American Beach Towns Where You Can Actually Afford to Move
One step closer to living out your private island fantasies.
The pandemic spurred a mass exodus from major cities across the US as offices shuttered and WFH—or work from anywhere, for that matter—became the norm. Tiny apartments with astronomic rents were traded in for spacious homes in the countryside or along the coast. And all that saved rent from your closet-sized studio in New York City? Well, that can now get you a down payment on an actual house to call your own. Real estate skyrocketed in cities like Miami, where there was a huge restaurant boom, but if you’re after a beach town minus the flash, there are plenty of other spots on either coast (particularly in the southeast) where you can score a dreamy home by the water with a beach so deserted, you can practically call it private.
We scrolled through a few recent lists from SmartAsset and Realtor.com to find out which beach towns in America have some of the lowest real estate prices at the moment. Here are the top 10 beach towns where you’re most likely to afford a house where you would actually want to live—at least for now.
Daytona Beach, Florida
Median home price: $216,917
Though a 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 insanely 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 you won’t have to deal with as many drunk college students invading the shores each 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.
Mastic Beach, New York
Median home price: $334,907
Aside from interns and tourists who don’t mind braving the sweltering temps, New York City is practically empty come July as everyone skips off to summer soirées and multi-million-dollar homes in the nearby Hamptons. If you haven’t found a friend yet with a “modest” summer cottage you can crash at, Mastic Beach is a great alternative at a fraction of the price. Sitting on the South Shore of Long Island, Mastic Beach is considered by some to be a suburb of NYC. And while parts were somewhat of a slum a decade ago, many of the working-class beach town’s homes have been spruced up in the time since. Not only can you score a house with unobstructed ocean views, you won’t deal with the crowds (and prices) found in more fashionable neighbors like Southampton (which falls in the top 4% of the world’s most expensive cities), just a 40-minute ride away.
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 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 life.
Though Washington’s 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 deceivingly 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 (I mean, who isn’t?), Portland is only 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 steal 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 the secluded cove and Pacific beyond. Coos Bay also straddles the southern border of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, where you’ll find impressive natural wonders—including dunes towering 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.
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 former shipbuilding 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, a stretch of oceanfront where many of the gorgeous beaches are only reachable by boat, might be the area’s greatest hidden gem. Weekend getaways include quick jaunts to the Outer Banks or sleepy islands like Ocracoke. The town itself features a main street lined with boutiques and cafes, but for a good spot to mull over your permanent move, head to Bake, Bottle and Brew for craft beer and waterfront views.
Ocean Springs, Mississippi
Median home price: $221,917
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 last year. Of those, Ocean Springs is the beachiest. Step out of your sub-$250K cottage and into the colorful, historic downtown lined with gorgeous live oaks, artist studios, and locally driven restaurants. There's no shortage of funky bars on Government Street, where live music is the norm 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.
Port Arthur, Texas
Median home price: $127,917
A Port Arthur beach home is a far savvier investment than, let’s say, crypto, considering 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.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Median home price: $234,750
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—despite the fact it’s the fastest-growing city in the US, according to U.S. News & World Report. Along the 60-mile shoreline, you’ll find tons of 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 country’s most impressive sculpture gardens is a few miles down the road at Brookgreen, and you can take in the great outdoors kayaking in mangroves and cypress swamps along the Waccamaw River.
Median home price: $202,417
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 the place for you. The town is best known as the gateway to Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, which claims the best reef diving along the Gulf Coast. You’ll also have the expansive 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 be your own undiscovered paradise.
Deerfield Beach, Florida
Median home price: $230,071
South Florida is known to be pretty pricey (the influx of San Francisco tech and New Yorkers during the pandemic didn’t help, either). And while society-driven cities like Palm Beach continue to rise in cost (the average price of a condo more than doubled the first quarter this year when compared to last, and go for a cool $1.6 million), if you head further south, near Fort Lauderdale, Deerfield Beach offers plenty of prime, Atlantic oceanfront real estate that’s much, much less than its big-name neighbors. Not only does this spot feel more local than many others along the coast, it’s also home to one of the best beaches in the area (it’s even been awarded the “Blue Wave” designation). And if you’ve been wanting to pick up a sport, there’s Quiet Waters Park, which features the longest cable ski course in the country.