Real Estate

5 min read

Top 8 U.S. Small Towns for Your Dream Vacation Home

Ever dreamt of a home where every window frames a postcard-worthy view? Let's unlock the secret map to America's hidden gems perfect for your escape-from-it-all haven!

Tobi Miles
July 18, 2023

According to the Chicago Tribune, 6% of Americans own a vacation home, and 5.1% are in major cities such as Miami, Los Angeles, and Houston. However, small towns often offer a peaceful and serene environment away from the hustle and bustle of city life. People may want to escape the noise, congestion, and stress of urban areas and retreat to a quieter setting for their vacations.

Compared to popular tourist destinations or larger cities, small towns generally have a lower cost of living. This can make purchasing a vacation home more affordable and allow people to have a second home without the financial burden of buying property in more expensive areas. Below are some of the best small towns to buy a vacation home.

1. Grand Lake, Colorado

GRAND LAKE,  CO, USA - SEPTEMBER 26: All Star racing stand up paddleboard by Starboard in brushed carbon layout with Werner paddle on a shore of Grand Lake.

If you're considering a vacation home as an investment, Grand Lake's popularity as a tourist destination can work in your favor. The area attracts visitors throughout the year, which could present opportunities for rental income when you need to start using the property yourself.

Grand Lake has a charming small-town ambiance. With around 500 residents, it maintains a close-knit community feel. The town's Main Street features historic buildings, local shops, restaurants, and art galleries. The relaxed atmosphere and friendly locals can create a sense of peace and escape from city life. Realtor.com says prices start around $250,000 and rise above $3,000,000.

2. Big Sky, Montana

Moonlight Basin ski resort Montana set amongst pine trees and snow capped mountains in the Madison Range of the Rocky Mountains of Big Sky Montana, USA.

Investing in a vacation home in Big Sky, Montana, offers a multitude of compelling reasons from both lifestyle and financial perspectives. Vacation homes here run about $500,000 and reach above $30,000,000, but it is well worth the price.

The popularity of Big Sky as a vacation destination ensures promising investment potential. The area attracts around 400,000 visitors annually, contributing to a thriving rental market. It is home to one of North America's premier ski resorts, Big Sky Resort.

With vast skiable terrain, including challenging runs and pristine powder, the resort attracts skiers and snowboarders from around the globe. Owning a vacation home in Big Sky allows easy access to exceptional winter sports, offering unparalleled enjoyment for winter enthusiasts.

3. Coeur d'Alene, Idaho

When considering the purchase of a vacation home in Coeur d'Alene, it is essential to conduct thorough research, consult with local real estate professionals, and visit the area to assess the suitability for your specific needs and lifestyle. By carefully evaluating your goals and financial circumstances, you can make an informed decision about investing in a vacation home in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.

Coeur d'Alene boasts a vibrant cultural scene that embraces art, music, and local festivals. The downtown area features art galleries, theaters, and a variety of dining options. The city hosts events like ArtWalk, live music concerts, and the annual Car d'Alene Classic Car Show, creating a dynamic atmosphere for residents and visitors to enjoy.

It also offers abundant recreational opportunities year-round. The pristine lake invites boating, fishing, paddleboarding, and kayaking. Golf enthusiasts, including the renowned Coeur d'Alene Resort Golf Course, can indulge in world-class golf courses. Hiking, biking, skiing, and snowboarding are popular activities in the nearby mountains. The region's diverse landscapes ensure endless possibilities for outdoor adventures and a fulfilling lifestyle.

4. Harbor Springs and Bay Harbor, Michigan

Beautiful tree lined road in the Tunnel of Trees on a drive through Emmet County from Harbor Springs north to Petoskey on highway M-119, Michigan

Harbor Springs and Bay Harbor offers year-round attractions and activities. You can enjoy boating, sailing, water sports, and cultural events in the summer. Fall showcases vibrant foliage, creating a scenic backdrop for hiking, biking, and wine tasting. Winter brings skiing, snowboarding, and ice fishing opportunities, while spring offers the beauty of blossoming nature and outdoor exploration.

Harbor Springs and Bay Harbor embody a quaint small-town charm, with friendly residents and a close-knit community. The downtown areas feature unique shops, art galleries, local restaurants, and cultural events, fostering a vibrant atmosphere and a sense of community. The region's rich history and well-preserved architecture further add to its allure.

5. St. Augustine, Florida

Investing in a vacation home in Harbor Springs and Bay Harbor, Michigan, offers a unique combination of natural beauty, recreational opportunities, and a charming waterfront lifestyle.

It is located along the picturesque shores of Lake Michigan, providing stunning waterfront views, sandy beaches, and access to the crystal-clear waters of the Great Lakes. Owning a vacation home in this region offers the opportunity to embrace a waterfront lifestyle, with activities such as boating, swimming, fishing, and enjoying sunsets over the lake.

The demand for vacation rentals in this area offers the possibility of generating rental income when your property is not in use, as this area is visited all four seasons for world-class golfing. According to Redfin, property prices average about $425k in the area.

6. Bend, Oregon

Bend is renowned for its outdoor recreational opportunities. The area offers world-class skiing and snowboarding at Mount Bachelor in the winter months. At the same time, the rest of the year presents ample opportunities for activities such as hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, paddleboarding, and golfing. The extensive trail systems, rivers, and lakes ensure there's always something to explore and enjoy.

Despite its relatively small size, Bend boasts a vibrant cultural scene. The city hosts numerous art galleries, theaters, and music venues, offering a rich arts and entertainment experience.

The historic downtown area features local breweries, craft distilleries, and a variety of dining options, making it a hub of culinary delights. Festivals, such as the BendFilm Festival and the Les Schwab Amphitheater concert

7. Wailea, Hawaii

The demand for vacation rentals in Wailea is high due to the location, as it is a paradise for water enthusiasts. The area boasts world-class snorkeling and diving spots, where you can witness vibrant coral reefs and swim alongside marine life, including sea turtles and colorful fish. Whale watching is also popular during the winter months when humpback whales migrate to the waters off the coast of Maui.

According to RocketHomes, buying a vacation home here will average you over $1,000,000. After all, the area features several championship golf courses designed by renowned architects, offering breathtaking views and challenging fairways. Golf enthusiasts can indulge in their passion and enjoy world-class golfing experiences at their doorstep.

8. Seaside, Florida

Seaside, FL, USA - June 12, 2021: Seaside Florida real estate used for vacation rentals airbnb vrbo

Seaside is renowned for its stunning beaches with sugar-white sand and crystal-clear waters. Owning a vacation house there means you'll have direct access to these beautiful beaches, allowing you to relax, swim, and enjoy water sports at your convenience.

Real estate in popular vacation destinations like Seaside often experiences appreciation over time. Investing in a vacation house can be a wise financial decision, as the property value may increase, providing you with a solid return on investment in the long run.  Realtor says you can expect to pay around $650,000 for a home here.

Article updated:
January 5, 2024

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