Meet Coastal Living’s Best of Summer 2017 Winners!
Our favorite season calls for a little healthy competition! Click here to see the schedule for this summer’s polls, and don’t forget to cast your vote to help us crown the best of summer! Click on to see the winners, updated weekly!
Week 1: Best Lobster Roll
The Clam Shack
This charming spot, perched next to the bridge that crosses the Kennebunk River, offers classic Maine vistas paired with hefty, overwhelmingly tasty lobster rolls.
Week 2: Best Beach Boardwalk
This old-school boardwalk boasts summer pleasures galore, with all the fresh seafood you can eat, a long stretch of shops facing the water, a wide sandy beach, and a world-famous sand sculpting competition.
Week 3: Best Beach Hotel
Belmond Maroma Resort & Spa
Riviera Maya, Mexico
This waterfront retreat on Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula is surrounded by 25 acres of lush jungle, with a wide, soft-sand beach overlooking the Caribbean Sea. Its assortment of thatched-roof bungalows offers a rustic escape that doesn’t scrimp on the amenities, with luxuries such as a tapas bar, a tequila and ceviche bar, a full spa, and three pools (with one exclusively for adults).
Week 4: Best Shelling Beach
This Gulf island is located just offshore of Fort Myers on Florida’s southwest coast. Seashells (more than 250 varieties of seashells, in fact) cover the beaches here, and Sanibel is also home to The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum and an annual shell fair and show. With so much shelling-specific attractions, it’s no surprise that shell lovers of all levels flock to Sanibel Island (and its sister island, Captiva), but Sanibel also offers a wealth of attractions beyond its famed shelling.
Week 5: Best Beach Town for July Fourth
Talk about small but mighty—this harbor town has a little more than 3,000 residents, but its gorgeous Cape Fear River views and proximity to the Atlantic make it a prime coastal destination (plus, it was a 2015 Happiest Seaside Town!). Southport boasts a particularly lively Fourth of July celebration: It plays host to North Carolina’s official celebration with more than a week of festivities, including an art show, a horseshoe tournament, and a naturalization ceremony in addition to the classic parade and fireworks.
Week 6: Best Tiki Bar
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Opened in 1956, Mai-Kai boasts a delightfully retro ’50s vibe—and a menu that hasn’t changed since it opened. The sarong-clad waitresses and the menu of more than 51 tropical drinks pay playful tribute to the tiki bar tradition, and each of the many rooms of this sprawling restaurant reflects a different region of Polynesia, with waterfalls and lagoons scattered throughout. Stop by any night except Monday for a captivating dance performance by the Polynesian Islander Revue, complete with hand-sewn costumes—just make a reservation first.
Week 7: Best Crab Cake
Crabcake Factory USA
Ocean City, Maryland
Since its opening in 1996, this little seafood shack in iconic Ocean City has grown far beyond its humble roots: Today, Crabcake Factory USA has four established locations in the Ocean City area, with a just-opened fifth. None of this success has altered its hallmark crab cake, though—the lump crab cakes here are still among the best on the coast. Even better, crab cake fans across the country can enjoy these delicious cakes from home, as Crabcake Factory USA ships its namesake delicacies nationwide.
Week 8: Best Beach Ice Cream Shop
Calabash, North Carolina
Tucked just across the border from South Carolina, Calabash Creamery is close to the Calabash River, the Intracoastal Waterway, and nature preserve Bird Island, in crowd-favorite Brunswick County. The family-owned shop offers a nostalgic ice cream experience, with homemade flavors made with high-quality, fresh ingredients. Since its 2003 opening, Calabash Creamery has served up fresh, sweet scoops with plenty of Southern hospitality, and customers can always expect a smile from the staff with their cones.
Week 9: Best Coastal Amusement Park
With a legacy dating back to 1870, Cedar Point (the second-oldest amusement park in North America) combines the joys of old-fashioned amusements with the thrills of a 21st-century theme park. This year, the park debuted a water park, and in 2016, its Valravn dive coaster broke records. Its 364-acre grounds command a prime position overlooking Lake Erie, earning the rides, games, restaurants, and shows bonus points for scenery.
Week 10: Best Coastal Brewery
Since 1995, this Delaware brewery has been at the front of the East Coast’s microbrewery wave. Despite a growing repertoire of brews (including 20 beer varieties and handcrafted spirits) and three locations, plus an inn, Dogfish Head preserves its close-knit, neighborhood pub vibe. In Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats, the Rehoboth Beach brewpub, playfully rustic canoes and wooden boats hang from the rafters, and a long, polished bar commands the space. Visitors come for the drinks but stay for the food, a true gourmet treat with offerings from cumin lamb sliders to homemade chocolate cheesecake.
Week 11: Best Coastal Rooftop Bar
Bud & Alley’s
At Bud & Alley’s, a seat on the Roof Deck Bar is paramount to a seat in paradise. Here, the food offerings—which include plenty of fresh seafood and satisfying sandwiches (plus a full breakfast menu)—serve as perfect accompaniments to splendid drinks and an even more splendid water view. With a beverage menu that runs the gamut from classic coastal brews to house cocktails and a clear view of the gloriously clear Gulf of Mexico, there’s a lot to love about this community hotspot.
Week 12: Best Clam Shack
The Clam Box
For more than 80 years, The Clam Box has been serving up clams, scallops, shrimp, and more with indulgent fries, onion rings, and slaw on the side. Don’t consider this spot diet-friendly: Its menu is delightfully full-fat, full-carb, and full-flavor, the perfect feast for a care-free vacation. Located north of Boston in historic Ipswich, The Clam Box uses hand-selected, whole-belly local clams. Expertly breaded and fried, these fried clams are among the best in the country.
Week 13: Best Seaside Inn
Beaufort, South Carolina
Elegantly perched overlooking Beaufort’s Harbor River, Anchorage 1770 is housed in the so-called “Queen of the Bay,” a Federalist manor that has served myriad purposes over its almost 250-year-history. The mansion underwent a major renovation starting in 2014, when it was purchased by Amy and Frank Lesesne and transformed into a stunning 13-room inn, complete with four-poster beds and ample water views.
Week 14: Best Coastal National Park
Virgin Islands National Park
St. John, Virgin Islands
Filled with sloping hills, green valleys, and sun-soaked beaches, Virgin Islands National Park’s 7,000+ acres are easily a tropical paradise. Located on St. John, just a short trip from the U.S., this national park is like nothing on the mainland—and you don’t even need a passport to take it all in.
Week 15: Best of the Best of Summer
Beaufort, South Carolina
The stunning Lowcountry manor-turned-inn won in the penultimate regular Best of Summer competition, What Is the Best Seaside Inn in America?, earning more votes than other beloved waterfront stays such as Castle Hill Inn in Newport, Rhode Island, and Paia Inn on Maui, Hawaii. From its charming Federalist design to its idyllic perch overlooking Beaufort’s Harbor River and the easy access it offers to the diversions of historic Beaufort, it’s no wonder this “Queen of the Bay” commands a devoted following.