Tybee Island, Georgia. (Photo: Jeremy Wilburn / Flickr)
From Cape Cod to the California coast, we’ve got a handful of beachy little towns that locals might have heard about—but they sure aren’t telling the rest of the world. These are places where there’s barely a downtown, but where you’ll find stunning (and nearly deserted) stretches of sand. Just don’t tell anyone you got the scoop here.
A lighthouse in Truro. (Photo: Rick Harris / Flickr)
Set almost at the end of Cape Cod, Truro has a well-known neighbor—Provincetown—that gets all the attention. But this is where you’ll find spectacularly deserted beaches like Longnook, which the filmmaker John Waters says is so cinematic it looks like the credits to a soap opera. Truro is also home to Cape Cod’s oldest lighthouse. Smack on a stunning beach, the simple 21-room Crow’s Nest Resort has rooms overlooking the water and the lighthouse. Locals line up for tables at Terra Luna, in a small wooden cottage nearby.
A dune shack in Truro. (Photo: Holly Ladd / Flickr)
Napeague, New York
Many people think of this narrow stretch in the Hamptons as a no-man’s-land that connects the towns of Amagansett and Montauk. But the reality is that Napeague is a delightful little area with miles of wide, empty beaches, great hiking—and some fantastic places to stay and eat. White Sands Beach is popular with surfers, and the cheerful White Sands Resort opens right onto the sand, with rates from $105. Nearby, two dueling seafood shacks compete for the love of residents: the open-air Clam Bar, with its yellow and white umbrellas, and the Lobster Roll, with its famous neon “Lunch” sign. Don’t miss a hike in the dramatic, shifting Walking Dunes.
Napeague’s Clam Bar. (Photo: Naveen Selvadurai / Flickr)
Tybee Island, Georgia
Sandra Bullock may own a house on Tybee Island, a half hour from Savannah—but this quiet getaway is still a closely guarded secret among Georgians. The island measures only 2.7 square miles and is surrounded by five miles of pristine beaches. Book one of the sweet vintage bungalows with screened-in porches at the Mermaid Cottages, with rates starting at $125 a night. Start the day off with pecan waffles at the Breakfast Club (which famously catered JFK Jr.’s wedding). End the day with the Low Country Crab Boil at the Crab Shack, where you can feed the alligators after you’re done with your meal.
A street corner on Tybee Island. (Photo: Unskinny Boppy / Flickr)
Boca Grande, Florida
On the tiny Florida island of Gasparilla you’ll find the charming town of Boca Grande. This would feel like a flashback to the Florida of yesteryear if it weren’t for all the great seafood restaurants and chic little boutiques (including Lilly Pulitzer, of course). Take a stroll through the historic Gasparilla Inn & Club, which is like something out of another, more genteel era. But book a room at the less expensive waterfront Innlet or the Anchor Inn, which will set you up with Boca Buggies (aka golf carts), the best way to buzz around the island.
The lighthouse on Boca Grande. (Photo: Timothy Valentine / Flickr)
Many places try to claim the title “Cape Cod of the Midwest,” and the Indiana Dunes is one of the contenders—and with good reason. Located an hour outside Chicago, this rolling 17,249-acre preserve looks like a slice of the National Seashore. Only it’s located on the shores of Lake Michigan. Architecture buffs flock here to check out the five Modernist houses built from the 1933 World’s Fair. The accommodations aren’t quite as contemporary at the Songbird Prairie B&B (think chintz), but it’s a cozy place to stay, with rates from $229.
The Caribbean? Or the Indiana Dunes? (Photo: Tom Gill / Flickr)
Muir Beach, California
You’d never imagine that a place like Muir Beach exists, just 20 minutes north of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. Hidden away in Marin County, Muir is known for its dramatic white-sand beach, crystal-clear water, and amazing hiking along the California Coastal Trail. The place to stay is the Pelican Inn, which looks like something out of the Cotswolds and has a classic British pub. Don’t miss the stunning redwoods of the Muir Woods National Monument park, some of which tower 20 stories high.
(Courtesy: Pelican Inn)
In Neskowin—a two-hour drive from Portland—there’s not much going on besides the waves breaking on the sand along the seven-mile-long beach, set under dramatic green cliffs. There’s only one grocery store, one art gallery, one café, and one hotel. The Breakers offers 11 oceanfront cottages with fireplaces and rates starting at $175 a night. The wood-fired pizza at the Hawk Creek Café can’t be beat.
Neskowin, Oregon. (Photo: Thomas Shahan / Flickr)