Along the West Coast of the United States, from Seattle to San Diego, scenic beach towns beckon not only with sand and surf but also cute downtown areas for shopping and dining, as well as boutique hotels ideal for a weekend getaway.
While much of the U.S. is buried in snow and freezing temperatures, Southern California might be most appealing for a winter escape with its sunny skies and moderate weather. But even towns further up the coast allow for moody walks on uncrowded beaches in the off-season. And of course, Pacific sunsets can be stunning all year round.
Consider these West Coast beach towns perfect for a long weekend escape.
1. Pismo Beach, California
On California’s central coast, Pismo Beach offers visitors 17 miles of coastline to explore. To the north and south of Pismo Beach Pier are wide stretches of soft sand for beach picnics, frisbee, and volleyball. At low-tide, check out the nifty tidepools at Shell Beach.
From October through February, be sure to visit the Monarch Butterfly Grove, where more than 10,000 orange and black butterflies flock annually. Three historic wine-making regions are a short drive away for wine tastings and strolling through vineyards — Edna Valley, Arroyo Grande Valley, and Avila Valley.
Where To Stay In Pismo Beach
Inn at the Cove is set on an oceanfront bluff, while Vespera Resort on Pismo Beach, Autograph Collection is steps from the pier.
2. Carmel-By-The-Sea, California
A 2-hour drive south of San Francisco, charming Carmel-by-the-Sea is home to a 1-square-mile village where surprises delight around every corner. Whimsical fairy-tale cottages look like something out of a Dr. Seuss book. Wine-tasting rooms make for a great place to rest while browsing local boutiques in narrow passageways and pretty courtyards.
Dogs can roam leash-free on expansive Carmel Beach. Walk the flat Scenic Pathway that skirts the sea, or do the loop trail in the nearby Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, which takes you through cypress groves and to lookouts above rocky coves.
Where To Stay In Carmel-By-The-Sea
Doris Day once owned the pet-friendly Cypress Inn, which dates back to 1929. Also historic, L’Auberge Carmel might be downtown’s most luxurious boutique hotel, while Carriage House Inn is a romantic spot with just 13 rooms.
3. Newport Beach, California
Orange County’s Newport Beach is a coastal city of more than 80,000 residents, but its distinct neighborhoods help make the upscale spot feel more intimate. Take the ferry to Balboa Island, check out the tidepools in Corona del Mar, and shop the chic stores at Fashion Island. Balboa Peninsula is the spot for surfing, boogie boarding, beach bars, and seaside dining.
Where To Stay In Newport Beach
4. Gearhart, Oregon
Three miles north of Seaside — a bustling, family-friendly vacation destination with adventure parks and arcades — is quiet Gearhart, Oregon. The uncrowded small town has no traffic lights and provides a peaceful backdrop for a coastal weekend escape, especially for visitors from Portland, a 90-minute drive away. Walk along the unspoiled beach, go kayaking in Neacoxie Creek, or tee off at Gearhart Golf Links.
Where To Stay In Gearhart
The Drifthaven at Gearhart is a 12-room boutique hotel with cozy fireplaces in every room and thoughtful amenities like complimentary use of beach bikes and a continental breakfast delivered to your room daily.
5. Seabrook, Washington
Seabrook, Washington, is a planned coastal community developed about 20 years ago. While it may not have the authentic history of a marina town like Port Townsend, laid-back Seabrook does offer visitors an idyllic town square, 18 green parks, and several miles of mountain biking trails.
Seabrook has plenty of beachfront within walking distance of town, or you can venture further afield to Pacific Beach State Park, Roosevelt Beach, and Copalis Beach. Seabrook also makes a great home base for adventuring in Olympic National Park.
Where To Stay In Seabrook
Unique vacation rentals abound in Seabrook, from cozy one-bedroom cottages close to the beach to larger multi-bedroom houses with spacious yards ideal for a family getaway.
The Bottom Line
Whether you want to surf, stroll, poke around tidepools, or watch the sunset, there’s a West Coast beach town ideal for your weekend getaway.
While it may be difficult to tear yourself away from the soothing sound of ocean waves, remember that beach towns can also make great launch pads for visiting nearby wineries, national parks, and golf courses to round out a short coastal vacation.