Nat Geo’s Picks For Best Beach Towns In America

I know this is ridiculous but I automatically trust anything that National Geographic says to be true.  They are one of the largest nonprofit scientific and educational institutions in the world so when they rank something as simple as “best beach towns” I feel there is some merit behind it!  

Anyone feel the same way?
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First off – I am ALWAYS looking for fantastic beach towns…primarily to relocate too but also for vacations. 

 I can exhaust all my knowledge of the beaches I know off the top of my head but it always comes down to researching on the internet.  Most of the time towns come up that offer miniature golf, boardwalks and tattoo parlors…..NOT what I am looking for in a perfect beach town! 

After taking a look at what National Geographic’s staff ranked to be the best of the best, I have agreed with what they consider with them.  MINUS the beach towns in New Jersey….working in the Outer Banks has ruined my entire image of the state….I am going to leave it at that.
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Cannon Beach, Oregon
Haystack Rock

“At only an hour-and-a-half drive away, Cannon Beach was an easy day trip from Portland, where I used to live. With access to scenic hiking trails at Ecola State Park, great views of the towering Haystack Rock (which made a memorable appearance in the 1985 coming-of-age classic The Goonies), and a number of mom-and-pop stores and restaurants, Cannon Beach has a little bit of everything I look for in a beach town.” —Tyler Metcalfe, associate photo producer, National Geographic Travel

It seems that Cannon Beach is one of Oregon’s quaintest and picturesque destinations.  With nine miles of shoreline it is perfect for long walks, shelling, observing nature or picking the perfect spot for your family to relax.  The town itself has put in place strict regulations that limit large chain stores or restaurants coming to town so the picturesque charm will always be there.    

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Pawley’s Island, South Carolina

About 70 miles from Charleston, this sleepy retreat is the home of the Pawleys Island hammock, an institution since it was first crafted in the late 1800s—and symbolic of the slow-down-and-hang feeling of the place. Fronting the Atlantic are rustic, sea-blasted cottages, many on stilts and spacious enough to accommodate several families at close quarters. Behind the beach is an inlet bristling with crabs. Tradition here: At night, ride inner tubes from the inlet through a narrow channel to the ocean and stir up the twinkling phosphorescence that trails you like a meteor shower.” —Keith Bellows, editor in chief, National Geographic Traveler

This pick reminds me of the Outer Banks of North Carolina where the beaches are wide, the houses are rustic (some million dollar rustic), everyone knows each other, and people actually appreciate nature.  Yes, hands down this is a FANTASTIC beach town!

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Cayucos, California 

About halfway between L.A. and San Francisco on California’s often overlooked Central Coast lies the sleepy beach town of Cayucos, noted for its long fishing pier and the irresistible aromas emanating from the Brown Butter Cookie Company. There are thePaso Robles wineries and dormant volcanoes to the west, a beach full of enormous lounging elephant seals to the north near over-the-top Hearst Castle, and iconic Morro Rock looming up out of the ocean to the south. A fun way to get there from L.A. is by Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner: Look out the window and you may see dolphins frolicking in the waves (I did).” —Marilyn Terrell, chief researcher, National Geographic Traveler

Again, I feel that the staff at National Geographic knows how to speak to my soul.  And for all of you who keep up with my blog know that I ADORE the Central Coast of California!  Big Sur holds a very, very special place in my soul.  What is not to love about Cayucos?  With a population is only 2,991 and located on the beautiful Estero Bay it is a complete resort town that will provide relaxation that you cannot get in the California Valley and metropolitan areas.   

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Carmel By The Sea, California

“My sister has a cute bungalow in Carmel. Lucky me, because often when my husband and I go home to California she invites us to spend time there. The beach is ruggedly gorgeous, with tide pools at the northern end adored by her kids. It’s typically too cold to swim, but we like to spread a blanket on the sand and watch the sun fall into the Pacific over a glass of Salinas Valley wine. In the morning, after a run along beachfront Scenic Road to Carmel Mission and back, we stop into Carmel Valley Coffee or—for a splurge—the most amazing French toast smothered in homemade cinnamon maple syrup at Em Le’s. Then it’s off to hike in Point Lobos State Park in search of sea otters and sea lions, admire art in the many galleries on and off Ocean Avenue, or perhaps wine taste in any number of tasting rooms that have popped up around town as we wait again for the sun to set.” —Barbara A. Noe, senior editor, National Geographic Travel Books

Ok ya’ll – sign me up and lets move NOW!  Again, its the charm of central California that I love.  
The way Barbara describes her time there is everything I want out of life. 
 Am I there now, no.  
Was I there, yes.  
Why did I move from the beach to a city?  
I have no freaking clue!

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Beaufort, North Carolina

“Beaufort leaves the tattoo parlors and taffy shops to other resort towns. Here you’ll stroll through a historic district of 18th- and 19th-century West Indian-style homes and dine at indie eateries (like Blue Moon Bistro) that serve truly local seafood and veggies. And your beach? It comes with wild horses. The pristine and largely empty sands ofShackleford Banks are a ferry ride away, part of the protected Cape Lookout National Seashore.” —Norie Quintos, executive editor, National Geographic Traveler

Now, I have to say that I am super proud that this sweet seaside village made the cut because it is where I am from.  I grew up 40 minutes away and this was our escape from reality and still is.  When you are there you feel safe, happy, welcomed, and young.  It is a quaint, and perfect town that translates exactly what Eastern North Carolina is.

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Call United Military Travel today to book your next vacation to any of these beaches or your favorite spot!  

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What is your favorite beach town?  Is it similar to these or is more of a boardwalk town?  I would love to hear from you, leave a comment on where your favorite beach is!

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Photo Of The Day

Photograph by Anup Shah and Fiona Rogers, National Geographic

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