Best Coastal Small Town (2019)


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 as of the last census – offer uncrowded, unpretentious and affordable seaside fun in small packages.

  • Sandusky


    Located midway between Cleveland and Toledo, Sandusky is one of Ohio’s best lakeside escapes. Visitors will find a revitalized downtown district with plenty of shopping and dining options, recreation on Lake Erie, wine tasting and some of the world’s best rollercoasters at Cedar Point.
    Photo courtesy of iStock / JodiJacobson

  • Rockport


    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 iStock / LaVonna Moore

  • Chincoteague


    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

  • Georgetown

    South Carolina

    The small community of Georgetown on the Carolina coast is what Charleston used to be – 200-year-old homes (more than Charleston in fact), scenic plantations, lots of Southern charm and none of the crowds. Local restaurants serve up Low Country specialties, and outdoor adventures might include kayaking, fishing or paddleboarding.
    Photo courtesy of iStock photo / LCBallard

  • Bay St. Louis

    Bay St. Louis

    The quaint seaside town of Bay St. Louis calls itself “a place apart,” and it’s easy to see why. The friendly community has everything you’d want from a small town seaside escape – a store-lined Main Street, restaurants serving Gulf seafood, museums and an 8.5-mile canoe and kayak trail.
    Photo courtesy of iStock / ArtistheJourney

  • Gulf Shores

    Gulf Shores

    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

  • Southport

    North Carolina

    The historic maritime town of Southport has been a pitstop of seafarers – everyone from pirates to fishermen – since the 1500s. Today the historic streets are lined with boutique shops and seafood restaurants where visitors tuck into crab cakes and steamed shrimp on waterfront patios. The town is also the jumping off point for ferry trips to nearby Bald Head Island.
    Photo courtesy of iStock / Tar_Heel_Rob

  • St. Simons Island

    St. Simons Island

    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 seafood, are best explored by biking or driving the oak-lined winding roads connecting the island's villages.
    Photo courtesy of

  • Saugatuck


    One of the most popular resort towns on Michigan's Gold Coast, Saugatuck is known for its B&Bs, art galleries and stunning Lake Michigan shore. This small town's charms include a 19th century downtown area brimming with shopping opportunities and chic cafes and easy access to the dunes and beaches of the nearby state parks.
    Photo courtesy of iStock, Getty Images

  • Bayfield


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


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

  1. Sandusky, Ohio
  2. Rockport, Texas
  3. Chincoteague, Virginia
  4. Georgetown, South Carolina
  5. Bay St. Louis, Mississippi
  6. Gulf Shores, Alabama
  7. Southport, North Carolina
  8. St. Simons Island, Georgia
  9. Saugatuck, Michigan
  10. Bayfield, Wisconsin

A panel of experts (listed below) partnered with 10Best editors to pick the initial 20 nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote.

Congratulations to all these winning small towns!

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Marla Cimini

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