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Teenage girls relaxing on  the beautiful beach, People enjoying summer vacation by the ocean.Girls walking on the beach.  Cloudy sky and pier in the background. Folly Beach, South Carolina USA.
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The best East Coast beach towns for a summer getaway

It’s never too early to start planning your summer sojourn and the best East Coast beach towns offer something special for everyone

Written by Lauren Dana
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Summer is right around the corner, which means it’s time to start planning your next beach vacation. Fortunately, you don’t have to jet off to some faraway destination to enjoy some of the best beaches: In fact, the best stretches of sand may be closer to home than you think.

The East Coast of the United States is teeming with charming beach towns, each with its own distinct flavor and ambiance. From an arty enclave in South Florida to a New York oceanfront oasis that’s still a secret, keep reading for the best East Coast beach towns along the Atlantic.

Best East Coast beach towns

Long Beach, NY
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1. Long Beach, NY

Just an hour away from the bustling Big Apple lies Long Beach, New York. This suburban beach town is best known for its sandy stretch of shoreline and pristine boardwalk, which was completely reimagined following Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The public beach is ideal for sunbathing and surfing, while the boardwalk is a popular spot for peaceful strolls, bike rides, and scenic jogs. After a day spent in the sun, cool down with a cocktail at one of the many nearby bars, including the aptly named Beach House and The Cabana, which serves up Mexican-American staples such as nachos, tacos, and enchiladas with a side of live music.

Bethany Beach, DE
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2. Bethany Beach, DE

For a sun- and fun-filled getaway away from the crowds, make your way to Bethany Beach. This charming coastal town boasts a laid-back vibe that is ideal for families. Although the bustling boardwalk is rather small (about a half-mile long), it’s dotted with fun gift shops and eateries (don’t miss DB’s Fries!) for folks of all ages. When you’re not lounging on the beach, building sandcastles along the shore, or enjoying a dip in the ocean, check out one of the many nearby mom-and-pop stores, including Bethany Beach Books, Tidepool Toys & Games, Fish Tales, or Blue Room Gallery & Gift Shop. Lastly, for something sweet, make your way over to Sandy Pony Donuts, Kohr Brothers Frozen Custard, Maureen's Ice Cream and Desserts, or Candy Kitchen.

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Delray Beach, FL
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3. Delray Beach, FL

Delray Beach is often overlooked in favor of larger, nearby cities like Palm Beach or Fort Lauderdale – but don’t let that deter you from visiting. The artsy beachfront enclave is known for its eclectic Pineapple Grove Arts District, which is chock-full of murals and sculptures. Here, you’ll also find Artist’s Alley, where you can check out works from local artists. When it’s time for some R&R, make your way to one of the nearby beaches, which are renowned for their clear-blue waters and sandy shoreline. Delray Beach offers cabanas, chairs, and umbrellas, while Anchor Park and Atlantic Dunes Park are more low-key and tend to fly under the radar. No trip is complete without a stroll down Atlantic Avenue (AKA 'The Ave') in Downtown Delray Beach, which offers plenty of shops, restaurants and a thriving nightlife scene.

Tybee Island, GA
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4. Tybee Island, GA

Tybee Island is both a small city and a barrier island located off the coast of Georgia (about 20 miles from Savannah). The destination, which has been attracting beach lovers since the late 1800s, is best known for its vast stretches of sand. Among the most famous is South Beach, which, as you can tell by the name, is located along the isle’s southern tip. In addition to the photo-worthy pier and pavilion – which offers picnic tables and a snack bar – you’ll also find a bustling neighborhood of the same name. Its main street, Tybrisa Street, is lined with fun-loving establishments, including Wet Willie’s, which serves up all sorts of frozen daiquiris. Meanwhile, Mid Beach is much quieter, North Beach takes up a significant chunk of the island, and Back River Beach is more secluded. 

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Barnegat Light, NJ
Photograph: Lauren Spinelli

5. Barnegat Light, NJ

Barnegat Light is located on the northern tip of New Jersey’s Long Beach Island. Unlike other Jersey Shore towns such as Margate, Atlantic City, or Seaside Heights, Barnegat Light is quiet and low-key, making it the perfect place for your next family vacation. The tiny town is quite peaceful with wide streets for cycling, pristine beaches for relaxing, plus ample fishing and crabbing opportunities. You can’t leave town without visiting the namesake Barnegat Lighthouse State Park, where hiking, fishing, picnicking, birding opportunities abound.

6. Carolina Beach, NC

This laid-back beach town offers (mostly) crowd-free beaches with soft, golden-sand shorelines. The destination is most famous for its aptly named Carolina Beach Boardwalk, which is decked out in bright-colored buildings to evoke classic seaside fun. Here, travelers will find everything from nostalgia-inducing carnival rides and charming souvenir shops to mouthwatering street food and sweets. The Carolina Beach Arcade is another highlight. Don’t miss your chance to try your hand at surfing, either: Carolina Beach is one of the state’s top surfing spots. Beginners can sign up for lessons through Odysea Surf School or Tony Silvagni Surf School. Carolina Beach offers a slew of events and festivals throughout the year, such as live music, boat festivals, and more.

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Folly Beach, SC
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7. Folly Beach, SC

Folly Beach is about 20 minutes from from Charleston, yet it feels worlds away. The oceanfront city is a haven for outdoor lovers, and popular activities include standup paddleboarding, surfing, kayaking, biking, and much more. It’s also known for its expansive, 24ft-wide pier, which spans over 1,000ft above the water. Here, you’ll find a restaurant and gift and tackle shop. While the main beach is known for its vibrant atmosphere, those craving seclusion can check out the smaller Folly Beach County Park. Be sure to stroll down the city’s main strip, Center Street, which offers an abundance of locally owned shops and southern seafood establishments such as The Washout and Rita's Seaside Grille

8. Charlestown, RI

The Ocean State is renowned for its beautiful beaches and coastal towns. And, while you’ve likely heard of Narragansett and Newport, you won’t want to sleep on Charlestown.  The beach is relatively underdeveloped and incredibly quiet, so you’ll have plenty of room to lounge out. Charlestown Breachway State Beach is another local favorite for its golden-sand shorelines, panoramic Block Island Sound views, and prime fishing opps. Plus, the town itself has plenty of arty flair and character. Don’t miss Fantastic Umbrella Factory, which is comprised of five individual shops housed in a centuries-old farm. Come nighttime, check out the Frosty Drew Observatory & Science Center for awe-inspiring, almost-otherworldly stargazing. For an authentic taste of Charlestown, foodies should plan their visit around the annual Charlestown Seafood Festival in August.

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