13 Charming Beach Towns for Under $150 a Night
Boardwalks, ice-cream parlors, and sidewalk cafés—not to mention splendid stretches of sand along the water—are what you expect in a charming beach town, right? From Maine to Southern California, here are the best beaches from coast to coast that won’t break the bank.
Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin
A favorite vacation spot for Chicagoans, Sturgeon Bay, a manufacturing mecca for yachts and boats, and home to Wisconsin Maritime Museum, is the gateway city to the Door County peninsula, wedged between Green Bay and Lake Michigan. Downtown’s cute cafés, vintage B&Bs, and eclectic boutiques are nearly as pretty as the stunning shoreline in nearby Whitefish Dunes State Park. Make it a romantic getaway with a stay at the 18-room White Lace Inn, a Victorian-era B&B in downtown Sturgeon Bay. Find out the most charming small town B&B in every state.
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Perfect for families with small kids, Galveston is home to one of the country’s busiest ports. Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier features a mini amusement park that includes a Ferris wheel, tilt-a-whirl, and plenty of places to eat and drink. Splash in the surf, hike, or birdwatch at Galveston Island State Park. Forget hotels: the real deals here are on Homeaway, where you can book a condo right on the beach starting at $119. Check out this list of cheap beach vacations to take with your family for even more inspiration.
Orange Beach, Alabama
Hugging the Gulf Coast, Orange Beach is a must for history buffs because this beach is along the 90-mile Mobile Bay Civil War Trail, where the Battle for Mobile Bay occurred in 1864. Beach bums also like the sugar-white sand and The Wharf has something for everyone, including concerts at the Amphitheater, cool indie shops, and delicacies like crawfish beignets at Bayes Southern Bar and Grill. Snap up a two-bedroom condo large enough for the whole family to spread out starting at $115 a night, bookable on Homeaway.com.
Close to the Alabama border along the Florida Panhandle, Destin’s pristine beaches along the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico’s have earned the area the nickname, the Emerald Coast. Destin has something for everyone, from the world’s largest fishing vessel to golf courses, and has attracted celebs including Katie Holmes and Sheryl Crow, who reportedly owns a home in nearby Grayton Beach and sings at a local bar in town. Stay at the Inn on Destin Harbor to enjoy private balconies overlooking the marina and cute nautical-style furnishings.
Beaufort, South Carolina
Beaufort is a nice combo of luxe and Lowcountry, plus its an easy jumping off point for numerous historical landmarks, including Fort Fremont, which was built in the 1890s to defend the United States during the Spanish-American War, the Beaufort History Museum, housed in an arsenal dating back to the Revolutionary War, and the Perris Island Museum, which showcases the history of the U.S. Marine Corps. Or, if you just want to shop, stroll down Main Street to peruse antique stores, bookstores, and gift shops featuring local artisans. Rooms at the super-cute Beaufort Inn start at $148 a night on HomeAway.com. Find out the most beautiful Main Streets across America.
Grand Haven, Michigan
This town started as a fur trading post and is now a popular second-home destination for Chicagoans as well as a lure for many Midwesterners thanks to its gorgeous beaches. Order an ice-cream cone at Pier Peddler—right on the Boardwalk—and watch the sunset over Lake Michigan from downtown Grand Haven. For a taste of the beach life, head to PJ Hoffmaster State Park, just north of Grand Haven, or for an in-town experience check out Grand Haven State Park along Harbor Drive. Rooms at the Rodeway Inn in Grand Haven start at $84 a night (breakfast included).
Forty miles north of Malibu lies this quieter community that is a popular spot for surfers. It’s also the gateway city to Channel Islands National Park, and home to Patagonia’s headquarters. Visit Ventura’s list of top-ten photo ops includes the stunning Ventura Pier (especially at sunset). If the town looks familiar, it’s because you saw it in the film Little Miss Sunshine. Opt to make home base at The Shores Inn right on the water.
Blue Hill, Maine
Hot spots like Kennebunkport can be pricey during high season, but Blue Hill is a lesser-known, well-kept secret. Hikers and campers love that it’s 30 miles from Acadia National Park, which USA Today reports is the oldest national park East of the Mississippi River. You won’t find tacky souvenir shops or throngs of people, but you will find artist-made pottery, blankets, wall art, and more. Choose an indie hotel like Primavera Inn, with spa-like baths and Italian cuisine, in the nearby town of Ellsworth for a fun stay.
Fernandina Beach, Florida
In the far northeast corner of Florida is this funky, laid-back town that is actually on an Amelia Island. Take a stroll through the charming downtown, or let your legs rest by taking one of three historic tours offered by Amelia Island Trolleys, ideal for all ages and packed with historical facts. A popular activity is a guided horseback ride on the beach. History buff? Europeans began arriving here in 1562, so you’ll find plenty of historical attractions. Breakwater Hotel at the Beach is within easy walking distance to the beach and serves a complimentary breakfast. Don’t miss more of the best Florida beaches locals want to keep secret.
Lincoln City, Oregon
Oregon’s coastline is a quiet, meditative wonder. Two hours west of Portland, the vibe is chill and there are things to do beyond the beach, including viewing the Japanese glass fishing boats at North Lincoln County Historical Museum. Traveling in the off-season? Keep an eye open for one of the nearly 3,000 artisan-made glass floats the city drops in the water every October through May… finders, keepers! You can get a room with an ocean view—and breakfast—for about $145 a night at the Inn at Wecoma.