Real Estate

The Best Tiny Beach Towns from East to West

Life in a large beach town comes with big crowds, long lines, and lots of noise. There are, however, plenty of small seaside spots from coast to coast that offer stunning ocean vistas and fun attractions without the annoyances you find at more populated destinations. Click through for our picks for the best tiny beach towns in the United States.

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Bandon, Oregon

Named after Bandon, Ireland, this charming 3,524-person town on Oregon’s coast is home to the 40-foot Coquille River Lighthouse, majestic rock formations, and a cool, cloudy climate that makes it a must-visit destination for winter storm watchers. If you’re a foodie, head to Bandon during the fall for the Annual Cranberry Festival honoring the town’s cranberry harvest, which accounts for 95 percent of the state’s total cranberry production.

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Chincoteague, Virginia

If you’re an equine enthusiast, consider paying a visit to this tiny island town best known for a breed of wild pony called the Chincoteague pony. Although the ponies actually live on Assateague Island, just east of Chincoteague, saltwater cowboys drive the ponies across the channel between the two islands at slack tide for the annual Pony Penning held on the town’s carnival grounds every July.

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Ogunquit, Maine

The 892 residents of this tranquil town on Maine’s southern tip can spend their days cruising along Perkins Cove or enjoying the many scenic splendors that you’d expect from a town whose name means “beautiful place by the sea” in the language of the indigenous Abenaki tribe.

Related: The Best Tiny Towns in Every State

Kailua, Hawaii

Former President Barack Obama designated this island town of 38,635 his winter White House, and it’s not hard to see why. Attractions like surf-friendly Kailua Beach, the Kawai Nui Marsh, and Maunawili Falls offer endless amusement for visitors.

Related: 10 Cheap Ways to Bring the Beach to the Backyard

Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina

History buffs will enjoy the sights at this beach town of 2,560, including the Bradley-Latimer Summer House, the James D. and Frances Sprunt Cottage, and the Cape Fear Civil War Shipwreck Discontiguous District, which comprises underwater shipwrecks dating back to the Civil War. Beach lovers, on the other hand, can head for pedestrian-friendly Johnnie Mercer’s Pier and the four-mile-long beach.

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Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

While Rehoboth Beach has a permanent population of just 1,488, come summer 25,000 tourists descend on the resort town, drawn by its temperate weather and action-packed boardwalk. Plus, the lack of state sales tax leaves tourists with more money in their pockets to shop or dine on bustling Rehoboth Avenue.

Related: 15 Tiny Beach Bungalows for Your Next Vacation

Saint Michaels, Maryland

Although Saint Michaels has been known for much of its nearly 250-year history for its shipbuilding and oyster production, these days the town of 1,038 is a travel destination. Thanks to its many unique shops and seafood restaurants, the 1.25-square-mile town snagged a spot on Coastal Living magazine’s 2007 list of “Top Ten Romantic Escapes in America.”

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Chatham, Massachusetts

Thomas Jefferson himself helped establish the famed Chatham Lighthouse that still stands in this picture-perfect beach town of 6,125. Though the town’s man-made marvels are impressive, it’s the natural beauty of its seaside and riverbanks that makes it truly spectacular.

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Spring Lake, New Jersey

Spring Lake, a stunning seaside town of 2,963, boasts three features that earn it a spot on this list: a spacious boardwalk, pristine sand dunes, and many picturesque waterfront properties. These qualities aside, its livability score helped the town land on New Jersey Monthly’s list of “Best Places to Live” in the state.

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Gulf Shores, Alabama

A far-stretching beachfront and tranquil blue-green waters provide the perfect backdrop for swimming, fishing, or dolphin-watching in this 11,689-person resort town. Ordinarily, beach towns with such spectacular vistas come at a high premium, but Alabama’s ultra-low property tax rate makes Gulf Shores affordable for new homeowners and retirees alike.

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Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

A haven for the outdoorsy, the artsy, and the architecturally obsessed, this 3,891-person town has garnered a reputation for white-sand beaches, art exhibitions and lectures, and storybook cottages, many of which were built by artists. And the town’s ample amenities aren’t intended just for people, but also for their pooches: Many establishments welcome dogs.

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Noank, Connecticut

To get a glimpse of the past, head to this 1,796-person village that still boasts buildings dating back to the mid-19th century. Visitors can spend a summer’s day in a boat along the Noank Harbor, travel past the picturesque 52-foot Morgan Point Light, and then, back on dry land, cap off the day with a scoop of ice cream at Carson’s Store.

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Tybee Island, Georgia

The phrase “From Rabun Gap to Tybee Light” refers to Georgia’s impressive geographic diversity, yet Tybee Island itself harbors quite an array of natural splendors, from the beaches on its eastern shore to the salt marsh on its western shore, and the lush forest in between.

Related: 15 Places Every American Should Visit at Least Once

Amelia Island, Florida

Named after Princess Amelia, a daughter of George II, this chain of barrier islands with a population of 32,199 has over the centuries seen eight different flags flown above its 13-mile-long landmass. A nod to its past, the town hosts an annual Isle of Eight Flags Shrimp Festival, which features an ice cream eating contest, fireworks, and even a shrimp boat parade.

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Isle of Palms, South Carolina

Bump, set, spike, repeat. That’s how you’ll spend summers in this 4.395-person town, a renowned beach volleyball destination that hosts tournaments year-round at the Windjammer Club. For those who would rather lounge on the sand than dive into it, there’s Cooper River Marina, colorful condos, and many eclectic riverfront restaurants.

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