Aerial Marina, California shoreline at dusk.

Watch the sunset over Marina, California. (Photo: Getty Images)

Beach Travel

7 Off-the-Beaten-Path Beach Towns in the U.S.

Between sun, sand and surf, it’s hard to top a beach vacation — especially when said spot is a bit off the beaten path. Thankfully, the U.S. has plenty of them, dream getaways boasting all the perks of their popular counterparts without all of the play — yet.

From a limestone beach and lavender farm in Wisconsin to bike ferries and Ben & Jerry’s in Vermont, here are seven surprising beach towns to explore now.

As always, check for travel restrictions or closures before planning your trip.

Delray Beach, Florida

sandy path and lifeguard stand in Delray Beach Florida
Delray Beach, Florida is a little slice of beach town heaven. (Photo: Getty Images)

Just an hour north of Miami, this quirky beach town and surrounding area is a favorite for art galleries, upscale shopping and culture. Stroll Atlantic Avenue (the longest Main Street in Florida) all the way east to Delray Beach Municipal Beach, where you’ll find cabana rentals, volleyball courts and water sports.

Post-sun, explore the Wakodahatchee Wetlands, a wildlife habitat housing alligators, otters, turtles and more than 175 different species of bird. Come evening, check out the town’s dialed-up dining scene, starting with rum-driven drams at Death or Glory.

Manzanita, Oregon

aerial view of Manzanita Oregon coast
Take in epic views along the Manzanita coastline. (Photo: Getty Images)

This coastal city is home to just under 600 inhabitants, but its world-class offerings suggest otherwise. Find them in international dining choices, a center for the arts and a beloved beach, with seven miles of prized Neahkahnie Mountain views.

Explore that stretch of coastline any number of ways, be it walking, horseback riding or kite-flying — then continue your adventures with a hike to Cape Falcon at Oswald West State Park or a boat cruise around Nehalem Bay.

Come evening, visit Cloud & Leaf Bookstore (owned by bestselling author Deborah Reed), and then snag a burrito from Left Coast Siesta, a town favorite for more than 25 years.

Marina, California

A military beach town until the ’80s, Marina has undergone a revitalization in recent years, attracting people with its small-town vibes and big-time diversity.

Head to Marina State Beach to catch epic sunsets, dolphin sightings and a peek at the 170 acres of protected dunes at Marina Dunes Preserve. Then check out Fort Ord National Monument for 86 miles of trails perfect for hiking, biking or horseback riding.

One tasty effect of the town’s diverse population? Loads of restaurants dishing up a variety of cuisines, from Mexican and Korean to German and British. In the evening, those looking to unwind can do so at Urban Wine Row, while those seeking more adventure will surely find it at Skydive Monterey Bay, home to “the world’s highest tandem skydive” at 18,000 feet.

Burlington, Vermont

Lake Champlain burlington vt
Chill out along Burlington’s waterfront. (Photo: Getty Images)

When he was mayor here, Bernie Sanders protected this college town’s waterfront from development, leading to the preservation of a handful of locally loved beaches, including North Beach and Oakledge Park.

Reach them via the city’s bike path, which winds its way around Lake Champlain and even extends to the Champlain Islands — thanks to the Local Motion Bike Ferry. For a surf-and-turf itinerary, sail away with Whistling Man Schooner Co. or rent paddleboards via the Burlington Surf Club. Then stroll the shops and restaurants downtown, including, of course, the original Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream shop.

Fish Creek, Wisconsin

Home to Nicolet Beach, the tiny town of Fish Creek evokes Midwestern charm with waterfront sports, boutiques and ice-cream shops aplenty. Discover the broader region with a visit to Washington Island and its many treasures, including the historic Church of Staves, inspired by a 12th-century Norwegian church, and Schoolhouse Beach, a sandless beach comprised of smooth, glacier-polished limestone rocks — each considered a tiny, geological treasure.

From there, visit Fragrant Isle, a postcard-worthy lavender farm boasting more than 30,000 plants of 14 varieties. With farm souvenirs in tow (don’t miss the lavender chocolates), make a couple of pit stops on your return to town — specifically for scenic overlooks at Ellison Bluff and Cave Point.

Saugatuck, Michigan

waterfront homes and bridge in saugatauck michigan
Experience the charms of Saugatuck, Michigan. (Photo: Getty Images)

Boasting farm-driven dining options, sprawling parks and stunning sunsets at Oval Beach, this town is a must for recreation and relaxation alike. After some sun and sand, roll up your sleeves for leisure that’s a little more rugged with the Saugatuck Dune Rides, tours of the region’s rolling landscape that prove equal parts fun and energizing.

For something a bit more grounding, hike Mount Baldhead, a 300-step ascent to some of the area’s most captivating views. Top it off with a visit to any of the area’s celebrated restaurants — namely Salt of the Earth or Everyday People Cafe.

Secret Beach; Austin, Texas

While better known for its music and food scenes, the Austin region is home to a few standout beaches, too — as long as you know where to look. Case in point: Secret Beach, a quiet haven tucked along the Colorado River with soft sands, or Emma Long Park, complete with hiking trails and campsites.

The region’s temperate weather parlays into plenty of outdoor activities beyond the beach, too, including biking, hiking and rock climbing. Before you depart, do check out some of the town’s top dining spots, from Intero (modern Italian) to Uchi (Japanese).