17 Best Secret Beach Towns in America
These coastal enclaves are perfect for a safe summer getaway.
America has more than 95,000 miles of spotless shoreline, so there are plenty of waterfront spots to lay claim. If you're looking to escape your four walls and get some fresh air, consider one of the country's secret beach towns, where you can enjoy the ocean and charming main streets without crowds of people. These secluded cayes and quiet coastal enclaves are ideal places to safely soak up the sun. And for more off-the-beaten-path hamlets, check out 17 American Towns So Beautiful You'll Think You're in Europe.
Editor's Note: We understand that travel is complicated right now and restrictions vary state to state. If you plan on visiting any of the below destinations, we recommend checking their official websites for possible closures, limited access announcements, and general safety guidelines.
Bandon is one of the most underrated coastal towns on the Pacific Coast and a perfect getaway for beach bums, outdoor enthusiasts, and foodies. This quintessential summer spot has an awe-inspiring appeal with its wide beaches, glassy tides, crashing waves, and jutting rock formations. If you get the chance to watch the sun fall over the Pacific from Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint, you may be convinced there's no more beautiful place on earth. For those in search of outdoor activity, try kayaking on Bandon Marsh or fishing on Bradley Lake. And golf lovers will find heaven at Bandon Dunes, one of the most gorgeous courses in the country. Then there's Bandon's old town where you'll find everything from Alloro, a cozy Italian wine bar, to Tony's Crab Shack, a low-key spot for local seafood. And for more quaint towns, check out The Most Beautiful Small Town in Every State.
You might mistake this colorful surf spot for a seaside village on the Italian Riviera. Capitola, just south of Santa Cruz, is one of California's first ever beach towns, but with its Crayola-colored cottages and sandy bays, it boasts a Mediterranean feel. On any given day you'll find locals sunbathing or surfing on Capitola City Beach, fishing on the wharf, or paddle boarding on the Soquel River. There's plenty to eat, see, and do in the historic downtown area: Grab an ice cream cone at Marianne's or browse the many shops and galleries. Capitola is also close to The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park, so you can take a day trip to hike among the towering redwood trees.
Bald Head Island, North Carolina
From the Outer Banks to Bogue Sound, the Tar Heel state is a haven for beautiful beach towns, but Bald Head Island has remained one of the lesser known gems. This peaceful and lush island is not only home to unspoiled beaches, but also to nature preserves and hiking trails surrounded by woodland and moss-covered trees. Traveling here feels like going back in time as there are no cars allowed. Rather, visitors must take a boat or ferry from the mainland, and traverse Bald Head by golf cart. And while there's just one grocery store on Bald Head, there are plenty of casual, family-friendly restaurants like Delphina.
Old Saybrook, Connecticut
Just an hour and a half from New York City and two hours from Boston, Old Saybrook is a convenient beach getaway East Coasters. One of the oldest towns in Connecticut, it oozes with New England charm. Main Street is lined with waterfront antique shops, cafes, and Colonial-style homes adorned with American flags and manicured gardens. On summer days, visitors can stand-up paddle board and kayak on the Connecticut River, picnic in Rocky Neck State Park, or explore the scenic trails that make up the Great Island Wildlife Area. And for some more stunning landscapes, check out the 50 Beautiful, Obscure Places in the U.S. You Should Visit This Summer.
When you think of Oahu, you probably imagine the bustling beaches of Honolulu, crammed with tourists and high rise hotels. But this popular vacation island is also home to undiscovered beach towns like Kailua, set on lush Kailua Bay. Just 30 minutes from Waikiki, Kailua feels worlds away from city life. It's where you'll find Kailua Beach Park with its velvet sand and warm, calm water. There are also great hiking trails like the Ka'iwa Ridge Trail, which rises above the shimmering ocean at Lanikai Beach and Maunawili Falls, which traverses past small waterfalls and dense jungle. Every Thursday, the town has a can't-miss farmers' market where vendors sell tropical fruit and ready-to-eat bites from banh mi to garlic shrimp.
St. Michaels, Maryland
Set on a peninsula stretching into the Chesapeake Bay, St. Michaels is a slow-paced place that started out as a shipbuilding and oyster-farming hub. Boating still makes up much of the town's fiber: On sunny days you'll find sailboats floating across the bay and casual crab shacks lining the Miles River marina. With its luxurious boutique hotels like the Inn at Perry Cabin, endless festivals centered around everything from oysters to antiques, preppy shops along Talbot street, and old-timey saloons, St. Michaels is an idyllic and wholesome place to spend the summer. And for more gorgeous places close to home, check out This Is the Most Underrated Travel Destination in Your State.
This small community in Santa Barbara County sits nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Ynez Mountains. Its proximity to Santa Barbara and Los Angeles makes it an easy day trip for anyone hoping to get off the grid. Hike the six-mile Gaviota Peak Trail, rent a surfboard and catch some waves at Campus Point, kick back at Goleta Beach Park, and catch the sunset at the pier overlooking the Pacific. Santa Barbara with its excellent dining scene and award-winning wineries, is just a 15-minute drive from Goleta, but there are also great local eateries like Jane at the Marketplace and Beachside Bar-Cafe.
Jamestown, Rhode Island
Often overshadowed by its busy neighbor Newport, Jamestown is a secluded, family-friendly spot for a summer getaway. Instead of fancy restaurants or boutique shopping, you'll find plenty of quaint farm stands, an unspoiled coast, rural charm, and a small-town feel. Rather than book a hotel room, consider renting a house: There's a wealth of cozy cottages and waterfront mansions overlooking Narragansett Bay. In stark contrast to Newport's bustling downtown, Jamestown's Main Street has just one stoplight and a handful of family-owned shops, bakeries, and fish markets.
From the shores of Key West to Amelia Island, you'll find beach towns just about everywhere you look in the Sunshine State. But chances are you've never heard of Matlacha, a funky fishing village off the coast of St. Meyers. You'll find vibrant colors everywhere you look, from art galleries decorated with painted murals to airstream trailers reminiscent of Woodstock. Unlike neighboring Sanibel and Captiva islands with their whitewashed houses and sandy shores, in Matlacha you'll find channels and rivers lined with neon pink and green seafood shacks like Olde Fish House and Island Seafood Market, selling the catch of the day.
Rye, New Hampshire
A stone's throw from Portsmouth, Rye is a quiet family-friendly getaway made up of underdeveloped shores, calm tide pools, lobster shacks like Ray's Seafood, and mom-and-pop shops. Along the Atlantic coast you'll find Jenness, Rye Harbor, and Wallis Sands State Parks, which are great for swimming, surfing, and sunbathing during the summer months. The downtown area is dotted with yoga studios, surf shops, and cafés like Rye Beach Market and Lazy Bird Cafe, perfect for grabbing smoothies and sandwiches before hitting the beach.
If you can imagine a mix of Cape Cod and Carmel-by-the-Sea, it would look a lot like Seabrook, a small seaside village just east of Olympic National Park. The town's crown jewel is Moclips Beach, a sandy stretch of Pacific Coast, accessible by a woodsy trail. Downtown you'll find family-owned shops like Front Street Market, an ideal stop for picnic provisions, and The Stowaway, an adorable wine bar and cheese shop. Seabrook is also a convenient base camp for exploring the surrounding nature of the Olympic Peninsula: Drive along the Valley of the Giants, a 30-mile loop lined with giant red cedar and spruce trees, or visit Ruby Beach with its red-tinted sand and dramatic sea stacks. And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Cannon Beach might be Oregon's most beloved beach town, but about three hours south of Portland on Highway 101 sits the underrated seaside hamlet of Florence. Like Cannon Beach, Florence is full of rugged, natural beauty everywhere you look, from the rising sand dunes to the long stretch of beaches that meet the Pacific. Because of the dozens of rivers that empty into the ocean around Florence, it's a huge fishing spot for salmon and crabs as well. The center of downtown life can be found along Bay Street, which is lined with small boutiques, coffee shops, and cafes. The Waterfront Depot is one of the best restaurants in town for fresh seafood with river views, and Beachcomber Pub is another local favorite for beer, pub fare, and shuffleboard.
Rehoboth Beach is easily Delaware's most popular summer destination, but there's a good chance you haven't heard of Lewes, a tranquil village just eight miles north. The town sits on the coast where the Atlantic meets the Delaware Bay, which makes for ideal conditions for fishing, swimming, and boating. One of Lewes' main attractions is Cape Henlopen State Park, an uncrowded six-mile stretch of shoreline made up of sandy dunes, gentle surf, and hiking trails. In town, there are annual festivals celebrating everything from sea glass to antiques, local breweries and wineries like Big Oyster Brewery and Nassau Valley Vineyards, a weekly farmers' market, and an exciting food scene. Head to Agave for fresh Mexican food, Striper Bites for fresh caught seafood, and sweet ice cream cones at Hopkins Farm Creamery.
Sullivan's Island, South Carolina
Less than half an hour from Charleston, Sullivan's Island is a peaceful and sleepy respite from city life, perfect for an easy day trip. Within the walkable downtown area, you'll find a handful of great restaurants like The Obstinate Daughter for creative pizzas and pastas and Poe's Tavern, a homey spot for American fare. The island stretches along three miles of shoreline, which feature compact sand you can ride bikes on, shallow, calm water for easy swimming, and incredible sunsets. It also spans the Intracoastal Waterway, where you can kayak or paddleboard through the quiet, marshy inlets.
Blue Hill, Maine
The state of Maine has no shortage of charming beach towns, but few tourists have ever heard of Blue Hill. Located just across the bay from the popular vacation town of Mt. Desert Island, Blue Hill is one of the hundreds of peninsulas and inlets that make up Maine's craggy coast. It boasts just about everything you'd expect from an idyllic village: beautiful New England scenery, a quaint downtown, biking trails, and farmers' markets galore. Explore the winding hills and beaches of Penobscot Bay, shop for handmade vases and mugs at Rackliffe Pottery, stock up on wine and cheese at Blue Hill Wine Shop, and chow down on lobster rolls at The Fish Net. If you go, book a room at the Blue Hill Inn (it's worth staying just for the famous blueberry pancakes served at breakfast).
Fish Creek, Wisconsin
This charming historic town in Door County is beloved for its lovely Green Bay beaches, wide biking trails, quaint downtown, and adorable waterfront cottages. Fish Creek became a popular resort town at the turn of the 20th century, and visiting still feels like stepping back in time. Book a room at the White Gull Inn, a B&B known for its Door County fish boils and epic breakfasts (think: cherry-stuffed French toast). Spend your days exploring Peninsula State Park—sunbathing on Nicolet Beach and hiking or biking the several nature trails. At night, catch a movie at Skyway Drive-In Theatre or grab dessert at Not Licked Yet Frozen Custard.
Greenport, New York
Set on Long Island's North Fork, surrounded by small farms, wineries, and charming B&Bs, Greenport feels like the opposite of the Hamptons. It's laid-back and down to earth, with beautiful beaches and a great food scene—plus, you can go just about anywhere in a T-shirt and flip flops. Stay at the Sound View Greenport, a nautical hotel right on the Long Island Sound, and spend your days exploring the local spots. Sip wine while taking in the waterfront view at Kontokosta Winery, enjoy freshly shucked oysters at Little Creek Oyster Farm and Market, try local brews at Greenport Harbor Brewing Co., and grab a delicious brunch made with ingredients from nearby farm stands at Bruce & Son. And if you do hit the waves, make sure to avoid the 5 Mistakes You Can't Afford to Make at the Beach Right Now.