Best Coastal Small Town 2016


Move over L.A., Miami and Honolulu! Our 10 winners for Best Coastal Small Town – each with a population of fewer than 25,000 people – offer uncrowded, unpretentious and affordable seaside fun in small packages that prove bigger isn't always better.

  • Ogunquit, Maine

    Ogunquit, Maine

    During the summer months, the population of tiny Ogunquit swells as visitors flock to the 3-mile white sand beach backed by grass-covered dunes on the Maine coast. Before gaining fame as a resort community described as a mini Provincetown, Ogunquit attracted prominent artists like Charles H. Woodbury, Walt Kuhn and Yasuo Kuniyoshi. Besides gallery hopping, visitors to the Maine town can whale watch, kayak, hike, golf or go deep-sea fishing just off the coast.
    Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

  • St. Simons Island, Ga.

    St. Simons Island, Ga.

    St. Simons Island, the most developed of Georgia's Golden Isles, combines the best of a beach resort and the Old South. Sandy beaches, golf courses, tennis facilities and more than 100 restaurants, many specializing in fresh-caught Gulf seafood, are best explored by biking or driving the oak-lined winding  roads connecting the island's villages.
    Photo courtesy of Golden Isles

  • Fernandina Beach, Fla.

    Fernandina Beach, Fla.

    Visitors to the quaint Victorian bay side town of Fernandina Beach on Florida's Amelia Island enjoy 13 miles of idyllic beach, a smattering of moss draped oaks and a charm that makes the island feel more Old South than Floridian. Vacationers have been flocking to this Atlantic island since the late 19th century, when Henry Flagler helped transform the wild island into a seaside resort destination.
    Photo courtesy of Amelia Island

  • Rockport, Texas

    Rockport, Texas

    Across the Aransas Bay from Corpus Christi, the streets of Rockport are lined with art galleries – the town claims to have the highest percentage of artists in Texas. The pedestrian-friendly downtown is filled with shops and restaurants, and more often than not, accommodation takes the form of old fashioned motel courts. Windswept oak trees and large swathes of protected coastal wetlands make this section of the Texas Gulf Coast one of the loveliest.
    Photo courtesy of Drew Holmgreen

  • Saugatuck, Mich.

    Saugatuck, Mich.

    Saugatuck sits along the shores of Lake Michigan. A popular summer getaway for Chicago and Detroit residents, Saugatuck has a lovely Victorian downtown, abundant art galleries and cool cafes, more than 35 bed and breakfasts, and easy access to dunes and beaches in the Gold Coast's nearby state parks.
    Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

  • Chincoteague, Va.

    Chincoteague, Va.

    Just south of the Maryland-Virginia border, the resort island of Chincoteague maintains a sense of delightful seclusion while still offering visitors an array of shops, restaurants, motels and waterside bars, all packed within a walkable and affordable package. Uncrowded beaches stretch for miles just outside of town, and wonderful Assateague Island with its famous herd of wild ponies lies just across the water.
    Photo courtesy of Chincoteague Chamber of Commerce

  • Port Townsend, Wash.

    Port Townsend, Wash.

    Situated on the lush Olympic Peninsula, the town of Port Townsend ranks among Washington's most picturesque towns. It's also one of the few places in the state where the travel focus is less on national parks and outdoor pursuits and more on art galleries, trendy eateries and antique stores. Visitors have their choice of sleepy bed and breakfasts that occupy the Victorian-era homes perched on the bluff.
    Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

  • Tybee Island, Ga.

    Tybee Island, Ga.

    A few miles east of Savannah sits the sleepy beach community of Tybee Island, famous for its 3-mile long stretch of wide, sandy beach ideal for swimming and water sports. The focal point of the island is the beautifully restored Tybee Island Lighthouse and Museum, a maritime landmark that has been guiding sailors since 1736. The island's collection of seafood restaurants, motels and tourist-centric shops haven't changed much in the past few decades.
    Photo courtesy of Visit Savannah

  • Gulf Shores, Ala.

    Gulf Shores, Ala.

    Visitors to Gulf Shores, at the heart of the Alabama Gulf Coast, will be met with sugary-white sand beaches, Southern-style fresh seafood, championship golf courses and nearly any water sport you can imagine, thanks to the many nearby back bays and rivers. Preserves and state parks protect much of the region make Gulf Shores an ideal base for a natural coastal escape.
    Photo courtesy of Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism

  • Bayfield, Wis.

    Bayfield, Wis.

    Gateway to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, charming Bayfield features hilly streets lined with Victorian-era homes and quaint bed and breakfasts. This coastal town on the shores of Lake Superior is particularly charming come autumn, when the foliage is at peak color and the apple harvest is in full swing.
    Photo courtesy of Dls4832 / Wikimedia Commons

The top 10 winners in the category Best Coastal Small Town are as follows:

  1. Ogunquit, Maine
  2. St. Simons Island, Ga.
  3. Fernandina Beach, Fla.
  4. Rockport, Texas
  5. Saugatuck, Mich.
  6. Chincoteague, Va.
  7. Port Townsend, Wash.
  8. Tybee Island, Ga.
  9. Gulf Shores, Ala.
  10. Bayfield, Wis.

A panel of experts picked the initial 20 nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote. Experts Larry Bleiberg (, Deborah Fallows (American Futures), Anna Hider (Roadtrippers), Libby McMillan and the 10Best team of Local Experts were chosen based on their extensive knowledge of American travel.

RELATED WINNERS: 2015 Best Coastal Small Town

Other nominees in the category Best Coastal Small Town included Beaufort, S.C.; Cannon Beach, Ore.; Carmel-by-the-Sea, Calif.; Duck, N.C.; Portsmouth, N.H.; Rehoboth Beach, Del.; Sanibel Island, Fla.; St. Michaels, Md.; Sullivan's Island, S.C. and Traverse City, Mich.

Congratulations to all our winning coastal small towns!

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AlertThe Experts

Larry Bleiberg

Larry Bleiberg

Larry Bleiberg

Deborah Fallows

Deborah Fallows

Deborah Fallows

Anna Hider

Anna Hider

Anna Hider

Libby McMillan

Libby McMillan

Libby McMillan

10Best Local Experts

10Best Local Experts

10Best Local Experts