The Prettiest Beach Town in Every Beachy State

Boats docked in marina in Homer, Alaska.
Photo: Edwin Remsberg / Getty Images

Some of the most picturesque beaches are lesser-known hidden spots found throughout the country. Coastlines are waiting for exploration, from Atlantic beaches on the East Coast to the rocky cliffs on the West. Other gems include the Gulf of Mexico's shoreline and the hideouts on the Great Lakes. In every beachy state, you can find a place locals call "a private slice of paradise." When planning your next getaway, or looking for a day trip with your family, consider these small towns and big cities, home to some of the prettiest beaches you can visit without flying to the Caribbean.

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Fairhope, Alabama

Fairhope, Alabama
Getty Images

This gem on Mobile Bay along the shimmering Gulf of Mexico has a charming little downtown complete with a waterfront park, a pair of lovely beaches, and a fishing pier. An added (and somewhat secret) charm: Point Clear is located just to the south, with a stunning bayside walking path that begins from the equally picturesque and gracious Grand Hotel Golf Resort and Spa.

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Homer, Alaska

Boats docked in marina in Homer, Alaska.
Edwin Remsberg / Getty Images

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 4½ mile curl of granite and sand, is lined with restaurants, hotels, campgrounds, and the lively Homer Boat Harbor.

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Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

Carmel Beach, California

It's stiff competition to rise to the number one prettiest beach town in this state, lined with beauties from La Jolla to Crescent City. Still, this idyllic village has drawn artists, writers, and romantics for generations. The mix of pale-sand beaches, windswept vistas, and unforgettable architecture is an enchanting blend.

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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.
Sandra Alexander

Fulfill that New England sea captain fantasy in this village lined with beautifully restored 18th- and 19th-century buildings. Known as "Connecticut's Oldest Village," the slow pace allows for leisurely walks down Water Street, filled with boutiques, restaurants, and art galleries. This town, practically surrounded by water on its narrow peninsula, pokes into Fisher's Island Sound and Little Narragansett Bay.

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Bethany Beach, Delaware


Bethany Beach is a family-friendly town with its nostalgic, pedestrian-only boardwalk and mile-long strand right on the Atlantic. The Delaware shoreline delights with mechanical cleaning three times a week to maintain the real postcard image of the Atlantic Shoreline. Nearby coastal towns offer shopping, hiking, and museums sharing the area's history, making this a family-friendly place to visit.

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St. Augustine, Florida

St. Augustine, Florida
SeanPavonePhoto / Getty Images

From the ramparts of its 17th-century Castillo de San Marcos to the old-world streetscapes of the historic district and its oak-canopied roads, this storied city on Florida's Atlantic coastline is nearly picture-perfect. This scenic town includes seven white-sand beautiful beaches, stretching from Vilano Beach in the north to Crescent Beach in the south. Ghost tours and horse-drawn carriage rides transport you into the past, adding old-world charm to this beachy town.

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Tybee Island, Georgia

Tybee Island, Georgia
Courtesy of Georgia Department of Economic Development

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 numerous refinements of Savannah. Tybee Island offers the perfect complement of colorful and tiny cottages, seafood shacks, and miles of wide Atlantic-facing beaches. Sneak in a visit on the North Beach Birding Trail near Tybee's famous lighthouse.

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Kailua, Hawaii

Kailua Beach Park on Windward Coast.

First, we're talking Hawaii—every 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 . The quiet Kailua welcomes visitors searching for extraordinary beauty, a serene lifestyle, small-scale neighborhoods of single-family homes, and uninterrupted vistas.

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Chicago, Illinois

High Angle View Of City At Seaside

Okay, okay, it's not a town. It's one of the largest and most vibrant metropolises in the nation. 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.

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Beverly Shores, Indiana

Beached Boats

The pale-sand beaches and historic home brought by barge from the Chicago World's Fair in 1933 are only some of the stunning features of this Lake Michigan town. The impressive Indiana Dunes National Park surrounds this little-known enclave. Home to many plants and animal species, Beverly Shores invites nature enthusiasts to this beach town to explore its remarkable region.

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Grand Isle, Louisiana

Grand Isle, Louisiana Beauty Images during sunset
Cavan Images / Getty Images

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 Grand Isle has survived. Renowned for its fishing and bird habitat, this beautiful town is a little-known gem on the Gulf of Mexico.

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Kennebunkport, Maine

Kennebunkport, Maine
Courtesy of HomeAway

Maine rightly calls itself Vacationland, and you'd be hard-pressed to choose among the colorful hamlets that line its sandy and rocky shorelines. Kennebunkport is home to small shops, elegant ship captains' homes, fishing ports, gorgeous hotels, dreamy campgrounds, and sandy beaches. Pure Maine beauty and its home to one of the most iconic seafood dives in America put this magical little town at the top of the heap.

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St. Michaels, Maryland

Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum

This gorgeous Eastern Shore enclave has everything in spades—a spectacular waterfront resort , a stunning maritime museum , a humming little downtown , and charming historic homes. It seems Chesapeake Bay's broad and captivating vistas are everywhere within sight.

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Rockport, Massachusetts

Rockport Harbor, Massachusetts USA

North of Boston, this tiny fishing village on the tip of Cape Ann has long lured artists and 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.

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Leland, Michigan

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
Alexeys / Getty Images

The aquamarine shimmer of Lake Michigan is an all-American beauty, bordered by tidy streets, leafy trees, and classic summer cottages. At the core of this surprisingly uncrowded little enclave is a collection of weathered, century-old fishing shanties, appropriately called Fishtown . You can hire a boat and head out for the day or stick closer to shore and stroll the quaint downtown.

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Duluth, Minnesota

Pride of Baltimore II enters Duluth harbor during ships festival

Home of the world's longest natural sandbar ( Park Point ), this far-north gem has epic views of Lake Superior and colorful, lively streetscapes in its downtown area. Outdoor adventurers can explore the surrounding wooded hiking trails and trout streams. There are even areas to discover hidden waterfalls.

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Ocean Springs, Mississippi

Ocean Springs, MS
SilverSnapper / Getty Images

Lined with live oaks and old-fashioned, busy storefronts, this artsy town on the Gulf of Mexico has no commercial development marring its shoreline. The streets lead to a pale-sand public beach with a fishing pier, a charming park, and glistening views of the delicate and pristine Gulf Islands. It is equally known for its arts and festivals, and downtown is home to many independent shops and galleries.

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New Castle, New Hampshire

The Best Hotel in Every State
Courtesy of Wentworth by the Sea

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. The Victorian luster of the Wentworth by the Sea hotel, one of New Hampshire's oldest settlements, adds a lovely, historic charm. Stroll through the 32 acres of seaside green and beach spaces called The Great Island Common park, which the town owns and operates.

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Cape May, New Jersey

The Cove, New Jersey
Rabbitti / Getty Images

At the southernmost tip of New Jersey's peninsula of the same name, Cape May remains a world apart. It is nearly 600 Victorian buildings preserved in splendid candy colors. The horse-drawn carriages and trolleys plying the streets add whimsy to the town as the brightly striped beach cabanas along its pale-sand beaches make a destination for relaxing.

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Bellport, New York

Happiest Seaside Towns, July/August 2018

Long Island is the epicenter of broad beaches and extraordinary homes, and yet this quiet little seaport on the island's south shore has a special magic. Bellport delivers a Norman Rockwell promise of small-town life with a historic village center, a gazebo-crowned marina , and white picket fences. Just across Bellport Bay is a Fire Island-based beach that belongs to the town.

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Southport, North Carolina

Southport, North Carolina Yacht
chapin31 / Getty Images

There are scenic postcards, and then there's Southport, which has them beat. In this tiny harbor town near the Cape Fear River outlet, you'll find white cottages with red roofs, stately sea captains' homes, two lighthouses, and water in seemingly every direction. Catch the ferry and visit Bald Head Island , which is so private that even cars are not allowed on the island.

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Vermilion, Ohio


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. Every recreational boating is available, and a kayak trail for those looking to exercise while sightseeing. Classic lake cottages along the waterfront add more charm to this underrated Great Lakes gem.

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Cannon Beach, Oregon

Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach (XXXL)

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, resulting in a perfect Pacific Northwest balance.

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Erie, Pennsylvania

Presque Isle State Park

This lively, historic city on the south shore of the Great Lake, which it shares a name, is also home to Presque Isle State Park . This sandy peninsula stretches into the freshwater and holds Pennsylvania's only "seashore" of more than a dozen beaches, leafy glades, lighthouses, and an overall sense of delightful escape. The Tom Ridge Environmental Center dedicates its resources to educating visitors about the diverse habitats in the area, including migrating bird populations.

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Newport, Rhode Island


On the Aquidneck Island in Narragansett Bay on the southern tip near the Atlantic sits this famed Colonial port. The "Summer Mansions" from the Gilded Age are this town's historical treasure trove, as Newport was the chosen location for new millionaires of that time to build their estates. Today, the deep harbors bristle with schooners, racing yachts, and pleasure crafts on sandy beaches and intimate coves.

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Sullivan's Island, South Carolina

Sullivan's Island People on the Beach
Csfotoimages / Getty Images

At the mouth of famed Charleston Harbor, this tiny, primarily residential community sits along 3.3 miles of Atlantic shoreline. Sullivan's Island is a quiet, Lowcountry jewel with stunning beach houses in gracious lines along protected beaches. This hidden gem is a thoughtful mix of preserved nature and modern-day adventure.

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Galveston, Texas

Galveston TX
Tim Leviston / EyeEm / Getty Images

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, cottages, and a stunning historic downtown lined with tall palm trees and live oaks. To explore an exotic locale without leaving the states, visit the Moody Gardens . The conservation, rehabilitation, and recreational hub is home to tropical animal species from the rainforest and aquatic attractions.

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Cape Charles, Virginia

Sunset view of Cape Charles, VA
Robbie Caponetto

Fronting the Chesapeake Bay, this once-sleepy beach town with stately Victorian houses is transformed from its days as a former railroad hub to a small-town vacation destination. Located at the tip of the Delmarva Peninsula, white-sand beaches line the coast of one of "America's Happiest Seaside Towns." Vacation-goers are sparking the economy, and restaurants, breweries, and shops are popping up to meet this demand.

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Friday Harbor, Washington

Friday Harbor Washington Waterfront
nik wheeler / Getty Images

Amid the striking beauty of the San Juan Islands, this historic little seaport town buzzes sweetly with a lively little downtown and waterfront. Surrounded by rich farmland, the Olympic Mountains serve as a backdrop to visitors hoping to see orcas and eagles. In town, the walkable seaport is family- and dog-friendly.

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Ephraim, Wisconsin

Door County, Wisconsin
James Jordan Photography / Getty Images

Tucked into the western side of the Door Peninsula, known as the Cape Cod of the Midwest, is a picturesque maritime village on Lake Michigan's Green Bay. Famous for its summertime fish boils, this town has a lovely beach, harborside park, and Eagle Harbor Shoreline, home to one of the Great Lake's best spots to watch the sunset. This town, steeped in history, carefully preserved sites throughout the village.

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