The 10 best coastal small towns in the U.S. include this Central California charmer

USA Today is known for its “10Best” travel rankings that invite readers to vote for their favorite whatevers — the top beaches, cultural festivals, scary roller coasters, intriguing museums and so on — from a field of 20 destinations nominated by travel experts and editors. Right now, for example, readers can vote for the best beaches in California, in Michigan or Florida.

But the votes are already in for the best coastal small towns around the country, 10 seaside charmers that lie along the East, West and Gulf Coasts and the shores of the Great Lakes too. The list is topped by Stuart, Florida, an “under-the-radar town” about an hour’s drive north of Palm Beach. It isn’t the only Sunshine State destination to make the grade: Key West got a nod at No. 3.

California’s Pismo Beach came in at No. 5, thanks to its soft sand, surf-friendly waves and cozy beach town vibe. The proximity to wine country — especially the delights of Edna Valley wineries such as Sextant, Tolosa and Saucelito Canyon — surely helped too.

Also on the list: Cape May, with its Victorian buildings and the warm, lapping waves of the Jersey Shore; Ohio’s roller coaster capital of Sandusky; and Long Beach, Washington, where the sign touting its status as “world’s longest beach” may not be entirely accurate, but it’s definitely Instagram-ready.

Here are the top 10. Find more information and check out all the other travel tips at

10Best Coastal Small Towns

1 Stuart, Florida

2 Saugatuck, Michigan

3 Key West, Florida

4 Gulf Shores, Alabama

5 Pismo Beach, California

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6 Newport, Rhode Island

7 Sandusky, Ohio

8 Cape May, New Jersey

9 Washington Island, Wisconsin

10 Long Beach, Washington

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