These hamlets embody the spoils of summer by the sea, from surfer haunts to "Old Florida" isles.
1 of 5Photo: Imke Lass
The All-American Hamlet
Tybee Island, GA Pop. 2,990
If you want to see how Tybee rolls, rent a pastel beach cruiser from Fat Tire Bike Rentals. It comes with a cupholder on the handlebars for your (legal) frosty beer, which likely won't spill, so flat is the land and scarce are the cars. You'll need just one gear to cruise at the pace of this classic, family-friendly island 30 minutes from Savannah.
It's been said that Folly is Charleston's Venice Beach—more board shorts and flip-flops than khakis and penny loafers. Take Bert's Market. Bert lost the keys years ago, but the 24/7, 365 grocery store lives by its motto, "We may doze, but we never close."
When this architectural dreamscape emerged on Highway 30A, North Florida's buffet of great beach towns gained a distinctly different model of New Urbanism. Its Mediterranean-white buildings echo powdered-sugar sand, offset by bright turquoise waters. Beaches don't get prettier than this.
This bustling Eastern Shore hub nearly dried up in the 1950s when a ferry terminal headed south to Kiptopeke. But fresh development has revived this charming town with a mix of marinas and golf courses, Victorian homes and oyster shacks.
On Florida's natural and pristine "Big Bend," life in Cedar Key shuffles along quietly, with a quirky bent. The 1-square-mile historic downtown district sits on the smallest of 40-odd scrappy, little islands shoved around by hurricanes for centuries, which might explain the ramshackle charm of their only town.