The desire to own a beach house might be one of the most common dreams in the U.S. Unfortunately, the most popular beachfront property is pretty expensive. But, if you dream of owning property within a distance of that remarkable coastal air, there are still places left where you can do it for a reasonable price.
To pull it off, you have to stay away from the cliché. Let go of any notions of living in Laguna Beach, the Hamptons or Miami right now. Though you might find a rare gem in the rough, your odds are much better along the Gulf Coast. It's not a surprise, as U.S. Census data shows these Gulf Coast states as having some of the lowest median home values in the country. Using the 2017 median property values provided by DataUSA, here are the beach towns that seem to offer the most value.
The Most Affordable Beach Towns in America
1. Gulfport, Miss.
Median Property Value: $118,300
Based on some previous rankings from last year, Gulfport seems to have a pretty stronghold at the top of most lists of this nature. The coastal Mississippi town certainly doesn't offer the amenities of more popular locations, but that is the secret to its financial value. With time, this will probably change, as more and more catch on to affordable housing. Already the second-largest city in Mississippi, Gulfport has lighthouses, waterparks, an international airport, and is within a morning drive of downtown New Orleans.
2. Port Arthur, Texas
Median Property Value: $64,300
Though carrying cheaper values than Gulfport, the area is stuck in with one of the largest oil refineries in the country. It's not exactly a beach town in the idyllic sense. But it's close to the water and within driving distance of other beaches.
3. Deerfield Beach, Fla.
Median Property Value: $142,600
Nestled in the heart of the southeastern coast of Florida, Deerfield Beach is close to everything. Boca Raton is just north, Pompano Beach just south. Deerfield is within minutes of Hillsboro Beach, Deerfield Island Park, Highland Beach, Delray Beach, among others. The beach town is close to Fort Lauderdale, without costing too much money. The proximity gains you access to various breweries, restaurants, and golf courses. Less than 30 miles from the Miami area, you'll never be far from all kinds of nightlife and events.
4. Ocean Springs, Miss.
Median Property Value: $158,000
A drive across a bridge from Biloxi, Ocean Springs has the Gulf Islands National Seashore, restaurants along Bienville Blvd, brewing companies, a casino resort, and a few golf courses within driving distance. Downtown has a beautiful southern feel, with large oak trees, and various brick buildings along the streets. If you like the quiet coastal southern feel, Ocean Springs is one of the few places left that are affordable.
5. Jacksonville, N.C.
Median Property Value: $153,400
While the Carolina coast has gentrified along with most of the coastline, there are still some affordable areas that can be accessed. Buoyed by the U.S. military's presence, Jacksonville, N.C. sits on New River, a few miles from the ocean. To its immediate east, you can day trip to Emerald Isle, and the beginning of the southern tip of the Outer Banks. In terms of raw pristine natural coastal beauty, these small narrow islands are very difficult to beat. To Jacksonville's southwest, you'll find North Topsail Beach, Surf City, and Topsail Beach. This string of land is essentially a miniature version of the Outer Banks.
Though remote, Jacksonville offers reasonable home values that will get you within the distance of these otherwise very expensive beaches. Jacksonville has a small-town feel, and you'll see plenty of servicemen. The closest major urban area is Wilmington, N.C. You can get there in an hour or two, but as a whole Jacksonville is pretty remote.
6. Pensacola, Fla.
Median Property Value: $155,700
Want the weather of Florida without the cost of some places? Pensacola might be the place for you. Beautiful waters, mixed with the Historic Pensacola Village and the array of neighboring sands close by, Pensacola offers a lot to appreciate for the price. One drawback of the picturesque beach town is a higher than average crime rate.
7. Aberdeen, Wash.
Median Property Value: $161,800
For those in the northwest that might not be looking to make the move to the Gulf, Aberdeen, Wash. offers some nice value for a different kind of affordable beach town experience. Nestled on the eastern side of North Bay, Aberdeen is within minutes of beaches like Ocean Shores, Copalis Beach, Cohasset Beach, Bay City, and a multitude of state parks and wildlife areas. Make no mistake, this area is not for the classic beach bum. It is an outdoorsman's paradise. Olympic National Park is just north of Aberdeen, while the small coastal town is within a day's drive of Seattle, Olympia, and the Puget Sound. Again, this is an area offering a different set of coastal attractions. Whale-watching, kayaking, fresh seafood, and serene (if not a little gray) beauty of nature. Again, the crime rate here does seem to be a bit higher.
8. Bay St. Louis, Miss.
Median Property Value: $162,900
Bay St. Louis is a quieter locale. The small beach town runs just east of Gulfport and Biloxi. The value of the area continues to keep Mississippi as the dominant state for affordable coastal property. This town is definitely on a different pace than some of the names listed in Florida. The streets carry a small-town feel, and local restaurants offer great southern dishes. Along the bay, you'll find 200 North Beach Restaurant and Bar. The surf'n'turf restaurant has outdoor seating and a beautiful bar in a building dating back from the early 1900s. This quieter town is close enough to New Orleans that you'll be able to find a party if you want it.
9. Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Median Property Value: $178,300
If you want a little more action, Myrtle Beach is still probably one of the best places in terms of affordable beach towns. The longtime beach resort capital of the East Coast has a host of activities for pretty much anyone. More golf courses than you can count, restaurants galore, shops, shows, boating, fishing, you name it and it can probably be done at Myrtle Beach. The drawback here is the ever-increasing congestion and traffic. Myrtle is affordable, but it is no secret. I speak from personal experience when I say that the amount of growth in the past decade has been substantial. If you're looking for an affordable beach town that offers solitude and tranquility, look elsewhere. If you're the life of the party and enjoy always having something to do, this is the place to be.
10. St. Marys, Ga.
Median Property Value: $154,500
Nestled right on the Georgia/Florida border, St. Marys sits on the Georgia side of the St. Marys River. This small town is very close to Amelia Island to its south and Jekyll Island in the north. Owning property here strategically places you close to many popular areas. If you need the resources of the city, Jacksonville is about 30 miles south, while the old-world beauty of Savannah is a few hours up Interstate 95. Prepare yourself for a different way of life, as a slow-paced, relaxed atmosphere exists in this area of the country. Beautiful bays and inlets tend to do that to you.
11. Biloxi, Miss.
Median Property Value: $154,800
Casinos, Hard Rock hotels, golf courses on the inlet, golf courses on the ocean, a community college, the Biloxi area has a lot to offer someone who wants a beach town with activities. Nestled between Gulfport and Ocean Springs, Biloxi is a part of this affordable area of Mississippi. Along Beach Blvd. you'll find restaurants. A few blocks back, you'll find local establishments, golf, and affordable homes. It is very similar to Gulfport and Ocean Springs. This area is in an underdeveloped state, and buyers seem to have the advantage because of it. Did I mention it's close to New Orleans?
12. Beaufort, N.C.
Median Property Value: $193,000
Not to be confused with Beaufort, S.C., Beaufort, N.C. is a little more expensive than some other names on this list. But if you want to be in the heart of the Outer Banks territory, you're going to pay more. The natural beauty of this area simply cannot be overstated. If you like a quiet, laid back place that harbors the feeling of a New England fishing village, Beaufort might be for you. Built essentially on a peninsula to the east of Morehead City, you'll find views of the water in basically every direction. Nature reserves, state parks, and fishing are aplenty. Check out the Front Street Grill with its beautiful water views. A quick drive over a bridge, or on a ferry, will take you to any of the southern parts of the Outer Banks. This is a place of relaxation.
13. Freeport, Texas
Median Property Value: $69,300
Freeport is extremely cheap. With home values below $100,000, if you've ever dreamed of beachfront property, this is where you can make your dream a reality. Though not as fancy as other names, Freeport offers raw value. South of Houston, you have a city close enough to get your urban fill. The beautiful town of Galveston is not too far to the northeast. The beaches might not offer the same size and scale as the Carolinas, and there's a fair bit of industrialization, but Freeport makes up for it in sheer affordability.
14. Port St. Lucie, Fla.
Median Property Value: $162,700
North of Jupiter, and south of Fort Pierce, Port St. Lucie is close to many Florida beaches. With a beautiful downtown, botanical gardens, boardwalks, and many restaurants, Port St. Lucie offers a nice city with warm weather that is close to many coastal attractions. There are aquatic preserves, state parks, golf courses, all within a few miles. Niche.com gives Port St. Lucie an overall B rating and generally good reviews in terms of crime. Though more expensive than some other names on this list, Port St. Lucie certainly is a great option for affordable beach towns.
15. Corpus Christi, Texas
Median Property Value: $141,300
A bona fide city, Corpus Christi offers more of urban coastal experience. The city has an aquarium, oodles of restaurants, naval carriers to explore, and a host of coastal islands nearby. Mustang Island State Park buffers the bay from the ocean and offers a great place to see nature. To the south, the coast is dominated by Padre Island, a rural and beautiful area, with the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge along with it.
16. Sunset Beach, N.C.
Median Property Value: $263,300
Less a town, and more of an island with beach homes on it, Sunset Beach offers a value play that nestles you between North Myrtle Beach to your south, and Wilmington, North Carolina to your north. You have the wonderful aesthetic of the ocean, with the small town of Southport nearby. Driving onto the mainland, you can find seafood in Calabash, or play one of the many golf courses. Certainly one of the more expensive names on this list, Sunset still offers value compared to its neighboring Ocean Isle, Holden Beach, and Oak Island.
17. Southport, N.C.
Median Property Value: $251,000
Speaking of Southport, though not harboring a beach of its own, the small town is within a day's drive of many beaches including Oak Island, Sunset Beach, Holden Beach, etc. It is also close to the much-coveted and private Bald Head Island (Don't get your sights set on visiting Bald Head too often. You have to take a ferry to reach it, and it is entirely private homes.) You're also a reachable drive from Wilmington, N.C., which gives you access to urban amenities and culture.
Don't Forget Unforeseen Costs
Bear in mind the other hidden factors within the cost of homeownership. Depending on how close to the water you get, your homeowners' insurance rates can vary substantially, and some of these areas are subject to hurricane damage. There are also highly variable rates of maintenance depending on the size and age of your dwelling. But if you're looking for coastal areas, you're already aware of the drawbacks.