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50 best beach towns to live in

  • 50 best beach towns to live in

    People innately love being near the water. Just the act of looking at a body of water—in real life or in a photograph—measurably lowers stress levels. Sure, the average cost of a waterfront home in the U.S. is about double that of a similar house located inland. But you get what you pay for: People who live near rivers, lakes, and oceans are also happier and healthier than those who live away from water. When you think of it that way, maybe that waterfront view is worth spending extra money on rent.

    An average home in Southern California’s Malibu or Manhattan Beach can cost more than $3 million, to be sure, but that doesn’t mean all beach property breaks the bank. Homeowners in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, can get a place by the coast for less than $250,000. Head to Jacksonville, North Carolina, to snag a home that’s even cheaper—albeit without the amenities of Malibu’s year-round Mediterranean climate or world-renowned shopping. Every beach town has its share of pluses and minuses, which got us thinking about what makes a beach town the best one to live in.

    To find out, Stacker consulted 2019 data from WalletHub that compares U.S. beach towns. Ratings are based on six categories: affordability, weather, safety, economy, education and health, and quality of life. The cities ranged in population from 10,000 to 150,000, but they had to have at least one local beach listed on TripAdvisor. Read the full methodology here. From those rankings, we selected the top 50. Readers who live in California and Florida will be unsurprised to learn 39 of the 50 towns featured here are in one of those two states.

    Keep reading to see if your favorite beach town made the cut.

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  • #50. Dana Point, California

    - Total score: 54.87
    - Affordability rank: #81
    - Weather rank: #52
    - Safety rank: #31
    - Economy rank: #28
    - Education and health rank: #86
    - Quality of rank life: #49

    California’s coastal town of Dana Point offers beach access to the Pacific Ocean at popular spots like Doheny State Beach or Salt Creek Beach. Residents who like golf can play 18 holes at the oceanfront Monarch Beach Golf Links, designed by golf architect Robert Trent Jones Jr.

  • #49. Wilmington, North Carolina

    - Total score: 54.94
    - Affordability rank: #63
    - Weather rank: #38
    - Safety rank: #114
    - Economy rank: #87
    - Education and health rank: #76
    - Quality of rank life: #21

    Highly rated schools and three island beaches make the densely suburban Wilmington a top choice for young families and professionals. The city has a bustling nightlife, tons of restaurants, shops, and a Riverwalk. The nearby University of North Carolina campus gives the riverfront port town a youthful energy.

  • #48. Monterey, California

    - Total score: 55.00
    - Affordability rank: #129
    - Weather rank: #58
    - Safety rank: #88
    - Economy rank: #55
    - Education and health rank: #73
    - Quality of rank life: #18

    Monterey residents can head to Monterey State Beach to lounge in the sand, fish, or swim in the Pacific Ocean. The beach town is also right off California’s scenic Highway 1.

  • #47. Marco Island, Florida

    - Total score: 55.00
    - Affordability rank: #12
    - Weather rank: #143
    - Safety rank: #14
    - Economy rank: #103
    - Education and health rank: #13
    - Quality of rank life: #57

    Those living on Marco Island on the Gulf of Mexico get to enjoy great weather year-round, a network of inland waterways, and a sandy beach stretching along much of its west coast. The town connects to the mainland by bridges that end just south of Naples. The island is filled with palm trees and water everywhere you look, giving it a distinctly different vibe than the traffic-choked roads in Naples and Fort Myers.

  • #46. Port Royal, South Carolina

    - Total score: 55.17
    - Affordability rank: #36
    - Weather rank: #1
    - Safety rank: #90
    - Economy rank: #110
    - Education and health rank: #4
    - Quality of rank life: #131

    Port Royal experienced a massive, 170% population increase between 2000 and 2010 because of the city annexing surrounding areas. The town is rife with history, natural attractions like the Cypress Wetlands, and outdoorsy activities like walking the boardwalk at The Sands.

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  • #45. Rye, New York

    - Total score: 55.31
    - Affordability rank: #78
    - Weather rank: #95
    - Safety rank: #1
    - Economy rank: #27
    - Education and health rank: #17
    - Quality of rank life: #124

    Rye is a coastal beach city in New York situated on the border of Connecticut. The location offers the best of beach living with easy access to New York City and several nearby Connecticut cities. The town has its own golf club, a busy downtown, and amusement park.

  • #44. Westport, Connecticut

    - Total score: 55.35
    - Affordability rank: #58
    - Weather rank: #100
    - Safety rank: #23
    - Economy rank: #45
    - Education and health rank: #3
    - Quality of rank life: #120

    The town of Westport was incorporated in 1835 and grew as a busy Connecticut shipping center. The 1900s brought with it an arts scene that brought musicians, writers (including F. Scott Fitzgerald), and visual artists to the area. Today, the highly suburban town has easy access to New York City by public transit and beautiful beaches right in Westport and nearby.

  • #43. Key West, Florida

    - Total score: 55.44
    - Affordability rank: #70
    - Weather rank: #139
    - Safety rank: #26
    - Economy rank: #90
    - Education and health rank: #110
    - Quality of rank life: #7

    Key West is just 90 miles from Cuba and is a great destination for scuba diving enthusiasts. The city itself is crawling with tourists year-round, and for good reason: Key West’s climate, history, architecture, food, and nightlife are hard to duplicate. Luckily for local residents, the city has so much going on it’s not tough to find quieter places to hang out and a rich local culture just off the main drag.

  • #42. Anacortes, Washington

    - Total score: 55.49
    - Affordability rank: #34
    - Weather rank: #69
    - Safety rank: #25
    - Economy rank: #70
    - Education and health rank: #81
    - Quality of rank life: #53

    Besides being home to the Washington State Ferry terminal connecting folks to Lopez, Orcas, San Juan, and Shaw islands, the town itself is a wonderful place to live. Outdoor enthusiasts will find no shortage of trails, parks, or water activities, while others love the robust art galleries, history, and walkable downtown.

  • #41. Benicia, California

    - Total score: 55.59
    - Affordability rank: #17
    - Weather rank: #4
    - Safety rank: #75
    - Economy rank: #42
    - Education and health rank: #52
    - Quality of rank life: #84

    Benicia is about an hour northeast of San Francisco. It sits on the Carquinez Strait. Boaters and kayakers can enter through a public launch spot at the Alvarez West Ninth Street Park. The Benicia State Recreation Area is a popular spot for residents and tourists traveling by foot, bikes, or skates.

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