The 14 most beautiful beach towns on the West Coast

Garrett Gardner

The West Coast is known for its amazing beaches, but how do you decide where to go? Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered with 14 of the most beautiful beach towns below!

 

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Port Townsend, Washington

Port Townsend, Washington

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On the tip of the Olympic Peninsula, just across from Whidbey Island, is the charming town of Port Townsend. Home to Victorian architecture, enjoy trails and beaches near the town, or sample tasty bites at one of the many cafes, restaurants, and breweries. And don’t forget to check out Fort Warden State Park, where you can hike, camp, and explore abandoned WWII bunkers.

 

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Ocean Shores, Washington

Ocean Shores, Washington

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Ocean Shores is the crown jewel of the Washington coast, popular with families, couples, and solo travelers. There are many access points to the beach where you can enjoy sweeping views. You can even drive on the beach here! If wheels aren’t your thing, horseback riding is a popular activity.

 

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Anacortes, Washington

Anacortes, Washington

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Just an hour and a half from Seattle is beautiful Anacortes, where you have the privilege of enjoying both mountain and ocean views. There are many bars and eateries, as well as parks, hiking trails, and beaches. If you wish to extend your trip, this is also where you can catch ferries to the San Juan Islands.

 

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Cannon Beach, Oregon

Cannon Beach, Oregon

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Cannon Beach is likely Oregon’s most famous beach town, evidenced by its in-demand status come spring break in the Pacific Northwest. Best known for a white sandy beach that stretches for miles and features Haystack Rock. It’s also great for tide-pooling, dog-friendly, or browsing the many galleries and boutiques. Active visitors can choose from one of the plentiful hiking trails in the area.

 

Newport, Oregon

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Located 130 miles southwest of Portland, this coastal town is a great place to enjoy the Oregon coast! It’s a larger version of Cannon Beach and is perfect for families. There are plenty of activities and not one, but two lighthouses to visit. It’s also very pet-friendly.

 

Florence, Oregon

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A lesser-known Oregon gem, Florence is located just over an hour from Eugene and is popular with local residents. It’s where the northwest coast sand dunes are at their best and give way to long stretches of beach. Additionally, the town offers some of the state’s best seafood and antique shopping.

 

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Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

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Carmel feels a world away from much of the Californian coast. A charming forested village with named cottages straight out of a fairytale, but with a bizarre high-end twist. The tree-lined streets give way to beautiful white sand beaches, and the town is full of trendy boutiques, great restaurants, and cute cafes.

 

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Half Moon Bay, California

Half Moon Bay, California

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A 30-minute drive from the Bay Area lands you in adorable Half Moon Bay. On the drive, cliffs give way to views unlike anywhere else on the coast. The main street is perfect for an afternoon of browsing the main street, shopping the cute boutiques and galleries, and taking in numerous historical sites. Then head to the beach for a day of tide pooling or swimming!

 

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Santa Cruz, California

Santa Cruz, California

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This relaxed surf and college town is quintessentially Californian. In addition to hitting the beach, you can stroll the boardwalk, ride trolleys, go whale watching, and visit the Surfing Museum. For hiking enthusiasts, there are numerous trails in the mountains and surrounding area.

 

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Ventura, California

Ventura, California

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One of the best-kept secrets for a beach escape in SoCal is Ventura. Like Santa Cruz, this is a true surf town and feels a world away from LA traffic. If you’re not big on the board, the water is also great for swimming, kayaking, or hanging out in the sun on the shore. If you tire of the ocean, you can also check out one of the many bike and hike paths not far from town.

 

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Santa Barbara, California

Santa Barbara, California

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Another Californian beach and college town, Santa Barbara is not to be missed! The nightlife pops off after a day in the sun and sand. If that’s not your scene, enjoy wines at one of the many tasting rooms in the city or perhaps get some exercise on a bike or your own two feet.

 

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Laguna Beach, California

Laguna Beach, California

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Famous for the reality TV show of the same name, rest assured Laguna is more than just spoiled rich kids. An epic drive through a canyon opens out to sweeping vistas of the Pacific Ocean. There are a few beaches to choose from, ensuring all types will have a nice visit. Then, browse an art gallery, have a delightful meal, or go hiking in the hills above the sand.

 

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Newport Beach, California

Newport Beach, California

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This harbor town also had a slightly less famous reality TV show filmed here. Beaches among the best of SoCal and two piers await you here! The marina has some of the best recreation offers on the coast, with a range of offers from fishing to yacht rentals to whale watching. You can also charter a boat to take you to Catalina Island.

 

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Encinitas, California

Encinitas, California

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Just north of San Diego is this lovely small city full of beaches and parks. There are many options for enjoying the sun and water, including great waves for surfing, and you can even take lessons. Encinitas is a lively town with plenty of shops, bars, and cafes on the main street to refuel and relax after an active day.

Sydney is a writer and language nerd from Seattle. She’s lived in Sydney, Montreal, and Luxembourg and is always on the lookout for her next adventure. When she isn’t downing another cup of coffee or conjugating verbs, you can find her in the mountains or near the water. She writes about travel, lifestyle, and language all over the internet. 

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