In places like Malibu or Nantucket, the average price of a "little place by the beach" now easily runs upward of several millions.
But the country has numerous quaint seaside towns with average properties below $400,000 and lots of options on the market.
For its annual list of the country's affordable beach towns, Realtor.com looked at median prices of cities that had no fewer than 30 listings in April.
In many cases, they are just a short drive away from expensive resorts that many will not look beyond when looking for a place.
"Most people, when they think of beach towns, they focus on a few dozen destinations," George Ratiu, manager of economic research at Realtor.com, said in a statement.
"However, there are a lot of hidden gems, which offer all the benefits of seaside living at a much lower price."
Atlantic City, New Jersey:
While hardly under-the-radar, Atlantic City's kitsch reputation makes it a relatively affordable place to satisfy that beachside living dream.
The median listing price is $161,754 and there is no shortage of homes on the market.
The city is currently in the middle of a visitor boon both amid and after Covid-19 travel restrictions; home prices have jumped 18.8% since April 2021.
"The high-rises right by the beach are doing good," local broker Nancy Vasta told Reatlor.com "Now, you'll see one condo left in each high-rise, where before you could go and see five or six."
Deerfield Beach, Florida:
Florida is the quintessential beach state.
For those who are priced out of the most expensive destinations, there are endless other options for those who want to break into the vacation property business.
Just a few miles outside of the more affluent Boca Raton and Palm Beach, Deerfield Beach is attractive not only for its proximity to the water but also for its real estate prices.
The median listing price is $230,071 and, while that may not get you a seafront estate, some Northeasterner will surely want to rent whatever you buy for a winter getaway.
"Older buyers can find some of the most affordable waterfront options, including this two-bedroom condo on the Intracoastal Waterway asking just $299,222 for 55-plus buyers," reads the report.
"Younger buyers can also find their own bit of beach without breaking the bank, including this $400,000 one-bedroom condo right on the ocean."
New London, Connecticut:
Connecticut is another state that, in the eyes of many, has given up on affordability entirely.
But while that may be the case in New Canaan or Greenwich, the median listing price in New London is only $242,392.
There are even a few properties below $150,000 on the market.
Why is it so cheap?
It often has to do with demand and New London has not yet received the PR push of a popular beach destination. The flip side is that this could mean growth potential for investors.
"Water babies can find homes with a view starting in the mid-$100,000 range," reads Realtor.com.
Mastic Beach, New York
You're probably surprised to see a town in The Hamptons on this list as in places like Water Mill the average home price is nearly $4 million.
A 40-minute drive from Southampton, Mastic Beach is yet to shake its working class roots and has a median list price of $334,907.
That may not get you a place right by the water but it will get you — or, if you're doing this as an investment, your Airbnb guests — a place to crash in the Hamptons in the summer.
"In the notoriously exclusive Hamptons on Long Island, Mastic Beach doesn’t get the same sort of rich and famous resort crowd as its world-famous neighbor," reads the report.
"But this working-class beach town has a lot to offer ocean lovers who can’t afford a multimillion-dollar 'summer cottage.'"
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina:
Myrtle Beach makes lists of the best beach towns again and again in large part because, for a relatively affordable entry price, one gets access to not just a picturesque beach but an endless array of dining and entertainment options.
The median listing price is $347,875 and, as the endless array of Airbnb and VRBO listings show, investors will not struggle to find people who'll want to rent a property during the popular seasons.
Myrtle Beach real estate prices rose by 21% since April 2021.
"There are tons of waterfront homes to choose from, whether buyers are making a full-time move or seeking a vacation rental," reads the report.
"Such as this two-bedroom condo on the market for $289,900 with killer views of the ocean or this historic five-bedroom beach house with views of the ocean and a pier from the front porch for $595,000."