The Best (And Cheapest) East Coast Beach Towns To Visit, According To Research

There's nothing quite like a beach vacation to banish the blues, especially if you've chosen an affordable place to visit. With price increases on everything from gas to fast food to orange juice, it's no wonder budget-conscious beach bums are looking for a more affordable way to enjoy a day on the sand. Luckily, the East Coast offers plenty of beautiful and affordable destinations for a relaxing getaway. Choose your destination well, and you can even visit one of the best beach vacation destinations in the U.S. without causing irreversible damage to your bank account.


We dug deep to find the best (and cheapest) East Coast beach towns. In addition to scouring the internet for expert opinions on this topic, we conducted research comparing things like hotel costs, restaurant meals, and attraction fees to find economical options for your next holiday at the strand. Whether you're hoping to go shelling on the soft sand of Amelia Island, kayaking around the marsh off Tybee Island, Georgia, or biking through a wildlife refuge in Chincoteague, Virginia, you'll find a perfect place to visit for your next beach holiday on this list.

Outer Banks, North Carolina

There are plenty of affordable attractions in the Outer Banks, a stunning string of barrier islands just off the North Carolina coast. From ogling the Wright Brothers National Memorial for $10 to hiking around sand dunes in Jockey's Ridge State Park for free, there's no need to bust your budget in this inexpensive East Coast beach town. Even the beloved Cape Hatteras National Seashore is free to visit. If you're looking for a cheap and romantic place to get hitched, stick around. The OBX is considered one of the best U.S. towns for a destination wedding. Why not tack on a ceremony to your beach holiday?


Named the cheapest place to vacation in America by Optimos Travel, you'll find a variety of accommodations at all price points in the Outer Banks. A Queen room at the two-star Scarborough Inn in Manteo will cost about $127 for a night in July. While many reviewers disliked the kiosk check-in, the hotel was praised for its cleanliness and location. This isn't a bad place to spend a night. Save even more by pitching a tent in one of the area's numerous campgrounds— one night in the Cape Point Campground will cost $20.

Ocean City, Maryland

Welcome to Ocean City, Maryland, a cheap and cheerful seaside resort town filled with affordable attractions and enough tasty treats to keep your sweet tooth satiated. This popular beach destination is known for its 10 miles of sand, waterfront thrill rides, and busy boardwalk. If you're hoping to be occupied from dawn to dusk, this is the place to be — there are so many exciting things to do that you'll wish you had another day. The best part? Many of Ocean City's best activities are free. From nightly fireworks to family beach games to summer concerts at Sunset Park, you won't have to part with a penny to experience some good, old-fashioned fun. 


When it comes to food, you won't be disappointed. Whether you tuck into the raved-about fries at Thrasher's French Fries (a small costs $7.98 ) or grab a pie at Pino's Pizza (a 12-inch is $15), your belly will be as full as your itinerary. Earn extra points by taking the kids to Dolle's for dessert. The saltwater taffy and fudge are mouth-wateringly good. While rooms will be more expensive in summer, you can nab a night at the two-star Blue Wave Inn for $188 in July.

Atlantic City, New Jersey

Bright lights, big beach. That's what you'll find in Atlantic City. Perennially deemed one of America's most popular tourist destinations, this beach town attracts more than 27 million visitors a year, so plan your trip early to score a deal. Among the top free things to do in the so-called "World's Playground" are attending the Atlantic City Airshow in August, hitting the beach, and watching live entertainment on the boardwalk in summer. Hanging out at the boardwalk's Steel Pier is affordable, depending on how many amusement park rides you enjoy. A book of 50 tickets costs $65;  most rides require between four and six tickets. 


If your feet are achy, hop on The Boardwalk Tram. It runs the length of the boardwalk and charges a minimal fee of $5 for a one-way trip. It won't cost much to eat at the historic White House Sub Shop. This landmark restaurant has fed Atlantic City locals and tourists since 1946 and charges just $9.50 for half a regular Italian sub.  When it comes time to sleep, bypass luxury hotels in favor of more affordable accommodations. The three-star Sheraton Atlantic City Convention Center Hotel is about $179 in July.

Virginia Beach, Virginia

Set at the confluence of Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, water-based fun is on the menu for most summertime tourists to Virginia Beach. With three beaches to enjoy at no cost, the only question to ask is, "Which should I visit first?" While sprawling on the sand is the cheapest thing to do, this buzzy summer sizzler is known for its affordable attractions. A 3-mile-long boardwalk is one of this beach town's most popular landmarks, peppered with oceanfront restaurants, hotels, and shops. When the crowds flock to Virginia Beach during the warmest months, you can expect a family-friendly vibe and enough live entertainment (including festivals and fireworks) to keep everyone happy. Live! on Atlantic boasts free evening concerts from May through August, so pack your dancing sandals.


Carib Shack gets good reviews on Yelp, with one customer describing this Caribbean takeout spot as "inexpensive, simple, and comforting."  Jerk Shrimp costs a mere $10.99, while a side of mac and cheese is $3.99. Load up on goodies and enjoy a picnic on the beach. Or, take the food back to your room. One night in July will cost $177 at the Tru By Hilton Norfolk Airport. You can find cheaper options, but they aren't as highly rated. Or, splurge for a night at the Embassy Suites By Hilton Virginia Beach Oceanfront Resort. It'll cost about $568, less in the off-season.

Daytona Beach, Florida

Life can be fast-paced in Daytona Beach, the Sunshine State gem known for its sprawling white sand beach, Daytona 500 racing event, and wild Spring Break parties. Not a fan of mayhem? Plenty of Florida beaches are great for avoiding crowds. If you can only travel during March, consider them instead. Otherwise, Daytona Beach is a haven for those who enjoy sun-kissed walks along a boardwalk and lazy days spent bobbing in the ocean. Complimentary tours are available at The Casements, and free tasters can be enjoyed at Angell & Phelps Chocolate Factory. Tourists can also catch free concerts and fireworks at the Daytona Beach Bandshell between late May and late September. While visiting the beach is free, you'll have to pay for parking.


Depending on where you choose to stay, there are myriad affordable hotels in Daytona Beach, including motels that charge $65 a night in mid-March. These don't score highly with reviewers, so up your budget to $115 for a high-season room at the Comfort Suites Daytona Beach-Speedway. Travelers say it is spacious, clean, and quiet. Time your visit right (to avoid the Spring Break crowds), and you'll reap even more savings on everything from flights to accommodations.

Amelia Island, Florida

Thirteen miles of sandy beaches stretch across the coast of Florida's pristine Amelia Island. Less crowded and cheaper than its cousin beaches in Miami, this budget-friendly spot is filled with natural beauty and outdoor activities that won't break the bank. Spend the day biking, fishing, kayaking, or shelling at Amelia Island State Park for only $2 per person. If golfing is more your thing, you'll find that here, too, and Fort Clinch State Park is a beloved retreat for wildlife lovers.


One of the top-rated islands in Florida, this is where you'll find the colorful Fernandina Beach. Here, you can embrace the old-town charm of sublime historic buildings, eclectic shops, and a selection of restaurants that accommodate any budget. A Filet Lobster Oscar Mignon costs $69 at David's Restaurant and Lounge, while a burger at T-Rays Burger Station will only set you back $7.50. A visit to the Amelia Museum costs $10 and includes a guided tour of this Victorian-era town. As for accommodations, a double room at The Surf Beach Motel is $99 in mid-March. 

Tybee Island, Georgia

Tybee Island is an ideal location for wallet watchers craving a cheap holiday by the shore. A barrier isle located just outside Savannah, this is one of the cheapest beach getaways in the U.S. Everything from tourist attractions to hotels is priced well enough to maintain padding in your pocketbook. Tybee Island boasts free access to its sand, and you won't have to pay to admire the view from the Tybee Pier & Pavilion. In summer, you'll find plenty of complimentary events like outdoor movies and game days. Other fun and economical outdoor activities include kayaking through the marsh, biking, and surfing. 


In addition to 3 miles of sand stretched across five beaches, this beautiful East Coast beach town boasts enough cheap eats to keep you satiated. Huc-A-Poo's Bites & Booze may look a bit sketchy (it sits on Highway 80 and appears very rustic), but its food is both cheap and delicious — reviewers on Tripadvisor describe the $6 pizza slices as "enormous" and "more than you can handle." Hotels in high season (aka summer) are still quite affordable. A July stay at Royal Palms Motel will cost $199. On, reviewer Dawn said it is "cute and cozy, [has a] cool retro vibe, [and is] very clean."

Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

Like most of the other best (and cheapest) East Coast beach towns on this list, there's no charge to visit the sandy shore at Delaware's Rehoboth Beach. Here, tourists can spend their day building sandcastles, wading in the water, and walking the mile-long boardwalk without spending a dime. Don't blame us if you're tempted to grab a bite at Grandpa (MAC), a mouth-wateringly good pasta restaurant offering meals you'll crave long after you leave. The best part? They're affordable — a filling, regular-size Grandpa Mac pasta dish costs $11.75. 


If you have kids in tow, you'll likely get roped into taking them to Funland, but that's not such a bad thing. You can become reacquainted with your inner child while whirling around on one of the 20 rides. While entry to the amusement park is free, tickets cost $0.75 each or $33 for a book of 50. Rides charge anywhere from one to six tickets. Once you regain equilibrium, get your groove on at one of the free Rehoboth Beach Bandstand's Summer Concert Series performances. Hotels range from $215 to $729 per night for July. 

Cape May, New Jersey

While a popular place to visit in summer, Cape May offers plenty of budget-friendly things to do year-round. Joining a guided birdwatching tour will cost non-members $12 at the Cape May Bird Observatory, while if you like more variety in your wildlife, the Cape May County Park & Zoo is free to visit. Beyond its impressive animals, this town brims with history and stoic buildings. Luckily, the area's museums aren't too pricey. The Harriet Tubman Museum charges a mere $5 to $10 for guided tours.


Hitting the beach at this southernmost New Jersey locale will cost only $10 a day for those aged 12 and up. While not free like most other beaches on this list, you won't bust your budget on food and accommodation while staying here. Ensure meals remain economical by steering clear of more luxurious eateries like the Washington Inn, where crabcakes cost $45. Instead, dine at George's Place, where a lunch-sized chicken quesadilla costs $14. As for hotels, these are more expensive in the summertime high season, so plan ahead for better rates or visit in the off-season. A Deluxe Queen Room at the Cape Cottage Inn comes out to about $189 in October versus $304 in July. 

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Arguably one of the most famous beaches on the East Coast, Myrtle Beach is also a budget-friendly place to visit. With 60 miles of soft, sandy shore to explore for free, you won't mind splurging on a fancier room for the night. As with most summer hot spots, traveling between June and September will increase your fees as this is high season. Visiting in the off-months could result in 50% savings. A double room at the three-star Edgewater Inn costs $189 in July. That's not bad, considering it's close to the beach and credited with friendly staff, clean rooms, and a great location by reviewers on There are plenty of options at a variety of prices, including a few of the best beach resorts in the U.S. for family vacations.


When you aren't relishing the A.C. in your cheap room, take advantage of the affordable things to do in this South Carolina beauty, like playing mini golf, paddleboarding, fishing, and exploring Broadway at the Beach. This large shopping and entertainment center bursts with places to eat, drink, and play. Grabbing a bite won't be free, but there are enough restaurants to guarantee you'll find an economical dish to tempt your tastebuds. Catch a show at Broadway Theater for as little as $17.45. Or better, settle in for a night of free entertainment (we're talking concerts and stilt walkers) during Broadway's Summer Nights. 

Chincoteague, Virginia

Have you ever seen a pony swim? You can do just that and much more in the seaside town of Chincoteague, Virginia. An affordable place for a beach vacation, this adorable seaside stunner sits on an island of the same name on Virginia's Eastern shore. Unlike other, more commercialized destinations, Chincoteague offers a small-town vibe and a Main Street so charming that you'll be forgiven for thinking you've traveled back in time. While visiting, tourists can soak up many of its natural wonders without reaching for their wallets. Watch the sunset over Chincoteague Bay or kayak along the Assateague Channel, while the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge is free for walkers and bikers searching for birds and wild ponies along the 15 miles of trails.


Finding a hotel room might be tough during the Chincoteague Island Pony Swim. Held over one week in July, this almost 100-year-old tradition attracts thousands of visitors. At other times of the summer, expect to pay between $135 and $330 for a room in the city's accommodations, which range from value inns to waterfront resorts. As for food, seafood lovers will enjoy the menus on offer. Chincoteague is known for its fresh oysters, so be sure to swallow a few while you're here. While a dinner of deep-fried oysters will cost $31.50 at Bill's Prime Seafood & Steaks, you can enjoy a similar meal for $25.99 at Steamers Restaurant & Sports Bar

Rockland, Maine

Good news for seafood lovers — in Rockland, Maine, you can have your lobster and afford to eat it, too!  During the first week of August, The Maine Lobster Festival takes over the town, serving over 20,0000 pounds of lobster to hungry guests. Admission to the festival is free and includes concerts, races, a parade, and kids' activities. Once inside, guests can purchase local lobster, clams, seafood chowder, and more. 


If you want to visit Rockland in the summer, plan early. A stay at the elegant LimeRock Inn bed and breakfast will cost $299 during this month if you can score a room. Previous guests have raved about their stays here on Expedia, with Livia describing it as "Super cute, quiet, and friendly [with] beautiful rooms." While your biggest bill will likely be from lodging, you can rest assured that the local attractions and restaurants will keep your budget in check. Touring the coast is easy (and cheap) as many attractions, like the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse and the 5-mile Rockland Habor Trail, are free.  

Madison, Connecticut

Madison is an endearing beach town located on Connecticut's Long Island Sound. Set just under half an hour east of New Haven, this idyllic spot is a perfect day trip destination to keep your budget in check. While there are some pricey places to stay (the swanky Madison Beach Hotel rings in at over $470), you'll find enough budget-friendly options to make a visit more affordable. Hammonasset Beach State Park is the town's main attraction. In addition to a 2-mile beach that boasts water-based fun like swimming and surfing, you'll find an economical campground that charges $35 a night for Connecticut residents to pitch a tent. Hurry, though; it is already booked for July and most of August. 


It's free to visit the Miegs Point Nature Center, which lies within the park, as it is for hiking or biking along the Shoreline Greenway Trail. Head downtown to get your fill of notable buildings in the Madison Green Historic District. Nearby is a good selection of shops and restaurants in various price ranges.  

Our Methodology

Choosing the best (and cheapest) East Coast beach towns to visit wasn't an easy task. We studied each destination's affordability in terms of hotels, restaurant meals, and attractions. To find the most realistic rates for accommodations, we searched for rooms in the high season for each destination (July for places like Maine in the Northeast and mid-March for Southeastern locales like Florida). Using sites like Booking and Expedia, we found hotels with reasonable rates and reviews close to 8 stars and above. We won't recommend nasty places riddled with bed bugs, mold, or unfriendly staff, so we compared multiple reviews to confirm these hotels are budget-friendly and worthy of a stay. Next, we considered each town's attractions. Only those with multiple free or inexpensive places to visit made this list. Finally, we searched sites like Yelp and Tripadvisor, studying reviews to find the beach town's best, most affordable restaurants.