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by CHELSEA GREENWOOD LASSMAN
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it’s safe to say most of us dream of escaping to warmer climes and beach vacations. But if you want to live that salt life all year round, moving to a beach town isn’t an unattainable dream. There are many inexpensive coastal cities around the country.
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Laid-back Port St. Lucie, on Florida's Treasure Coast, is full of quiet neighborhoods, golf courses, and waterways. Sporty types keep busy boating and fishing on the St. Lucie River, watching the New York Mets spring train at Tradition Field, and attending the PGA Center for Golf Learning and Performance.
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There’s never a dull moment in this Space Coast city. Known for its diverse parks, from natural preserves to cyclocross tracks and paintball fields, Palm Bay also offers golf courses and plenty of running and cycling trails. Waterfront dining and ample shopping opportunities round out the experience.
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A well-rounded beach town located on the Space Coast, Melbourne's historic downtown features quaint shops and restaurants, while its pristine beaches draw sunbathers, surfers, and snorkelers. The city hosts popular festivals like Oktoberfest, the Filmmaker’s Festival, the Arts Festival, and Aviation Day.
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Jacksonville is a quintessential military town, thanks to Camp Lejeune, the largest Marine Corps base on the East Coast. Sites around town honor troops, including the Freedom Fountain, Lejeune Memorial Gardens, and more. Outdoor activities like fishing and paddling are popular pastimes.
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Gulfport is all about fun. People stroll the waterfront entertainment district with cocktails in to-go cups while taking in the public art. Tourists zipline through the coastal canopies or boat to the scenic Ship Island. At the harbor, you can charter a fishing boat to toss a line into the Gulf.
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Cajun flavor permeates this southeast Texas town. Aquatic activities abound, including windsurfing, fishing, and boating. The Museum of the Gulf Coast displays quirky items like a replica of Port Arthur native Janis Joplin’s psychedelic Porsche.
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While gorgeous white sand beaches are a huge draw, history buffs can dig into the Spanish settlement origins, seen in Historic Pensacola Village, while aviation fans thrive in the local flying culture, centered on the Navy pilots training center.
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Although this Gulf Coast city is home to many casinos, those drawn to quiet can lounge on the white-sand beach, hit the links on a championship golf course, or take a sunset sail on a schooner. You can even join a shrimping trip in Biloxi, once called the Seafood Capital of the World.
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Atlantic City is renowned for its casinos -- and also its wide beaches and classic boardwalk lined with shops, rides, and eateries filled with beloved greasy treats. And there's nightlife galore, thanks to AC's casinos, nightclubs, and lounges, which (in non-Covid times) host all kinds of live entertainment.
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This classic beach town is edged with 60 acres of coastline. Eateries, arcades, an amusement park, and the SkyWheel (one of the nation's highest Ferris wheels) draw crowds to its iconic boardwalk, while others head to the 100+ golf courses.
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A quiet Gulf Coast town in Florida’s Panhandle, Fort Walton Beach features unspoiled powdery white sand beaches and brilliant emerald green waters. Get to know marine creatures at the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park, or explore local history at the Indian Temple Mound Museum.
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You'll find small-town charm galore on Ocean Springs' quaint tree-lined main street, with its brick buildings with wrought-iron detailing. Three entertainment districts offer plenty of diversions, while the town also supports a thriving arts scene, including the Peter Anderson Arts & Crafts Festival.
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Our only West Coast contender, Aberdeen sits at the mouth of Grays Harbor, where three rivers merge. It offers a variety of parks, including Kurt Cobain Memorial Park, named for the late Nirvana frontman, a native. After a day outside, grab a pick-me-up at one of the town’s many coffee shops.
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This a quaint seaside town is packed with nautical character to spare. In addition to its alluring beaches, warm waters, and first-rate fishing, the town offers land-bound pleasures like art galleries, Creole cottages, and 19th-century abodes.
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Outdoorsy types will love life in Freeport, Texas, about 50 miles south of Houston. Along with ample fishing opportunities, the town offers the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge, with 40,000 acres of wetlands and a huge variety of flora and fauna. Walk the boardwalks, hike the trails, or tour the preserve.