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12 Unspoiled American Beach Towns That You Can Actually Afford

6 minute read

By Marta Heacock

Key Takeaways

  • Beach towns are often synonymous with a more relaxed lifestyle.
  • While the most popular and well-known beach towns come at a high cost, there are lots of affordable options available.
  • You can find affordable options on either coast of the U.S.

Living in a beach town is often associated with a carefree lifestyle, amazing sunsets and proximity to a wide range of natural beauty. While it’s true that many of the most popular beach towns can be expensive to live in, there are also many affordable options across the country. While it might not be Malibu, opting to live in any of the following locations is a great and affordable option.

If you’re considering relocating to a beach town, read on to discover 12 beautiful beach towns you can actually afford to live in.

Florence, Oregon

Florence is a somewhat remote coastal community approximately 67 miles west of Oregon’s second-largest city, Eugene. The area has long been a favorite of retirees from all across the globe thanks to its charming historic Old Town, mild climate and long stretches of sandy beaches punctuated by rugged rock formations and forested cliffs. This combination makes it one of the most scenic areas on the Oregon coast.

Despite its popularity, Florence remains one of the more affordable beach towns in the country. Although housing costs have risen in recent years, low health care costs, utilities, groceries and other lifestyle variables keep Florence’s overall cost of living below the national average.

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Eureka, California

Even though California isn’t typically considered to have a low cost of living, Eureka is far enough off the beaten track to offer both a good quality of life and a lower cost of living than the national average. Located on California’s North Coast, 100 miles south of the Oregon border, Eureka is known for Victorian architecture, towering redwoods, artistic culture and unique, independently owned eateries, shops and galleries. The closest major city to Eureka is San Francisco, approximately 270 miles away. Summer temperatures are often warm in Eureka but never hot, and winters are mild and rainy, keeping everything green and lush.

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Long Beach, Washington

Washington State is another area commonly associated with a high price tag when it comes to the cost of living. However, Long Beach is a little town in the southwestern corner of the state where the overall cost of living is nearly 10% lower than the national average and almost 20% lower than the overall average for Washington State. Situated on a peninsula going out into the Pacific Ocean, Long Beach is home to the country’s longest beach. The area is also known for its abundance of seafood, cranberry harvests, rich maritime history and large numbers of migratory birds.

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Galveston, Texas

Situated on a small island in the Gulf of Mexico just off the eastern shore of Texas, Galveston is a lovely combination of nature preserve, amusement park, significant historic district and elegant resort community with a vibrant art, culture, and culinary scene. Numerous beaches dot Galveston’s shore, each with its own unique attributes. While the cost of living is already low in the state, Galveston is actually several percentage points below the Texas average.

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Lake Charles, Louisiana

Only 30 miles from the Gulf Coast and known for its all-American small-town ambiance, spectacular sunsets and scenic promenade, Lake Charles is situated next to a freshwater lake rather than by an ocean, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a beach town. The white sugar-sand beaches on the shores of Lake Charles are frequently the site of community festivals, volleyball tournaments, picnics and beachcombing. To make it even more appealing, the cost of living in Lake Charles is nearly 17% lower than the national average.

As a bonus, the Lake Charles area was a personal favorite of legendary pirate Jean Lafitte, and local lore is that there is still buried treasure hidden in and around Lake Charles.

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Port St. Lucie, Florida

While the cost of living in Port St. Lucie is on par with the national average, it’s a couple of percentage points lower than the overall average for Florida, making it a good choice for those seeking a southern Florida lifestyle without the often hefty price tag. Port St. Lucie is a particularly appealing destination for golfers — the community is home to PGA Village, which has four championship courses set inside a 430-acre wildlife sanctuary. St. Lucie County also offers over 21 miles of unspoiled and uncrowded beaches.

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Fort Pierce, Florida

Also located in St. Lucie County is Fort Pierce, another Florida community offering a beach lifestyle at a bargain. The cost of living in Fort Pierce is significantly lower than the national average and offers good fishing, surfing and a quaint fishing village atmosphere with white sand beaches. Fort Pierce’s historic Main Street is home to various eclectic independently owned cafés, restaurants, art galleries, boutique retail shops and entertainment venues.

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Swansboro, North Carolina

Situated near idyllic Hammonds Beach State Park, Swansboro offers powdery-white beaches, a cute, artistic downtown core that includes a historic district listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and plenty of opportunities for nature-watching and island hopping throughout North Carolina’s iconic Outer Banks. Although the cost of living in Swansboro is about five percentage points above that of North Carolina’s median, it’s approximately the same percentage points lower than the national average, so it evens out. Fresh seafood is abundant here with many of its downtown seafood restaurants offering oceanfront views. One of the East Coast’s first seafood festivals, the Mullet Festival, has its roots in Swansboro.

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Mastic Beach, New York

Even though the cost of living in Mastic Beach is slightly higher than the national average, we’ve included it on this list because it’s less expensive than the New York median. Considering its location on Long Island, it’s actually quite a bargain if you’re set on NY. A favorite of nature lovers due to its proximity to Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge, Mastic Beach is also only about an hour’s drive to New York City, making it a good choice for those seeking life in a quaint coastal village without giving up easy access to urban amenities.

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Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Those who like lots of fun, excitement, nightlife and golf will love living in Myrtle Beach — especially when they find out that the cost of living is over 15% lower than the national average. Myrtle Beach offers over a mile of old-school promenade and wooden boardwalks with arcades, food and beverage shacks, gift shops, bars and other fun stuff. Live music happens several times a week, and the entire area has a carnival atmosphere. There are also 80+ golf courses in and around Myrtle Beach and several nearby nature preserves, including Heritage Shores Nature Preserve and Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve.

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Chincoteague, Virginia

Chincoteague is an island town that serves as the gateway to Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge on neighboring Assateague Island, known for its iconic wild ponies. Because Assateague is visible from Chincoteague, residents often see the wild ponies running along its beaches. As the only resort island in Virginia, Chincoteague offers a relaxed but vibrant community ambiance with plenty of small-town charm, unspoiled nature and an appealing cost of living lower than both the state and national averages.

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Lubec, Maine

Lubec is the easternmost point in the United States and its iconic red-and-white striped lighthouse has helped mariners find their way home for centuries. It’s also a tightly-knit lobstering town in a rural, coastal setting with plenty of rugged natural beauty. With a cost of living lower than 15% of the national average, Lubec is attractive to those seeking an outdoor lifestyle far from the beaten path but who still want enough of a community to have neighbors and new friends.

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Marta Heacock

Contributor

Marta spends her time between her home on the Oregon coast and a salmon cannery on the southern tip of Alaska's panhandle that she co-owns with her son. With a background in old-school newspapers, Marta brings a journalist's perspective to a wide variety of subjects.

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