clear and blue, making this one of the top Gulf Coast attractions. It's often less expensive than its Florida competitors, with the added benefit of Gulf State Park's zip lines and mostly vacant beaches. It's also only a short drive to the renowned Flora-Bama, one of Florida's craziest and wildest bars, where you can attend a drunken church service and send up a much-needed prayer for all the Florida Men out there.
Places to eat/drink: Everything from the Avenue Pub. It's the type of inventive bar food you'd get in a major metropolitan gastropub, but in a quiet riverside location.
Paia, Maui, Hawaii
Paia, a medieval hamlet turned surf town, has it everything. A modest Hawaiian surf village should be unique, bohemian, and devoid of massive resorts. Most travelers pass through town on their route to Hana, but staying at the Paia Inn, only feet from the beach, has its advantages. (For example, you may see Willie Nelson). Explore the art galleries and endearingly hippie-dippie stores, take a session at the Maha Yoga & Wellness facility, visit the "hidden" clothing-optional beach, or simply enjoy the numerous great surfing locations along miles of scenic coastline. Baldwin Beach Park's crystal clear blue waves and picturesque shoreline are not to be missed.
Places to eat/drink: Paia Fish Market's plate lunches (get the ono! ), Tobi's Shave Ice's shaved ice and poke, Mana Foods' locally grown fruit, and Choice Health Bar's smoothies with bee pollen and very fresh açai bowls.
Folly Beach, South Carolina
The two-dozen taverns and eateries that line Folly's main street, Center Street, welcome the shirtless, shoeless, and thirsty throng to this low-key, six-mile-long sandbar. The high fall of Folly's waves attract surfers from all across the state to the island's "Washout" break. To avoid the tourists, both ends of Folly are natural parks with a plethora of endangered seabirds, loggerhead turtles, and bottlenose dolphins. The 19th-century candy cane Morris Island Lighthouse rises immediately from the surf at the island's east end if you have the strength to hoof it a half mile beyond where the road stops. One of Charleston's most famous sights may be seen on its namesake island.
Places to eat/drink: Bert's Market is an island institution open 24 hours a day ("we may doze, but we never close"), and its Wooden Spoon Deli makes a fantastic panini. By late afternoon, make your way to Lowlife Bar, where friendly residents delve into tall cocktails and hearty coastal pleasures.
Summer in Maine is a heartbreakingly short season, but it's worth it for three months of sheer happiness. And Ogunquit, located just off Route 1 on the southern edge of Vacationland, is the state's summer hotspot, with a population that jumps from 1,200 to more than 80,000 from May to September. The three-mile sandy beach is frequently named among the greatest in the country, owing to mild tides from the Ogunquit River that empty immediately behind the sand dunes. With a robust LGBTQ+ population, a walkable main strip with outstanding eateries and creative boutiques, and its own Museum of American Art, it's easy to understand why "a beautiful place by the sea" is still an appropriate translation from the local Abenaki language for Ogunquit.
Places to eat/drink: The Crooked Pine, nestled in a 150-year-old Victorian mansion (don't miss the rooftop lounge), serves French-ified Maine cooking, followed by knock-you-out cocktails at outdoor Brix + Brine or a sing-along session at piano bar The Front Porch.
Santa Barbara, California
This opulent SoCal paradise' palm-lined shoreline boasts a Mediterranean flare with a spectacular background of gorgeous mountains and crystal blue ocean. Don't miss the Urban Wine Trail in the Funk Zone, a ten-block stretch of color where renovated warehouses and art galleries coexist with 20 wine tasting establishments. Santa Barbara has some of the greatest vegetables on the West Coast, in addition to outstanding Mexican food (visit Lilly's Taqueria). Visit the Santa Barbara Public Market, a foodie's dream with local cuisine sellers where you can sample everything under one roof. Visitors to Southern California can board the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner for a picturesque trip that lets them down a stone's throw from the ocean.
Places to eat/drink: Brophy Brothers' New England clam chowder. It's creamy and cozy, and it's loaded with clams. While it does not come in a bread bowl, it does have a panoramic view of the port.
Tybee Island, Georgia
Tybee, located 30 minutes from historic downtown Savannah at Georgia's easternmost point, is a barrier island with broad, sandy beaches and a laid-back feel with just the perfect amount of strange. There are lots of hotels, but the pastel-colored rental homes with white Bahama shutters and white picket fences will take your breath away. The history of this little, 21-square-mile island is what actually distinguishes it. Grab a beer at a dive bar (Huc-A- Poo's, Tybee Time, or the Sand Bar) and strike up a conversation with a local, who will most likely be happy to tell you everything about the town or nearby Fort Pulaski, a Civil War-era national monument you can explore on foot or bike.
Places to eat/drink: The Crab Shack serves a nice, old-fashioned seafood dish on a deck with a water view. Looking for something a bit more refined? Tybee's only beachside bar/restaurant, The Deck, features juicy shrimp tacos and delicious ceviche.
Rincón, Puerto Rico
Rincón has a strong Caribbean reputation, yet its "hang ten" vibes attract surfers from all over the world. Waveriders, tourists, and longstanding natives are all lured to this tropical island for some of the greatest surf and sunsets in the hemisphere. Driving down the famed roads 413 and 4413, it's easy to understand why Rincón is catching up to lively San Juan in popularity: Surfboard-carrying males give a distinct Boho vibe to the island; lines of food trucks perpetuate some of Puerto Rico's greatest culinary traditions; and there are plenty of activities for energetic vacationers, like world-class scuba diving, horseback riding, and whale-spotting.
Places to eat/drink: There are many of places in Rincón where you can unwind with a drink, but the oceanfront Tamboo Tavern's mojitos are the ultimate remedy for the world's woes.
There's a long-established LGBTQ culture in Rehoboth, and you'll see lots of buff males parading around the beach in ridiculously little speedos. However, with its historic boardwalk, amusement park, and free summer concerts, this upmarket getaway on the Atlantic is enjoyable for all ages. While most of the youngsters and alcoholic beach parties congregate in Dewey Beach, three miles away, Rehoboth has a superior bar and restaurant scene. Dogfish Head founder Sam Calagione can frequently be spotted skating about town, and his flagship brewpub and restaurant, Chesapeake & Maine, is one of the first indicators you've reached the beach.
Places to eat/drink: Local favorites include The Cultured Pearl for rooftop sushi and Henlopen City Oyster House for raw bar fare. Meanwhile, Blue Moon continues late into the night, with drag queen competitions and shirtless bartenders offering shots of Fireball.
Haleiwa, Oahu, Hawaii
This North Shore surf town is not touristic, yet it is the gateway to some of Oahu's most beautiful beaches, such as surfer paradise Sunset Beach and sea turtle refuge Laniakea. Parking is expensive, so walk along Haleiwa's picturesque main street. The avenue is dotted with colorful historic buildings that pay homage to the North Shore's sugar industry background, and the majority of the boutiques, art galleries, and cafes are owned by locals. The waterfront Surf N Sea sells stylish Haleiwa-emblazoned gear, while Aloha General Store is brimming with island-themed tchotchkes (even if you don't want tchotchkes, stop in for the famous shaved ice/ice cream bowls).
Places to eat/drink: Every day, food trucks, including several of the North Shore's famed shrimp trucks, park themselves around town. But don't overlook some of the finest mobile poking in the world.
Anna Maria Island, Florida
Anna Maria, the northernmost of three little beach towns on a seven-mile-long island, is packed with so much old-Florida charm—from sun-faded buildings and ice cream stores to seaside seafood shacks—that it's virtually a time warp to the 1950s. Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy its paddle boarding and kayaking tours, as well as snorkeling expeditions to neighboring Passage and Egmont Keys, where they may view stingrays, manatees, sharks, and dolphins. But, at the end of the day, this is a genuine tranquil town (speed limits seldom exceed 35mph), so plan on delightfully relaxing on its lovely, calm white sand beaches from sunrise to stunning sunset.
Places to eat/drink: Grouper sandwiches from the very seas you'll be staring at from Rod & Reel Pier; anything on the menu (but the mullet reuben is a must) from Sandbar since you can practically sink your toes in the sand as you bite into your meal.
Unleash your inner spirit and visit one of the nude beaches in Florida this summer.
Ocean City, Maryland
This Mid-Atlantic seaside town is perpetually stuck in the 1980s, which is why people adore it. The great majority of motels, hotels, and rental homes in town were built in the 1970s and 1980s, and nothing appears to have changed, from the outdoor cover band at Seacrets to the French fries at Thrasher's. Ping Pong Summer, a cult film, captures the '80s-induced nostalgia of a kid's summer spent on the OC beachfront. (Perhaps you can relate if you've been to OC during Senior Week.)
Places to eat/drink: Do what the locals do and season your bucket of Thrasher's french fries with Maryland's Old Bay seasoning and vinegar. The Orange Crush, a fresh-squeezed orange-vodka drink combined with Sprite or 7UP, was invented in Ocean City. The cocktail may be found at the Harborside Bar and Grill, where it was originated, although Marylanders argue about who serves the greatest one. It's best to go bar hopping and decide for yourself.
Cannon Beach, Oregon
Cannon Beach, which is both lively and quiet, is home to one of Oregon's most iconic landmarks: Haystack Rock, which rises from the Pacific like the centerpiece of a titan's rock garden. That Goonies-famous monument may be the postcard star, but little Cannon is brimming with delights, with its dog-friendly beaches, sprinkling of eateries, richness of breweries, and overflow of galleries. This is a very accessible piece of West Coast joys, with cabin rentals and tiny motels begging for lengthy visits along the shore. After only five minutes, you'll feel like a native.
Places to eat/drink: Cannon Beach Hardware—yes, it's a hardware store, but also a taproom with amazing burgers and seafood—has a taste of the coast's top brewers all in one spot, then go over to Ecola Seafood for some fried fish fresh off the dory.
Saugatuck is the western Michigan equivalent of Provincetown on Cape Cod. It is a tourist beach town, especially in the summer, but like many of Michigan's greatest beach communities, its charm is preserved despite the inflow of visitors. Saugatuck, along with its sister city across the river, Douglas, has earned a reputation as Michigan's leading gaycation destination. Because of its links to the Ox Bow School of Art, the Saugatuck Center for the Arts, art galleries like the Armstrong De-Graaf International Fine Art Gallery, and the Saugatuck Antique Pavilion, it's also a destination for the arts and antiques.
Places to eat/drink: Begin your day at Uncommon Coffee Roasters, a fashionable coffee shop that roasts its own responsibly sourced beans. Visit the Saugatuck Brewing Company's bar for homemade pub fare and a blueberry lemon shandy. Don't miss out on The Southerner's Southern hospitality for dinner—sorry, "supper"—from James Beard Award nominee chef Matthew Millar. Finish the evening with a nightcap at the New Holland Spirits Tasting Room.
Nags Head, North Carolina
Nags Head has been the de facto moniker for the Outer Banks' power trifecta of beach towns: Nags Head, Kill Devil Hills, and Kitty Hawk. Nags Head proper, a sanctuary for East Coast surfers, runs over 11 miles of beach and sound, including the largest sand dune on the East Coast at Jockey's Ridge State Park. Jennette's Pier is one of the greatest places to people-watch in this relaxed stretch of the Atlantic, where excellent seafood from old-school family eateries is unrivaled. Aviation enthusiasts should visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial at Kill Devil Hills, then lope up the 90-foot slope where the Wright Brothers tested their gliders. In Kitty Hawk, the canals that crisscross the hamlet provide excellent kayaking opportunities.
Places to eat/drink: Have them make you a massive biscuit sandwich at Biscuits N' Porn (yes, you read it correctly) or suck down a dozen or so raw oysters at I Got Your Crabs (yeah, again), where they open the bivalves right in front of you.
Asbury Park, New Jersey
In the not-too-distant past, Asbury Park was best known as an out-of-date Bruce Springsteen reference—a once-great tourist attraction that had become as stale as months-old salty taffy. The tide has turned. The classic boardwalk vibes of AP have given way to a "Brooklyn on the beach" ambiance, which continues into the city's famed music culture. Do you want to drink something? The Asbury Festhalle and Biergarten, along with the always-lively Johnny Mac's and the charmingly divey Bond Street Bar, tops the list of the town's 50-plus establishments for al fresco drinking. Do you want to play some old pinball? There are around 600 machines at the Silverball Museum Arcade. A vibrant arts scene, a long-standing LGBTQ community, and a stunning beach make Asbury Park worth revisiting.
Places to eat/drink: Moonstruck serves a Mediterranean meal in a typical Jersey seaside Victorian mansion providing a great middle ground between fine and beachy-casual. Talula's Pizzeria in Asbury Park is one of the most low-key yet top-notch pizzerias in the country, while Pop's Garage is a cheap-as-hell beachfront staple serving tacos and street corn.
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