The United States is essentially known for its dazzling megalopolises, but a whole array of beautiful small towns also deserve mentioning. Each of these towns' unique history and culture jumps out to tourists in a welcoming embrace, and at the same time, the often water-bounded placements offer a myriad of active and passive activities along with the healing seaside air, including surfing and taking in the views over the waters. Some of the most beautiful towns in the United States have been listed below.
Bar Harbor, Maine
Famed as one of the country’s best towns for whale watching, Bar Harbor sits in the shadow of the Acadia National Park, making it a perfect destination for bikers, hikers, fishers, and enthusiasts of bird-watching and horseback riding, among other outdoor activities. The downtown area offers a range of fantastic restaurants, while the small-town charm and the endless water vistas act as a magnet for prolonged visits and returning tourists.
Beaufort, South Carolina
As the second oldest town in the state, Beaufort, situated on Port Royal Island, is known for its historic elegance. Calling one to reminisce of the olden days, the magnificent architecture of the Historic District, such as the Antebellum mansions among other buildings dating back to the early 18th century, pose as the facade against the coastal backdrop and provide mesmerizing photo-taking opportunities. The varied cuisine includes everything from the delectable wasabi deviled eggs at the Bull Tavern, shrimp n' grits at the Saltus River Grill, and lamb meatloaf at the Breakwater Restaurant & Bar.
Big Sur, California
Big Sur is famed for its picturesque placement, with the windswept cliffs of the Santa Lucia Mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west, making it no wonder that the two grand hotels of the town are always brimming with tourists. Sparsely populated and located just off Route 1, it provides for an easy escape from the megalopolises to feel lost within the quaint and unforgettable scenery of the Big Sur. Others come to visit the atmospheric surroundings where Jack Kerouac, Hunter S Thompson, and Henry Miller absorbed their fare-share of sights to inscribe into their counterculture literature and books.
Posing as the art and culture hub of the west, Bristol’s downtown is split between two states of Tennessee and Virginia, simultaneously getting the influence of both in one concentrated center. One will feel torn to engage in everything the town has to offer, from the live music and dance to theatrical performances to the nightly venues in the Arts & Entertainment District. Set against the lovely Appalachian Mountains, whether one chooses to go-with-the-flow, or organizes their visit by hitting the numerous art galleries and museums, including the Smithsonian-affiliated Birthplace of Country Music Museum, a historically rich and knowledge-filled experience with a scenery, is guaranteed.
Cape May, New Jersey
The variety of the well-developed activities one can engage in when visiting this tiny peninsula town makes it an unbeatable destination away from the big city feel. As one of the nation’s oldest seaside resorts, Cape May can attend to any heart's desire, from its historic Victorian district that brims with magnificent multi-colored architecture to the natural vistas and escapades, including whale-watching from March to December. Immersing completely into the charming town set atmospherically at the merging point of the Atlantic Ocean with the Delaware Bay, one may never want to resurface again.
For a one-square-mile village, Carmel exudes European charm that one can witness while strolling its downtown streets with fairy-tale-like cottages of art galleries and specialty boutiques. Also famed for the Carmel beach that is set on the coastline with a whole range of local cuisine restaurants, boutique hotels, and always-brimming, sea-side wine spots, the town is a highly-demanded summertime destination. The drive to reach the town via Highway 1 makes for a memorable experience in itself; while cruising out during the night, one can spectate the natural magnificence of the region in a whole new way.
This charming Mobile Bay town is the destination for romantic literature fans, complete with a historically-rich atmosphere. Home to Southern authors Rick Bragg and Fannie Flagg, their signed books can be claimed at one of the state’s best book stores, Page & Palette, also located in the town. The French Quarter is worth visiting for European vistas, coffee-drinking, and dining options, while the Grand Hotel Golf Resort and Spa, named as the state’s top hotel and spa, offers a lavishing nighty stay and experience.
The natural scenery and the small European town charm make Florence, Oregon, an unconquered destination getaway. The lush green forests juxtaposed by the rugged coastline feel otherworldly, especially at the western edge's mouth of the Siuslaw River and at the waterfront with the rolling-in waves colliding with the sand dunes. The most notable landmark, the nation’s largest sea cave full of sea lions, will amaze the young and the old, while the tree-canopied hike along the trail reminiscent of the Middle Earth and aptly known as the Hobbit Trail is perfect for the Lord of the Rings fans.
Friday Harbor, Washington
Historically, this San Juan Island’s town has been known as a significant produce-provider for the state, while today, the kayaking, orca-watching, as well as the year-round ferries bringing visitors from around the nation during all seasons, make Friday Harbor a famed tourist hub. Another unique experience can be commenced from the Roche Harbor, set on the furthest northwest point of Washington, for hopping the uninhabited islands dotted throughout the nearby waters.
Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
Being the meeting point of West Virginia, Virginia, and Maryland, as well as the spot where the Potomac and the Shenandoah Rivers converge, give Harpers Ferry an unbeatably picturesque townscape setting. The National Historical Park is especially lovely in autumn colors, while the year-round historical tours and the occasional ghost tours guarantee an adventure-filled visit to this gem of the west. There is much to choose from for the active, including kayaking, rafting, zip-lining, rock climbing, and scenic hikes along the Appalachian Trail.
With 4.5 million tulips blossoming in a magnificent display on the city's streets just in time for the annually celebrated Tulip Time Festival, Holland, Michigan, is an attractive destination exuding European charm. The traditional Dutch architecture in the downtown area calls to reflect on one's European heritage, while a simple café-au-lait at one of the many terraced cafes lining the festive streets will transport one to the old continent. The aesthetically perfect town comes complete with the natural vistas of Lake Michigan's eastern shore, the blissful beaches, and the lakefront sunsets.
Nantucket is a 129.5 sq. km island and town, set only 50km south of Cape Cod. Its charming Main Street, filled with architectural marvels, boutiques, galleries, restaurants, and museums, offers an extensive cultural experience, while the dramatically juxtaposing beaten-by-the-waves wharves call out to nature lovers. The island's geological mix of sand dunes, salt marshes, and craggy bluffs, the atmospheric strolls along the narrow cobblestone streets, lined with wood-paneled houses, as well as the magical evening bike-rides out to the lighthouses set in a crescent around the island, make Nantucket a definitive bucket-list town of the United States.
Ocracoke Island, North Carolina
Upon reaching the ferry-only accessible beach of the island, the town opens up in a scenic harbor setting along with the Silver Lake and a full range of shops and restaurants. The antiquity lovers will enjoy visiting the historic British cemetery and the oldest operating light station in the state. The history and mystery of the island combined with the opportunity to take a ghost walk with a descendant of Blackbeard's quartermaster, while a quick boat ride offers to bring one to the ghost village located on the nearby Portsmouth Island.
Those who enjoy feeling “castaway” will indulge in everything that the small village of Paia, Hawaii, has to offer, with its quaint location on Maui's North Shore. The downtown is an equal mix of sweet and hip, where one can stock up on locally-made, unique beachwear pieces from one of the stylish boutiques or get a forever-memory from the “too-cool tattoo parlor.” Once the central square is explored, one can visit the Paia Fish Market or head down to the Ho’okipa Beach Park with the white-sanded beaches. Occupied day and night by the locals thanks to the perfect year-round weather, tourists love to engage in the various ways of surfing from the waves to wind-surfing, kite-surfing with the kids, etc.
Santa Barbara, California
Straight out of the series, the scenic coasts of Santa Barbara are full of the classic Golden State beauty, inclusive of the façade of the southward-facing ocean coastline and back-drop of the gorgeous Santa Ynez Mountains. The historic main street features many colonial-style buildings, including the Franciscan Mission. Not just a getaway for the golden age and scape-lovers, the surfers will discover Santa Barbara as a paradise famed for this water sport.
This town, set within the striking red-rock monoliths, is a heaven for those seeking to connect with nature and absorb the strength and the energy given off by the buttes, the canyons, and the spires set out in all directions. The beautiful natural scenery extends into the nighttime with the pollution-free skies displaying mesmerizing collections of stars, perfect for the lonesome, the romantics, and the astronomy lovers. If not camping out under the constellations, the L'Auberge de Sedona is a known top-rated hotel in the American Southwest, set right in the heart of the Red Rock Country.
The "wildly" beautiful, remotely located, quaint and compact town of Sitka looks right out of a Wild West John Wayne movie with its scenic flat-fronted wooden buildings in the downtown area. The mountains are known as the "Sisters" in the backdrop and the foliage of the spruce trees covering the slopes almost all the way to the front-facing sea, rightfully earning the town being called one of the most beautiful in the nation. Although the colder waters of the northern state may not be for swimming, the harbor-side offers scenic boat rides and whale-watching opportunities, while the landside is a beloved destination for hikers, climbers, hunters, and fishermen.
St. Augustine, Florida
Founded by the Spaniards in 1565, St. Augustine is another cobblestoned town of the nation. It is the earliest European settlement and city in the continental United States, with its earliest colonial-style Spanish buildings and structures. Castillo de San Marcos is a 17th-century fortress with drawbridges and a daily cannon fire display. The town also comes inclusive with a beachfront, the Vilano Beach, while, having played a significant role during the civil rights movement of the 1960s, its Freedom Trail offers a walk in the footsteps of Martin Luther King Jr.
St. Michaels, Maryland
This charming seaside town set within the picturesque Chesapeake Bay, exuding maritime way of life, is only an hour a half drive out of Washington D.C. The magnificent harbor offers unforgettable daytime walks and nigh-time viewings over the waters, while the large namesake museum is well worth a visit, along with a whole assemblage of brightly colored shops and Victorian homes in the downtown area. The nautically-themed Inn at Perry Cabin features upholstered sleigh beds and comes complete with a choice of fresh seafood for dinner, as well as an atmospheric stroll through the brick-walled garden right on the grounds.
St. Simons Island, Georgia
The bare-nature appeal of St. Simons Island pulls many to visit its eastern coastline beaches, while the thick marshes that cover the western side are great for active explorations. The native beauty that spreads throughout the island can also be witnessed in the tidal creeks, the river shorelines, and the ancient maritime forests, with Southern live oaks perfect for hiking and camping. History fans will revel to visit the 1820 Christ Church and the 1872 St. Simons Island Lighthouse, both of eye-catching qualities for photography enthusiasts.
Taos, New Mexico
Set within the high-desert environment of New Mexico, Taos is known for its extensive and fascinating history, the exploration of which can begin with the Taos Pueblo. Just three miles from the center, it is the millennial home of the native peoples in the region and poses as one of the oldest continually occupied places in the nation. Culturally rich, Taos has been attracting painters, sculptors, and writers since 1899 that today form a thriving artists' colony, whose works can be seen in the adobe architecture, the regional artwork, and the numerous galleries and museums of the town. The backdrop of the snow-capped Sangre de Cristo Mountains of Northern New Mexico, the red-rock canyons in the vicinity, and the clear blue desert skies in all directions complete the naturally-rich atmosphere.
One can obtain a quaint getaway experience by visiting the gem of the northern state, Unalaska, with a population of under 5,000 and accessible only by plane or boat. The Viking and Windstar cruise lines have also added this remote town as a destination. While its bare natural beauty offers opportunities to whale-watch, hike the woods, and explore various terrains, some of the notable artificial landmarks include the Aleutian WWII Visitor Center to learn about the Second World War and the Museum of the Aleutians.
Quite unexpectedly, for the "beaches-galore" state, Yountville opens up in a landscape of a French countryside. The extensive line of vineyards that stretch through the Napa Valley is perfect for tasting visits, as well as for biking through the grounds or taking meandering pastime walks within the grapevines. Moreover, the countryside landscape is a colorful patchwork back-dropped by the Yountville Mountains that calls out to couples and families for sun-basking, as well as to photographers, for more lasting memories.