Surrounded by three major bodies of water, the U.S. is lined with dozens of coastal towns with superb ocean views, awesome beaches and rich history. The beaches of Florida and California continue to be some of the most frequented in the nation. But equally spectacular are the beach towns of the South, the Northeast and the Northwest.
The best beach towns in the nation offer a combination of excellent beaches, of course, but also other attractions and points of interest that make traveling to these spots a true destination. Among the sites to see in towns on this list are museums, state and national parks, shopping and dining complexes and even boardwalks. Florida and California are staples, but you may be surprised to see beach towns in Delaware, Oregon and Alabama also on the list. Each destination is geographically unique and offers an inherently different experience from the others.
Gulf Shores, Alabama
The Gulf Coast continues to be a major attraction for travelers across the country, and even around the world. The warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, gorgeous beaches that glisten in the sun, natural Southern charm and some of the freshest, tastiest seafood in the world can be found in this beach town off the coast of Alabama. Watersports like jet skiing and parasailing are a must. Travelers can also enjoy other activities like dinner cruises, museums and world-class golfing.
Gulf Shores is a family-friendly destination. Parents and kids have a wealth of options to have fun during their stay, including a visit to a local arcade or movie theater, a dolphin encounter and, of course, endless days at Gulf Shores Beach enjoying the warm water. For a closer encounter with nature, families can visit the Gulf State Park or the Bon Secour National Wildlife Preserve.
(credit: Jim Watson/Getty Images)
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
Known by many as the nation's summer capital, this small northeastern beach town makes a big impact on the people who visit. Whether it's for a first-time vacation to the area or it's a yearly travel tradition, travelers will find that Rehoboth Beach is the quintessential New England town with old colonial character and unsurpassed coastal beauty.
Arguably the most popular and most frequented attraction in Rehoboth Beach is the boardwalk, a one-mile stretch of shops, gaming, restaurants and hotels. Recently renovated in 2010, the boardwalk provides excellent access to the beach, which naturally includes fantastic panoramic views of the Atlantic. Dewey Beach is the place to go for the "day at the beach" experience many travelers seek in a beach town. Located in between the Atlantic Ocean and Rehoboth Bay, beachgoers can enjoy basking in the sun or even jumping on a surfboard.
Cannon Beach, Oregon
When one thinks of a beach town, he or she may not necessarily think of Oregon being among the list. Ironically, that's what makes Cannon Beach a must-see destination. The geography of the Northwest is so varied and layered, and that is what adds to the beauty of Cannon Beach. Surrounded by water and mountain ranges, travelers will find beaches that are imprinted with rugged character. Sand as white as sugar lines the coast. Equally alluring are the monoliths that stand just off the shore. These erect rock formations look more like natural sculptures and often become the focal point of a beach visit.
One of the most popular landmarks in Cannon Beach is Haystack Rock, a large monolith that visitors can get to by foot during low tide. Tillamook Rock Lighthouse is another go-to local destination for travelers interested in touring a piece of history. Cannon Beach is well known for its art galleries and is even considered one of the top art towns in the country. A number of galleries in this beach town feature world class art. Cannon Beach is also excellent for enjoying the outdoors, with several trails, state parks and other outdoor activities that offer beautiful views and a unique nature encounter.
St. Pete Beach, Florida
Once voted the number one beach destination in America by TripAdvisor, St. Pete Beach has always been notable for two things – its fantastic beach and its old Florida surroundings. While it is rather close to neighboring cities like Tampa, Clearwater and less than two hours from Orlando, it's far enough away from the large metro cities that it's a great choice for those wanting to escape the hustle and bustle of the big city. The beaches here are simply magical. The warm weather Florida is famous for gives an energetic burst to any beach day. Stretch out on a beach towel and relax or jump on a jet ski or water tube for an aquatic adventure.
Lodging options here are varied and plentiful. Travelers can find anything from a cozy inn in town to a sprawling resort right on the coast. One of the most popular attractions is The Pier, an entertainment complex that sits five stories high and offers the best in dining, shopping and more.
Coronado offers the quintessential California Beach experience, minus the business and congestion that is found in larger beach cities in the state. It's a short drive from San Diego, but offers a very different experience from its big city counterpart. In 2012, famed expert Dr. Beach picked Coronado as the number one beach in the U.S. Its gloriously pristine beaches and small town charm demonstrate why it garnered such recognition.
The beaches in Coronado are increasingly popular because of their natural beauty and the low-impact surf. It also has a beachfront boardwalk where visitors can enjoy beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean. One of the most popular attractions in Coronado is the Hotel del Coronado, a designated National Historic Site that was originally built in 1888. Orange Avenue, Coronado's "main street," is lined with excellent options for dining, shopping, entertainment and the arts, including the Coronado Historical Museum.
For nearly 20 years, Shawanda James has been actively involved in creative writing in Miami, Florida. In addition to her work as a freelance writer, she is actively seeking publication for her debut novel and collection of poetry. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.
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