When heading to the beach in the United States, many people flock to the well-known destinations, most of which in Florida and California. However, there are a number of world-class beaches in the United States for those who are interested in escaping the crowds and experiencing something new. We’ve rounded up a collection of the best hidden gem beach towns in the USA. We’ve still included a few from both Florida and California, however these are much less well known than say, Miami or Venice Beach.
Table of contents
Table of Contents
hidden gem beach towns in the usa
South Kingstown, Rhode Island
I have to start with my personal favorite, South Kingstown, Rhode Island. I may be biased, having grown up in Rhode Island, but this place has my heart. Plus, Rhode Island is aptly nicknamed ‘the Ocean State’ for a reason. South Kingstown has a number of great beaches, most of which are frequented by locals only – the tourists tend to head to Newport for the summer.
East Matunuck State Beach, Roy Carpenter’s Beach, Matunuck Beach, and South Kingstown Town Beach are all worth exploring.
Interested in more than just sunbathing and splashing in the waves? Try surfing at Deep Hole. No matter your skill level, you can head out on your own or take lessons with local surfers.
After you’ve had your fill of surf and sand, head over to Ocean Mist for an afternoon cocktail and bite to eat. Ocean Mist is a favorite for many reasons – fun, themed nights, an outdoor deck that sits directly over the water, waves crashing beneath you, and delicious food and drink. For something a bit more formal, try Matunuck Oyster Bar.
Thanks to the goofy movie Stepbrothers, most people are familiar with Santa Catalina Island (or, at least, the Catalina Wine Mixers). Avalon is the island’s only city, situated in the beautiful California Channel Islands.
There are beaches galore, water sports, and a number of fine restaurants to indulge in. You can take boat tours, head out on a bison expedition, swim with local sea lions (if you’re lucky), or try your hand at falconry. Camping sites are available if you’re looking for a more rustic experience.
You can also find the typical tourist activities such as golfing and deep sea diving. Plus, an epic Glass Bottom Boat ride to experience the local marine life.
On the ferry over from Long Beach, keep an eye out for playful dolphins splashing in the surf below.
Gulf Shores, Alabama
The Gulf Shores of Alabama are just beginning to appear on the radar of people who don’t live in the area. However, with its warm Gulf waters and silken ivory sand, Gulf Shores, Alabama is a real treat for tourists looking for something off-the-beaten-path. The whole area is very family-friendly and laid back, making for an enjoyable and peaceful escape.
Gulf Shores boasts over 32 miles of white sand shores, made even more appealing by the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Given the expansive stretch of shoreline, there are a number of beach access points. Gulf Place is the most popular considering its abundance of beach amenities.
Once you’ve had enough of the beach, there are a number of different off-shore activities to enjoy. There’s a huge water park (20 acres, to be exact) called Waterville USA. You can also check out the USS Alabama.
Seafood is the specialty here (as with most other beach destinations), particularly oysters. For a veritable smorgasbord of fresh seafood, be sure to visit Fish River Grill.
Marco Island, Florida
People around the world are familiar with the gorgeous beaches that encompass Florida. However, if you’re looking for a hidden gem beach town, look no further than Marco Island. Compared to other Florida beach towns and cities, the tourists are few and far between, making the beaches that much more spacious. That doesn’t go to say that tourists don’t come here – they certainly do, just not in droves.
Located off the southwestern tip of Florida, Marco Island’s Gulf waters are balmy and clear, ideal for swimming. If you experience an occasional downpour while in Marco Island, fret not – it will most likely dissipate within a few minutes, so seek temporary shelter.
A unique place to stay is Marco Shores, located just across the bridge. Stay on the breakwater, where you can watch alligators and herons walking around your backyard – if you dare.
In town, there’s a movie theater, a large square with restaurants and outdoor terraces, and a few museums. Naples and Fort Myers are both a comfortable drive away if you are on the hunt for some lively nightlife.
If you’re looking for more natural activities, check out the swamp sanctuary and local nature preserve.
And of course, there are watersports galore. If you’re feeling adventurous, try your hand at paragliding.
A wonderful hidden gem beach town on the West Coast is Bandon, Oregon. This coastal town is known as the ‘Cranberry Capital of Oregon.’
In addition to beautiful beaches, there are plenty of things to do. Visit the beautiful historic lighthouse, the burgeoning art community, or sample all of the cranberry confections Bandon has to offer. The outdoor activities, however, are Bandon’s biggest draw. Bandon offers everything from hiking, fishing, and kayaking to golfing at world-class resorts. You can even take a tour of a local farm or cranberry bog.
Bandon Brewing Company and Tony’s Crab Shack are where you should go to quench your thirst and satiate your appetite. Looking for something more refined? Try Alloro Wine Bar & Restaurant.
York Beach, Maine
York Beach is a small village located in the town of York, Maine. This village is undoubtedly one of the best hidden gem beach towns in the United States. There are only three different beaches here (it’s a village, so it’s pretty tiny), but each is gorgeous in its own right.
Long Sands Beach and Short Sands Beach are the two most popular. Given their names, I’m sure you can surmise which is larger. Long Sands Beach on the south shore is two miles in length with white sands and perfect surf. It has a relaxing atmosphere and shallow tide pools to discover.
Short Sands Beach is smaller, allocated on the northern coast of Cape Neddick. Though it’s smaller, it’s far more lively. It’s closer to boutique shops, an amusement park, and the local restaurants on the promenade. Close by is a theme park called York’s Wild Kingdom where the whole family can let loose and enjoy an afternoon well-spent.
Dunne’s Ice Cream is worthy of a visit to satisfy your sweet tooth. These homemade ice creams are nothing if not quintessentially New England.
While Massachusetts is generally more strongly associated with Boston, Plymouth Rock, and the American Revolution, this New England State offers nearly 200 miles of shoreline with some of the most beautiful beaches in the USA. The contrasting landscapes that Massachusetts beaches offer is part of their appeal. Whether you are interested in granite boulders and rocky coast lines, ivory sand dunes, or the award-winning beaches of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for.
A highly underrated beach town in Massachusetts is Ipswich. Ipswich offers a perfect combination of beautiful beaches and local farms, making for a truly authentic experience.
Crane Beach is the town’s pride and joy. Here, you’ll find an expansive stretch of soft sand, sloping dunes covered with beach grass, and gentle waves.
This is more of a wild beach – there is very little development, only accessible by trails. It’s completely encompassed by nature reserves. On the horizon, you can see the outline of Plum Island. Despite the lack of conventional beach amenities, you’ll still find lifeguards, bathrooms, and a small snack shop.
While you’re in Ipswich, you can’t miss the Russell Orchards farm store. If you’re here during the summer months (which is the best time to visit any New England beach), you can go berry picking here as well. Another farm worth checking out is Appleton Farms, where you can buy fresh, organic produce and plenty of homemade baked confections.
Chincoteague is a magical town in Virginia. Situated on the Eastern Shore, the town is accessible from most major cities and popular towns on the mid-Atlantic seaboard. Chincoteague will be optimal for you if you’re looking for wild, untouched nature, a serene environment, and pristine beaches.
This small town serves as the entry point to Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and Assateague Island. The Refuge is a whopping 14,000 acres in size! Here, you’ll find the acclaimed Chincoteague pony, terns and other sea birds, birds of prey, and more.
You won’t find any skyscrapers, promenades, or traffic jams in Chincoteague. Though it’s perfectly serene, it’s also filled with fun and things to do.
Chincoteague Beach and Assateague Beach are perfectly quiet, serene options to dip your toes in the cool, crisp waters or take a stroll along the shoreline. Stay for the vivid sunsets over Chincoteague Bay.
Finally, the small town of Lewes, Delaware rounds out our list of the best hidden gem beach towns in the USA. Situated where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Delaware Bay on Cape Henlopen, Lewes offers pristine scenery, a lively historic center, and beautiful hiking trails.
The town is quiet, but progressive. Here, the sun, sand, and sea are the main draw for out-of-towners. Locals here are very proud of their culture and heritage and are welcoming to tourists, eager to show them around.
Cape Henlopen State Beach, Lewes Beach, and Beach Plum Island Nature Preserve offer the best beach options in town.
In addition to the beach, you can also amble around Cape Henlopen State Park. This preserved area offers mile after mile of pristine beaches, bird sanctuaries, and biking or walking trails.
A truly pedestrian-friendly town, Lewes’ main attractions are very concentrated. All within less than a square mile is the historic center, a few museums, B&Bs, fine dining, ice cream shops, and boutique stores.