America’s Favorite Beach Towns

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GoldenIsles.com

With boardwalk rides, historic mansions, and homemade fudge, the best seaside towns offer charms that stretch beyond the sand.

No. 1 St. Simons Island, GA

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Lined with white sand and live oaks, the biggest of Georgia’s Golden Isles won the beach-town contest for offering a triple threat of southern charm, serenity, and affordability. It’s not hard, after all, to get hotel rates here under $200 a night. St. Simons Inn, for instance, overlooks a 19th-century lighthouse, while the King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort, a former dance club, is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. St. Simons also scored well with readers for its good picnicking spots, events like the 4th of July Sunshine Festival, and for romance. You two might rent a bike or catch a trolley to tour the area’s plantations.

America’s Favorite Beach Towns

No. 1 St. Simons Island, GA

Lined with white sand and live oaks, the biggest of Georgia’s Golden Isles won the beach-town contest for offering a triple threat of southern charm, serenity, and affordability. It’s not hard, after all, to get hotel rates here under $200 a night. St. Simons Inn, for instance, overlooks a 19th-century lighthouse, while the King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort, a former dance club, is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. St. Simons also scored well with readers for its good picnicking spots, events like the 4th of July Sunshine Festival, and for romance. You two might rent a bike or catch a trolley to tour the area’s plantations.

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America’s Favorite Beach Towns

For a really good lobster roll, Kristin Francis is willing to drive a few extra hours.

“It would make more sense for me as a New Yorker to hit the Hamptons or the Jersey Shore each summer,” says the souvenir-shopping blogger. “But I skip these spots and take the longer drive to Chatham.” Along with the lobster at Chatham Pier Fish Market, she loves the handblown vases at Chatham Glass Company and the fudge at Chatham Candy Manor. “It has that small-town vibe.”

Travel + Leisure readers also loved the Cape Cod destination, ranking Chatham, MA, among the top 10 beach towns nationwide. As part of our annual America’s Favorite Towns survey, readers evaluated hundreds of places for qualities like romantic hotels and live music. Not surprisingly, many of the towns that scored well for picnics, seafood shacks, and cool motels also sit right next to the shore.

Granted, beach towns come in a variety of flavors, from mansion-lined Newport, RI, to lovably kooky Key West, FL. One top 25 beach town provides easy access to wine country. In another, you can get an up-close look at the local pirate past. Either way, once you have found your ideal beach village, you want to keep coming back, like the tide itself.

Mary Castillo, for instance, goes to Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA, twice a year and gets more attached each time. During the summer, she looks forward to seeing dolphins surfing the waves, and in the winter, “after the storms, the sand is swept clear to reveal the bedrock underneath,” says the mystery writer. “When we walk on Carmel Beach, it’s never the same, and yet it feels like home.”

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