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Travel + Leisure
July 09, 2018 4:00 pm

Summer is officially here, but it isn’t really summer until you step onto the sand, lay down a towel, and soak in some rays at the beach. There are tons of beaches along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts that are beautiful, expansive, and full of fun activities, but they also come with one major drawback: huge crowds. And if you’ve ever trekked down to the beach on a hot summer’s day and found the shore packed with people, you know how difficult it is to find the perfect spot and not have to fight for it.

But you can have the sand and tides all — or mostly — to yourself. You just need to know where to look.

Outside popular coastal cities are several charming beach towns that offer gorgeous shorelines without tons of tourists. You can find these towns across the United States, from New England to Hawaii. Whether you want to take in some sea air on the coast of Maine or California or go swimming in the Great Lakes, you’re sure to find an idyllic village that promises rest and relaxation during the hotter months.

These quaint towns are not only some of the best-kept secrets in beach hunting, they also offer fun things to see and do. Ice cream shops, boardwalks, local cafés, and much more make for the perfect summer vacation. Plus, small towns often also come with the added perk of being excellent affordable vacations for the whole family.

Cape May, New Jersey

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Forget what you’ve heard about the Jersey Shore. This quaint town has thankfully stayed charming and uncrowded despite the growing influx of New Yorkers opting for New Jersey beaches in the summer.

​​​​​​Ogunquit, Maine

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​​​​​​Ogunquit literally means “beautiful place by the sea” in the Native American language Abenaki. Book a local bed and breakfast and head to this town’s pristine beach for a relaxing day by the sea.

Chatham, Massachusetts

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For people who live the high life, there’s Cape Cod. For everyone else who wants to get away, there’s Chatham. This beautiful town gives you all the sophistication of visiting the Cape without having to own a yacht.

Cannon Beach, Oregon

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While all the other tourists are struggling to find space at the more well-known beach town of Seaside, you can set up your umbrella in this under-the-radar town that also offers tons of seafood restaurants and a local distillery.

Capitola, California

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Get away from the hordes of tourists in Santa Cruz and head to this colorful village of brightly painted homes. Make your way to the small beach, set down your lounger, and relax. You might be able to catch some outdoor events while you’re there.

Saugatuck, Michigan

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You don’t need salt water to have a beach day. This town on Lake Michigan has soothing, calm waters, rolling dunes, and few other beachgoers. Nearby, there’s a lavender farm and lots of small, local shops.

Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

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Rehoboth Beach has one of the best boardwalks on the Atlantic coast. Think of it as a less-crowded Coney Island, complete with a boardwalk, an amusement park, and local, summery treats like salt water taffy.

Gulf Shores, Alabama

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While it isn’t particularly known for its coastline, you can visit some impressive beaches in Alabama. Aside from being a quintessential beach town, Gulf Shores is famous for its beautiful pastel homes on the shore.

Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina

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This little town near Wilmington has soft, sandy beaches and adorable houses dotting the coast. This place is great for boating — and you might spot some turtles while you’re hanging out on the shore.

Isle of Palms, South Carolina

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This gorgeous beach has everything you need for a family vacation, including ice cream, volleyball, and a marina where you can charter a boat. Plus, it’s only a convenient 12 miles from Charleston.

Sanibel Island, Florida

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If you want a good sunset Instagram, you can’t do better than Florida’s best-kept secret. The locals love this place, and you might be hard pressed to find other tourists here.

Kailua, Hawaii

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Yes, you’ll find a great beach in Hawaii. You’ll probably find dozens of them. But Kailua on Oahu has one of the calmest beaches in the state, and it’s a good respite from Waikiki.

This article originally appeared on Travel + Leisure.

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