Living along the SouthCoast of New England, we are fortunate to have the best of both worlds when it comes to where we like to go swimming. While many folks prefer their backyard swimming pool to ponds, lakes, or the ocean, most of us don't have a pool, so we have to rough it.
Having traveled extensively across the country, I realize how fortunate we are here to have the Atlantic Ocean at our doorstep – but not everyone likes ocean water.
The ocean, especially along the North Atlantic coast, is dark and cold most of the year. It's creepy too, with all of those creatures lurking not far beneath the surface. The Gulf Coast is nice and warm, and it's clear, but there is still the problem of the creepy things like sharks to worry about. Red tide can be a problem too.
Westport's Horseneck Beach and Dartmouth's Round Hill offer majestic views and dramatic wave-crashing sounds, not to mention the agonizing cries of seagulls in pursuit of your half-finished bologna sandwich. However, ponds and lakes are calmer and more chill.
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I like the ponds and lakes. I would take Long Pond in Lakeville or the old Mary's Pond in Rochester over the ocean any day. Ponds and lakes certainly have their own issues, but at least they warm up faster than the ocean, and there are far fewer creepy things to be concerned about.
My mother used to tell me that salt water swimming is good for you. She'd say the salt water heals and cleanses your body. Maybe.
Something about a pond or a lake on a warm summer day propels me back to my youthful days filled with endless swimming and general horsing around with the gang.
I'll take freshwater swimming, what about you?
LOOK: Here are the best lake towns to live in
Many of the included towns jump out at the casual observer as popular summer-rental spots--the Ozarks' Branson, Missouri, or Arizona's Lake Havasu--it might surprise you to dive deeper into some quality-of-life offerings beyond the beach and vacation homes. You'll likely pick up some knowledge from a wide range of Americana: one of the last remaining 1950s-style drive-ins in the Midwest; a Florida town that started as a Civil War veteran retirement area; an island boasting some of the country's top public schools and wealth-earners right in the middle of a lake between Seattle and Bellevue; and even a California town containing much more than Johnny Cash's prison blues.
LOOK: Here are the 50 best beach towns in America
Every beach town has its share of pluses and minuses, which got us thinking about what makes a beach town the best one to live in. To find out, Stacker consulted data from WalletHub, released June 17, 2020, that compares U.S. beach towns. Ratings are based on six categories: affordability, weather, safety, economy, education and health, and quality of life. The cities ranged in population from 10,000 to 150,000, but they had to have at least one local beach listed on TripAdvisor. Read the full methodology here. From those rankings, we selected the top 50. Readers who live in California and Florida will be unsurprised to learn that many of towns featured here are in one of those two states.
Keep reading to see if your favorite beach town made the cut.