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With boardwalk rides, historic mansions, and homemade fudge, the best seaside towns offer charms that stretch beyond the sand.
No. 6 Chatham, MA
America’s Favorite Beach Towns
No. 6 Chatham, MA
Chatham still supports a commercial fishing operation, but clearly has a softer side: readers ranked it at the top of the survey for its sense of romance. One swoon-worthy hotel is the luxurious clapboard Chatham Bars Inn, set on 25 acres with its own private beach, spa, and more than two-dozen shingled cottages. Among public shores, Chatham Lighthouse Beach is considered the most scenic. The good times here on Cape Cod don’t die down after Labor Day: thanks in part to its annual Pumpkin People display, Chatham also ranked near the top for being a cool Halloween destination.
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.”
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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.
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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.”