The South's Best Beach Towns 2022 (2022)

Grayton Beach

The South's Best Beach Towns 2022 (1)

Credit: Robbie Caponetto

When Southerners close their eyes and imagine the perfect beach town, there's no shortage of inspiration. There will be sand, and there will be waves. There will likely be a salty breeze and a hankering for ice cream after hours in the sun. Yet from state to state and coast to coast, everyone sees something different. The scene could be set on the turquoise blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico, or on the wide, flat beaches of the Atlantic, or tucked away in the Lowcountry barrier islands, or even hidden along the Overseas Highway. The South is fortunate to contain some of the most charming beach towns in the country, and they all deserve a place on your bucket list. Consider your next family vacation, spring break trip, winter escape, or girlfriends' getaway handled.

Get ready for seashell-hunting, long bike rides, Bushwackers, and baskets of fried shrimp. Here are the South's Best Beach Towns.

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20. Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

Lobster Roll at Thorny Oyster in Bay St. Louis, MS

The South's Best Beach Towns 2022 (2)

Credit: Cedric Angeles

This quirky town on the Mississippi coast is a haven for creatives and an oasis for anyone looking for a quiet vacation. Just 51 miles away from New Orleans, Bay St. Louis couldn't feel further from the hustle and bustle. It's positioned on the Mississippi Sound, an embayment of the Gulf of Mexico, which provides an awe-worthy stretch of white-sand beach with virtually no crowds. Come happy hour, grab a seat at Daiquiri Shak for—you guessed it—daiquiris, which come in over a dozen different flavors. Then, grab a lobster roll from Thorny Oyster.

Plan your trip.

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19. Dunedin, Florida

Dunedin, Florida

The South's Best Beach Towns 2022 (3)

Credit: Tina Sargeant

Turns out, Tampa's next-door neighbor can claim some of the South's prettiest beaches. Just about 24 miles west across the Tampa Bay, Dunedin has two island state parks within its city limits: Honeymoon Island State Park and Caladesi Island State Park. Beyond being chock-full of nature adventures waiting to happen, this beachy getaway is ready to help you enjoy your visit, starting with cocktail hour at the Fenway Hotel. Opened in 1927, it's an icon of the Jazz Age with Spanish Colonial architecture and a rooftop bar.

Plan your trip.

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18. Delray Beach, Florida

girl in hat beside mural in delray

The South's Best Beach Towns 2022 (4)

Credit: Robbie Caponetto

Delray Beach is about 50 miles north of Miami on Florida State Highway A1A. The palm-lined main drag, Atlantic Avenue, is a statement piece that kicks off any trip with a starry-eyed bang. And while there's a level of sophistication to the boutiques, dining, and nightlife here that feels big-city, it's still compact enough to be considered walkable and quaint.

Plan your trip.

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17. Cape Charles, Virginia

Sunset view of Cape Charles, VA

The South's Best Beach Towns 2022 (5)

(Video) Top 20 Best Beach Towns to Live in USA 2022

Credit: Robbie Caponetto

Previously coasting sneakily under-the-radar, this friendly town on Virginia's Eastern Shore is sure to win you over with old-school charm. The wide public beach on Cape Charles is the only one on the area's coastline that offers free entry and parking, with family-friendly waters that are shallow and calm. Don't miss the flaky croissants at husband-and-wife-owned The Bakery on Mason, or cool off with a scoop from local treat haven Brown Dog Ice Cream.

Plan your trip.

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16. Ocean Springs, Mississippi

The Beatnik Cabins in Ocean Springs, MS

The South's Best Beach Towns 2022 (6)

Credit: Cedric Angeles

After Hurricane Katrina devastated coastal Mississippi in 2005, the community of beach towns moved towards a long period of recovery. Now, it's back and more deserving than ever to be included on your upcoming travel list. This creative-minded town—it gets along just fine with nearby compatriot Bay St. Louis—draws folks doing interesting things, so watch out for new restaurants and lodging, including stylish boutique hotel The Beatnik and downtown brunch spot Lady May. Grab a jar of their homemade pepper jelly on the way out. Trust us.

Plan your trip.

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15. New Smyrna Beach, Florida

New Smyrna Beach, Florida

The South's Best Beach Towns 2022 (7)

Credit: Robbie Caponetto

This beach town along Florida State Road A1A is so laid-back it might as well be reclined on a lounge chair somewhere. Fittingly, it's a popular surf town, as if the cool-kid vibes weren't already apparent. Flagler Avenue will be the place to start roaming to find entertainment, such as food, drink, shopping, and close access to the Atlantic Ocean. Book your stay at retro-cool digs, The Salty Mermaid, a vintage motor court renovated with style. Instead of a pool, it has a lawn area with lounge chairs and umbrellas overlooking the Atlantic.

Plan your trip.

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14. Port Aransas, Texas

After sustaining major damage during Hurricane Harvey in 2017, this Texas-loved coastal town has come back, big time. It sits right on Mustang Island, a barrier island known for its wildlife and stretch of state-protected beach. Fishing is a popular pastime amongst locals and visitors alike, and you'll rarely find a place where flip flops and T-shirts aren't welcome, including favorite local haunts like Virginia's On the Bay and Shorty's. If you're going in April, don't skip Texas SandFest, a sand sculpture competition that started back in 1997. Choose rentals near town or within the Cinnamon Shores community.

Plan your trip.

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13. Captiva, Florida

An idyllic beach spot on Capitva Island

The South's Best Beach Towns 2022 (9)

Credit: japrz/Getty Images

This gem in southwest Florida is quite literally perched on its own enclave of the Gulf of Mexico, which means you get all the views and plenty of opportunities for soaking up the sun. Captiva, along with its sister island Sanibel, make up the perfect warm-weather getaway to explore all year long, but especially in fall and winter months, thanks to mild temperatures. Spend time hunting for seashells, a favorite activity amongst visitors.

Plan your trip.

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12. Sarasota, Florida

Sarasota, Florida

The South's Best Beach Towns 2022 (10)

Credit: Zach Stovall

Situated on the picturesque stretch of coastline known as Florida's Suncoast, Sarasota knows how to host fun in the sun. It offers 35 miles of beach at your fingertips, which is spread out across the mainland and six barrier islands. Thanks to robust deep-sea fishing in the area, you always have access to the freshest daily catch. For that, head to old-school joints like Owen's Fish Camp and Walt's Fish Market Restaurant & Tiki Bar. For a full-service stay, visit Longboat Key Resort with its private beach and striped cabanas.

Plan your trip.

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11. Edisto Beach, South Carolina

Ella & Ollie's on Edisto Island, SC

The South's Best Beach Towns 2022 (11)

Credit: Peter Frank Edwards

Experience the real Lowcountry when visiting Edisto Beach, a pristine shoreline on Edisto Island, one of South Carolina's biggest barrier islands. It's a great place to look for shark's teeth and other natural souvenirs, as well as an ideal spot for wildlife-watching, from osprey to dolphins. While there's not much in terms of hotels (it's purposefully been left only gently developed), there are beach houses available for rent where you can cozy up and watch the sunset from the porch. Really, that's the main event here. Then, head to Ella & Ollie's for phenomenal Lowcountry seafood dishes.

Plan your trip.

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10. Grayton Beach, Florida

Grayton Beach

The South's Best Beach Towns 2022 (12)

Credit: Robbie Caponetto

As paper-white town squares and pastel cottages grew up just down the road along Highway 30A, Grayton Beach kept its shell-speckled roads, sea-weathered homes, and groovy attitude. And The Red Bar, of course. (The famed dive restaurant-bar made a rowdy comeback in 2020 after tragically burning down the year prior.) Start each day with freshly baked pastries at Black Bear Bread Co., and feel free to explore nearby Seaside and Alys Beach when you're not relaxing on the sand.

Plan your trip.

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9. Ocracoke, North Carolina

Airstream Bambi Sport 16 at Cape Hatteras National Seashore - Ocracoke Campground

The South's Best Beach Towns 2022 (13)

Credit: Peter Frank Edwards

(Video) The BEST Beach Towns for a Southern Summer Vacation | The Tea | Southern Living

The Outer Banks, that 120-mile sliver of sand that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of North Carolina, and its string of barrier islands boast wide beaches, quaint villages, and a relaxed way of life that can tempt even the biggest city slicker to relocate. Ocracoke, one of the southernmost islands, is a small, quiet escape accessible only by water or air. Here, the wild ponies (believed to be descendants of the Spanish mustangs brought over centuries ago) are one of the biggest attractions, as is the undeveloped Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Camping is a fabulous way to witness all the natural beauty.

Plan your trip.

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8. Pensacola/Pensacola Beach, Florida

The number 6 lifeguard station at Park West on the western end of Pensacola Beach, Florida.

The South's Best Beach Towns 2022 (14)

Credit: lightphoto / Getty Images

Nestled on the westernmost edge of Florida near Orange Beach and Gulf Shores, Pensacola features the characteristic blue waters and powdery sands of the Gulf, but is unique in having a historic side to explore when you're seeking a break from the beach. Established in 1559 by Spanish explorers, the town is recognized as the country's first settlement. The popular Pensacola Beach Pier is one of the longest in the Gulf of Mexico, and nearby Gulf Islands National Seashore (the longest stretch of protected seashore in the United States) is an ideal spot for biking, snorkeling, and kayaking.

Plan your trip.

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7. Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina

Located conveniently midway between Florida and New York, this Atlantic Coast town is accessible for many Southerners and beyond. With a population of just over 2,500, this waterfront town across the causeway from the lively city of Wilmington is low on crowds and high on relaxation. Whether you're into surfing or strolling down the pier, you'll feel the stress of real life practically float away in the salty breeze.

Plan your trip.

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6. Panama City/Panama City Beach, Florida

Surfer at Panama City Beach, FL

The South's Best Beach Towns 2022 (16)

Credit: Meg McKinney

There's perhaps no beach town more recognizable than Panama City Beach, and for good reason. The Gulf of Mexico is home to some of the most gorgeous sand and water in Florida, and Panama City Beach (and its sister city across the bridge, Panama City) have a front-row seat. The area serves as both a longtime-loved family vacation spot, as well as where young college kids go to play when spring break season starts, and you'll rarely be bored, between the outdoor pursuits, shopping, and seafood joints that are more than accepting of visitors in flip-flops and baseball caps.

Plan your trip.

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5. St. Augustine, Florida

Lightner Museum in St. Augustine, FL

The South's Best Beach Towns 2022 (17)

Credit: Robbie Caponetto

Founded by the Spanish in 1565, this historic city on Florida's Atlantic Coast is anything but sleepy. Visit one of the most architecturally significant structures in the city, the waterfront Castillo de San Marcos, which also happens to be the oldest masonry fort in the country, as well as the statuesque Lightner Museum to see regional art and more. Walk around downtown to catch live music, settle into a snug restaurant, and perhaps join in on a ghost tour. You can also sample small-batch spirits in the St. Augustine Distillery, located in a restored ice plant dating back to 1907.

Plan your trip.

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4. Key West, Florida

Key West, Florida Sunset

The South's Best Beach Towns 2022 (18)

Credit: Robbie Caponetto

Brightly-colored houses, sand-floored seafood restaurants, and rogue rooster sightings are what awaits those visiting Key West, the farthest destination along the Florida Keys' Overseas Highway. The route to get there, surrounded by turquoise waters for 100 miles, is an adventure in itself. Wander over to Blue Heaven—a fan-favorite spot—and order anything that includes lobster. It's fresh. Then, let the rest of your worries slip away with a slice of chocolate-covered Key lime pie on a stick. It's a local delight.

Plan your trip.

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3. Orange Beach, Alabama

Fisher's Upstairs

The South's Best Beach Towns 2022 (19)

Credit: Photo: Robbie Caponetto

There's a reason that you'll meet generations of families who have never strayed from this no-fuss beach town. Powdery white sands, warm Gulf of Mexico waters, and "world-famous" Bushwackers from Flora-Bama—this salty tavern has served up the spiked milkshake cocktail since 1964—tend to leave you wanting more. The area is also abundant in natural wildlife, and you can stay at The Lodge at Gulf State Park to fully enjoy untouched, protected shoreline and scenery. Head to Fisher's Upstairs for a half-dozen Alabama oysters.

Plan your trip.

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2. Tybee Island, Georgia

Surf Bar in Folly Beach, SC

The South's Best Beach Towns 2022 (20)

Credit: Peter Frank Edwards

Also known as Savannah's Beach, Tybee Island has a laid-back vibe. Located along a barrier island on the Georgia coast, it's got century-old lighthouses, dockside restaurants, and stunning sunset views to offer. Rent a pastel beach cruiser from Fat Tire Bike Rentals, and spin through the scenery. For your stay, there are lots of charming bed and breakfasts on Tybee Island, but you can also rent a cottage from the breezy offerings at Tybee Cottages.

Plan your trip.

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1. Hilton Head, South Carolina

Hilton Head, SC

The South's Best Beach Towns 2022 (21)

Credit: Peter Frank Edwards

It's hard not to love this classic beach village on the Carolina coast. Serenity is waiting around every moss-draped, tree-hugged corner, from the wide, uncrowded beaches to the miles of shady bike paths. (Don't forget to rent a bike for your stay, preferably with a little gold bell.) It's almost a sin not to start the day with brunch at either The Salty Dog Café or Hudson's Seafood House On the Docks. On Hilton Head Island, eating seafood and ordering a cocktail is not only acceptable, but recommended, before noon.

Plan your trip.

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FAQs

What is the best coastal town to live in South Carolina? ›

Kiawah Island, Seabrook Island, and Charleston are three of the best coastal towns in South Carolina for newcomers and area natives alike.

What is the most affordable beach town to live in? ›

American Beach Towns Where You Can Actually Afford to Move
  • Daytona Beach, Florida. Median home price: $216,917. ...
  • Mastic Beach, New York. Median home price: $334,907. ...
  • Long Beach, Washington. ...
  • Coos Bay, Oregon. ...
  • Swansboro, North Carolina. ...
  • Ocean Springs, Mississippi. ...
  • Port Arthur, Texas. ...
  • Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Jun 27, 2022

What is the most affordable beach town in South Carolina? ›

Locals and visitors to South Carolina's Hammock Coast already know that Murrells Inlet is one of the most beautiful, laid-back and friendly towns in the country.

What is the number 1 beach in USA? ›

Beach (real name Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman) describes Hapuna Beach State Park on the Big Island, Hawaii, which he just named number 1 in the United States in his annual Best Beaches awards, which is published just in time for Memorial Day Weekend.

What is the safest coastal town in South Carolina? ›

12 Best Places to Live in South Carolina Near the Beach
  1. Charleston, S.C. Charleston is among the best cities in the world and a top place to live in South Carolina near the beach. ...
  2. Kiawah Island. Kiawah Island is another top place to live. ...
  3. Seabrook Island. ...
  4. Folly Beach. ...
  5. Isle of Palms. ...
  6. Hilton Head Island. ...
  7. Beaufort. ...
  8. Myrtle Beach.

Where should I not live in South Carolina? ›

10 Places in SOUTH CAROLINA You Should NEVER Move To - YouTube

What is the least crowded beach in South Carolina? ›

  • Isle of Palms Beach, SC. Located about 17 miles from Charleston, this barrier island lies along a narrow strip of land which is separated from the mainland by an Intracoastal Waterway. ...
  • Garden City Beach, SC. ...
  • Fripp Island Beach, SC. ...
  • Folly Beach, SC. ...
  • Huntington Beach State Park, SC.
Jul 20, 2021

Where is the cheapest and safest place to live in South Carolina? ›

Here are some of the cheapest places to live in South Carolina that still provide a high quality of life.
  • Parker. Parker is one of the cheapest places to live in South Carolina. ...
  • Conway. ...
  • Chester. ...
  • Gaffney. ...
  • Cheraw. ...
  • Laurens. ...
  • Murrells Inlet. ...
  • Can I afford to live in South Carolina?
Jul 2, 2022

What state has the cheapest oceanfront property? ›

10 of the cheapest U.S. beach towns to buy a home
  • Delray Beach, Florida. ...
  • Corpus Christi, Texas. ...
  • Deerfield Beach, Florida. ...
  • Biloxi, Mississippi. Photo courtesy of Zillow. ...
  • Titusville, Florida. Photo courtesy of Zillow. ...
  • Hobe Sound, Florida. Photo courtesy of Zillow. ...
  • Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. ...
  • LaPorte, Texas. Photo courtesy of Zillow.
Dec 29, 2014

What is the least expensive coastal town in the United States? ›

Despite the price increases, Atlantic City remained the nation's most affordable beach town for the second year in a row. For just $95,000, beachgoers can get into this historic studio condo on the boardwalk or, for $310,000, this one-bedroom condo on the beach with views of the ocean and the sunsets over the bay.

What is the nicest beach in South Carolina? ›

Best South Carolina Beaches
  • Huntington Beach State Park.
  • Folly Beach.
  • Edisto Beach.
  • Isle of Palms.
  • Litchfield Beach.
  • Surfside Beach, SC.
  • Cherry Grove.
  • Myrtle Beach.

What beach has the clearest water in South Carolina? ›

Kiawah Island's Only Public Beach Has The Bluest Water In All Of South Carolina.

What is the cheapest place to retire in South Carolina? ›

Compared to other towns Georgetown is definitely one of the most affordable places to retire in South Carolina. The typical home value of homes in Georgetown is $168,152. This value is seasonally adjusted and only includes the middle price tier of homes.

What city in South Carolina has the highest crime rate? ›

With a population of 112,840, this city with a gruesome history, North Charleston, tops the list of the state's most dangerous cities, boasting higher-than-average rates of both property and violent crime, including some of the most violent crimes in South Carolina.

What is the best island to live on in South Carolina? ›

Only 30 miles outside of historic downtown Charleston, the communities of Kiawah Island and Seabrook Island are some of the best places to live in SC.

Where is the nicest place to live in South Carolina? ›

Best Places to Live in South Carolina in 2022-2023
  • Myrtle Beach, SC.
  • Greenville, SC.
  • Charleston, SC.
  • Spartanburg, SC.
  • Columbia, SC.

Where is the safest place to live in South Carolina? ›

Edgefield, our number 1 this year, is new to the list—it reported the lowest violent and property crime rates in the state with a total of just 32 property crimes and only 2 violent crimes (neither of which was rape or murder). Surfside Beach (16) is also new to the list.

What is the poorest city in South Carolina? ›

(The Center Square) – Dunean was ranked the poorest town in South Carolina in a 24/7 Wall St. analysis examining small, lower-income communities where households earn much less than the nation's median annual household income.

What is the southern most beach in South Carolina? ›

Daufuskie Island is South Carolina's southernmost barrier island. It lies roughly one mile south of Hilton Head Island, SC, three miles north of Tybee Island and 12 miles north of Savannah. The island is about 5 miles long and 2.7 miles wide and is only accessible by water.

Does South Carolina have white-sand beaches? ›

A lengthy white-sand piece of paradise, Surfside Beach is one of the top family destinations in the state of South Carolina. The beach can be accessed from over 30 different points and has a long popular boardwalk lined with bars, restaurants, and a fishing area.

What are the dangers of living in South Carolina? ›

It is no surprise that living anywhere comes with risks such as volcanoes, tornadoes (many, many tornadoes), or extreme flooding.
...
These Are The 20 Biggest Risks Of Living In South Carolina
  • Fire Ants. ...
  • Mosquitos. ...
  • Gnats & Flies. ...
  • Alligators. ...
  • Black Bears. ...
  • Deer. ...
  • Brown Recluse spiders or spiders in general.
May 10, 2015

What is the best county to live in South Carolina? ›

Greenville County

#1 Best Counties to Live in South Carolina.

Is it cheaper to live in Florida or South Carolina? ›

Florida is 8.4% more expensive than South Carolina.

What is the safest beach town to live in? ›

Best Beach Towns to Live in (Ocean)
Overall RankCitySafety
1Naples, FL103
2Laguna Beach, CA20
3Lahaina, HI17
4Newport Beach, CA25
45 more rows
Jun 16, 2021

Where in the US can you get the most house for your money? ›

Mississippi

Mississippi has the nation's lowest cost of living and offers the most purchasing power for your dollar. Mississippi's three biggest real estate markets — Jackson, Gulfport and Hattiesburg — have a combined average home price of $191,633.

What is the most affordable beach town in Florida to live? ›

According to Neighborhoods.com, the 10 most affordable beach towns in Florida are:
  • Titusville.
  • Sebastian.
  • Port Charlotte.
  • Fort Pierce.
  • Daytona Beach.
  • Venice.
  • Palm Bay.
  • Melbourne.
May 17, 2021

Is owning a beach house worth it? ›

Buying a beach house can bring an excellent return on investment, a reliable income stream, and access to a delightful vacation spot. Many beach house investors purchase homes that they subsequently rent out during peak tourism times.

What is the most popular beach in South Carolina? ›

1. Myrtle Beach. In terms of the volume of visits, Myrtle Beach is by far the most popular beach destination in South Carolina.

Which beach is better folly or Isle of Palms? ›

Isle of Palms is more upscale, and with more open space. The beach on IOP will be clean and uncrowded. Homes and condos are well maintained. Folly is an old-style beach town, which is popular with the college crowd and with daytrippers.

What is the oldest town in South Carolina? ›

South Carolina's oldest cities
  • 8 – Hamburg.
  • 7 – Walterboro.
  • 6 – Moultrieville.
  • 5 – Winnsboro.
  • 4 – Georgetown.
  • 4 – Columbia.
  • 2 – Camden.
  • 1 – Charleston.
Jun 26, 2022

What is the dirtiest lake in South Carolina? ›

They've compared the eight major basins in the state, and concluded the Catawba, Lake Marion and the Greenville-Spartanburg areas are home to the three most polluted waters in South Carolina, Meyer said.

Is there crystal clear water in South Carolina? ›

Lake Jocassee Is Most Crystal Clear Lake In All Of South Carolina.

What is the prettiest beach on the Gulf coast? ›

  • Henderson Beach State Park, Destin, Florida.
  • Bay St. Louis Beach, Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.
  • Padre Island National Seashore, Corpus Christi, Texas.
  • Siesta Key Beach, Siesta Key, Florida.
  • Orange Beach, Orange Beach, Alabama.
  • Shell Island, Panama City Beach, Florida.
  • St. Pete Beach, St. Pete Beach, Florida.
Jan 27, 2022

What is the warmest beach in the UK? ›

But the warmest places include Bracklesham Bay, and Weston Bay in the Bristol Channel, which both hit 21.6C on Monday.

What beach in Florida has white sand? ›

White Sand Beach: Siesta Key Beach

Also known simply as Siesta Beach, this is the perfect example of a white sand Florida beach. Siesta Key Beach has actually won awards for its sand, which has been rated as being among the whitest anywhere in the world.

Where is turquoise water in Florida? ›

Caladesi Island, off the northern end of Clearwater Beach (reached via ferry) deserves its own mention, as it's similar to the beaches you'd find in the Caribbean. It has turquoise waters fronting sugar-soft white sands, making it one of the prettiest strands in all of Florida.

What is the most affordable beach town in Texas? ›

Rockport, Texas, a coastal community about a six-hour drive from Dallas, lands at No. 7 on Realtor.com's new list of most affordable beach towns in the country.

What is the number 1 beach in Texas? ›

Best Texas Beach (2018) Rockport Beach named best in Texas! Texas is known for many things – cowboys, barbecue, and Old West heritage, and wide open spaces – which may be why its 600-mile sparkling coastline along the Gulf of Mexico is so often overlooked.

What is the least crowded beach in Georgia? ›

The Most Unspoiled Beaches on the Georgia Coast
  • Cumberland Island, Georgia.
  • Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island, Georgia. Photo by @switchbackshawty.
  • Gould's Inlet on St. Simons Island, Georgia. Photo by Ben Galland.
  • Tybee Island Lighthouse on Tybee Island, Georgia. Photo by @mylittlelifesjourneys.

What beach has the clearest water in Georgia? ›

You can't really picture clear, pristine water. And yet, there is one spot that comes to mind—a pure natural wonder for the state. Heralded long ago as one of the most popular swimming holes in Georgia, Blue Hole Falls in Towns County easily tops our list for the clearest, most pristine water in Georgia.

Where is the bluest water in Georgia? ›

As majestic as Hemlock Falls may be, Cherokee Falls takes the cake for having some of the bluest water in the state of Georgia. No matter the season, the water takes on this incredible hue of aquamarine that I've never seen anywhere else in Georgia.

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