America's Happiest Seaside Towns
This story originally appeared on Coastalliving.com.
10. Hermosa Beach, California
What began as a Southern California train stop has blossomed into a vibrant mix of homes and businesses strung along Pacific Coast Highway. Perhaps best known for its wide beaches, Hermosa Beach is also the home of nationally recognized nightclubs, including the Comedy & Magic Club (home of Jay Leno), and the The Lighthouse Cafe, Southern California’s legendary home of West Coast jazz.
Local hangout: Pier Plaza—the last block of Pier Avenue before the water—draws everyone both local and visiting to eat, drink, shop, and listen to music. It’s also the site of Hermosa Beach’s New Year’s Eve beach ball drop.
Cool event: Fiesta Hermosa is the largest arts and crafts fair in Southern California (more than 300 artists participate), held twice every year—Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day weekend.
Stay a weekend: The Ocean Front studio suites at Beach Houseboutique hotel overlook the sand and have fireplaces and balconies. Rates start at $289; 888-895-4559.
Related: The Best Beaches in the USA
9. Portland, Maine
Nurturing its historic working waterfront right alongside a hip, high-tech, and creative economy, this port city on Casco Bay hums with art, culture, and an internationally known culinary scene. The compact downtown is filled with historic brick and stone architecture, and crossed with cobblestone streets, making it picturesque in all seasons. Plus, of course, there’s instant access to the freshest lobster going.
Local hangout: With no advertising and no sign, Lincoln’s is the ultimate insider hangout. Every drink at this basement speakeasy is $5 (hence the name)‚ and the actual entrance is a well-guarded secret—you need to get near 36 Market Street and look for a local to ask.
Cool event: While Portland hosts numerous high-wattage food, wine, beer, and art festivals, residents love Merry Madness, the city’s wine-fueled holiday shopping party.
Best souvenir: Sea Bags. Sewn on site in the waterfront studio/shop, these bags made from authentic sails are the go-to to take home.
Stay a weekend: A stone’s throw from the downtown action, the luxuriously redoubtable Inn by the Seais worth the short commute, with its sandy beach, pool, spa, and excellent on-site dining. Rates start at $229; 207/799-3134 orinnbythesea.com.
8. Seaside, Oregon
Perhaps best known as the end of Lewis and Clark’s epic expedition, Seaside is also Oregon’s oldest seaside resort town. (Vacationing Portlandites took a train out to the shore from the late 1800s until the highway was completed in 1938.) Seaside’s wide beaches have made it home to the world’s largest amateur beach volleyball tournament, and its historic aquarium is a fun family escape (feed the seals!). Downtown’s Broadway is a buzzing cluster of restaurants, shops, and classic summer amusements like bumper cars and an antique carousel.
Local hangout: Since Victorian days, the 11/2-mile-long oceanfront Promenade (known as “The Prom”) draws everyone to the shore for walking, biking, running, or just watching the waves roll in.
Cool event: Hood to Coast, the world’s longest running relay race, has its finish line in Seaside. Every year, more than 1,000 teams of 12 trade off running the 198 miles from Mt. Hood to the water.
Best souvenir: Sand dollars are a prized find.
7. Capitola, California
Backed by rugged cliffs and with peaceful Soquel Creek running through its beachfront village, Capitola is California’s oldest seaside resort town. Its streets are lined with colorful hotels and homes, and its wharf on Monterey Bay hums with activity. Provider of 90 percent of the world’s begonia flowers from the 1930s to the 1970s, the town is home to the Capitola Begonia Festival(now in its 64th year), which includes flower-laden floats plying Soquel Creek.
Local hangout: All roads lead to the Esplanade, a waterfront promenade that passes shops, restaurants, and historic homes.
Cool event: Wharf to Wharf Race. Every July, 16,000 runners cover six miles from the Santa Cruz Wharf to the Capitola Wharf, with bands providing party breaks the whole way.
Best souvenir: A poster print from the Capitola Begonia Festival.
6. Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina
Along just 3.3 miles of Atlantic shoreline at the mouth of Charleston Harbor, what this tiny community lacks in size it more than makes up for in beauty and historic charm. What may be most stunning about Sullivan’s Island is its commitment to preserving its natural gifts—the town owns the land bordering its beaches, and has protected it under easements. The perpetual gift of public access to pristine shoreline, paired with easy access to the cultural wealth of nearby Charleston, makes this residential enclave with stunning mansions a prized Lowcountry address.
Local hangout: Writer Edgar Allan Poe was stationed briefly at Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s, and the restaurant that bears his name, Poe’s Tavern, is the absolute hangout for regulars (and makes a great burger, to boot).
Cool event: The New Year’s Day Polar Bear Plunge spearheaded by Dunleavy’s Pub is not only a huge, fun-loving party, but also raises funds for South Carolina Special Olympics. Look for folks wearing white tuxedos with green ties and vests heading straight into the Atlantic.
Best souvenir: A sand dollar—as beachy, beautiful, and pristine as Sullivan’s Island itself.
Stay a weekend: With Sullivan’s being primarily residential, the place to stay is just one island over, at Wild Dunes Resort on Isle of Palms: great beaches, great golf, and proximity to both Sullivan’s and Charleston. Rates start at $199; 866/359-5593 or wilddunes.com.
For all of America's Happiest Season Towns, head over to Coastal Living.