9 underrated vacation spots to visit this summer

Whether you’re after fewer crowds or a new place to explore, consider these towns for a last-minute summer escape
The view from the balcony at a vacation rental on St. George Island.
Back deck with water view from San Juan Island vacation rental

Popular beaches and parks make great staples for summer trips, but for your next vacation, why not shake things up? These hidden gems have plenty of adventure to offer, without the hustle and bustle of summer crowds. Our Vacasa experts combed through booking data to recommend the best alternatives to summer destination hot spots, where guests can still find summer vacation rentals.

From an under-the-radar barrier island in Florida to SoCal’s unofficial adventure capital, secluded and serene islands in Washington to uncommercialized shorelines in North Carolina, these less-crowded destinations promise to check just as many boxes on your summer travel list. Add to the fun with amenities like oceanfront locations, lakefront homes, mountain views, pools, hot tubs, and pet-friendly stays.

Explore an uncrowded alternative to your favorite warm-weather destinations and discover a new favorite corner without the swarm of sightseers. After all, adventure awaits in the getaways less traveled.

An aerial view of a vacation rental in North Topsail Beach, NC.
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1. Topsail Island, North Carolina

Just a few hours further south on the North Carolina Coast, you’ll find a secluded, sandy paradise on Topsail Island. The 26-mile barrier island is known for its natural beauty and uncrowded shoreline, removed from chain restaurants and tourist traps. Here, you can savor the soothing rhythm of the tide with little between you and the water. The area’s unspoiled scenery, flourishing small-town charm, and “off-grid” appeal lend a quiet coastal experience that stands out from other go-to beaches.

However, if you’re still looking to stay entertained between beach trips, don't worry. Spend some time outdoors with a game along the surrounding golf courses, book a fishing charter tour, bring the kids to ​​The Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center for a day of family-friendly fun, or plan a day trip to neighboring Wilmington.

Featured Topsail Island vacation homes

Home in the background and the ocean with a horn in the San Juan Islands.
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2. San Juan Islands, Washington

Accessible by ferry boat or seaplane, these picture-perfect islands offer a restful retreat. Perfect for nature enthusiasts, families, couples, and adventurers, Washington’s remote archipelago is just across Puget Sound from Seattle and boasts endless opportunities for outdoor recreation, relaxation, and breathtaking views.

Spend your summer days island-hopping along uncrowded shorelines and quaint coastal villages, hike through Moran State Park, book a whale-watching tour, and grab a photo by Cattle Point Lighthouse. Book yourself a cozy waterfront cabin with a view and feel your stress slip away.

Featured San Juan Islands vacation homes

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3. Blue Ridge, Georgia

If you’re craving crisp mountain air this summer, Blue Ridge offers views as breathtaking as Gatlinburg’s, with a more small-town feel that allows for some extra breathing room from crowds. The resort town, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountain region, is within driving distance of most cities in the Southeast, making it an easy summer escape to unplug and reconnect with nature.

Take your morning coffee with a view of the blue-hazed mountains before getting an early start hiking to a local waterfall, tubing down a lazy river, or whitewater rafting. Though Blue Ridge stays true to its roots, the area is also home to several upscale shops and award-winning craft breweries and wineries that offer a well-deserved wind-down after a day of outdoor adventure.

Featured Blue Ridge vacation homes

The view of the lake from the back area at a vacation rental in McCall, ID.
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4. McCall, Idaho

Snowfall or sunshine, this little Idaho town is an adventure playground. Hike, bike, boat, float, or horseback ride in the fresh mountain air. McCall is located between Payette Lake, Little Payette Lake, and the Payette National Forest, which means you can split your summer days between fun on the water and the hiking trails.

During your McCall stay, venture out for a rejuvenating soak in the nearby hot springs, enjoy a day of fishing and catch a glimpse of wildlife near the Payette River, or tee off at the local golf courses, each featuring incredible views. With a day out on the lake and an ice cream downtown, it’ll feel like the days of summer camp live on.

Featured McCall vacation homes

White lake house on the water in Winthrop, ME.
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5. Midcoast Maine

Midcoast Maine stretches from Freeport to Ellsworth, spanning many islands and tiny coastal villages in between, ripe for exploring. Carrying the same distinct New England feel, Midcoast Maine offers opportunities to hike Acadia National Park, tour lighthouses, and stroll the harbor, without the sacrifice of a good lobster roll.

Though fresh seafood is a big source of Midcoast pride (culminating in Rockland’s Lobster Festival in August), it certainly isn’t the only thing the area has to offer. Acadia National Park, located just a stone’s throw from Bar Harbor, is often referenced as one of the most beautiful places in the northeast. Plan your trip in time to spend the summer touring the islands by kayak.

Featured Midcoast Maine vacation homes

Houses lined up on the coast
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6. St. George Island, Florida

Enjoy the Gulf’s emerald waves without swarms of beachgoers. A barrier island along the nicknamed Forgotten Coast, St. George Island is situated at the western end of the Florida Panhandle, offering 20 miles of shoreline. Gather up family and friends for some well-deserved quality time by the water, where you can settle into a slower pace and reconnect with nature.

Not only do Cape San Blas and St. George Island boast quiet, pristine white-sand beaches, but their nearby protected nature reserves are home to troves of monarch butterflies and manatees. Kick your feet up with a lounge chair by the Gulf of Mexico or rev up your beach vacation with family-friendly activities, like touring the St. George Island Lighthouse, chartering a fishing tour, renting paddle boards and kayaks, or stopping by the Florida Seafood Festival in Apalachicola.

Featured St. George Island vacation homes

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7. Big Bear Lake, California

While Lake Chelan reigns as the quintessential Northwest lake escape, Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains makes a compelling alternative with its clear blue skies and seven-mile lake brimming with summertime activity (and yes, the occasional bear!).

Two hours outside of Los Angeles, Big Bear Lake is SoCal’s summer alpine playground, with every water sport you can imagine—from beginner paddle board lessons to advanced water skiing and everything in between. Nicknamed the “cycling capital of SoCal,” Big Bear Lake is also home to hundreds of miles of cross-country trails, as well as the 8,000-foot-high Summit Bike Park. Stay in a lakefront home—ranging from small and quaint to grand estates—and wake up to stunning mountain and lake views each morning.

Featured Big Bear Lake vacation homes

A modern living room at a vacation rental in Steamboat Springs, CO.
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8. Steamboat Springs, Colorado

While both Sun Valley and Steamboat Springs are popular ski resort getaways, Steamboat Springs offers smaller summertime crowds, plus the added bonus of an Old West vibe (rodeo and dude ranches, anyone?) and an avid cycling culture that earns Steamboat Springs the nickname “Bike Town USA.” But really, the town motto sums it up best: “Come for the winter, stay for the summer.”

An easy three-hour drive from Denver, there is no shortage of outdoor activities for every type of traveler in your group, from peaceful hiking trails and hot air ballooning to the rare alpine golfing. However, a Steamboat Springs trip is not complete without a soak in its famous geothermal hot springs, where mineral-rich water can be therapeutic after a day of mountain fun.

Featured Steamboat Springs vacation homes

The exterior of a modern house in Garfield, AR.
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9. Eureka Springs, Arkansas

This one-of-a-kind Victorian-style city, built around natural mineral springs, rests on the outskirts of the Ozark Mountains. Hit the hiking trails (or the shopping district) and wind down the day with a soak in the thermal baths.

During your stay, be sure to stop by the springs at Palace Bath House, Basin Park Hotel, or the Crescent Hotel for a rejuvenating soak. Take on the Ozarks by foot, mountain bike, or horseback, and enjoy panoramic views of verdant treelines, rivers, and waterfalls. Savor the perfect mix of outdoor thrills and city attractions as you check out nearby antique shops, breweries, and the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, home to big cats and bears.

Featured Eureka Springs vacation homes

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