The 12 Best Places to Buy a Beach House in 2023

The Evolve Team
The Evolve Team
September 6, 2022

Beach towns across the country share some irresistible qualities: crashing waves, salt-tinged air, maybe a boardwalk Ferris wheel, definitely glittering sunsets. 

No matter where travelers go to find this coastal bliss, staying in vacation rentals just makes sense. They offer laidback luxuries like private shore access, beach amenities, and spacious kitchens ideal for cooking up fresh catches. They also make it easy for multi-generational families to vacation under one roof — a trend that’s gained traction recently.

And as the U.S. vacation rental market continues to pace toward a volume of $20.4 billion by 2026, there’s widespread appeal for short-term rental properties in oceanfront communities. 

All of this is why now is the time to buy a beach house vacation rental. From Carolina classics to exciting up-and-comers in the Pacific Northwest, here are the best beach towns for buying an investment property in the next year.

How We Chose the Best Places to Buy a Beach House Investment Property

The data below is based on a combination of proprietary and public data, but the three main metrics we took into account are:

  • Vacation rental performance metrics for beach towns across the U.S. to learn where bookings lead to higher median revenue
  • Zillow’s 2022 median home value to identify listing prices in beach towns
  • Estimated yearly expenses to run a vacation rental (approximately 30% of total revenue) to help calculate cap rate

We also evaluated a property’s potential to outperform market expectations with an Evolve partnership. Below, you’ll see The Evolve Difference, showcasing how we helped some of our top beach house owners maximize income and significantly beat the market’s projected revenue.

Please note: all data projections reflect ideal-state scenarios. Variables like owner-blocked calendars and extenuating circumstances (like natural disasters) are not factored into these calculations.

1. Beaufort, NC 

Image of a vacation rental home in Beaufort, North Carolina with a graphic overlay depicting the median revenue, average home price, and the cap rate percentage

Steeped in coastal charm and maritime history, Beaufort makes for an idyllic escape on North Carolina’s Crystal Coast. Loved by Southerners for classic cottage architecture, a breezy boardwalk scene, and plenty of fishing and boating, it’s easy to see why it’s been dubbed “America’s Favorite Town.” 

On top of this undeniable traveler draw, the median home price here sits at $363,131 — which is especially approachable when compared to Beaufort’s Outer Banks neighbors to the North (like Kitty Hawk and Hatteras Island). 

And while the cost threshold for finding homes in the area is relatively low, market revenue remains strong. The average owner in Beaufort takes home nearly $35,000 in annual income, while Evolve’s best-performing homes make twice that much. 

To earn top dollar in this market, you’ll want to look for a two- to three-bedroom waterfront home for those instant beach vibes — or one with easy access to downtown. Our Real Estate Services (RES) team says guests tend to favor proximity to the local atmosphere this town is known for just as much as they want a quick escape to surf and sand. Sunrooms and shaded porches are also key amenity adds for comfortable lounging after a day of exploring.

Graphic stating The Evolve Difference, Our owners have earned up to $70,417 annually

2. Murrells Inlet, SC

Image of a bright blue beach vacation rental located in Murrells Inlet, SC with a graphic overlay displaying the area's median rental revenue, median listing price and example cap rate to showcase how it's one of the best places to buy a beach house

A historic fishing village set in a salt marsh (it isn’t called South Carolina’s “seafood capital” for nothing), Murrells Inlet is a deliciously peaceful retreat for travelers. The scenic MarshWalk connects restaurants and bars, and vacationers can kayak, fish, or stroll through the sprawling Brookgreen Gardens. It also neighbors Myrtle Beach, whose buzzier tourism scene gives visitors a good mix of things to do.

Murrells Inlet takes a prominent spot on this list of best places to buy a beach house, in part because of its strong 6.5% cap rate, which is the ratio between a property’s net income and its market value — a key measure of success that can indicate your return on investment. But there’s even more untapped potential here with the right investment: while median annual revenue is just shy of $30,000, some Evolve owners have earned six figures in this area.

Our RES team says larger beach homes (five or six bedrooms) with eye-catching amenities like a deck, private pool, and ocean views are often the ones that shine brightest — particularly when paired with kid- and pet-friendly amenities.

Graphic with Evolve logo displaying "The Evolve Difference; Our owners have earned up to $113,616 annually!"

3. Salisbury, MA

Image of a beach vacation rental house in Salisbury, MA with a graphic overlay listing the area's median rental revenue, median listing price, and example cap rate to showcase how it's one of the best places to buy a beach house

Beach town magic melds with New England charm in Salisbury, which was established in 1639 and is one of Massaschussetts’ oldest towns. Just an hour from Boston, this North Shore retreat offers a convenient escape for urbanites looking to slip away to salty shores, cute seaside shops, pizza, fried dough, and arcades.

Home prices for Salisbury waterfront properties currently sit as low as around $380,000, which makes it a more affordable market for investors to break into — especially when compared to big-name Northeastern beach towns (like Cape Cod and the Hamptons) that often come with multi-million dollar price tags. 

Of course, the housing mix is diverse in Salisbury, and homes can bump up against the $1 million mark, too. If inventory is squeezed, investors can expand their search to explore properties in nearby towns. That could include the beach cottages in Seabrook, NH, or the more expensive Plum Island homes in Newburyport, MA.

4. Gulf Shores, AL

Image of a vacation rental condo on the beach of Gulf Shores, Alabama with a graphic overlay displaying the median rental revenue, median listing price, and example cap rate to showcase how it's one of the best places to buy a beach house

High-rise condos and private multi-story homes run along the Gulf Shores beachfront, offering front-row views of warm waters lapping sugary sand beaches. There’s plenty of fun to be had in Alabama’s Gulf Coast (which includes neighboring Orange Beach), particularly for families thanks to a ferris wheel on the wharf, golf courses galore, and exciting dolphin cruises.

It comes as no surprise, then, that finding properties large enough to accommodate family vacations is often the ticket to investment success in Gulf Shores. Our RES team says standalone homes with four or five bedrooms earn the most revenue — but investors shouldn’t dismiss smaller beachfront condos, either. Those often list below the area’s median price while maintaining strong profit potential, especially if the property comes with ideal amenities like access to a community pool or game room. (A local realtor can also help you best understand what amenities your HOA dues will cover.) So it could be the sweet spot for those looking to break into this booming beach house market at a lower price point.

Graphic with Evolve logo displaying "The Evolve Difference; Our owners have earned up to $67,820 annually!"

5. Dauphin Island, AL

Image of a green vacation rental near the beaches of Dauphin Island, AL with a graphic overlay that lists the area's median rental revenue, median listing price, and example cap rate to showcase how it's one of the best places to buy a beach house

Three words: Sun, sand, and solitude. A barrier island just south of the Mobile Bay in the Gulf of Mexico, Dauphin Island is a peaceful destination that feels a world away (yet is still connected to the mainland and its conveniences). While the nearby Gulf Shores region is known for family-friendly attractions, Dauphin Island is a place to get lost in nature and history with attractions like the Audubon Bird Sanctuary and Civil War-era Fort Gaines site.

This lesser-known beach destination has median home prices in the mid-$400,000s, but expect costs to increase the closer you get to the waterfront. That higher upfront investment can pay off, though: while the average owner brings in about $30,000 in annual revenue, some Evolve properties close to shore net more than twice that during the same period. 

Plus, getting started as a vacation rental owner here doesn’t have any of the red tape you often find in popular markets. No permitting is required, making it easy for investors to launch their business especially quickly.

Graphic with Evolve logo displaying "The Evolve Difference; Our owners have earned up to $64,171 annually!"

6. Cape May, NJ

Image of a vacation rental near the beaches of Cape May, NJ with a graphic overlay displaying the area's median rental revenue, median listing price, and example cap rate to showcase how it's one of the best places to buy a beach house

Cape May is the true definition of a beach lover’s paradise. It’s easy for guests to bike around the picturesque seaside village, go kayaking along the aqua trails, or embark on a cruise to see dolphins and whales. And as a top family destination, Cape May also has a zoo and a two-mile long boardwalk with water parks and rollercoasters.

That said, buying a beach vacation rental comes with a higher price tag in Cape May — especially when you start looking at true beachfront properties that can sell well over the median home value price of $600,000. But the area still offers great value, our RES team points out, particularly when compared to the much more expensive neighboring communities of Stone Harbor and Avalon that help make up the Seven Mile Island region. 

It’s also worth noting that, with so much to do in the area, even homes that aren’t perched right on the beach provide a nice home base for vacationers — meaning investors have a broader scope of options with strong income potential when looking to buy a beach house here.

7. Newport, OR

Image of a vacation rental near the beaches of Newport, OR with a graphic overlay displaying the area's median rental revenue, median listing price, and example cap rate to showcase how it's one of the best places to buy a beach vacation rental

Newport is a special place with moody beaches, a picturesque lighthouse, and sea lion docks. Those who visit can spend their days fishing, crabbing, whale watching, or hiking  — all before chowing down at local restaurants that have offered seasonal menus long before farm-to-table was a buzz phrase.

Investing in waterfront properties pays off big time along this stretch of Oregon Coast, too. While the average annual rental income in Newport is about $30,500, some Evolve owners are raking in more than $170,000 a year. Our RES team says those top-performing estates are larger homes (think four to seven bedrooms) that face the ocean and have luxury amenities with year-round appeal, like hot tubs and saunas.

Graphic with Evolve logo displaying "The Evolve Difference; Our owners have earned up to $170,237 annually!"

8. Galveston, TX

Image of a vacation rental near the beaches of Galveston, TX with a graphic overlay displaying the area's median rental avenue, median listing price, and example cap rate to showcase how it's one of the best places to buy a beach vacation rental

Just 50 miles from Houston, the charming Gulf Coast barrier island of Galveston is known for iconic beaches along its 32-mile stretch of sand. It also has tons to do and see, including over 80 annual festivals, art galleries, museums, and pristine golf courses. A fresh seafood market appeals to renters, too: they can bring home the catch of the day and cook it up in a well-equipped kitchen.

This all makes Galveston an idyllic destination for travelers — and a profitable option for eager investors. Spring breakers come in droves during peak season, but the area also provides an easy escape for Texans throughout the year. That can translate to steady bookings that keep your rental in high demand and maximize profits.

However, Galveston does have zoning restrictions in place that limit where vacation rentals can operate. While that shouldn’t deter investors from buying a beach house here, it does mean there’s a little extra homework. Our RES team says potential buyers should reach out to the city of Galveston directly to determine whether they qualify for necessary vacation rental permitting in the neighborhoods they like best.

Graphic with Evolve logo displaying "The Evolve Difference; Our owners have earned up to $66,085 annually!"

9. Myrtle Beach, SC

Image of a vacation rental near the beaches of Myrtle Beach, SC with a graphic overlay displaying the area's median rental avenue, median listing price, and example cap rate to showcase how it's one of the best places to buy a beach vacation rental

Myrtle Beach is well-established among travelers looking for a scenic and fun-filled beach getaway. Catering to the crowds, this South Carolina hotspot has more than 90 golf courses, plus amusement parks, souvenir shops, live entertainment, and nearly 1,800 restaurants along its Atlantic coastline.

Myrtle Beach is also a more bustling destination than nearby Murrells Inlet, so for investors who prefer to plop right into the action, the 14 million people who visit Myrtle Beach’s sandy shores and boardwalks every year offer a particular perk: built-in marketing that comes with popularity and name recognition. 

It has a lower entry price point than its neighbor, too, making it easy to buy into the market and grab that established traveler interest quickly. Of course, investors should expect lower annual revenue in line with lower costs — so while both Murrells Inlet and Myrtle Beach are some of the best places to buy a beach house, your ultimate choice will come down to how each stacks up against your personal goals.

10. Navarre, FL

Image of a vacation rental house near the beaches of Navarre, FL with a graphic overlay listing the area's median rental revenue, median listing price, and example cap rate to showcase how it's one of the best places to buy a beach vacation rental

In northwest Florida, Navarre offers beachtime bliss with white sand shores that trace the Gulf Coast’s emerald waters. This balmy destination also has plenty of attractions to give tourists a memorable experience, from a pier where you might spot dolphins to a sea turtle conservation center

The crown jewel of Navarre is, of course, Navarre Beach. While short-term rental investors can find lots of homes for sale in the broader Navarre area (including many cheaper inland options), true waterfront Navarre Beach properties yield the strongest returns on investment. That said, standalone homes on the shoreline can be much more expensive, so our RES team says condos are great for investors looking to grab beach real estate at more affordable costs.

If you don’t find the just-right beach house in Navarre Beach, our RES team says expanding your search to nearby Destin is another viable option. This popular vacation spot is similar to Navarre Beach in atmosphere, market performance, and condo popularity.

11. Ocean Shores, WA

Image of a vacation rental near the beaches of Cape Ocean Shores, WA with a graphic overlay displaying the area's median rental revenue, median listing price, and example cap rate to showcase how it's one of the best places to buy a beach vacation rental

Enjoy Pacific beaches at their finest in Ocean Shores, where there’s craggy coastline and cinematic fog alongside beach vacation staples like tasty saltwater taffy and fun-filled arcades. 

The stunning scenery doesn’t end with wild shores, either: Ancient forests and glacier-capped peaks are about an hour away in Olympic National Park. Snagging a beach house with that kind of proximity to a famous national park can extend an owner’s peak rental season and ultimately help boost occupancy throughout the year.

Plus, our RES team says you can find true beachfront properties in Ocean Shores that are right in line with the market median list price. And while the annual median revenue is about $20,000, Evolve owners with a strong investment strategy and key amenities like a hot tub or fire pit are earning significantly more.

Graphic with Evolve logo displaying "The Evolve Difference; Our owners have earned up to $52,080 annually!"

12. Ocean City, MD

Image of a vacation rental near the beaches of Cape Ocean City, MD with a graphic overlay displaying the area's median rental revenue, median listing price, and example cap rate to showcase how it's one of the best places to buy a beach vacation rental

When it comes to beach fun, Ocean City is a tried-and-true classic with century-old traditions — like a historic carousel once powered by a steam engine and the three-mile boardwalk where vinegar-doused French fries are a local delicacy. Blazing sunsets, nearby golf courses, and epic surf breaks are also part of this Atlantic Coast destination’s draw. 

Annual median revenue is nearly $21,000 here, but some Evolve owners that have properties either perched on the sand or just a short stroll away are seeing triple that, earning upwards of $64,000 in the same time period.

Our RES team says investors can find a solid mix of inventory in Ocean City, but top-performing properties also have wow-worthy amenities like spacious outdoor living spaces with ocean views, outdoor showers to rinse off sand, and private or community pool access. So investors should look for these when home shopping, or consider budgeting to add in attractive amenities post-purchase.

Graphic with Evolve logo displaying "The Evolve Difference; Our owners have earned up to $64,431 annually!"

Buy Your Best Beach House with Evolve

Investing in a vacation rental property is a personal decision, but you don’t have to navigate your options alone. Whether you’re drawn to a well-known location or enticed by the untapped potential of an up-and-comer, our Real Estate Services team can help you take the next step toward buying in one (or more!) of the best places to buy a beach house.

We have the data to contextualize your investment opportunities and define your income goals, preferred local real estate agents who specialize in vacation rental purchases, and management experts who can help make your beach house a success once you’re ready to jumpstart your business.

For additional research, here are some resources to help you better understand the potential of vacation rental investment:

Now that you’re ready to talk about buying the best beach house for you, let’s get the conversation started today.

Note: This list was modified on October 28th, 2022, removing Cape Coral as a result of Hurricane Ian impacts.

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