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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. Don’t settle for a seaside vacation—discover your perfect sandy oasis in one of these seven best coastal cities in the U.S.

Cannon Beach, OR

  • Population: 1,673
  • Home Price: $492,300 median purchase price; $827 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 75% 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 West Coast town has been featured in movies like The Goonies and Twilight. Because of its 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. Cannon Beach is also home to singing sand, a rare phenomenon that adds to the city’s natural landscape and makes it one of the most unique and best beaches in Oregon! And the variety of homes in Cannon Beach, like quaint cottages, seaside cabins, and spacious contemporary estates, are perfect for an assortment of house hunters hoping to be 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. Don’t miss the colorful displays of original Pacific Northwest art this beach town has to offer at DragonFire Gallery. 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. Stop by Public Coast Brewing Co. for a variety of libations like the ’67 Blonde Ale, Oswald IPA, and Peanut Butter & Jealous Milk Stout. Or feast on Fish and Chip baskets or a bowl of creamy Clam Chowder at local hot spot Tom’s.

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Cape May, NJ

  • Population: 3,529
  • Home Price: $557,200 median purchase price; $837 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 60% 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 this entire beach city is also a National Historic District with nearly 600 preserved Victorian buildings and houses. If living in a Victorian home isn’t what you’re looking for, you can also find plenty of oceanfront condos, ranch-style homes with big yards, and cozy bungalows for an affordable price in this small coastal town. In addition, families will love living in this beach city, thanks to its great schools in the Cape May City School District, West 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. Immerse yourself in Cape May history and learn about its role in the Underground Railroad at the Harriet Tubman Museum of New Jersey. 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. Or grab a drink like the Mint Chocolate Chip Martini or The Shack Apple Sidecar at this beach town’s iconic surfer bar, The Rusty Nail.

Clearwater, FL

  • Population: 111,747
  • Home Price: $163,500 median purchase price; $970 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 30% 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, some of the best beaches in the U.S., boast white sand and crystal blue waters, 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 beach home within minutes of a variety of jobs in Tampa, Clearwater, and St. Petersburg sounds 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. Take a swing and give back to the Clearwater community when you play a round at Chi Chi Rodriquez Golf Course. 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 tricks to surfing at The FlowRider before catching real swells. Travel to the future, Wild West, and other scenarios as you try to escape at Escape Thrill! 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.

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Laguna Beach, CA

  • Population: 23,204
  • Home Price: $1,390,500 median purchase price; $2,028 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 31% of cities in the U.S.

If you want to live in one of the best beach towns in the U.S. with tons of unique shops, art galleries on every corner, beaches you can relax on, and restaurants to fit any food mood, then living in Laguna Beach might be perfect 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, this beach city has a wide range of employment opportunities in fields from education and healthcare to manufacturing and trade. And 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

Bask in the tranquility of Southern California plants and be a part of Laguna Beach history by visiting Hortense Miller Garden. Immerse yourself in the Laguna Beach art scene by attending productions at the Festival of Arts and Pageant of the Masters. Attend classes or exhibit your work at the summer and winter installments of the Sawdust Art & Craft Festival. 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

  • 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 a waterfront view or living near the ocean without having to pay a high price tag? Consider living in Myrtle Beach! This South Carolina city is one of the most affordable beach cities 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. This South Carolina beach city is also home to top employers like Grand Strand Health and Myrtle Beach National Company, it is one of the best beach cities in the U.S. for working residents.

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. See shrunken heads, a vampire killing kit, an alien, and other oddities at Ripley’s Believe It or Not Odditorium. Put your hands in the air while roaring down the Swamp Fox Roller Coaster at Family Kingdom Amusement Park. 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

  • Population: 449,733
  • Home Price: $262,200 median purchase price; $1,258 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 54% of cities in the U.S.

Endless job opportunities, fantastic local schools like Princess Anne High School, an amazing food scene, and white sand beaches are just a few reasons why Virginia Beach is a great beach city to call home! 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 because the area is home to five military bases and several VA health facilities!

Things to Do in Virginia Beach

View public art murals and ViBe parking meters throughout the ViBe Creative District. Play 18 holes of golf, practice your tennis game, or take quick dip in the pool at Princess Anne Country Club. Meet a porcupine fish, Komodo dragon, or green turtle at the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center. 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. Grab some simple grub like the Shrimp & Grit Cake or mouth-watering Rustic Meatloaf at The Rustic Spoon. 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

  • Population: 2,546
  • Home Price: $742,100 median purchase price; $1,403 median monthly rent
  • Crime Rate: Safer than 25% of cities in the U.S.

Part of the Wilmington metro, Wrightsville Beach is a popular beach city 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.? This surf city 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, meaning jobs in Wrightsville Beach 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. Stroll through history and learn about one of America’s top small beach towns at the Wrightsville Beach Museum. 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. Or have a little fun with live music, Bloody Mary, or the mobile bar cart at Jimmy’s!


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About Mike Beutler

Mike Beutler is a writer and digital content specialist who transitioned to self storage in 2020 after several years in the airline industry. His travels cultivated a passion for exploring cities across the U.S. and abroad and inspired him to learn more about practical insights for urban living. With 14 moves under his belt, both locally and cross-country, he also has a passion for minimalism and organization, and sharing tips to help others make any space feel like home while staying organized.