Few things are more relaxing than the sound of waves crashing on the shore while the smell of salty ocean air surrounds you. A trip to one of the United States’ unspoiled small beach towns offers just that and more. But it can be hard to find this idyllic setting among the hundreds of popular, more touristy beach destinations. At TripAdvisor Rentals, we’ve compiled a list of 15 small-town beach escapes to help you plan the peaceful getaway you’ve been dreaming of.
If you’re visiting one of these terrific small beach towns, consider booking a rental property as your accommodation. You’ll enjoy your own private and comfortable space with amenities like a full kitchen and laundry. Each destination on our list has great rental properties available, whether you’re looking to stay downtown near restaurants, shops and nightlife, or fantasize about stepping straight from your doorstep to the sand.
Once you decide where you’re headed, you can book your rental property, tours, and activities all right here on TripAdvisor! Fill your itinerary with fun activities, excursions, and sightseeing adventures. Plus, our new 24-hour cancellation policy (on in-destination experiences) means you can pre-book before arriving, but still have the flexibility to cancel if your itinerary changes.
With a population of less than 1,000, Saugatuck fits the “small beach town” description to a T. Located on the coast of Lake Michigan, the town offers a pristine shoreline, delightful local cuisine, shops and art galleries, and its beloved sand dunes. One of Saugatuck’s most exciting and fun attractions are its Dune Rides, where you are driven in an open-air dune buggy up, down, and around the sandy hills and valleys. For an equally enjoyable, if slightly less thrilling time, check out Butler Street downtown for great shopping and dining. For a classic day at the beach, Oval Beach is a stunning coastal gem known for its crystal clear water.
If you’re looking to escape to a quaint and picturesque small beach town on the West Coast, Solana Beach will exceed expectations. Solana Beach lies on the northern coast of San Diego County and is a quick 30-minute drive from downtown San Diego. At Fletcher Cove Park, the town’s main stretch of sandy beachfront, you can view free concerts every Thursday night throughout the summer. Visit Cedros Design District for its unique shopping, art galleries, and restaurants. For your lodging, Solana Beach has tons of great rental properties to choose from near or on the ocean.
As far as small beach towns go, Hawaii is overflowing! In the town of Kailua, located on the eastern coast of Oahu, there is plenty to do and see both on and off the beach. Hike up Olomana Three Peaks Trail for stellar views of the island and ocean beyond, or take in all of Kailua and Oahu’s beauty from the skies on a helicopter tour around the three peaks. Get out on the water on a kayaking tour, where you’ll snorkel through coral reefs and come face to face with green sea turtles. Kailua is a great place for renters to relax in privacy within walking distance from the beach.
For a quiet beach retreat in a picturesque town, consider a visit to Pacific City. With a population of under 1,500, this small beach town has much to offer vacationers seeking a special and relaxing escape. Pacific City’s beaches are full of hidden treasures—you can spend a memorable afternoon combing the shore for agates, sand dollars, hermit crabs, and more. Explore the coast on horseback with Green Acres Beach & Trail Rides. For refreshing craft beer and delightful cuisine right on the water, the Pelican Pub and Brewery is well worth checking out.
Lewes boasts unspoiled beaches, an abundance of nature, and centuries-old history apparent wherever you go. Located on the shore, Cape Henlopen State Park is a great area to lounge and play by the water, or bike and hike perfectly preserved nature trails. For history lovers, be sure to visit Fort Miles Historic Area to see relics from WWII as well as stunning ocean views from the Fort’s lookout point. Lewes is a great place for visitors looking to rent, with homes and apartments at the beach or downtown available year-round.
New England beach towns are plentiful, but Ogunquit offers something truly special for the vacationer seeking a small-town beach escape. Named by the Abenaki tribe, Ogunquit translates to “beautiful place by the sea.” The beach is a long peninsula with the open ocean on one side and the quietly flowing Ogunquit River on the other, ideal for swimming and playing with small children. Marginal Way, a walking path that follows the shoreline and cliffs, makes for a picturesque and relaxing walk. In the evening you can view a play or musical at the award winning Ogunquit Playhouse. For renters, Ogunquit has many properties available throughout the charming downtown area or right on the shore.
The tiny island town of Wrightsville Beach is a great escape for active travelers. The expansive beaches are perfectly suited for stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, windsurfing, kitesurfing, or just regular old surfing, and there are tons of places to rent gear for each. For a more relaxed few hours in Wrightsville Beach, don’t miss out on a visit to Airlie Gardens. The public gardens dating back to the 1880s overflow with colorful flowers and plant life, idyllic ponds dotted with lily pads, and historic structures to explore.
In Chincoteague Island, wild ponies run free on unspoiled beaches. We’re not kidding. And the ponies are far from the only wildlife you’ll see when you visit, as the island is also well known for its diverse bird populations. You can spot these beautiful creatures and more on a walk or bike through the National Wildlife Refuge. The island also offers several boat tours, many of which are specifically designed for optimal pony-spotting. Enjoy excellent local craft brews and cuisine at Black Narrows Brewing in the heart of downtown, close by to several shops and restaurants.
Located on the Gulf Coast of Alabama, Orange Beach is known for its water sports. They have it all: parasailing, windsurfing, stand-up paddleboarding, diving, water skiing, jet skiing…we could go on. Boat tours are a great way to explore the coastline while on the lookout for dolphin pods, which aren’t very hard to find on these waters. Back on land, The Wharf is a popular shopping and dining area complete with a ferris wheel. Rental properties are available all over Orange Beach, from hip downtown apartments to cozy beachside homes.
A slice of California paradise can be found at Avila Beach, a small beach town getaway with picturesque shorelines and cliffs that jut out over the sea. The Bob Jones City to Sea Bike Trail is an awesome attraction that takes you on foot or by bike along a peaceful tree-lined trail from the beach to the downtown area. Pirate’s Cove Beach is a quieter and more off-the-beaten-path beach with stunning views and rock formations. Renters can choose from many delightful properties available to book in Avila Beach.
Dolphins, sea turtles, and a postcard-ready 1,000-foot wooden pier are just part of what makes Folly Beach a truly special small-town beach escape. This island town offers tons of ways to take in all its beauty. Get out on the water on a kayak or boat tour, or explore the town by renting a moped for either an hour or a full day. It’s no surprise that a place like Folly Beach would be known for delectable seafood, and some local dining favorites include the Folly Beach Crab Shack and Loggerhead’s Beach Grill.
The small beach city of Ocean Shores is truly a shore-lovere’s paradise. A peninsula, Ocean Shores is surrounded by water on three sides, has two pristine lakes, and miles and miles of freshwater canal. At the southeastern tip of the peninsula lies Damon Point State Park, a large and unspoiled section of land jutting out into the sea with spectacular mountain views. The park is home to some truly incredible wildlife; don’t be surprised if you happen to spot a snowy owl hanging around. To explore the area by sea, you can rent a boat from Ocean Shores Boat House. They also offer stand up paddle boards, pedal boats, and hydrobikes.
Known for its glorious sunrises and sunsets, Fernandina Beach offers both the relaxation that a small beach town brings as well as a bustling shopping and dining scene. Fernandina Beach is located on Amelia Island off the coast of Northeast Florida. For a romantic escape or fun with the family, horseback riding tours along the shore are an extremely popular and memorable activity here. Boat and kayak tours are available to those looking to get out on the water. If you’re into craft beer and liquor, add a visit to the Marlin and Barrel Distillery to your itinerary for a tour and a tasting!
Super small Surfside Beach may be exactly the right destination if you’re looking for peace, quiet, and relaxation in a beautiful oceanside setting. For those who love to fish, and even for those who’ve never done it before, there are several fishing charters to choose from for an afternoon of deep sea fishing. Check out Cowboy Charters, a local favorite. There are many quaint, secluded seaside properties available to rent to make your vacation a true haven for relaxation.
25 miles south of Fort Myers lies Sanibel Island, a small beach town perfect for families, nature lovers, and beach bums. Spend an afternoon combing the white sandy beaches for seaglass and shells, or travel downtown for an afternoon shopping and dining at one of the island’s many restaurants. No surprise, the seafood is beyond delicious! Boat tours around the island can take you deep sea fishing or dolphin spotting. Look out for vibrant pink flamingos and other native birds at the J.N. Darling National Wildlife Refuge, where you can also kayak, fish, and enjoy a picnic lunch. Sanibel Island offers beachfront rental properties galore, so you’ll never have to stray too far from the shore.