During peak summer travel season, popular beach towns are flooded with tourists.
This demand then causes hotels to raise prices, for restaurants to have scarce reservations — and for local attractions like boardwalks, waterparks, hotel pools and venues to be overcrowded.
Instead of facing the crowds and steep prices, you may want to swap your go-to beach town for a stand-in (while there’s still time this summer!) that offers sun, sand, surf, charm and a cool culinary scene.
Above all, the most important variables of a coastal vacation are the beach and sunshine.
Here are five quieter seaside towns to consider.
Jekyll Island, Georgia
It’s hard to beat Hilton Head Island in South Carolina for golf, beaches and old-time charm — but this wonderful spot is crowded and expensive during the summer season.
Just over two hours away, Jekyll Island, Georgia, boasts 10 miles of lovely shoreline and a darling historic district — plus, the beaches on Jekyll Island are a good bet for a less crowded getaway.
Not only can you enjoy beach time, you can enjoy bird watching on the marsh-facing St. Andrews Beach ride bicycles around town.
One idea for overnight stays is The Jekyll Ocean Club, a smart pick for extended families, as it boasts several pools and beach amenities such as umbrellas and sun loungers.
Consider Oxnard, a coastal gem as an alternative to the more popular nearby beach destinations of Malibu/Los Angeles or Santa Barbara.
Stocked with culture and history, Oxnard boasts a thriving culinary scene, uncrowded beaches and ample opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors.
Oxnard has seven miles of Pristine beaches, where visitors can relax, play beach volleyball, surf and swim. These quieter beaches offer respite from more touristy neighboring beaches.
Oxnard is the closest launching point to Channel Islands National Park and Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.
You can also plan summer whale-watching trips, which is always a fun activity.
After a day on the beach or in the sea, Oxnard boasts multiple wineries to visit.
These include Herzog Wine Cellars, the largest producer of kosher wines in the US, breweries and distilleries.
Patrons can then stroll through Heritage Square in downtown Oxnard with historic Victorian-era architecture.
An affordable hotel pick is the waterfront Hampton Inn Channel Islands Harbor (summer rates start around $200/night).
Vero Beach, Fla
The enchantment and pristine shorelines of both Fort Lauderdale and Miami are amazing — which is why millions of US tourists flock to these two South Florida beach destinations.
Instead of paying the high prices of these two cache towns, consider Vero Beach, also on Florida’s Atlantic Coast. It offers peaceful beaches, museums, fishing, quaint shopping and dining scenes.
Offering families and couples a quiet break blended with outdoor fun, the Kimpton Vero Beach Hotel & Spa is an oceanfront property with guest rooms or suites ideal for multi-generational beach trips. The hotel is also pet-friendly — and there’s no extra fee to bring your furry friend.
Downtown Vero Beach is within walking distance from the hotel and features a variety of charming shops and restaurants.
The resort offers outdoor fun like paddleboarding, snorkeling, boogie boarding and kayaking.
Plus, year-round, the Kimpton offers a free “stargazing on the sea” experience, where resort guests can book a boat ride and star talk led by a local astronomer while cruising the Indian River.
Another fun perk: With proximity to the Space Coast, it is common for guests to have the opportunity to watch rocket launches from the Vero Beach coastline, including rockets from United Space Alliance and SpaceX.
Narragansett, Rhode Island
Just about 30 minutes from charming but tourist-filled Newport is Narragansett, a great alternative if you want better hotel prices, less-crowded restaurants and a new place to discover.
This small seaside town offers friendly hospitality and impressive surfing conditions — and the streets are dotted with Victorian-inspired architecture.
After a day of sun, water recreation and sand, browse the town’s historical downtown area with boutique and gift shopping.
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There are also plenty of hiking trails and water activity options such as boating, fishing, kayaking and sailing.
For accommodations, try The Shore House. It’s an historic inn situated directly on the beach in Narragansett, which debuted last season following a complete renovation of its 31 rooms. You can also take a bicycle around town to enjoy more sights.
The Midwest boasts many high-profile beach escapes. Yet if you’re looking for a quieter retreat for a beachfront vacation, consider Saugatuck.
An ideal destination just a 2.5-hour drive from the beautiful but very crowded Chicago beaches, this pick is packed with charm, outdoor activities and gorgeous beaches without peak-season crowds and expensive hotels.
Relax and dip your toes in the water from pristine Lake Michigan beaches; enjoy a sand dune ride; charter a pontoon, motor or sailboat; hike or bike within Saugatuck Dunes State Park; plan a tasting or tour to a local winery or cidery; or bring the children to “U-Pick” farms for blueberries, peaches and apples.
The hotel move is the Lake Shore Resort is located on Lake Michigan with amazing views, just three miles from downtown Saugatuck.