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Best coastal small town? Readers vote Chincoteague, Virginia

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Come to Chincoteague for uncrowded beaches and a walkable downtown

Note from 10Best: Someday, we'll all be ready to pack our suitcases again and head out on our next adventures. In the meantime, we'll keep supporting the places that inspire us.

  • Chincoteague

    Chincoteague
    Virginia

    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 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

  • Bayfield

    Bayfield
    Wisconsin

    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 thirdmonarch.com / Matt Goudreau

  • Venice

    Venice
    Florida

    This small town south of Sarasota sits along 14 miles of beaches – the perfect setting for swimming, fishing, boating and basking in the Florida sun. Venice is a designated Florida Main Street City for its charming downtown, known for its Italian-style architecture.
    Photo courtesy of iStock / Gabriele Maltinti

  • 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 Rockport-Fulton Chamber of Commerce

  • Bay Saint Louis

    Bay Saint Louis
    Mississippi

    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 fresh Gulf seafood, museums and an 8.5-mile canoe and kayak trail.
    Photo courtesy of iStock / ArtistheJourney

  • Southport

    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 / Rick Lanier

  • Georgetown

    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 / michaelgatewood

  • St. Marys

    St. Marys
    Georgia

    The historic small town of St. Marys serves as the gateway to Cumberland Island and the Georgia coast. There’s a bit of something for everyone, from excellent museums (St. Marys Submarine Museum and the Cumberland Island National Seashore Museum), a full calendar of outdoor festivals, and plenty of opportunity for recreation on the water.
    Photo courtesy of St. Marys Convention & Visitors Bureau/Ashley Alexander

  • Gulf Shores

    Gulf Shores
    Alabama

    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

  • Sandusky

    Sandusky
    Ohio

    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 Lake Erie Shores & Islands

  • Chincoteague
  • Bayfield
  • Venice
  • Rockport, Texas
  • Bay Saint Louis
  • Southport
  • Georgetown
  • St. Marys
  • Gulf Shores
  • Sandusky

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 that prove bigger isn't always better.

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

  1. Chincoteague - Virginia
  2. Bayfield - Wisconsin
  3. Venice - Florida
  4. Rockport, Texas
  5. Bay Saint Louis - Mississippi
  6. Southport - North Carolina
  7. Georgetown - South Carolina
  8. St. Marys - Georgia
  9. Gulf Shores - Alabama
  10. Sandusky - Ohio

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

Congratulations to all these winning small towns!

License the 10Best Readers' Choice Award Logo

 

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