Whether your ideal summertime address is a pimped-out oceanfront palace on a sun-washed Florida isle or a veritable pile of driftwood washed atop a windswept North Carolina dune, the American beach house is a classic symbol of summer.
Go ahead -- leave nothing but footprints, fly a kite in the sand dunes and get the saltwater taffy tangled in your teeth. From the Outer Banks to the Oregon coast, we've sourced some of the best domestic destinations for booking a beach house on your own sandy slice of paradise.
Outer Banks, North Carolina
Like a delicate buttress loosely attached to the mainland, this string of barrier islands stretches 130 miles along the North Carolina coastline. And when it comes to the variety of beach rentals on offer, the options here are as varied as the seashells speckling the dune-lined shores. If you're looking to live like a millionaire with your toes in the sand, the communities of Whalehead, Corolla and Duck, in the northern Outer Banks, are studded with huge beach houses set just beyond the dunes. Some rental homes boast as many as 12 bedrooms, oceanfront pools and hot tubs, in-home theaters and other luxuries. All have unparalleled access to the region's isolated wide sandy beaches. Kitty Hawk is a good place to base yourself if you want to be close to restaurants, shopping, the pier and the famed sand dunes at Jockey's Ridge. To immerse yourself in the Outer Banks' laid-back wave-riding culture, opt for a rental farther south in the seaside surf community of Rodanthe on Hatteras Island.
As long as icy water temperatures don't intimidate you, this spectacularly rugged fishing island located 15 miles off the coast of Maine makes a wonderful beach-rental destination. It's not about turquoise seas and bathtub-warm bathing at Vinalhaven -- the island's appeal comes in the form of an altogether more rugged beach experience. There are isolated coves to explore by kayak on the 23-mile-square island, a few windblown beaches and even freshwater inland quarries for swimming. Sitting on the deck of your beach house, taking in views of the lobster buoys and seals bobbing offshore and the commanding coastline, you'll feel completely isolated from mainland America and any associated stress.
Folly Beach, South Carolina
A stone's throw from one of America's greatest foodie cities -- Charleston, SC -- Folly Beach offers easy access to the sophisticated Southern city, with the bonus of key organic beach getaway ingredients -- sublime sandy beaches, swaying palmettos, warm Atlantic waters and a wholesome family vibe. From vintage wooden bungalows on sandy side streets to blinged-out houses that conjure the Hamptons more than South Carolina, the island's beach rental offerings run the gamut. Opt for a house that's built up rather than out -- with living rooms, kitchens and master bedrooms on the top floors -- to make the most of the ocean views. There's even a decent surf break at Folly, making it a favorite among South Carolina surfers.
Cannon Beach, Oregon
Winter along the Oregon coastline is prime for storm watching, and you'll find endless possibilities for quiet walks along largely abandoned beaches. But come summer, the oceanfront bungalows in Cannon Beach fill with vacationers keen to soak up the sunshine -- usually accompanied by a chilly Pacific breeze -- in one of America's most artsy beach towns. Available for weekly rentals, cottages (some on a very grand scale) accessed by bumpy gravel lanes and crowned with cedar-shingle roofs are idyllic beach abodes. And Cannon Beach delivers a heady cocktail of rugged nature -- it's impossible to miss the imposing rocky monoliths, including Haystack Rock, just offshore -- blended with smart art galleries and eclectic cafes that give the town across-the-board appeal. While in the area, be sure to check out nearby Ecola State Park, where spruce forests back beautiful beaches and migrating whales hug the coastline in the winter and spring.
Sanibel & Captiva Islands, Florida
Floridians have long upheld the mantra that Sunshine State summers are insufferable -- all the better to keep the beaches to themselves outside of the main tourist months. The truth? As long as you're oceanfront in Florida, the summertime heat is entirely manageable. Plus, the state positively bristles with beach rentals, everything from towering penthouse condominiums with sweeping ocean views to romantic hideaways on Panhandle islands. Planning your summer beach escape for the Gulf Coast sister islands of Sanibel & Captiva, just south of Naples, allows you the chance to say goodbye to your car and explore by bike or scooter for the week. The islands have reached cult status among shell collectors -- you'll see them doing the "Sanibel Stoop," hunching over at low tide to collect natural treasures in the form of conchs, whelks and angel wings. Put a visit to the J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge on your list of activities, where a fabulous wildlife circuit (accessible by bike, foot or car) puts you in close proximity to amazing birdlife and a few resident alligators, too.