Living where the sand meets the water is a dream for many people, including those who want to retire comfortably in an affordable beach house. Although beach cities have the reputation of being expensive places to live, each of the coastal cities on this list has a median home price below the U.S. average of $279,000 and a median rent below the national average of $1,483, making them among the cheapest places to live in the country. While you’re packing for the beach, see how much these beach towns cost so you know how much you need to live comfortably.
Saint Petersburg, Florida
- Median list price: $275,000
- Median rent: $1,412
St. Petersburg is well-known for its beautiful beaches and abundant sunshine, claiming the title of “most consecutive days with sunshine” at 768 days. Perhaps surprisingly, however, the city also boasts the world-renowned Salvador Dali Museum, along with other cultural treasures. The city’s charms aren’t lost on homebuyers, as the city has the highest median list price in the top 20.
New Bedford, Massachusetts
- Median list price: $229,900
- Median rent: $1,469
The cost of living is high in New Bedford, running about 7% above the U.S. average. However, low rents make New Bedford one of the most affordable beach towns. Strategically located near both Boston and Cape Cod, New Bedford is also the No. 1 fishing port in the nation.
Palm Coast, Florida
- Median list price: $265,000
- Median rent: $1,408
Palm Coast is the quintessential Florida city, boasting beaches, golf courses and nearby access to estuaries and marshland. The city is nestled between St. Augustine and Daytona Beach and has a relatively high median home value, but rents remain affordable.
Learn More: 60% of the Best Beaches Are in This State
Beaufort, South Carolina
- Median list price: $259,900
- Median rent: $1,450
Voted the South’s best town by Southern Living Magazine, Beaufort is the home of many stunning Civil War-era mansions with waterfront views. Established in 1711, Beaufort blends a dramatic beachside location with numerous historical sites, all in an affordable package.
North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
- Median list price: $269,900
- Median rent: $1,324
Renting might be the way to go in North Myrtle Beach, as rent is relatively low compared with the higher median list price in the city. Life in North Myrtle Beach is definitely focused on the beachfront location, offering everything from horseback riding on the beach to parasailing, paddleboarding and pier fishing.
Sunset Beach, North Carolina
- Median list price: $249,950
- Median rent: $1,296
Sunset Beach is one of the cheapest beachside towns for renters, particularly when compared with the median list price of its homes. However, it’s also saddled with the highest cost of living in the top 20, running nearly 10% above national averages. As of the most recent census in 2010, the city’s population was just 3,752, which might appeal to those looking for a small beach community.
- Median list price: $262,495
- Median rent: $1,395
One of no less than 11 Florida cities on the top 20 list, Melbourne boasts many of the same amenities of its sister cities, including a beautiful beach location and a historic downtown district. Nicely situated near the Kennedy Space Center, Melbourne also hosts a number of annual festivals, from Oktoberfest to Aviation Day and the Independent Filmmaker’s Festival. Median rent and home values are moderate.
Surfside Beach, Texas
- Median list price: $234,500
- Median rent: $1,421
The first of two Texas beach towns to make the list, Surfside Beach is a tiny community with an estimated 2010 population of just 482. Surfside is just one hour away from Houston and offers something for all types of residents, from charming stilt homes to plenty of outdoor activities, including fishing, kayaking and surfing. Rent is a bit high relative to median home values in the city.
- Median list price: $225,500
- Median rent: $1,360
Largo is large compared with some of the other cities on the list, with a population exceeding 83,000. Located in the Tampa Bay area, Largo has an affordable median home price, although the cost of living overall is about 3% above the U.S. average.
Fort Walton Beach, Florida
- Median list price: $260,000
- Median rent: $1,248
Fort Walton Beach is one of two beach communities on the list in the greater Crestview area. Home prices are moderately high, but median rent is respectably low in this beach city, which was named by GOBankingRates as an underrated place to buy a vacation home.
Mary Esther, Florida
- Median list price: $219,900
- Median rent: $1,287
Unlike its sister city Fort Walton Beach, Mary Esther, which is also located in the greater Crestview area, has very affordable homes. However, rent is just a tad higher in this city, despite the lower median home price. Mary Esther is one of the small towns in Florida with a community of around 4,000; it’s nestled next to its more famous neighbor, Destin, one of the best beach towns in Florida.
Palm Bay, Florida
- Median list price: $189,900
- Median rent: $1,341
Yet another Florida beach community, Palm Bay is among the most affordable for homebuyers, with a median home value below $190,000. Rent is relatively high for a city with such low home values. The city is just minutes away from the Kennedy Space Center and also boasts plenty of its own attractions, from the Brevard Community College Planetarium & Observatory to the Brevard Zoo and numerous golf courses and parks.
Corpus Christi, Texas
- Median list price: $204,900
- Median rent: $1,371
Everything is not always bigger in Texas, and for residents of Corpus Christi, that’s a good thing. Both median home prices and rent are affordable, particularly for a city right on the beach. In addition to hosting the aircraft carrier USS Lexington, Corpus Christi borders the Padre Island National Seashore, the largest barrier island in the world.
New London, Connecticut
- Median list price: $164,300
- Median rent: $1,337
As the only Connecticut city on the list, New London earns its spot in part due to its extraordinarily low median list price. The cost of renting is actually a bit high relative to the average home price. The historic town was incorporated in 1646 and has been home to such notable citizens as Nathan Hale and Eugene O’Neill.
Find Out: How Much a Home Is Worth in Every State
South Daytona, Florida
- Median list price: $179,900
- Median rent: $1,329
If you’re interested in all the glitz and glamour of world-famous Daytona Beach but don’t need all the craziness, consider South Daytona Beach. Median home prices are very modest, and the city has more of a smaller, residential feel.
- Median list price: $190,000
- Median rent: $1,322
Cocoa is another community on Florida’s Space Coast that boasts a taste of both beautiful beaches and history. In fact, Cocoa Beach is famous for, among other things, being the beach where John Glenn and other astronauts hung out while training for space flight. Homes here are far more affordable than many other beach locations.
Coos Bay, Oregon
- Median list price: $220,000
- Median rent: $1,278
The only West Coast beach making the top 20 list, Coos Bay earns its spot in part by having a very low cost of living, running 10% below the U.S. average. Rent, in particular, is low. While not a luxurious beach town, Coos Bay still has plenty of natural scenic beauty.
Fort Pierce, Florida
- Median list price: $210,000
- Median rent: $1,260
Fort Pierce is part of the Treasure Coast and is known as the Sunrise City. Located along the state’s Atlantic Coast, home prices aren’t the lowest in the state, but rent is more affordable. The city also boasts an overall cost of living more than 8% below the national average.
Daytona Beach, Florida
- Median list price: $159,900
- Median rent: $1,201
Daytona Beach has a reputation for having one of the best beaches in the U.S. and for getting a bit crazy during spring break, but the rest of the year, the city’s residents enjoy the second-lowest median home prices and the lowest overall rents in the entire list of gorgeous, affordable beach cities. The cost of living is nearly 10% below the U.S. average.
Atlantic City, New Jersey
- Median list price: $129,950
- Median rent: $1,274
Atlantic City is the home of the famous Boardwalk and some extremely affordable housing. In fact, Atlantic City has the lowest median list price for homes by far, along with low median rent. Coupled with overall costs that run a whopping 16% below the national average, Atlantic City finds itself at the No. 1 ranking on the list of affordable beach cities.
How to Find the Best Beach Town for You
Cost is a good place to start when looking for the right affordable beach town in which to live, but it’s not everything. Some homebuyers might prefer the best beach towns in Florida to those in Connecticut, for example, while others might want to avoid the hurricane risk in those states and choose one of the best beach towns on the West Coast. When it comes to choosing the right beach destination for you, examine the combination of affordability and livability of the various beach towns according to your own standards and preferences.
Read more about these places that will pay you to live there.
More on Real Estate
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- 50 Cheapest Cities in the World to Live In
- The 15 Best and Worst Places to Live If You’re Trying to Save Money
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Methodology: GOBankingRates determined the gorgeous beach towns you can afford to live in based on the following criteria: (1) median home listing price, sourced from Zillow’s February 2019 housing index; cities had to have a median list price that was equal to or less than the U.S. median level; (2) median rent, sourced from Zillow’s February 2019 rental index; cities had to have a median rent price that was equal to or less than the U.S. level; (3) cost of living, sourced from Sperling’s Best Places on March 27, 2019; cost of living must be less than the U.S. average (cost of living index of less than 100), or within 10% above the U.S. (cost of living index of 110 max).
About the Author
John Csiszar is a freelance writer and article curator. He served as a registered investment advisor for 18 years before becoming a writing and editing contractor for private clients. In addition to writing thousands of articles for various online publications, he has published two educational books for young adults.