2012 America's Happiest Seaside Towns

We've ranked the top 15 happiest places to live on the coast. And the winners are...

Kiawah Island, South Carolina
Photographer: Squire Fox

1. Kiawah Island, South Carolina

This exquisite barrier island is home to 10 miles of unspoiled fine-sand beach; wild-growing palmetto, oak, and magnolia trees; a veritable Noah's ark's worth of mammals and rare birds; and 1,626 lucky residents. With small-town charms and proximity to the gracious urbanity of Charleston, Kiawah makes the ideal possible: a vacation-like lifestyle with easy access to commerce and culture.

Home to five award-winning golf courses,  30-plus miles of paved paths ideal for biking, and shopping at local hub Freshfields Village, residents often kayak down the tree-shaded Kiawah River to watch egrets, herons, and bald eagles enjoying their sanctuary.

Where to Stay: The beachfront Sanctuary Hotel has spacious suites with access to five golf courses and a spa. Rates start at $440; 800/576-1570 or kiawahresort.com.

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