Enough with your fancy remote beaches. The Maldives? St. Tropez? With the economy what it is, we’ll be lucky to get to the next state on a $73 tank of gas. We want close. We want old-fashioned. We want a town where we can park the car, drag a beach chair and a book to the sand, and then shuffle down the boardwalk in our flip-flops for fried clams and an icy-cold can of beer: a place with fireworks, friendly locals, and sticky scoop shops. So we dug up 11 great American seaside escapes, from classic fun-in-the-sun California to New England colonial charm. Because when it comes to precious summer weekends in the sun, there’s no place like home.
No. 2 Beach – Mexico Beach
Sand: Three miles of confectioners’-sugar sands, you’ll see bald eagles, sea turtles, dolphins — and only a few footprints.
Things To See: The 1,200 residents focus is on small-town fun, with gumbo cook-offs, kingfish tournaments, and fireworks fundraisers. You can kill two beach birds with one stone at the souvenirs-and-seafood shop Shell Shack. If you want to get off the beach, take a scuba dive through a sunken oil tanker just offshore.
Place To Stay: The Driftwood Inn’s rooms have four-poster beds. The back deck has DIY barbecue grills.