American Beach Towns You Can Actually Afford to Move to
A house by the ocean isn't just a pipe dream.
Looking for a house in 2021 is kinda like trying to find a parking space on a Saturday at Trader Joe’s: Everyone with a smidgeon of disposable income is in cutthroat competition for the same highly limited amount of real estate. And just when you think you’ve got a spot, someone swoops in without using their turn signal and crushes your dreams.
But all is not lost, and if your newfound remote work life has you dreaming about taking Zoom calls from the beach, it’s actually not impossible. While you might leave behind some big city amenities, plenty of smaller cities—mostly in the southeast—will let you live your beachiest life for far less than what a one-bedroom condo costs in a lot of major metropolitan areas.
We took a look at Smart Asset and Realtor.com’s lists of the most affordable beach towns in America, then thought about places people might actually want to live. We found a dozen beach towns around the US where you just might be able to afford a house. (At least for now.)
Ft. Pierce, Florida
Median home price: $238,500
The competition is tough in Florida when it comes to beachfront property. So we can forgive our collective minds for overlooking this Treasure Coast gem about an hour north of West Palm Beach. The beaches in Ft. Pierce are rarely crowded and just as scenic and vacation-envy-inducing as the packed ones further south. This laid-back city is also home to the National Navy SEAL Museum and an art museum devoted entirely to Ft. Pierce native A. E. Backus. And if small town beach life gets old, you’re about halfway between Miami and the theme parks of Orlando on the Florida Turnpike, each under two hours’ drive.
May we also remind you that Florida residents jubilantly enjoy pretty sweet tax breaks. If you can't make a full-time move happen, why not consider the part-time snowbird life? Early-bird specials aren't the only perks around here.
Long Beach, Washington
Median home price: $399,250
Real estate on this gorgeous Pacific peninsula ain’t exactly cheap, but hear us out. Like Florida, Washington state has no income taxes, while Oregon—just 30 minutes away—doesn’t charge sales tax. Imagine doing your weekly grocery shopping in the same town where The Goonies was filmed? Sign us up for this life.
Though the Washington weather isn’t exactly ideal for tanning, you can still stroll the town boardwalk, go birding at the Willapa National Wildlife Refuge, or hike through old-growth forests at the beautiful (and inaccurately named) Cape Disappointment State Park, home to two lighthouses. Across the border in Oregon, there’s no shortage of misty coastal towns to explore, and when you’re craving really good vegan food served up in a vampire-themed strip club, Portland is just two and a half hours away.
Coos Bay, Oregon
Median home price: $277,500
Speaking of the Beaver State, while North Coast towns like Cannon Beach tend to dominate the spotlight, some of the most scenic shoreline in Oregon sits in Coos Bay. The highlight is Sunset Bay State Park, surrounded by majestic cliffs where miles of hiking trails take you to breathtaking vistas that overlook this secluded cove and the Pacific beyond. Coos Bay also sits on the southern border of Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, where you’ll find impressive natural wonders including some dunes that stand over 500 feet tall. As for that other thing Oregon is best known for (beer, we mean beer) head into town and hit 7 Devils Brewing, whose nutty Lighthouse Session pale ale is as well-paired with a sunny summer day as it is a sideways windstorm in winter.
We let go of a lot of norms in 2020: like shaking hands, wearing pants, and (most importantly) working in an office. You’re no longer tied to a commute — so why should you be tied to one place? Enter: Landing, the housing startup that’s reimagining apartment living. Thanks to its network of fully-furnished (or unfurnished) apartments across the country, you can have the freedom to live (and work) practically anywhere. With perks like a 24/7 concierge service, easy lease transfers, and waived security deposits, you’ll have more flexibility than ever before, too.
Swansboro, North Carolina
Median home price: $310,050
North Carolina is chock full of powdery white sand beaches, but only in Swansboro can you watch Osprey landings while you tan. The one-time ship building and fishing hub, located about an hour and a half up the coast from Wilmington, shares a border with Marine Corps Base Camp LeJeune. Hammocks Beach State Park might be the area's greatest hidden gem, a stretch of oceanfront where many of the gorgeous beaches are only reachable by boat. Weekend getaways might include quick jaunts to the Outer Banks or sleepy islands like Ocracoke. Meanwhile the town itself boasts a charming main street of boutiques and cafes. A good spot for mulling over your permanent move is with a craft beer and water view at Bake, Bottle and Brew.
Ocean Springs, Mississippi
Median home price: $200,000
The artsy, quintessentially Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast leads the nation in affordable coastal cities, with four places landing in Smart Asset’s top ten most affordable beach towns. Of those, Ocean Springs is the beachiest. Step out of your sub-$250K cottage and into the colorful historic downtown lined with atmospheric live oaks, artists' studios, and inventive restaurants. There's no shortage of funky bars of Government Street, where live music fills the air every weekend. Closer to the coast, you're a short boat ride from the turquoise waters of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, a big part of why this isn't just one of the cheapest beach towns in America—it's also one of the best.
Median home price: $250,050
The winters here can be crushing, but you don't move to Maine for beachside mai tais. If lobsters and lighthouses are more your speed, consider this beautiful mid-coast town on Penobscot Bay, where blissful weekend hikes in Acadia National Park wait just two hours away. The charming downtown, chock full of art galleries and museums, has dubbed itself the “art capital of Maine.” Rockland is also synonymous with tall ships (or “windjammers”) which not only ramp up the harbor’s Instagram game, but make for calming cruises out into the scenic bay. And in August, you’ll have a front row seat for the annual Maine Lobster Festival, where you can earn your quirky Mainer cred by complaining about all the tourists invading your town.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Median home price: $221,060
Myrtle Beach has a lingering reputation as a kitschy, hectic spring break spot—and sure, in March you’ll find a college kid or two loitering on the boardwalk and taking one too many turns on the SkyWheel. But this city on the Grand Strand has a far more slow-paced, family-friendly vibe than people give it credit for. Along the 60-mile shoreline, you can eat and drink yourself silly at near-endless seafood joints, learn how to shag dance at Fat Harold’s Beach Club, and ditch the tourists in idyllic neighborhoods like Cherry Grove in North Myrtle. One of the States’ most impressive sculpture gardens is a few miles down the road at Brookgreen, and you can always immerse yourself in the mangroves and cypress swamps along the Waccamaw River.
Port Arthur, Texas
Median home price: $189,900
Investing in a Port Arthur beach home is a far savvier investment than anything ending in the word “coin,” as the median home price here has nearly tripled in the past few years. In other words, the secret is out about this friendly community on Sabine Lake just across from Louisiana. The small oil town has its drawbacks—namely, pollution from the refinery—but it does border five protected areas including the Texas Point National Wildlife Refuge and Sea Rim State Park. And while there's not much in the way of nightlife and entertainment, weekend drives into Houston won't top two hours.
Daytona Beach, Florida
Median home price: $239,050
Though your home by the Great American Race costs nearly twice what it might have a few years ago, compared to a lot of Florida, it’s still chew-filled-jaw-droppingly cheap. That means you'll have plenty of money left to buy a giant F-350 and cruise along one of the only drive-on beaches in the country. The city is slowly moving away from its spring-break image, so there's a solid chance your lawn won't be littered with discarded beer cans every March. Plus, with Orlando just a short drive away, Daytona offers the perfect place for a beach escape with easy access to big-city amenities.
Median home price: $169, 500
It might be easy to overlook this little town of about 12,000, which sits an hour from Houston and 45 minutes from Galveston. But if you’re down to spend your days swimming, fishing, and diving the northernmost coral reefs in the United States, Freeport might be for you. The town is best known as the gateway to Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, which boasts the best reef diving along the Gulf Coast. You’ll also have the enormous Bryan Beach to yourself, plus plenty of opportunities for deep sea fishing. It’s a bit like the Florida Keys, right at the tip of Texas—so if you don’t mind a little humidity, it could just be your own undiscovered paradise.