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Happiest seaside towns

May 7, 2013 at 8:30 AM ET

Video: If you’ve ever dreamed of living by the sea but don’t know where to settle down, Coastal Living magazine is here to help. Antonia Van Der Meer reveals the magazine’s annual list of the best places to live by the sea, from Newport, R.I., to Sanibel Island, Fla.

This is the second year the magazine "Coastal Living" has named America’s Happiest Seaside Towns, and this time they let our readers weigh in on the ranking. At Coastal Living, they know their readers associate their favorite beach towns with sheer happiness, so they sought out to find the absolute happiest places in America.

The results!

#5 Newport, R.I.
The Vanderbilts had it right! Newport attracts yachtsmen and artists alike. It draws tourists from around the world and is also home to about 25,000 locals who may love it best in the quiet winter. Newport’s rich setting has drawn a wonderful variety of shops, hotels, and dining options. Don't miss the Tennis Hall of Fame, with grass courts and shingled veranda.

See all of the happiest seaside town winners

#4 Sag Harbor, N.Y.
This whaling town turned artists’ and writers’ colony has maintained its cozy, small-town identity for decades. Situated between Long Island’s celebrity-studded Bridgehampton and East Hampton and only two hours from New York City. Life here is blissfully fun, which no doubt leads to happy residents. Annual events include Memorial Day parades and a Christmas tree lighting each December, featuring Santa arriving on a fire truck.

#3 Sanibel Island, Fla.
Life in this South Florida island town is a pastel dream. Picture pale blue skies and white-sand beaches. The island was literally built on millions of seashells. When locals dig in their backyards, they turn up conch, scallop, and clam shells – intact. The town offers a quiet, away-from-it-all life. No stoplights, nor buildings taller than the tallest palm tree.

#2 Harwich Port, Mass.
This lovely Cape Cod town is quiet, charming and nostalgic, but their 1,644 locals were certainly quite vocal and excited during this competition. An upscale village on the south shore of Cape Cod, it’s also known as “The Port.” It’s one of seven villages in the city of Harwich. It has been home to seamen and fishermen since before the American Revolution. Sea captains’ homes still dot the streets. Summers here are distinctly old-fashioned, with music strolls, band concerts, and art shows livening the scene, while the warm waters of Nantucket Sound offer carefree swimming.

#1 Beaufort, South S.C.
It was a tight race between Harwich Port and Beaufort, but in the end this South Carolina town took the top spot. It boasts the perfect balance between Lowcountry friendliness and urban refinement, and after this contest, we learned of its strong sense of local pride. The town is known for its historic antebellum architecture, exquisite local cuisine, and rich African-American heritage. Beaufort sits on Port Royal Island, in a verdant curve of the Intracoastal Waterway in the heart of the Sea Islands, as it has for a little more than 300 years. This makes it the second-oldest city in SC. And then, as any local will tell you, there’s the shrimp, the sweet tea, and the mandevilla-perfumed breezes that imbue the slowed pace of Lowcountry life.

Read more:See how all the seaside towns compared

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