Best place to buy a beach house – the best vacation house spots in the USA

From Florida to Lake Michigan, real estate experts reveal the best places to buy a waterfront property

blue sea and beach with buildings
(Image credit: Getty)

Finding the perfect beach house is a challenge because it has to suit you and your family – and most likely, earn its keep by appealing to renters when it's not in use

As second home sales continue to soar, and we all look for the best place to buy a house these are the spots to keep an eye on for the perfect escape.

If you're not tempted by the best places to buy a second home in Europe and prefer a spot within the US vacation rental site, Vacasa, has revealed the best places to buy a beach house in a new report. Vacasa analyzed home sales and vacation rental performance data from the last 12 months for vacation destinations throughout the US.

Best place to buy a beach house in US

From Alabama to Michigan, these are the best places to buy a beach house in the US right now.

1. Gulf Shores, Alabama

Beach house

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At number one on the list and with more than 32 miles of sandy white beaches, Gulf Shores is a mecca of pure paradise on the Alabama coastline, says Daned Kirkham, senior director of real estate at Vacasa. However, this family-friendly destination offers more than just beach life; award-winning restaurants, championship golf, amusement parks, and water sports draw visitors year-round.

A Gulf Shores vacation home or condo will cost around $400,000, but can yield a cap rate (rate of rental return) of more than 10 per cent. 'It’s this attractive gross rental revenue which makes Gulf Shores the top destination for a beach home,' says Vicky Noufal, owner of the Platinum Group Real Estate team at Pearson Smith Realty.

2. Corolla, North Carolina

Beach house

(Image credit: Vacasa)

The popularity of the Outer Banks may have grown given recent international exposure on the hit Netflix show of the same name, but those lucky enough to be familiar with this area already know that is one of the best places to buy a beach house in North Carolina.

With minimal development, but access to high-end dining, shopping, and entertainment, it’s popular with those seeking a rejuvenating getaway, says Daned Kirkham. You’ll be paying an average of $608,953, but to shore up the investment, a vacation rental property in Corolla could net approximately $77,000 in median annual gross rental revenue. 'Corolla is a highly-admired vacation destination,' says realtor Ben Fisher, of the Fisher Group.

If you’re looking for coastal living room ideas, 'the spacious vacation rentals in Corolla offer top-of-the-class amenities, including private pools, game rooms, hot tubs, volleyball courts and more,' adds Ben.

3. Navarre Beach and Daytona Beach, Florida

Beach house

Daytona Beach 

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Navarre Beach, FL is famous for its crystal-clear emerald waters, warm climate and spectacular views, and Vacasa found this relaxing beach community just east of Pensacola an affordable place to invest. The median home sale price sits under $400,000 at $382,392, boasting a 6.6 percent cap rate to boot.

Vacasa also picks out Daytona Beach, renowned for miles of white sand, scuba diving, golfing and shopping, in its top five. 'This is a smart choice for those who want to make a great real estate investment,' says Vicky. 'Because Daytona Beach real estate values are going up, the rental market is also very strong in this area.' Currently, Vacasa finds the median price to be £247,960, pulling in a cap rate of 6.5 percent, so the home of NASCAR speedway looks like a sound bet.

4. New Buffalo, Michigan

Beach house

(Image credit: Getty)

The Gateway of Michigan may not immediately strike as beach house territory, but take a closer look, and you’ll find the beach-like lakeshore has much to offer, say Vacasa.

A small lighthouse anchors the city, which lies just one hour from Chicago, and is ideal for a quick trip to kick back. Those who love to live a peaceful life with suburban feeling are shifting to this area, Vacasa reports.

'How awesome would be a town that is just a few moments off the highway, but seems to be completely far from the hustles and bustles of the city center?' says Ben. 'New Buffalo is that, exactly. An overwhelming vision of Lake Michigan, and a lot more delights to offer beyond that. If you spend a sunny afternoon there playing on the sand or go on a boating adventure in the launch area, you will agree with it too.'

With a median property price of $569,873, New Buffalo has a charming downtown district flanked with restaurants and breweries, plus a casino and active marina. Holding steady at a 6.6 per cent cap rate, the median annual gross rental revenue in this mid-west escape is just over $58,000.

If you're looking for a summer beach house one of these locations could be a great investment option. 

Jayne Dowle
Contributing Editor

Jayne Dowle is an award-winning freelance gardening, homes and property writer who writes about everything from swimming ponds to skyscraper apartments, for publications including Sunday Times Home, Times Bricks & Mortar, Grand Designs, House Beautiful and The Spectator. Awarded the Garden Journalist of the Year accolade at the Property Press Awards in 2021, she has a degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Oxford and a lifelong love of homes, interiors and gardens. Her first memories include planting potatoes with her grandfather and drawing houses. Her own garden - her fourth - at home in a 1920s house in Yorkshire, is south-facing and on the side of a valley. It’s a constant challenge.