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Aerial view of Wingaersheek Beach on Gloucester, Cape Ann
Wangkun Jia | Adobe Stock

9 Affordable, Under-the-Radar Beach Towns in America

SmarterTravel

The countdown to summer is officially on, and we can’t help but dream of warm, sunny days spent along the shore. While America is home to hundreds–if not thousands–of beautiful beach towns, some are more costly than others. 

For those looking to skip the crowds and save some money, consider visiting somewhere more under-the-radar, where you can expect fewer crowds, less demand, and, as such, cheaper costs. (Remember, fewer crowds equals less demand, which means you can typically expect lower prices.)  Below, read on for the best affordable, off-the-beaten-path US beach towns that are nothing short of spectacular.

Manzanita, Oregon 

Aerial view of Manzanita, Oregon coastline
davidrh | Adobe Stock

Manzanita is surrounded by the vast Pacific, tranquil Nehalem Bay, and the towering Neahkahnie Mountain. Manzanita Beach is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and beach bums alike. When you’re not lounging on a towel or blanket on the sand, head into the water to surf, SUP, or kayak. (However, the water can be quite chilly, so a wetsuit is definitely recommended.) 

From the shore, you may be able to spot birds and other wildlife (just be sure to bring a pair of binoculars for prime viewing). Beyond the beach, adventure lovers can hike the magnificent Neahkahnie Mountain or fish in  Nehalem Bay, while shoppers can stroll down Laneda Ave and pop into quaint shops like Oregon Coast Clothing Co, SYZYGY, or Cloud & Leaf Bookstore. 

Surfside Beach, Texas

Colorful houses at Surfside Beach, Texas
Marta | Adobe Stock

This laid-back beach town features four miles of beautiful beaches for travelers to enjoy. Of course, no trip to Surfside Beach would be complete without catching some waves. The waters here are a surfer’s paradise since they offer consistent waves. Pick out some gear at one of the nearby surf shops, such as Surfside Surf Station.

At Surfside Jetty Park, travelers can try their hand at fishing or beachcombing, while Surfside Crabbing Pier is–you guessed it–a prime place for catching crustaceans. End the day with some grub at casual spots  Seahorse Bar & Grill, Jetty Shack, or Sharkies On The Beach.  

Capitola, California 

Colorful houses along the water at Capitola, California
Yuval Helfman | Adobe Stock

Just 10 minutes away from Santa Cruz, you’ll find the colorful oceanfront oasis of Capitola. This lesser-known but equally stunning beach town boasts bright-colored buildings, quaint shops, and mouthwatering eats. 

Capitola Beach is a small, sandy beach with volleyball courts and benches. Here, you’ll also find the 855-foot-long Capitola Wharf, which is where you’ll also find the aptly named Wharf House Restaurant. If you prefer somewhere more low-key, check out Hooper Beach, a smaller, secluded section of Capitola Beach. Everything is within easy walking distance of downtown Capitola Village, which is chock-full of shops, galleries, and restaurants.  

Dunedin, FL

Aerial view of Dunedin Causeway at Dunedin, FL
robertmilleronline | Adobe Stock

Dunedin is a tiny town about 10 minutes north of crowded Clearwater. The destination’s glistening blue-green waters will delight beach lovers of all ages. Caladesi Island State Park is one of Dunedin’s most famous stretches of sand. This secluded island, which is only accessible by boat, is renowned for its unspoiled beaches.

Craving some adventure? Embark on a kayaking excursion through the untouched mangrove forests. Honeymoon Island State Park, which boasts four miles of white-sand beaches, is also nearby. When you need a break from the beach (though, how could you?), make your way towards downtown Dunedin for a bite to eat. Options abound, from fresh Mexican cuisine at Casa Tina to sausages and hot dogs at Hot Dogs on Main. Lastly, the 90-acre Hammock Grove, which offers five miles of trails plus an abundance of flora and flora, is another must-visit.

Kure Beach, NC

View of the coast through the trees at Kure Beach, NC
refrina | Adobe Stock

Kure Beach is often overlooked in favor of the uber-popular Outer Banks, but don’t let that deter you from visiting. This tranquil beach town features one of the Atlantic’s oldest fishing piers, spanning 711 feet. Come here to fish, shop for souvenirs, grab a snack, or play at the arcade.

Alternatively, if you prefer to stay put and sprawl out on the sand, hit the beach or stroll along the boardwalk. You can’t skip town without checking out the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area. The 287-acre state park is home to Fort Fisher, six miles of beaches and trails, and the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher. 

Gloucester, Massachusetts

Aerial view of Wingaersheek Beach at Gloucester, Massachusetts
Wangkun Jia | Adobe Stock

The coastal city of Gloucester is located on Cape Ann and is famous for being America’s oldest fishing point. The destination offers an abundance of beaches. These include Good Harbor Beach (a small stretch of sand that’s great for swimming); Half Moon Beach (a crescent-shaped beach that feels like a secret hideaway); Cressy’s Beach (a rocky beach located in Historic Stage Fort Park); Pavilion Beach (a small, sandy beach near the famous Fisherman’s Memorial); Plum Cove Beach (a quiet beach that’s beloved by families); and Wingaersheek Beach (another family-friendly beach with calm waters and soft white sand).

To learn more about the city’s fascinating history, wander down the waterfront Gloucester HarborWalk. Or, for an even more unique experience, embark on a lobstering boat tour of the harbor. Finally, for a truly memorable trip, plan your visit around the five-day-long St. Peter’s Fiesta (June), which pays homage to the patron saint of fishing. 

Grand Isle, Louisiana 

Coastline at Grand Isle, Louisiana

Grand Isle is located on a narrow barrier island of the same name. The secluded town is often referred to as a “Sportsman’s Paradise” for its incredible fishing and birding opps. It’s also famous for its seven miles of serene, sugar-sand beaches, including those at Grand Isle State Park. Here, you’ll also find a fishing pier, nature trails, and ample wildlife viewing.

Once you work up an appetite, indulge in fresh seafood at Camardelle’s Seafood or Hurricane Hole. After, keep the tropical vacation vibes going steady with a daiquiri at Island Daiquiri or Pirate Island Daiquiri.

Ocean Springs, Mississippi 

Boardwalk at Ocean Springs, Mississippi
Fotoluminate LLC | Adobe Stock

Ocean Springs is about two miles east of bustling Biloxi, yet it feels far from the crowds. This charming southern town is home to Front Beach, which has a pier, playground, and stunning views of the Gulf Islands. The shallow waters are perfect for swimming, too. Gulf Islands National Seashore, which spans a staggering 160 miles from Mississippi to Florida, draws millions of visitors for its serene blue-green waters. Birding, boating, hiking, fishing, swimming, and snorkeling are also popular.

Ocean Springs also boasts a vibrant downtown area that’s chock-full of exciting attractions, including breweries, boutiques, galleries, and gift shops galore. 

Long Beach, Washington

Bike on path leading to Long Beach, Washington
Peter Kim | Adobe Stock

Long Beach is known as the longest continuous beach in the United States, spanning around 28 miles. The town is also famous for its beautiful half-mile-long boardwalk, where you can admire views of North Lead Lighthouse or, if you’re lucky, spot some whales.

After, make your way to the walkable downtown area to check out small shops like Stormin Norman’s and Hobo Junction before grabbing a bite at Drop Anchor Seafood & Grill or The Chowder Stop. Other nearby attractions include the World Kite Museum, Cape Disappointment State Park, and The Discovery Trail. Lastly, try to plan your visit between April and October, when you can dig for razor clams, a regional specialty.

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