Life's a beach, but if receipts from the Hamptons are any indication, that life is limited to a select few. Or is it? While America's renowned beach towns often cost an arm and a leg, not every destination has the high cost of Miami or Malibu. Underrated, affordable communities encompass every corner of the country, boasting rich history and heritage, abundant art and cultural scenes, aquatic activities galore, and fresh, flavorful cuisine — without the high price tag.
There's no shortage of New England charm in Brunswick, a historic community that dates back to 1628. Stroll through the streets and take in stunning architecture dating back centuries, or immerse yourself in a vibrant arts and culture scene that thrives year-round. From the Maine State Music Theatre to Bowdoin College Museum of Art, there's always a show or gallery viewing to catch, while nature stuns at the Doubling Point Lighthouse, Bradbury Mountain State Park, and Hamilton Audubon Sanctuary.
An old-world aesthetic meets new-world marvels in Charleston. As one of the oldest and most diverse communities in the U.S., it features rich history, culture, and cuisine that are tough to beat. Check out award-winning restaurants that include everything from farm-to-table favorites to international entrees. Discover stately plantations that strike up images of Gone With the Wind, visit Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum, or analyze unforgettable architecture along Rainbow Row. An array of nearby beaches all have distinct vibes; check out Seabrook Island Beach, Folly Beach, and Isle of Palms Beach for aquatic adventures.
With 32 miles of sun-soaked beaches, Galveston offers ample space for exploration. Nestled in the Gulf of Mexico, the city's non-stop energy doesn't stop at the shore. Take the self-guided Freedom Walk to discover the city's history up-close, or experience 1880s Galveston during a "Ship to Shore" experience. Taste the island's freshest catch at local seafood markets and restaurants, or explore vintage boutiques and locally made goodies lining picturesque stone streets.
Located just across the bay from Ocean City's iconic shores, Ocean Pines is an affordable alternative with a classic Americana ambiance. This quieter community has a small-town aesthetic equipped with everything you'd expect in a beach town, including a nine-mile stretch of serene bayfront. Home to some of New England's top golf courses, you'll also discover affordable yacht rides and boat cruises, engaging amusement parks, fishing, and Instagram-worthy photos at Isle of Wright Bay.
A budget-friendly beach destination in California sounds like something out of a dream, but it's entirely possible in Eureka. Located on the edge of Humboldt Bay, the city is a peaceful oasis for artists and creatives. You'll experience striking views from every angle with sky-high redwoods surrounding the coastal landscape; an immersive redwood skywalk takes you 100 feet up to explore the area in-depth. Go kayaking out in the bay, discover the wonders of historic Old Town, catch a fire dancing or aerial silk show, attend a roller derby performance, or dine on fresh, locally grown cuisine.
The jewel of Mississippi's Secret Coast, Ocean Springs is the oldest city in the state, with a one-of-kind, artsy ambiance brimming with history, creativity, and cuisine. Over 100 unique restaurants and bars feature everything from fresh seafood and Southern favorites to international fare, with a lively nightlife scene to satisfy partygoers. Downtown, you'll discover live music, boutiques, art galleries, and engaging museums, including Fort Massachusetts and the Walter Anderson Museum of Art. With 2.2 miles of sandy shores, aquatic activities abound.
Regarded for its naval and maritime heritage, Bremerton brims with activity just a short ferry ride away from Seattle. You'll find a vibrant arts district overflowing with clubs, eateries, live music, fine art galleries, museums, and one-of-a-kind shops. Visit the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, hop aboard the historic USS Turney Joy, or discover one of many military and memorial sites. Boating, mountain biking, horseback riding, and hiking opportunities surround the city, and you'll also find quirky attractions like the Valentinetti Puppet Museum and the Bug Museum — all set against a picturesque mountain backdrop.
Located in the heart of the Mid-Atlantic region, Hampton offers an adventurous atmosphere filled with engaging activities. Discover more about local nature and wildlife at Grandview Nature Preserve and Bluebird Gap Farm, or embrace premier camping and fishing opportunities at Sandy Bottom Nature Park. Travel back in time at Fort Monroe National Monument, or attend a show at the nearly 10,000-seat capacity Hampton Coliseum. The city is also a foodie paradise, with unique culinary experiences including coastal classics, confections, soul food, Mexican, Middle Eastern, and an enticing craft beer scene.
Known as the "Friendly City by the Sea," Swansboro lives up to its name. The whimsical community honors its centuries-old heritage with an assortment of historic shops and restaurants. The coastal environment is ripe with water activities of every variety, including swimming, fishing, boating, paddleboarding, and parasailing. There's more to explore on land, including a lively downtown district, a workshop with painting lessons, and Hammocks Beach State Park, a barrier island with scenic marshes and maritime forest.
As the world center of racing, those with a need for speed will find their adrenaline fulfilled at the Daytona International Speedway and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America. The city is also the festival capital of Florida, hosting iconic events like Bike Week, Halifax Art Festival, and the Daytona Turkey Run. Throughout the year, 60 smaller festivals honor a range of interests, from art to every genre of music, culture, and cuisine. White sand beaches are a huge draw, with water sports and natural attractions encouraging exploration year-round.