The Prettiest Beach Town in Every State
From East Coast to West, the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Lakes, here are the most picturesque spots in every single beachy state.
This gem on Mobile Bay along the shimmering Gulf of Mexico has a sweet little downtown complete with waterfront park, a pair of lovely beaches, and fishing pier. An added (and somewhat secret) charm: Point Clear just to the south, with a stunning bayside walking path that begins from the equally picturesque and gracious Grand Hotel Golf Resort and Spa.
Widely known as the Halibut Fishing Capital of the World, this colorful little city perched on Kachemak Bay at the southern tip of the Kenai Peninsula has one of the most spectacular backdrops in the 50 states: the glacier-graced Kenai mountains. The Homer Spit, a 4 ½-mile curl of granite and sand, is lined with restaurants, hotels, campgrounds, and the lively Homer Boat Harbor.
It’s stiff competition to rise to the #1 prettiest beach town in this state lined with beauty from La Jolla to Crescent City, but this idyllic village that has drawn artists, writers, and romantics for generations can’t be topped for its mix of pale-sand beaches, windswept vistas, and unforgettable architecture.
Stonington Borough, Connecticut
Fulfill that New England sea captain fantasy in this village lined with beautifully restored 18th- and 19th-century buildings practically surrounded by water on its narrow peninsula that pokes into Fisher’s Island Sound and Little Narragansett Bay.
Bethany Beach, Delaware
With its nostalgic, pedestrian-only boardwalk and mile-long strand right on the Atlantic that’s cleaned mechanically three times a week, this family-friendly town is a real postcard of Delaware shoreline delight.
St. Augustine, Florida
This storied city on Florida’s Atlantic coastline doesn’t take a bad photo—from the ramparts of its 17th-century Castillo de San Marcos to the old-world streetscapes of the historic district, to its oak-canopied roads. And then there are the beaches—seven white-sand beauties stretching from Vilano Beach in the north to Crescent Beach in the south.
Tybee Island, Georgia
Named one of the Best Places To Live on the Coast in 2019, this barrier island beach town is a stone’s throw from the myriad refinements of Savannah, offering the perfect complement: colorful and tiny cottages, seafood shacks, and miles of wide Atlantic-facing beaches.
To begin, we’re talking Hawaii—every single town in this remarkable archipelago state is a contender for the most beautiful place you’ve ever seen. Among those idylls, this slender strand along Oahu’s windward shore is home to not one but two public beaches that take the breath out of breathtaking. Surrounded by steep emerald slopes and carved quietly by rivers that flow into Kailua Bay, quiet Kailua is endowed with extraordinary beauty, a serene lifestyle, small-scale neighborhoods of single-family homes, and vistas without peer.
Okay, okay, it’s not a town. It’s one of the largest and most vibrant metropolises in the nation, but believe: Chicago has a bona fide beach scene and it’s the prettiest and most amazing along Illinois’ 63-mile coastline along spectacular Lake Michigan. It’s also one of the most architecturally rich cities in the world, so there’s that. Hit the beach, gawk at the skyline, and give credit where credit is due.
Beverly Shores, Indiana
Grand Isle, Louisiana
Perched near the toe of Louisiana’s boot, this barrier island has survived more than its share of challenges from both Mother Nature (hurricanes) and Modern Man (oil spills). But survived it has, and beautifully so. Renowned for its fishing as well as its bird habitat, Grand Isle is a little-known gem on the Gulf of Mexico.
Maine rightly calls itself Vacationland, and you’d be hard pressed to choose among the colorful hamlets that line its sandy and rocky shorelines. But oh my, Kennebunkport: small shops, elegant ship captains’ homes, fishing ports, gorgeous hotels, dreamy campgrounds, and sandy beaches. Pure Maine beauty, and the fact that it’s home to one of the most iconic seafood dives in the America puts this magical little town at the top of the heap.
St. Michaels, Maryland
North of Boston, this tiny fishing village on the tip of Cape Ann has long lured artists and equally wide-eyed visitors to its narrow streets, bustling harbor, and windswept beaches. Need more visual incentives? Rockport’s iconic red fishing shack—dubbed Motif No. 1—is known as the most painted object in the United States.
With its tidy streets, leafy trees, and classic summer cottages, this all-American stunner is bordered by the aquamarine shimmer of Lake Michigan. At the core of this surprisingly uncrowded little enclave is a collection of weathered, century-old fishing shanties, appropriately called Fishtown, where you can hire a boat and head out for the day or stick closer to shore and stroll the quaintly chic downtown.
Home of the world’s longest natural sandbar (Park Point), this far-north gem has epic views of Lake Superior as well as colorful, lively streetscapes in its downtown; hiking trails; and even hidden waterfalls.
Ocean Springs, Mississippi
Lined with live oaks and old-fashioned, busy storefronts, this artsy town on the Gulf of Mexico has no commercial development marring its shoreline. Here, the streets lead to a pale-sand public beach with a fishing pier, a charming park, and glistening views out to the delicate and pristine Gulf Islands.
New Castle, New Hampshire
This tiny town at the mouth of the Piscataqua River is made up entirely of islands, adding a dreamy quality hard to find along the New England shore. And the Victorian luster of the Wentworth by the Sea hotel makes the setting all the lovelier.
Cape May, New Jersey
At the southernmost reach of New Jersey’s peninsula of the same name, Cape May remains a world apart. Is it the nearly 600 preserved Victorian buildings in splendid candy colors? The horse-drawn carriages and trolleys plying the streets? The brightly striped beach cabanas along its pale-sand beaches? Answer: all of the above, and more.
Bellport, New York
Long Island is a veritable epicenter of broad beaches and extraordinary homes, and yet this quiet little seaport on the island’s south shore has a special magic. With a historic village center, a gazebo-crowned marina, and white picket fences, Bellport delivers a Norman Rockwell promise of small-town life—plus a spectacular Fire Island-based beach just across Bellport Bay (yes, it belongs to the town!).
Southport, North Carolina
There are postcards, and then there’s Southport, which has them beat. Here in this tiny harbor town at the outlet of the Cape Fear River you’ll find white cottages with red roofs, stately sea captains’ homes, two lighthouses, and water in seemingly every direction.
Tucked along Lake Erie’s southern shore and bordering the Vermilion River, this “Village of Lake Captains” earns the moniker with a remarkable collection of restored captains’ houses in its Harbour Town Historic District (along with a beach and several parks). Classic lake cottages along the waterfront add more charms to this underrated Great Lakes gem.
Cannon Beach, Oregon
Few vistas are as distinct and captivating as that of the Pacific Ocean in this famed town on Oregon’s northern coast. The broad, latte-colored beach glistens as the tide recedes, punctuated spectacularly by hunched, stolid Haystack Rock. A colorful village of cottages and gardens plays the ideal consort to the drama, and the result is perfect Pacific Northwest balance.
This lively, historic city on the south shore of the Great Lake with which it shares a name is also home to Presque Isle State Park, a sandy peninsula that arcs into the freshwater expanse and holds Pennsylvania’s only “seashore” of more than a dozen beaches, leafy glades, lighthouses, and overall sense of delightful escape.
Newport, Rhode Island
At the southern tip of Aquidneck Island in Narragansett Bay and fronting the Atlantic, this famed Colonial port and playground of the Gilded Age is glorious at every turn, from its treasure trove of mansions to deep harbors bristling with schooners, racing yachts, and pleasure craft to broad, sandy beaches and intimate coves.
Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina
At the mouth of famed Charleston Harbor, this tiny and largely residential community sits along 3.3 miles of Atlantic shoreline. With stunning beach houses in gracious lines along protected beaches, Sullivan’s is a quiet, Lowcountry jewel.
Strung along a narrow barrier island on the Gulf of Mexico, Galveston is a beautiful blend of graceful Victorian and early 20th-century mansions, bungalows, and cottages, along with a stunning historic downtown lined with tall palm trees and shady live oaks.
Cape Charles, Virginia
With stately Victorians lining its streets and white-sand beaches fronting the Chesapeake Bay, this charming former railroad hub at the southern tip of the Delmarva Peninsula is an ideal blend of beach and small-town pleasures. No wonder it was chosen one of America’s Happiest Seaside Towns.
Friday Harbor, Washington
Amid the striking beauty of the San Juan Islands, this historic little seaport on San Juan Island itself buzzes sweetly with a lively little downtown and waterfront with rich farmland surrounding it all. And if that weren’t enough, beyond lie the prospect of orcas and eagles against the backdrop of the Olympic Mountains.
Tucked onto the western side of the Door Peninsula (known as the Cape Cod of the Midwest), the picturesque maritime village on Lake Michigan’s Green Bay (and famous for its summertime fish boils) has a sweet beach, harborside park, and Eagle Harbor Shoreline, which may be the loveliest spot in the Great Lakes to watch the sun set.