A salty ocean breeze ruffling the striped awnings of the small boutiques and specialty shops that line the pedestrian-friendly downtown streets …. an isolated beach, waves crashing against the shore as pelicans swoop and dive in an acrobatic air display … a close-knit community where residents greet you by name …it’s what you are dreaming of. Unfortunately, most beach towns in America more closely resemble this: Crowded beaches so packed with people it is difficult to find a patch of sand the size of a postage stamp to call your own … garish surf shops selling kitschy T-shirts and beach gear to tourists …streets lined with cars moving at a snail’s pace as they try to cruise beachside.
So, is it possible to still find a quiet, affordable, undiscovered beach community? Of course it is! Here are a few top-secret beach towns. (Shhhh!)
Crystal Beach, Texas: Located on the Bolivar Peninsula just north of Galveston, Crystal Beach is a seven-mile stretch of beautiful coastline. It is one of the most affordable beach towns in the country, one where it is still possible to get a beachfront home for less than a million dollars –often just a small fraction of that. Driving is allowed along the 27-miles stretch of coastline on the Bolivar Peninsula.
Anna Maria, Florida: Located on the northern tip of Anna Maria Island, this charming city oozes that laid-back island lifestyle. White sand beaches, cerulean water, and amazing wildlife – the entire city is a bird sanctuary. The waters are populated with manatees and bottlenose dolphins, and the beaches are loggerhead turtle nesting grounds. The other two cities on the island are Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach. Holmes Beach is a commercial hub, while Bradenton is focused on tourists. And Anna Maria? Well, it's that cozy beachside community you've been searching for.
Cape Charles, Virginia: It's where historic architecture meets gorgeous beaches meets golf courses. Cape Charles is located on a small peninsula at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay, north of Virginia Beach. With just about 1,000 residents, Cape Charles is considered one of the larger communities in the area. It offers marinas, beaches, boat ramps, antique stores, museums, and restaurants. The town also contains two upscale golf courses. But while there's plenty to do here, the residents of Cape Charles work hard to preserve the history and natural beauty of the area.
Harbor Springs, Michigan: Who says you have to live on the ocean to enjoy the beachfront lifestyle? The Great Lakes region is home to many great little lakeside towns. Harbor Springs, for example, is situated along Lake Michigan's Little Traverse Bay. It features a historic lighthouse – the Little Traverse Lighthouse, built in 1884 – and a charming downtown area complete with those striped awnings and historical storefronts. Harbor Springs is considered one of America's most beautiful resort towns and offers fishing, boating, sailing, skiing, sailboarding, cycling, golf, and more. Year-round events include the Waterfront Wine Festival, the Harbor Springs Area Fine Art Gallery Tour, Taste of Harbor Springs, and Street Musique.
Gearhart, Oregon: Tucked away in the northwestern corner of Oregon, you'll find one of the oldest beach communities along the Oregon Coast. Gearhart is a residential community and is considered Oregon's best-kept secret. Amazing stretches of shoreline, a fantastic downtown with wide, pedestrian-friendly sidewalks lined with antique stores and adorable shops, great restaurants, hiking trails, and history – Gearhart is a humble beachside community wrapped in a bow. That small-town beachside community you yearn for is here – nestled along the Pacific Ocean.
Lubec, ME: Located on a peninsula reaching out to touch the Canadian border, Lubec is a beach town like no other. It is the easternmost town in the contiguous US, it is home to Quoddy Head State Park, it is the first place to see the sunrise in the US, and it has a history dating back to 1775. You won't find traffic, shopping malls, movie theaters, or even stop lights in Lubec. Instead, this rustic little seaside town offers tranquility, solitude, rugged beauty, stunning views, and friendly (if somewhat few and far between) neighbors. Residents may not have access to fast-food restaurants or theme parks, but they do get to go birding and whale, seal, and puffin-watching. They also enjoy outdoor activities such as cycling, hiking, fishing, boating, cross-country skiing, ice-fishing, snow-mobiling, and snow-shoeing.