Beach vacations are popular for a few reasons; warm weather, refreshing waters, and relaxing in the sand are all things that nearly everyone enjoys. If you're looking to book an affordable, last-minute beach vacation, however, it won't do you much good to look at the top beaches where everyone else is headed. Luckily, the United States has no lack of fantastic beach towns.
While they may not be home to the best beach in America, many coastal towns are just as worthy of your attention. A lesser-known beach town means untouched natural beauty, less crowded boardwalks, and the chance to save money on hotels and excursions. If you're looking for fun under the sun in a place that's a bit farther off the beaten path, check out some of the most underrated beach towns in America.
Ogunquit means "beautiful place by the sea" in the Abenaki language, a fitting name for one of the best coastal towns in America. With more than 3 miles of beautiful white sand, Ogunquit is a great destination for every kind of beachgoer, whether you're looking to go surfing, swimming or paddling or simply float in the water and bathe in the sun. Enjoy delicious seafood and ice cream at the local restaurants and dessert spots, join a bonfire on the beach, or peruse the antique stores and shops filled with local arts and crafts.
Cannon Beach, Oregon
Only about 1,700 people live in Cannon Beach, but more than 750,000 come to visit its spectacular beach every year. The 235-foot-tall Haystack Rock features in many photos of its beautiful shore, and the low tide tends to reveal starfish and other marine life near the base of the rock. Charming small shops line the streets of downtown Cannon Beach, and the town is also located near Ecola State Park, a popular spot for hikers and campers in the area looking for fantastic natural landscapes.
Perdido Key, Florida
Located on a barrier island between Pensacola, Florida, and Orange Beach, Alabama, Perdido Key has the westernmost beach in Florida and is noted for its relatively untouched natural beauty. Its white sandy beaches and unspoiled parks make Perdido Key a great destination for outdoor enthusiasts, with miles of preserves visitors can use for hiking, bird watching and kayaking.
Asbury Park, New Jersey
Asbury Park rose to fame in the 1970s thanks to its music scene and New Jersey musicians such as Bon Jovi and Asbury Park native Bruce Springsteen. The seaside town has a lot more to offer than just its live music scene, however. Perfect for an affordable summer getaway, the Jersey Shore city has a boardwalk featuring bright murals, delicious food stands and restaurants, and a beach perfect for swimming, sunbathing and surfing.
The island of Lanai has only one settlement, Lanai City, and multiple gorgeous Hawaiian spots that haven't been overrun by tourists yet. Visit Hulopoe Bay, where the pristine white sand looks postcard-ready against the clear blue ocean and spinner dolphins have been known to visit swimmers along the shore. Even more secluded is Shipwreck Beach, located on the northern shore of the island and named after an oil tanker that crashed on the beach in the 1940s.
Bethany Beach, Delaware
Chief Little Owl, a 24-foot totem pole, welcomes visitors into the town of Bethany Beach, where just under 1,200 people live year-round but more than 15,000 come for a trip in the summer. The coastal Delaware town is known for its charm and peaceful atmosphere as well as its well-kept boardwalk. Swimming and golfing are both popular in Bethany Beach, which is also home to many quaint cafés and stores, as well as a museum dedicated to the history of the town dating back to its birth as a religious retreat.
Anna Maria Island, Florida
Best seen from the water, Anna Maria Island is a barrier island with plenty of opportunities to enjoy water activities such as canoeing, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, swimming and more. One of the less-developed beach towns in Florida, Anna Maria Island is a great place to take an eco tour or go dolphin watching.
Cape Cod is a popular weekend getaway, and located at its southeastern tip is the town of Chatham, where you'll find beautiful beaches, calm harbors and wonderful village shops. The town's Main Street is lined with many family-owned and -operated restaurants, shops and small businesses, and concerts are held in its gazebo during the summer.
Block Island, Rhode Island
The must-see small town of Block Island is known for its beaches and opportunities for biking, fishing, hiking and sailing. Located off the coast of Rhode Island, it's only accessible by boat or small plane, and nearly half of the island is dedicated conservation land which means this getaway is sure to stay picturesque.
Siesta Key, Florida
Despite having one of the best beaches in the world, Siesta Key is relatively unknown compared to other world-famous Florida destinations such as Miami, Orlando or Key West. A barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico, it has three beaches stretching across 8 miles: Crescent Beach, Turtle Beach and Siesta Beach, the latter being notable for its 99 percent pure quartz sand.
Nags Head, North Carolina
Part of North Carolina's Outer Banks, Nags Head is an underrated American destination known for its beaches and sand dunes, particularly Jockey's Ridge, the largest sand dune on the East Coast and surrounded by the state's most visited park. Nags Head has multiple piers popular for fishing, as well as mini-golf and amusement centers with family-friendly attractions such as bumper cars and go-karts.
Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey
Not to be confused with the neighboring town of Point Pleasant, the Jersey Shore destination of Point Pleasant Beach is a popular summer spot for locals. Jenkinson's Boardwalk will take you back in time with food, games, arcades, mini-golf and an amusement park. Come during the warmer months and you'll get to see fireworks as well as attend Big Joe's Jersey Talent Show, held weekly and open for entry to both residents and visitors. The town also hosts the Festival of the Sea, a seafood festival held at the end of every summer.
Avila Beach, California
Located on California's Central Coast, Avila Beach is warmer than the other beaches of the region because it faces south and is shielded from northwesterly winds thanks to the elevation of nearby Point San Luis. Much of the town was bulldozed in the late 1990s in an effort to clean up decades of oil leaks, and so the current waterfront is relatively new and most of Avila Beach is undeveloped. The beach is less than half a mile long, and the town has multiple hot springs which are used by the area's resort spas. Check out the Avila Pier, where humpback whales, dolphins, sea lions, otters and seals are known to feed and enjoy the sun.
Jekyll Island, Georgia
Step back in time with an island vacation off the coast of Georgia where you can enjoy a subtropical climate without having to take your passport along. Part of the Sea Islands located along the coast of the southeastern U.S., Jekyll Island has 20 miles of bike paths that you can take to in order to explore the island's forests, historic sites and campgrounds. Enjoy more than 60 holes of golf, as well as a fishing pier and 10 miles of beautiful white sand beaches.
One of the most beautiful, lesser-known places in California, Cayucos is a resort town about 30 miles from Avila Beach. A quiet place with no streetlights, Cayucos is perfect for cycling and kayaking. You'll find great local food and wine here, as well as beaches unmarred by crowds.
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