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Ten Best Beach Towns in the USA

Author: Lauren Curd

The word 'seaside' evokes memories of days spent down on the beach, skimming pebbles into the sea, eating ice cream as the seagulls circle above and winning a fluffy plush toy from a rigged claw machine. It’s funny that however old you get, the days spent down at the seaside still remain some of the most exciting you’ll ever have. America has always been a popular holiday destination and we here at Medway Leisure Travel (now trading as Pettitts Travel) consider this magnificent country a wonderful choice for whatever type of holiday you are looking for. Naturally, we thought about combining the two – USA beaches and USA holiday hotspots. Here’s the rundown of our top 10 picks...

1. Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

This amazing, European-style town is world-renowned for its pristine white sand, charming hotels and inns, and hundreds of beachside shops, restaurants and bars. It has drawn and inspired artists, romantics and celebrities for decades, all made perfect by its seclusion among the dramatic Californian coastline. You’ll take on a lot of personas while you’re staying here; when you’re done being a beach-bum and have dragged yourself away from the shore, don your sommelier costume as you taste the finest wines from California’s vineyards; slip on your art critic duds as you peruse some beautiful galleries; wrap yourself in a towel to enjoy the mud baths in state-of-the-art spas; and sport your best metropolitan garb while you shop in any of the fantastic boutiques.  Carmel-by-the Sea has it all.

2. Key West, Florida

From the Pacific Coast to the Atlantic, or to be more specific, IN the Atlantic as this stunning beach town is at the end of the famous Florida Keys – a series of islands connected by a 205km overseas highway off the coast of Miami. Stroll around the tight-knit streets laced with palm trees, gingerbread mansions, gourmet restaurants and magnificent cultural highlights. The balmy weather is the perfect accompaniment to the crystal blue waters that surround the island. Diving, fishing, water sports and sailing are all popular activities and the friendly locals encourage you to follow suit when you’re here. Key West has one of the best sunsets in the whole region and once it’s gone, the night lights up with jugglers, musicians and street artists who parade the streets to celebrate this beautiful place.

3. Provincetown, Massachusetts

The Mayflower Pilgrims were on to something when they chose to set foot here after their long trip to the New World. Provincetown is a settlement steeped in history, the oldest continuous art colony in America and the birthplace of the modern American theatre. It is located at the tip of Cape Cod, a peninsula jutting out from Massachusetts’ famous coastal area. Known for its spectacular use of natural resources and eco-tourism, a visit here would set you among striking scenery with views towards the Atlantic and over to Boston on the horizon.  Admire the magnificent colonial architecture, amazing harbours and ports, age-old street lamps, beautiful beaches and elegant galleries. Bicycles are one of the most popular transportation method and cycle routes are placed to showcase the best of this town. There is also a thriving gay and lesbian scene.

4. Lahaina, Maui

We don’t think we could talk about US beach towns without mentioning Hawaii as this archipelago in the Pacific Ocean is one of the most sought-after destinations in the whole of America. There are many beautiful beach towns on all the islands but Lahaina on Maui is our pick of the bunch. It’s a historic town that has built up a cultural hot spot, featuring dozens of art galleries, shops and restaurants. Lahaina’s sunny climate (it was once known as Lele, which translates as ‘relentless sun’ in Hawaiian) and oceanfront setting provides the perfect backdrop for a variety of activities and entertainment. Attend one of the world-famous luaus where you can eat, drink and dance to traditional music. Lahaina is Maui’s second most visited location, after the beaches, and its mansions, plantations, inns, theatres and mountains is said to be the Home of Hawaii’s Heritage. The beaches are magnificent, the harbours are luxurious and the atmosphere is buzzing so come on down soon.

5. St Simon’s Island, Georgia

Swaddled by far-reaching beaches, moss-draped oaks and spectacular marshes, St Simon’s Island holds its own as one of America’s top beach towns. This nearly 18sq mile island, part of the Golden Isles chain of south west Georgia, is a picture-perfect recreational wonderland that also features just as many historic sites and cultural highlights. Start with golf on one of the many holed courses that frequent the island, before replacing your club with a rod and taking up a spot of fishing in the rivers, tidal creeks and Atlantic Ocean.  Grab a bicycle and meander you way through parks, boulevards, promenades and beautifully sculpted streets. For history and culture, head to St Simon’s Lighthouse, with a superb view from the top; the Fort Frederica National Monument, which has British colonial remnants; and the Bloody Marsh Battle Site, where the Spanish defeated the British in 1742.

6. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Myrtle Beach is a coastal city situated on in the centre of a large and continuous stretch of beach known as the Grand Strand in north-eastern South Carolina. Its warm subtropical climate attracts millions of tourists a year who all flock for the golden sands, golf courses, special conventions and the multitude of events and musical concerts. There’s also a selection of amusement parks, aquariums, retail developments, cafes and a number of shopping complexes. The city fully embraces its deserved status and is always trying to expand. The Myrtle Beach Boardwalk opened in 2010; the Skywheel was erected on this boardwalk a year later, complete with glass gondolas that overlook the Atlantic; and State Park has recently developed its amenities and now encompasses camping, golfing, swimming, hiking, biking and fishing. On the beachfront, restaurants display cuisine from all over the world.

7. Rockport, Texas

The charming fishing village of Rockport has been a favourite coastal hideaway since the 1800s and has only recently become known to international tourists. Protected by Matagorda Island on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, Rockport’s main features are the beach, its beautiful marina and the endless rows of houses that branch out into the bay; many of their back gardens fall straight into the ocean. This is the sort of place you come to just for relaxation and seclusion. There are plenty of recreational possibilities all centred on the bay and beachfront. Golf, cycling and many racquet sports are popular here as it’s quiet and you can practise with the locals while you’re just enjoying time away from the hustle and bustle. Due to Rockport’s multiple wildlife refuges, eco-tourism has become a big part of the attraction and holidaymakers go fishing, swimming, bird watching, and exploring the scenic surroundings of this Texan city.

8. Gulf Shores, Alabama

Gulf Shores does exactly what it says on the tin – it’s a shore on the Gulf of Mexico and this prime locations means it already has everything you’d need from a seaside town. Often combined with its neighbour, Orange Beach, Gulf Shores is all about adventure, fun and relaxation on the 32 miles of Alabama’s coastline. There was already a white sand beach here, mostly made up of quartz grains that washed down from the Appalachian Mountains thousands of years ago; all the founders of this city had to do was build around the natural beauty. Families return year after year for the wave of tranquillity that sweeps over the region, where they regularly indulge in quality cuisine, cast their line during a deep-sea fishing adventure, explore the waterways, take in a spot of golf, whiz around in an amusement park, and much more. There’s also a history lesson in that many of the buildings around the area are hundreds of years old, including that of Fort Morgan, the guardian of Mobile Bay since 1834 and where four wars were fought. Come and see what all the fuss is about.

9. Rehoboth, Delaware

The small state of Delaware has some hidden treasures, especially on its rapidly growing Cape Region, and all of them gleam intently off the east coast. The undisputed crown jewel is Rehoboth Beach, which shines the brightest and typifies the traditional USA beach town to the letter. There are fantastic beaches, a mile-long wooden boardwalk, plenty of eclectic tax-free shops, family amusements and sporting activities, all within walking distance of the luxury hotels. It has always been a favoured destination for many north-east Americans, who flock here for the sea that has been voted consistently at the top for water quality, and Rehoboth has now moved with the times, becoming one of the Atlantic coast’s prominent gay-friendly getaways. The town hosts several festivals, a theatre company that offers a year-round schedule, a vastly popular craft beer brewery, plus plenty of historic and cultural places. It is the quintessential seaside town.

10. Kennebunkport, Maine

This beautiful coastal town sits on the Kennebunk River and was founded in the early 18th century by European pilgrims. It emerged as a prominent shipbuilding and trade centre during this period, to the point where sea captains built fine mansions inland, many of which are preserved today as lovely inns with antique charm. Kennebunkport comprises of a Lower Village, Dock Square, Ocean Avenue, Cape Porpoise, Goose Rock beach and a plethora of restaurants, shops, lighthouses, markets and caves. Kennebunkport prides itself as being ‘the place to be all year’ and this is down to the amount of natural wonder, activities and events that take place in every season.  There are bicycle and scooter rentals, kayak and surfboards, sight-seeing, sailing, fishing, whale-watching, horse-riding, golf, tennis, spas, and plenty of children’s activities. Stroll along the many parts of town and the one-mile education trail at Rachel Carson Wildlife Refuge, which takes on some beautiful colours during the fall. Maine is famous for its seafood cuisine, especially lobsters and clams, and Kennebunkport is a great place to taste it all.

America has 30 states with a coastline and there are countless other seaside regions located on the Pacific, Atlantic and around the Great Lakes. Get in touch today and we can talk you through the best way to discover a beach town for yourself.


**This blog post was previously published on Medway Leisure Travel, now trading as Pettitts Travel**

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