Aerial view of a beach and blue waters

Best Beach Cities in the U.S.

Whether you’re hoping to get a tan, ride big swells, reel in some trophy fish, or simply enjoy beautiful waterfront views, there are tons of beach cities from coast to coast where you can find housing to fit your lifestyle, excellent job opportunities, and plenty of things to do! Ready to discover your perfect sandy oasis? Here are the seven best beach towns to live in!

  • Cannon Beach, OR
  • Cape May, NJ
  • Clearwater, FL
  • Laguna Beach, CA
  • Myrtle Beach, SC
  • Virginia Beach, VA
  • Wrightsville Beach, NC

Cannon Beach, OR

Aerial view of the beach and ocean in Cannon Beach. Photo by Instagram user @experiencecannonbeach
Photo via @experiencecannonbeach
  • Population: 1,673
  • Home Price: $492,300 median purchase price; $827 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 29% of cities in the U.S.

Located just 90 minutes from Portland, Cannon Beach is one of the best beach cities in the U.S. Known for its four-mile stretch of beach along the Oregon coast, this gorgeous spot has been featured in movies like The Goonies and Twilight. Because of this fame, Cannon Beach is booming with visitors coming to take pictures of the iconic Haystack Rock and the puffins that inhabit it, making tourism a major contributor to the area’s economy. But these tourist-friendly spots aren’t the only reason why this beach city is so popular. Another major draw is the variety of homes in Cannon Beach. From quaint cottages and seaside cabins to spacious contemporary estates, you can find the perfect home for your needs within walking distance of all the food and fun this top beach town has to offer!

Things to Do in Cannon Beach

Travel back in time to learn the history of Cannon Beach and how it came to be at the Cannon Beach History Center & Museum. Browse through vases, beads, and bowls all made from colorful blown glass at Icefire Glassworks. Pack a lunch and take a hike through some of the world’s tallest trees at Ecola State Park. Walk through sea caves at low tide to see a small waterfall at Hug Point. Have a hearty brunch filled with Tilly poached eggs, Fiesta omelettes, or Oatmeal Waffles at Lazy Susan Cafe. Indulge in Crab Fritters, Cajun Mac and Cheese, or Honey Coconut Prawns at Castaways. Or feast on Fish and Chip baskets or a bowl of creamy Clam Chowder at local hot spot Tom’s.

Cape May, NJ

Aerial view of water with houses at sunset. Photo by Instagram user @bestshotphotographer
Photo via @bestshotphotographer
  • Population: 3,529
  • Home Price: $557,200 median purchase price; $837 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 55% of cities in the U.S.

At the southern tip of New Jersey is the beautiful Cape May, one of the best small beach towns for people who don’t like crowded tourist spots. Not only is Cape May considered one of the best East Coast beach towns, but the entire city is a National Historic District with nearly 600 preserved Victorian buildings and houses as well. If living in a Victorian home isn’t what you’re looking for, you can also find tons of oceanfront condos, ranch-style homes with big yards, and cozy bungalows throughout the area for an affordable price. In addition, families will love living in this beach city, thanks to its great schools in the Cape May City School DistrictWest Cape May School District, and Lower Cape May Regional School District.

Things to Do in Cape May

Find some cute decor to hang on your wall, a fun birthday gift for a family member, or a new book at the Washington Street Mall. Rent jet skis or go parasailing with East Coast Water Sports. Take the kids to see snow leopard cubs, black bears, and red pandas at the Cape May County Park & Zoo. Spend the day sampling different spirits from wineries, breweries, and distilleries with Tastings & Tours. Visit Mad Batter—a Cape May staple for brunch—and order the famous Fluffy Buttermilk Pancakes or Chesapeake Bay Benedict with an Original “Manmosa” cocktail. Share an Italian Stallion Brick Oven Pizza or a half-pound of Atlantic Calamari at Lucky Bones. Or have date night at The Lobster House, where you can order the Crabmeat Au Gratin, Cape May Scallops, or Flounder Francaise.

Clearwater, FL

Aerial view of the ocean with white sand beaches at sunset in Clearwater, FL. Photo by Instagram user @myclearwater
Photo via @myclearwater
  • Population: 111,747
  • Home Price: $163,500 median purchase price; $970 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 18% of cities in the U.S.

Looking for the best beach cities in Florida? Part of the larger Tampa Bay metro, Clearwater is a tropical paradise filled with Mid-Century Modern houses, major employers like Honeywell and Tech Data, some of the best seafood on the Gulf Coast, and endless fun in the sun! Four beaches with white sand and crystal blue waters line this Florida city’s coast, making it easy for local residents to soak up some sun after work and on the weekends—especially at the daily Sunsets at Pier 60 events! If having a budget-friendly home with a beautiful view within minutes of the beach and jobs in the Tampa area sound good to you, Clearwater should be at the top of your list!

Things to Do in Clearwater

Watch otters do spins, sea turtles glide through water, and dolphins wave at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Play an adventurous round of putt-putt at Congo River Golf to see who’s the ultimate champion—just watch out for the live alligators! Learn all the tips and trick to surfing at The FlowRider indoor surfing before catching real swells. Bask in the beachfront views on the patio at Frenchy’s and get your fill of Frenchy’s Garlic Crab Fries, Fresh Oysters, and World Famous Grouper Sandwich. Try the Filet Mignon Bennie and Nutella Crepes for breakfast or Lobster Ravioli and Ahi Tuna Nicoise Salad for dinner at Clear Sky Beachside Cafe. Or dig into delicious Spanish-Cuban fare like Pollo Asado, Paella Marinera, and Flan at The Columbia Restaurant.

Laguna Beach, CA

Aerial view of the beach from a cliff in Laguna Beach, CA. Photo by Instagram user @kyliewikle
Photo via @kyliewikle
  • Population: 23,204
  • Home Price: $1,390,500 median purchase price; $2,028 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 26% of cities in the U.S.

If want to live in a beach town in California that has tons of unique shops, art galleries on every corner, beaches that you can relax on, and restaurants to fit any food mood, then Laguna Beach might be the place for you! Families and retirees love to call this major surf city home because of its slower pace of life and highly-rated schools like Thurston Middle School. On top of that, Laguna Beach has a wide range of employment opportunities in fields from education and healthcare to manufacturing and trade. Plus, Laguna Beach has seven miles of coastline with 30 beaches and coves to explore, such as Main Beach, Diver’s Cove, Treasure Island, and Crescent Bay.

Things to Do in Laguna Beach

Immerse yourself in the Laguna Beach art scene by attending productions at the Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters. Check out more than 3,500 pieces of contemporary art at the Laguna Art Museum. Spend an afternoon whale watching, dolphin touring, and fishing at Dana Wharf. Pop into local boutiques and stores like Cottage Furnishings or Simple Laguna to pick up some home decor or new accessories to upgrade your closet. Enjoy a quiet lunch of D’Lox Pizza or Chicken Curry Sandwich and freshly-squeezed lemonade at Urth Caffe. Let your tastebuds go wild with Asparagus Fries, Pan Seared Chilean Sea Bass, and Prime Rib Dip Sandwich at Nick’s Laguna Beach. Or sit on the outdoor patio with some Blackened Swordfish Tacos and chips and salsa at Taco Loco.

Myrtle Beach, SC

Beach and ocean with pier in the background at Myrtle Beach, SC. Photo by Instagram user @mymyrtlebeach
Photo via @mymyrtlebeach
  • Population: 30,106
  • Home Price: $173,600 median purchase price; $824 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 0% of cities in the U.S.

Dreaming of a home with an oceanfront view without having to pay those high California price tags? Consider moving to Myrtle Beach! This South Carolina city is one of the most affordable beach towns in the U.S., with a cost of housing that’s 8% lower than the national average—not to mention, there’s no state income tax. People of all ages don’t just come here for the budget-friendly living, though! Myrtle Beach has some of the best beaches in America, stretching 60 miles along the Atlantic Coast with great spots to go surfing, play frisbee with four-legged friends, ride horses, and much more!

Things to Do in Myrtle Beach

Head to Broadway at the Beach—a major Myrtle Beach attraction—to experience over 23 acres of shopping, food, and fun like the Myrtle Waves Water Park or Dragon’s Lair Fantasy Golf. See shrunken heads, a vampire killing kit, an alien, and other oddities at Ripley’s Believe It or Not Odditorium. Collect seashells, watch for dolphins, and enjoy a prepared picnic on a remote island with an Island Picnic Cruise. Devour some delicious all-you-can-eat barbecue and Southern comfort food like chicken and dumplings, peach cobbler, and collard greens at Simply Southern Smokehouse. Order Sweet Potato Pancakes, Bananas Foster French Toast, or Mediterranean Omelette at Blueberry’s Grill. Or grab a couple of Spicy Mango Ritas with Bacon and Cheese Loaded Fries at Landshark Bar & Grill.

Virginia Beach, VA

Aerial view of palm trees next to the beach with blue skies in Virginia Beach, VA. Photo by Instagram user @visitvabeach
Photo via @visitvabeach
  • Population: 449,733
  • Home Price: $262,200 median purchase price; $1,258 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 58% of cities in the U.S.

Endless job opportunities, fantastic local schools, an amazing food scene, and white sand beaches are just a few reasons why so many people move to Virginia Beach! One of the best beach towns in the U.S., this Virginia coastal city is split into seven different districts, each with their own gorgeous beaches and unique atmospheres. Those who want to be near the hustle and bustle of the beach migrate toward Oceanfront for the three-mile boardwalk, outdoor cafes, and big waves, while Chesapeake Bay is known for its laid-back vibe, fun breweries, and sand volleyball spots. Also, Virginia Beach is a great place for military families and veterans, as the area is home to five military bases and several VA health facilities.

Things to Do in Virginia Beach

Play 18 holes of golf, practice your tennis game, or take quick dip in the pool at Princess Anne Country Club. Race go-karts, catch views of the ocean on the ferris wheel, or win a prize from one of the many carnival games at Atlantic Fun Park. Go hiking on the trails or canoeing through the canals at First Landing State Park. Listen to live music from local artists, check out the sand sculptures, and try tons of amazing food at the Neptune Festival. Order Virginia’s Original Orange Crush with some Spicy Buffalo-Style Fish Bites and Fried Jumbo Shrimp at Waterman’s. Taste a variety of biscuit sandwiches like the Boom Chick and The Nashville at Handsome Biscuit. Or get some friends together to go on the VA Beach Beer Trail to sample some flavorful IPAs or Sours from local breweries.

Wrightsville Beach, NC

Aerial view of the water and boats in Wrightsville Beach, NC. Photo by Instagram user @docuvidglobal
Photo via @docuvidglobal
  • Population: 2,546
  • Home Price: $742,100 median purchase price; $1,403 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 13% of cities in the U.S.

Part of the Wilmington metro, Wrightsville Beach is a hot spot for young adults, families, and retirees who want to live in a more active East Coast beach town. What makes this area one of the best beach cities in the U.S.? The town is known for having some of the top surfing and paddle boarding spots, and it even hosts some of the best watersport competitions in the country. But that’s not the only reason why people love living in Wrightsville Beach! Its unemployment rate is 48% lower than the national average, which mean jobs are plentiful in top industries like healthcare, tourism, and education—especially with the University of North Carolina Wilmington just 15 minutes away.

Things to Do in Wrightsville Beach

Throw your line in at Johnnie Mercers Fishing Pier to catch some Black Sea Bass, Mullet, or King Mackerel. Go shopping for fresh produce at the farmers market or listen to a concert at Wrightsville Beach Park. Go on a sunset cruise or take a paddle board charter with Epic Excursions. Find new clothes or browse for some art from local designers at Lumina Station. Sip on an espresso or latte while you look through shark jewelry and memorabilia at The Workshop. Enjoy an ocean view on the patio while feasting on Bananas Foster French Toast, Grilled Island Mahi-Mahi, or Crab-Stuffed Flounder at Bluewater. Or fill up on all-you-can-eat BBQ pork, fried chicken, coleslaw, baked beans, and even more Southern favorites at Casey’s Buffet.

Not sure if you’re ready to take the plunge and move to one of these U.S. beach cities? Schedule a trip to explore these beach towns and other affordable beach vacation spots first!

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7 Best Beach Cities in the United States