There’s a certain set of towns you’ll always see included in list of the country’s best beach locations. From Coastal Living to USA Today, we’re often hearing about dreamy stretches of sand. But what would it be like to actually to plant a flag on these shores? Here’s a look at five often-mentioned towns, with an eye to homes that appeal to the surfer, beach comber, lake lover, or urbanite in search of a shoreline view.
1. Pacifica, California—for the surfer, kiteboarder, or beach hiker
115 Blackburn Terrace, Pacifica, CA., 94004
About the house: This one bedroom, 680 square foot Pacifica cottage, built in 1941 is all about location, location, location—not size. It sits on a quarter-acre lot at the end of a dead-end street in Pedro Point, hovering above Linda Mar State Beach, a surfer’s haunt. There are stunning panoramas of the ocean, San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. The open living room has large windows, built-ins for storage, and a wood burning fireplace. Calling the kitchen and bath ‘vintage’ is a nice way of saying they’re going to need a serious update.
About the town: Pacifica’s name means ‘peaceful’ in Spanish and the area was once a sleepy village with a corner store—before Highway One became a freeway, Oceana Boulevard was built and the Salada railroad station was torn down. Today, Pacifica is a busy city with thousands of residents, a thriving shopping center. And that corner store? It survived and after more than 100 years, still serves customers visiting the Golden Gate National Recreational Area. Open space also survived: Pacifica has the largest ratio of open space to population on the San Francisco peninsula, making it a prime recreation area for not only surfers but mountain bikers, hikers and golfers. The nearby Sharp Park Golf Course was designed in 1931 by renowned links architect Alister MacKenzie. The combination creates a relaxed vibe with plenty of opportunities for outdoor fans and people watchers.
Fun facts about Pacifica, California: Although Pacifica is one of the sunniest spots in the San Francisco Bay Area, good-humored residents hold a Fog Fest the last weekend in September for about 50,000 people who come to celebrate with crafts, food, and a parade.
2. Saint Michaels, Maryland—if you’re into maritime history
25154 Saint Michaels Rd, Saint Michaels, 21663
About the house: Located one mile from St. Michaels historic district, this gargantuan 4-bedroom, 3-bath compound offers 3,000 square feet and 5 1/2 acres, perfect for the person looking to ditch D.C. for a bit of nature, including a wildlife pond and mature trees. The house, built in 1981 and on the banks of Spencer Creek, has an in-ground pool, a two car detached garage and a sun room with a wall of windows.
About the town: Saint Michaels is a classic on the Chesapeake. There’s great biking, sailing, and renowned Maryland blue crab—and far fewer tourists than Annapolis, an hour away. The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum Boatyard (CBMM) is home to the last sailing vessels still in regular commercial use and you can watch the museum’s restoration team work on CBMM’s queen of the fleet (Edna) through the next year.
Fun fact about Saint Michaels, Maryland: Wedding Crashers, the 2005 comedy starring Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughan, was partly filmed here.
3. New London, Connecticut—if need an escape from New York City or Boston summer heat
20 Mott Ave., New London, Connecticut 06320
About the house: This 5-bedroom, 2-bath Colonial along the Atlantic features 2,400 square feet of quirky 1900’s details including built-in nooks, bead board and secret wall compartments. The front porch has arched windows so close to the Atlantic that sea spray probably could probably mist your face.
About the town: New London, settled beginning in the 1600s, retains much of its historic architecture today, particularly on the main drag of State Street. You will find Shaw Mansion, which headquartered the Connecticut Navy during the American Revolution and Dutch Tavern frequented by playwright Eugene O’Neill. Families flock to Ocean Beach’s boardwalk for the amusement rides and arcades and beach.
4. Jersey City, New Jersey—for urbanites craving water views
29 Half Moon Isle, Jersey City, New Jersey 07305
About the house: This 2,700 square foot 3-bedroom, 4-bath townhouse in the Port Liberte Hudson Riverfront Community is decked out with details including French doors that open on to iron-wrought decks, a vaulted master suite with a Notre Dame-style picture window, a luxurious soaking tub. The setting outside is equally impressive: Descend the staircase to a ribbon of a canal where you cross via arched pedestrian bridges. This home also has its very own boat slip, two-car garage and driveway. The community includes country-club amenities such as tennis courts, pools and a convenient Manhattan-bound ferry is a fabulous perk.
About the town: From a landscape of riverfront warehouses, factories, and abandoned rail yards sprout units with a prized feature not available in Manhattan: a view across the Hudson of New York City. Keep in mind that the shoreline has cleaned up more quickly than neighborhoods inland. Crime and blight are still a part of the city.
5. Port Townsend, Washington—if you’re a kayaker
2121 Ebony Street, Port Townsend, Washington 98368
About the house: This 3-bedroom, 2-bath craftsman is beyond bright, thanks to the many skylights, peekaboo windows, and French doors, giving it a cheery Pacific Northwest vibe. Nooks are a thing, too, within the 1,564 feet, including a built-in perch for reading and a breakfast nook in a modern kitchen bright with white subway tiles and light wood cabinets. Ample deck space is a plus. Two beaches and Fort Worden Historical Park are within walking distance.
About the town: Getting to this Puget Sound gem, just south of the San Juan Islands, takes effort, but the payoff is huge. It’s quiet yet artsy, foresty and beachy—and get this: near rainy Seattle yet mostly sunny. The Victorian-era seaport, buffered by the Olympic Mountains, averages less than 20 inches of rain annually historic mansions occupy prime real estate here, and smaller Victorian houses painted vivid colors line narrower streets.
Being close to Fort Worden Historical Park is like having your own national park. 100 years ago, the fort was used to defend the Puget Sound against invasion. Today, the 433-acre park welcomes picnickers and beachcombers on the wild Strait of Juan de Fuca. Take a break to devour fish tacos at nearby restaurants such as Taps at the Guardhouse.
Fun facts about Port Townsend, Washington: September’s boat festival has been called “The Woodstock of wooden boats.” The kayaking community is strong here, and locals say with so much sunshine, it’s likely you won’t have to wear a raincoat on your walk to the pub.