For many Americans, there are few things better than a beach vacation. If you believe this to be true, then you may have considered purchasing a summer beach house of your own.
“You can’t put a price on the sense of tranquility and stress relief that comes from waking up to the sound of waves crashing onto the shore,” says Eric Bramlett, realtor and owner of Bramlett Residential in Austin. “All things considered, buying a beach house can be a great investment, both financially and for your mental and physical well-being.”
But where is the best place to make that investment? To help you find the best summer beach home, we’ve rated the top 74 beach towns in the United States based on home values, weather data, dining, entertainment, and air pollution.
Five of the top 10 beach towns are in the Carolinas; four are in North Carolina.
The East Coast far surpasses the West when it comes to top summer beach towns. The only West Coast beach town to rank in our top 10 is Long Beach, California (No. 4).
Though you may not want to spend the winter there, two of the top 10 beaches are in New England: Camden, Maine, and Edgartown, Massachusetts.
Chincoteague, Virginia, saw the highest increase in home value, rising 17% from April 2022 to April 2023.
Top 10 Places to Buy a Summer Beach House
We determined the best places to buy a summer beach house based on seven ranking factors, including home values, weather data, dining, entertainment, and air pollution.
1. Kitty Hawk, North Carolina
Located in North Carolina’s famous Outer Banks, the town of Kitty Hawk attracts visitors looking for a relaxing beach stay. The area offers many public beach accesses with ample parking and parks, trails, and bike paths for those looking for more outdoor activities.
Kitty Hawk’s natural beauty, historic charm, and bustling restaurants have certainly caught the attention of more Americans in recent years, with the median home value increasing more than 5% from April 2022 to April 2023. It earned the top spot on our list for ranking high in the number of dining and entertainment offerings per 10,000 people and additionally ranks well for its low air pollution.
2. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Myrtle Beach has been a long-standing tourist destination, with landmark piers, hotels, and golf courses attracting visitors as early as the 1920s. Now in 2023, Myrtle Beach is still a top attraction—and the second-best place to buy a summer beach home, according to our data.
Of the top 10, Myrtle Beach is the most affordable place to purchase a home, which helped it land in the No. 2 spot. However, these low prices may not be around for long—the town has seen a 7.2% increase in home value over the last year. Myrtle Beach also earned a high rank for its large number of restaurants and low number of extreme temperature days.
3. Wilmington, North Carolina
Although voted America’s Best Riverfront, Wilmington, North Carolina, is one of the best places to buy oceanfront property. In Wilmington, you have three island beaches to choose from: Carolina Beach, Kure Beach, or Wrightsville Beach.
Wilmington is an up-and-coming area, seeing an 8.6% increase in home value in the last year (the second-highest increase of our top 10 list). This factor, along with ranking high for restaurants and entertainment offerings, earned Wilmington the No. 3 spot on our list and the second seat for best North Carolina beach towns to own a home.
4. Long Beach, California
Long Beach, California, is the only West Coast city to make the cut for our top 10. This thriving SoCal town is bustling with activities such as shopping, golfing, and whale watching, as well as its best-known tourist attraction: The Queen Mary ship.
Not surprisingly, Long Beach ranked high in our study for its entertainment establishments and desert climate. The beach town sees the least number of rainy days per year out of any other town we analyzed. Long Beach also ranked well for having low levels of air pollution. While homes in Long Beach are above the national average, it was the only town in our top 10 to see a depreciation in home value in the last year (-2.4%).
5. Key West, Florida
The fifth-best summer beach town is Florida’s most famous island city, Key West. The palm-lined streets were once home to celebrities including Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, Robert Frost, Elizabeth Bishop, and Jimmy Buffett. On top of its beauty, Key West is deep-rooted in history, unique architecture, and cultural diversity, having influences from the Bahamas and Cuba.
For our study, the popular tourist destination ranked high for its variety of entertainment establishments and restaurants. However, it also earned a top spot for a beach home investment due to its strong increase in median home value over the past year (7.5%).
6. Ocracoke, North Carolina
The third North Carolina spot to make the list is Ocracoke, coming in at No. 6. This island town is full of uncrowded beaches that haven’t been developed for tourists, making it a great beach house destination for those looking for a more relaxing, nature-filled place to spend their summers.
That said, there are no oceanfront properties on Ocracoke Island. The beach is only a few miles from the quaint village, and many visitors appreciate the beach’s untouched aesthetic. The village features plenty of restaurants and entertainment establishments (roughly 38 and 11 per 10,000 people, respectively), which helped Ocracoke land a spot in the top 10.
7. Emerald Isle, North Carolina
Sandwiched between Ocracoke and Wilmington is Emerald Isle—the fourth North Carolina town to make the list. This is a great beach town for families who relish outdoor activities, with boat and kayak launches, picnic pavilions, playgrounds, volleyball courts, and more located at its beaches.
For our study, Emerald Isle earned most of its points for its low amount of extreme weather days, limited air pollution, and numerous restaurants and entertainment establishments. Despite its proximity, property values in Emerald Isle are considerably higher than in Wilmington and Ocracoke. The median home value in Emerald Isle stands around $663,200.
8. Chincoteague, Virginia
You won’t find high rises, boardwalks, or congested traffic on Chincoteague Island. Instead, this beach town on Virginia’s northeastern shore features a national wildlife rescue and is famous for its wild ponies—and an annual Pony Swim that draws in tourists from around the world.
It wasn’t the Chincoteague ponies that landed it a spot on our top 10 list for beach homes, though. Chincoteague has seen the greatest home value increase of the 74 beach towns considered in this survey, with home prices rising a whopping 17.1% from April 2022 to April 2023. Despite the increase, home prices are still lower than average, making it an affordable place to live and a potentially wise financial investment.
9. Camden, Maine (Tie)
Camden, Maine, is the first New England town to appear on the list. The town is on Penobscot Bay, famous for features such as the High Street Historic District, the restored Camden Opera House, and the 1830s lighthouse. It’s also a great town for outdoorsy folk, with plenty of trails and slopes at Camden Hills State Park.
Camden’s various activities earned it a top spot on our list, along with its low air pollution. Home buyers seem increasingly interested in Camden, with home values increasing by more than 7% in the last year.
9. Edgartown, Massachusetts (Tie)
Located on the famous Martha’s Vineyard, Edgartown rounds out our top 10 best places to buy a beach home, tying with Camden, Maine. The tourist destination attracts visitors from all over the world due to its beauty, historic homes, fine dining, and yachting events.
Edgartown ranked high in our analysis for restaurants and entertainment offerings as well as low air pollution. Of our top 10, Edgartown had the highest median home value (nearly $1.7 million), 4.3% higher than it was a year previously.