From the white sands of Hawaii to the idyllic New England seaside, Americans flock to the beach for rest and relaxation. Median home prices in these towns are too expensive for most. But there are some equally charming US locales that boast being affordable beach towns.
SmartAsset, a financial information source, compiled a list of 25 budget-friendly beach cities. Granted, not all of these median prices are on the water. But if you don’t have to book a hotel or drive more than 20 miles to the water, you’re doing ok. Here are the top 10:
1. Gulfport, Mississippi
Median home price: $120,600
Average temperature: 77.1 (90.6 high)
The second largest city after Jackson, the state capital, Gulfport boasts miles of white sand beaches. Nearby Ship Island is a popular beach destination accessible from the Gulfport dock. Top employers are the U.S. Navy (home of the Seabees), the local hospital, school district, tourism, casinos and shipyard. Gulfport was hit hard by Hurricane Katrina, but has experienced growth since rebuilding. It’s number 1 on the affordable beach towns list for a combination of home value, property size, taxes and home ownership costs.
2. Pensacola, Florida
Median home price: $144,100
Average temperature: 76.6 (90 high)
One of the oldest European settlements in America, Pensacola is chock full of historic sites. White sand beaches and clear Caribbean waters are a plus, although the city has had its share of hurricanes (Ivan in 2004 was the biggest to hit the town). Known as “The Cradle of Naval Aviation” and home to the Blue Angels, Pensacola employs a large number of military and civilian workers. There are also five colleges in town. Baseball lovers enjoy the hometown minor-league Blue Wahoos. At over 52,000 residents, Pensacola is the biggest of all these affordable beach towns.
Port Arthur, Texas
Median home price: $66,200
Average temperature: 78.4 (92.2 high)
Port Arthur’s economy is directly related to the oil and gas industry, serving as a major refinery network through its seaport. There are three national wildlife refuges including Sea Rim State Park, which offers 5 miles of beach plus wildlife viewing, camping and fishing. The Rainbow Bridge and parallel Veterans Memorial Bridge provides access to Orange County. Got dry skin? No problem. Port Arthur is one of the most humid cities in the US (that’s a good thing, right?).
Median home price: $144,600
Average temperature: 76.4 (104 high)
Just east of Gulfport, Miss. and about 90 miles from New Orleans sits a historical Air Force town. Miles of sandy beaches on the Mississippi Sound makes Biloxi a true contender. Tourists and locals enjoy the local award-winning casino resorts and historical sites like the Biloxi Lighthouse. Friendliness and yummy southern specialities abound. Head over the bridge to a hidden gem called the Fried Green Tomato in D’Iberville.
Median home price: $66,100
Average temperature: 70.4 (91 high)
Founded in 1912 by the Freeport Sulphur Company to support its nearby mine, the town of Freeport made its mark as the home of Dow Chemical Company (still the city’s largest employer). That doesn’t sound like it translates to “beach town” but the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge, Bryan Beach and Surfside Beach will soon convince you. Of all the affordable beach towns on this list, Freeport has the lowest prices. First Lady Laura Bush, who visited in 2000, is credited for the Main Street Program to revitalize the historic downtown area. Her efforts resulted in a vibrant tourist industry. If you get tired of the “small town” of 50,000 you can head to Houston about 60 miles away.
Daytona Beach, Florida
Median home price: $113,000
Average temperature: 80.1 (90.2 high)
The self-named “most famous beach” is surprisingly one of the most affordable beach towns. From the Daytona 500 NASCAR race to the Daytona Lagoon water park, tourists and locals take advantage of the many things to do in town and around the Fun Coast. Although Florida’s coastline is known to be a prime hurricane target, Daytona has missed most of the action.
Fort Walton Beach, Florida
Median home price: $156,600.
Average temperature: 77.5 (90.6 high)
Next door to Pensacola is a gem known as Fort Walton Beach, with crystal clear water and pristine white sand beaches. Home prices here are the highest of the towns on this list. Less than 20,000 people call this Emerald Coast town home but Livability put in on their Top 100 Best Small Towns list. Employment is tied to tourism and the military. Eglin Air Force Base alone employs over 16,000 people. The summer tourist population gives way each winter to the large Fort Walton Beach Snowbird Club.
Fort Pierce, Florida
Median home price: $85,400
Average temperature: 81.6 (89.5 high)
Sitting along the Fort Pierce Inlet – connecting the Atlantic to a plethora of beachy lagoons – Fort Pierce boasts many beaches. The most popular are Pepper Park Beach and Kim Bergalis Beach. Top Value Reviews placed it #1 on their2015 list of 50 Best Small Town Main Streets. 2004 hurricanes took its toll on the Sunrise City’s beaches, but a $75.9 million shore project (to import sand from offshore) is slated to begin this year and end in 2020. Job growth is expected to increase 37 percent in the next 10 years.
Median home price: $113,400
Average temperature: 81.5 (90 high)
Sheltered from the Atlantic by the island city of Melbourne Beach (median is $330,600), Melbourne is the second largest city in Brevard County. 16 beaches offer a variety of water-related activities, including St. Kilda Beach, Brighton Beach and Williamstown. Northrup Grummon, Harris Corporation, Ares Defense and other large military contractors boost the local economy. Just 26 miles from Kennedy Space Center, Melbourne and Melbourne Beach are included in the Space Coast region.
Bay St. Louis, Mississippi
Median home price: $155,800
Average temperature: 83.6 (93 high)
This Hancock County capital 60 miles northeast of New Orleans is surrounded by the Mississippi Sound, the bay for which it’s named and the Gulf of Mexico. Coastal Living says the best beach spot is at the end of Main Street. This quirky, artsy town of 8,000 people was dubbed “most fun-loving” by Southern Living Magazine. A strong sense of community resulted in a better-than-ever town after hurricane Katrina. Old Town and the Depot District offer loads of dining, entertainment and shopping. The local economy is driven by the plastics industry, tourism and two large casinos. Drive, pedal or walk across the new bay bridge to Pass Christian for more beaches.
What other towns made the list? Here’s all 25 affordable beach towns.