Nestled along the Intracoastal Waterway, Beaufort (with 12,534 locals) sits in the heart of the Sea Islands and Lowcountry, with much of its historic antebellum architecture intact.
A beautiful, upscale village of 1,644 residents along Cape Cod's southern shore, known as "The Port," has been the home of seamen and fishermen since before the American Revolution.
One of the jewels of the Maine coast, this town of 1,200 offers sandy beaches and picturesque walking paths along the ocean, plus charming shops and restaurants in the port's Dock Square.
Surrounded on three sides by ocean bluffs and beaches, La Jolla's coastline is truly breathtaking. Its 46,780 residents enjoy a vibrant downtown full of world-class shopping and art festivals.
This historically town of deep-water harbors and 25,000 residents has drawn a wonderful variety of retail, hotels, and dining, with Bellevue Avenue, one of the hippest shopping districts.
This picturesque New England village has lured artists for centuries. It's like Nantucket or Martha's Vineyard, say locals
(4,000 call it home), but without the swell of tourists.
Historically a sugar cane Plantation town, Pa'ia is now best known for being close to two renowned windsurfing beaches. The 2,668 happy locals enjoy five beaches within walking distance.
This farming and ranching community (just 643 people) south of San Francisco is an ideal weekend getaway, with clean air, uncrowded beaches, and great off-road hiking in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
This former whaling town-turned artist and writer colony, only two hours from New York City, has maintained its small-town feel (2,313 residents), thanks to a wealth of locally owned shops.
The millions of tinted seashells that have literally built the island on which this little town sits have made Sanibel famous around the world. Its 6,469 residents enjoy access to 15 miles of unspoiled beaches.
How We Picked the Winners
We began with every place we've lauded as a Dream Town over the past 15 years, and took your nominations on Facebook. We polled our editors on each finalist to define that special "coastal vibe" and mixed it into the formula to create an all-star list from every coast.
You could vote hourly January 10 through February 28.
Think your town should be here?
Tell us about it! Click here to upload a photo of your favorite coastal town.
You can click here to view the winners, and see the announcement in our June 2013 issue.