America's 30 Most Charming Seaside Towns

The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum is located in St. Michaels, Maryland. (photo courtesy of coastalpics / iStock Editorial / Getty Images Plus)
Patrick Clarke
by Patrick Clarke
Last updated: 10:00 AM ET, Tue July 10, 2018

Where Small Town Charm Meets the Shoreline

America is chock-full of waterfront seaside towns, cities and villages but a select few stand out for their one-of-a-kind character and charisma. From coast to coast, these seaside destinations are guaranteed to both surprise and enthrall you.

Ogunquit, Maine

Located on Maine's southern coast, Ogunquit is home to several miles of sandy beach and scenic coastal walks such as the Marginal Way. Visitors will quickly understand how the town got its name, which means "beautiful place by the sea."

Florence, Oregon

On the West Coast, Florence, Oregon stands out for its sea lion and whale watching opportunities as well as its charming Historic Old Town district.

Cape May, New Jersey

Dubbed the Nation's Oldest Seaside Resort, Cape May was founded in the early 17th century and makes for a picturesque summer getaway thanks to its iconic Victorian houses, which include the Emlen Physick Estate.

Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

The delightful California beach city of Carmel-by-the-Sea is reminiscent of a village with its quaint cottages. However, there's also lots to do for outdoor enthusiasts, including surfing, scuba diving and birding at Carmel River State Beach.

Mystic, Connecticut

This famous New England village is perhaps best known for its iconic seaport, which is recognized as the largest maritime museum in the country.

Corolla, North Carolina

The quiet beach town of Corolla is located in the Outer Banks. Charming attractions include the 19th-century Currituck Beach Lighthouse and historic Whalehead hunting club near Historic Corolla Park.

Traverse City, Michigan

Situated on the shores of Lake Michigan's Grand Traverse Bay, the namesake Midwest destination hosts the annual National Cherry Festival each summer. However, that's just one of many reasons to add it to your bucket list.

Depoe Bay, Oregon

Oregon's Depoe Bay is a tremendous whale watching destination and a photographer's paradise as it boasts multiple parks, natural areas and scenic viewpoints, including at nearby Boiler Bay.

Hampton, New Hampshire

Hampton is everything you could want in a summer vacation destination, offering visitors plenty of beaches, one of the country's best boardwalks, weekly fireworks and countless concerts and entertainment.

Chatham, Massachusetts

Located on the southeastern tip of Cape Cod, Chatham features numerous scenic landmarks and historic buildings oozing with charm. It's no wonder it received the 2007 Distinctive Destinations Award by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Haleiwa, Hawaii

Haleiwa can be found on the opposite end of Oahu from Honolulu on the island's North Shore. Tourists especially adore it for its beaches and old buildings, which preserve its rich character.

Pismo Beach, California

Wine connoisseurs will fall in love with Pismo Beach, which travelers will want to add to their coastal California itinerary alongside Carmel-by-the-Sea. Whether you prefer to relax or be active, the classic beach town has something for you.

Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

Delaware's Rehoboth Beach is among the most visited destinations on the East Coast and also one of the most LGBT-friendly cities anywhere in the world. Stroll the lively boardwalk or stop into the Rehoboth Beach Museum to see just how far the beachside town has come.

St Michaels, Maryland

Not far from Rehoboth Beach, the small waterfront town of St. Michaels, Maryland might just be the ultimate weekend destination. The town is meant to be enjoyed from both land and sea and offers unrivaled shopping along with some of the region's best seafood.

Asbury Park, New Jersey

Visitors to Asbury Park, New Jersey will quickly feel like a kid again thanks to the city's beachfront boardwalk equipped with iconic arcade games. Families with younger children will also enjoy the splash park.

Bar Harbor, Maine

Bar Harbor is the ideal base camp for travelers looking to explore nearby Acadia National Park and is also among the best places for watching whales in the wild. Shoppers will especially love the town's charming Main Street.

Bayfield, Wisconsin

With a population of roughly 500 people, tourists outnumber residents in this former fishing community. Book a stay at one of Bayfield's bed and breakfasts, tour its museums and art galleries and consider an autumn visit during the annual Applefest.

Mandeville, Louisiana

If you're looking to relax lakeside without the crowds, head south to Mandeville, Louisiana. Located on the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain, the small city is close to Fontainebleau State Park, equally charming Covington, Louisiana and less than an hour away from New Orleans.

Everglades City, Florida

South Florida's Everglades City is the opposite of bustling Miami. This quiet small town is home to just over 400 people and will definitely speak to travelers who are passionate about fishing and nature as its a gateway to Big Cypress National Preserve and Everglades National Park.

Port Aransas, Texas

Port Aransas on Mustang Island is undoubtedly one of the best beach destinations in Texas, offering miles of scenic shoreline, dolphin sightings and a handful of exciting festivals, including Texas Sandfest, the largest native-sand sand sculpture competition in the nation.

Fairhope, Alabama

Easily one of the most scenic destinations on the Gulf Coast, Fairhope, Alabama is not only charming, pretty and laid-back, it's a walkable and bikeable city where visitors can quickly go from bayside to downtown.

Georgetown, South Carolina

Georgetown is one of South Carolina's oldest cities but somehow one of the state's most underrated destinations. Located between Myrtle Beach and Charleston, the quaint coastal town features a historic downtown that serves as the perfect setting for a hair-raising ghost tour.

Gulf Shores, Alabama

This Gulf Coast resort city is one of the top emerging vacation destinations as a result of its white-sand beaches and countless attractions, which include a water park, zoo, mini golf, historic sites and a wildlife refuge.

Poughkeepsie, New York

Located in New York's Hudson Valley, Poughkeepsie offers plenty of waterfront charm, including some of the best views in the Northeast from the Walkway Over the Hudson. There are also several parks and an interactive children's museum for visiting families.

Marquette, Michigan

Heading to the Midwest? Consider checking out Marquette on Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Beach lovers will find relaxing sandy shores while those seeking small-town charm are sure to discover it at local coffee shops and breweries.

Natchez, Mississippi

Natchez boasts enough history and southern hospitality to enhance any length getaway. Situated on the Mississippi River in its namesake state, this city wows with its Antebellum era mansions, including the Dunleith Historic Inn.

Orcas Island, Washington

Washington's Orcas Island is known to locals as the gem of the San Juan Islands and for good reason. Located between Seattle and Vancouver, the horseshoe-shaped island is home to the gorgeous Moran State Park, art studios and local craft beer at Island Hoppin' Brewery.

Southport, North Carolina

Sit back and take in the calming breeze at the local waterfront park or one of the many porches downtown after treating your taste buds to some local seafood and southern BBQ in Southport.

Jamestown, Rhode Island

America's smallest state isn't without its own charming seaside town. Jamestown, Rhode Island is home to no shortage of state parks, lighthouses and viewpoints that have made it a popular filming location over the years.

Topsail Beach, North Carolina

Although you might not find Blackbeard's coveted treasure here, you'll find plenty of beautiful and relaxing beaches along this barrier island destination in the Atlantic. It's almost impossible not to embrace the laid-back lifestyle as you're surrounded by water.

Unwind by the water in one of these unique coastal hangouts.

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