Chincoteague is USA Today readers' choice for Best Coastal Small Town Photo: Cameron Davidson/ Virginia Travel Blog

Bay Region Towns Take USA Today’s Top Small-Town Awards

Aerial of Chincoteague

When it comes to quaint small towns, the Chesapeake Bay has no shortage–and the nation is taking note. USA Today readers voted two Eastern Shore towns (one Maryland and one in Virginia) into number one spots on its 10Best Reader’s Choice travel awards for 2020.

Chincoteague, Virginia ranked first in the nation for Best Coastal Small Town and Berlin, Maryland was number one for Best Small Town for Shopping.

Chincoteague won big among towns with a population of fewer than 25,000 people (as of the last census) that “offer uncrowded, unpretentious and affordable seaside fun in small packages,” according to USA Today.

The Virginia barrier island got praise for its uncrowded beaches and a walkable downtown. USA Today says Chincoteague “maintains a sense of delightful seclusion while still offering visitors an array of shops, restaurants, motels and waterside bars,” also pointing out that “wonderful Assateague Island with its famous herd of wild ponies lies just across the water.”

Rounding out the top three Best Coastal Small Towns were Bayfield, Wisconsin on Lake Superior and Venice, Florida, south of Sarasota on the Gulf coast.

In the Best Small Towns for Shopping category, USA Today readers chose Berlin, just west of Ocean City in Maryland’s Worcester County, above all the rest.

Berlin is home to more than 50 retails shops “from antiques and art galleries to jewelry stores and clothing boutiques,” 10Best authors write. “It’s a diverse assortment for such a small town.”

Berlin, which is home to Burley Oak Brewing, is best known for the movies filmed there, like 1999’s Runaway Bride, with Julia Roberts and Richard Gere. It has been named “Coolest Small Town in America” by Budget Travel and one of Smithsonian’s 20 Best Small Towns to Visit.

This summer, Berlin’s retailers are making the best of setbacks brought on by the pandemic with a Christmas in July promotion this month (offering free carriage rides!) and a social media contest to encourage mask use (the prize is $100 in “Berlin Bucks” to use at downtown shops.)

Other mid-Atlantic towns that made the top ten include Middleburg, Virginia in Loudon County (#5), New Hope, Pennsylvania on the Delaware River (#6) and Shepherdstown, West Virginia on the upper Potomac River (#10).

-Meg Walburn Viviano