The Best Beach Town in America is Not on Either Coast, It’s on a Lake

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Planning to move to a beach town somewhere in America? According to the 2019 ranking of best beach towns to live in just published by the credit reporting site WalletHub, Florida and California — not surprisingly — are your best bets if you’re looking for something on the ocean. Each scores nine places in the top 20.

But Michigan is home to the highest-ranking beach town of all — on a lake.

The site compared 62 key indicators across six categories — affordability, weather, safety, economy, education and health, and quality of life — for 192 waterfront cities, both lakeside and oceanfront, around the U.S.

The best seaside beach town was Naples, Florida, south of Fort Myers in the southwestern portion of the state, earning a composite score of 65.61. But Traverse City, Michigan, on Lake Michigan, bested the Floridian town with a score of 69.07.

Naples was immediately followed on the ocean list by Lahaina, on the Hawaiian island of Maui, and Newport Beach, California. Other Florida towns in the top 20 were Boca Raton, Sarasota, Venice, Jupiter, Destin, Key Biscayne, Jacksonville Beach, and Coral Gables. (You might want to scratch Key Biscayne off your wish list, however, as it has been identified as one of the American cities that will soon be underwater.)

Besides Newport Beach, California was represented in the top 20 by Carlsbad, Encinitas, Santa Monica, Mill Valley, Coronado, Laguna Beach, Hermosa Beach, and San Clemente. Othewr than Lahaina, the only outlier was North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, in seventh place.

The second most desirable lakefront town after Traverse City was Folsom, California, with a score just under that of Naples — 65.36. Two other Michigan towns made the top 20 — Holland and Alpena. Other top-20 states were North Carolina, Washington, Minnesota, Ohio, Missouri, Illinois, and Colorado.

Lakefront versus oceanfront is obviously a matter of preference. If you’re trying to decide between Traverse City and Naples, though, you might consider the fact that Leelanau County, Traverse City’s home, represents Michigan in 24/7 Wall St.’s listing of the counties with the biggest tax bill in every state.

And if the weather is important to you, it’s worth noting that Traverse City ranked 14th out of 46th cities in the WalletHub report in that regard — while Naples scored 101st out of 146. These are the cities with the absolute best weather.