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These 5 Cozy Coastal Towns Have Just Been Rated The Best In The U.S.

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Big city or small town? This is one of the oldest questions to answer when planning a trip, especially in a country as large and vast as America. While the U.S. has its share of exciting and glamorous big cities to visit, it’s the smaller and more laid-back towns that are starting to gain more attention recently. 

Bayfield, Wisconsin in the fall foliage

Lake towns are trending this year for American travelers, and luckily there is a seemingly endless amount to explore in every state. Those looking to take a trip are also searching out the many beaches of the U.S. as well recently, and it seems most travelers are looking to get out to the water for their next vacation.

While beaches and lake towns are undoubtedly great options, does anything beat the unique appeal of a cozy coastal town? 

lobster pot restaurant

Wandering around a charming main street with mom-and-pop shops, interacting with friendly locals, and enjoying the beaches and waterfront of a smaller town has a certain peaceful feeling to it.

USA Today is focusing many of its Readers Choice 2023 Polls on America’s small towns, and voters are choosing their favorites for a variety of categories. One recent list is dedicated to the best small coastal towns, and these top 5 offer something for everyone. 

Here are the top 5 Cozy Coastal Towns in the U.S., according to a USA Today reader poll:

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colorful houses in Marblehead massachusetts

No. 1: Sandusky, Ohio

Located on the shore of Lake Erie, you can find Sandusky; just look for the 17 world-class roller coasters peeking above the tree line and listen for the screams of the thrill seekers that brave these record-breaking giants.

Sandusky ranks high among families for its famed Cedar Point, one of America’s favorite amusement parks. Sandusky is also known as Ohio’s water park capital due to the number of year-round indoor water parks that it offers, one favorite being Great Wolf Lodge.

In addition to those coming for the rides and slides, there is the Children’s Museum and Merry-Go-Round Museum to visit as well. The quaint downtown area of Sandusky has shopping, galleries, restaurants, bars, and other attractions to keep everyone busy and offers fun for all ages. 

cedar point amusement park with lake erie in background

No. 2: Stuart, Florida

Situated among Florida’s Treasure Coast, just north of Jupiter Island, you can find the charming small town of Stuart. Popular with sport fishermen nationwide, Stuart offers every type of fishing you can imagine, from sail to bay and river fishing.

Aside from angling, Stuart is known for its numerous art galleries and working artist studios, not to mention the charming small restaurants and antique shops, all offering a respite from that famous Florida heat. Centered around the famous Lyric Theatre, Stuart’s downtown underwent a transformation about 25 years ago and is now refurbished to its antique 1920s charm. 

stuart florida with ocean

No. 3: Marblehead, Massachusetts

This coastal gem along Massachusetts’ North Shore region is not too far from Boston or Salem, making it a perfect weekend getaway and a much quieter option. A historical town dating back to the 1600’s Marblehead offers a wealth of things to do along its stunning coastline.

With parks, beaches, great restaurants, shopping, and of course, coastal views, there is enough to fill your time in this cozy coastal town. Gaze at the lighthouse or visit Fort Sewall; no matter how you choose to spend your time here, you are sure to feel calm among the sea breeze. 

town and boats in marblehead Massachusetts

No. 4: Bayfield, Wisconsin

Known by many as the gateway to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, the small harbor town of Bayfield is a favorite amongst travelers for many reasons. Not only can you experience some serious natural beauty, but you can also enjoy the many other charms of this cozy coastal town.

With a large arts and crafts community here, there are many original shops lining the main street, Rittenhouse Avenue. With endless options such as kayaking the islands, hiking the trails, and enjoying one of the numerous food and music festivals that take place all year, Bayfield charms all those who make the trip here. 

marina and town of bayfield wisconsin

No. 5: Provincetown, Massachusetts

Those who venture to the furthest tip of Massachusetts’s Cape Cod will find themselves in Provincetown, a charming and welcoming community. This sandy-shored beach town lies at the edge of the country, about 60 miles out into the sea, and therefore people say it holds a special kind of magic.

Extremely LGBTQ+ friendly, this inclusive atmosphere makes everyone feel at home among the beaches, galleries, restaurants, and unique shops. An area rich with history, Provincetown is the oldest working art colony in America, and visitors will notice the expressive and free atmosphere that it still holds today. 

ariel view of Provincetown massachusetts

For those interested, the next 5 towns to round out the top 10 best small coastal towns are:

  • No. 6: St. Augustine, Florida
  • No. 7: Sanibel Island, Florida
  • No. 8: Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
  • No. 9: Nags Head, North Carolina
  • No. 10: Cannon Beach, Oregon

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Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.