Can’t go to the beach? Here’s the next best thing! Check out these beach read books that will allow you to visit real beaches, even if only between the pages.
Certain authors are known for writing beach read books that are set in real places, like Elin Hilderbrand (Nantucket) and Dorothea Benton Frank (Charleston and surrounding area). I love reading about places I can visit, and reading about a place I’ve already been is even more special when I recognize a restaurant or local landmark.
If you’re craving a trip to the beach but can’t leave home right now, here are some of my personal favorite beach read books that are almost as good as being in the places where they are set.
My Favorite Beach Read Books Set in Real Places
The Magic of Sea Glass by Jenny Hale
Outer Banks, North Carolina
The Magic of Sea Glass is a sweet summer read explores love, loss and all the magic that happens in between.
Wedding planner Lauren Sutton lost her fiancé a year ago, and she’s still having trouble figuring out how she fits in her own life anymore. So, she decides to go in search of a new life, selling her half of her business and moving to Rodanthe, North Carolina for the summer to work at an old beachside inn.
Surprises abound in the Outer Banks, from handsome local Brody Harrison to the mysterious sea glass that keeps showing up like signs from beyond just when she needs them most. Can she find a life—and a man—that she loves again?
Although we haven’t all lost a fiancé, I think we can all relate to the grief of losing someone or feeling like our life has suddenly ended up out of our own control. We’re not all lucky enough to be able to run away to the beach to try and find ourselves like Lauren, but it’s fun to ride along on her journey.
Plantation by Dorothea Benton Frank
ACE Basin, South Carolina
First, the book that introduced me to the beach read and will always hold a special place in my heart: Dorothea Benton Frank’s Plantation. Although it was Frank’s second book, I read it first and it features my all-time favorite book character, Miss Lavinia, the Queen of Tall Pines Plantation. If you’ve ever seen The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, I’ve always pictured that Ellen Burstyn would play Miss Lavinia in much the same manner she depicted Vivi in that movie. Saying that Miss Lavinia (or Vivi, for that matter) has a flair for the dramatic is a understatement. Her daughter, Caroline Wimbley Levine, might be the heroine in this one, but Miss Lavinia steals the show.
This one explores the unique relationship between mothers and daughters along the banks of the Edisto River in the ACE Basin in South Carolina. This book is so southern you can’t help but read it in a drawl, and every southern woman I know will tell you at least one character in this book reminds them of someone in their own family. I believe all of her books are must-reads, but this one remains forever my favorite. RIP, Dot Frank.
Silver Girl by Elin Hilderbrand
Again, all of her books are must-reads as far as I’m concerned (check out my suggested reading order for Elin Hilderbrand). Picking one is like choosing a favorite child — or at least I believe that’s what it would be like if I had children. However, if forced to choose (which, let’s face it, I’ve brought on myself), I would pick Silver Girl. The reasons are personal, as I was a practicing attorney whose work focused on finance when this book was released in 2011. Having had my own life negatively impacted by the financial crisis, this book was compelling because it felt so real and was so in tune with the world around me at the time.
Meredith Martin Delinn has lost everything thanks to her husband who has cheated rich investors out of billions. She takes off to Nantucket to spend the summer with her childhood best friend Connie to try and make sense of it all. Things get complicated when Connie’s brother — Meredith’s high school flame — shows up in town, forcing a comparison between what she has and what could have been. If you’ve followed me long, you know I love a good second chance romance, so it was fun to see that possibility pop up in Hilderbrand’s trademark women’s fiction.
As with all her books, this one does a wonderful job of transporting you straight to Nantucket.
Ten Beach Road by Wendy Wax
Pass-a-Grille (St. Pete Beach), Florida
Ten Beach Road is my all-time favorite book series, and it begins with its namesake, Ten Beach Road. Set in Pass-a-Grille (which is a town at the southern tip of St. Pete Beach), this is another one where I’d visited the place before I read the book. Wax is from this area, so her descriptions are very accurate of the area even if some of the specific houses and places are fictional.
Like Silver Girl, when the first book in the series came out in 2011 it featured a storyline we’d all seen in the news: trusted financial advisor has robbed his clients thanks via a Ponzi scheme and left them with nothing. Well, not exactly nothing. Three of his clients, who are strangers, have been left with an old dilapidated beach house. This isn’t some two-room shack, however, it’s a historic mansion that had once been a jewel on the coastline. Can the women reinvent themselves as the renovate the house?
It’s a story of perseverance. It’s a story of redemption. But most of all it’s a story of friendship and how the people in our lives make it worth living.
Island Affair by Priscilla Oliveras
The Florida Keys
I reviewed this one previously, but it’s definitely worth mentioning again! I absolutely loved this Latinx romance set in the Florida Keys. Social media influencer Sara Vance is ditched by her boyfriend just as she’s arriving in the Keys for a family vacation. That might not be such a big deal except she’s never felt like she measured up to the rest of her family…and that’s because both of her parents and both of her siblings are doctors. They don’t understand what she does, and she thought she’d at least be able to show up with her boyfriend to keep them off her back about her love life.
Good thing she runs into sexy firefighter Luis at the airport and convinces him to pretend to be her boyfriend for the week. But…you guessed it…it’s not long before they’re not finding it hard to fake anything because they’re wildly attracted to one another! And wow is this one smoking. Loved the chemistry between these two!
It doesn’t hurt that you also get to feel like you’re along for the week in the Keys. Having been to the Keys, I can tell you everything sounded just like I remember it being in real life, so you truly can experience the islands as you read this one. So, grab a fruity drink, pop in one of those little umbrellas and enjoy!
Dear Haiti, Love Alaine by Maiki Moulite and Maritza Moulite
Set in both Miami, Florida and Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Dear Haiti, Love Alaine is an intriguing read written by two Haitian-American sisters. The heroine Alaine has been raised in Miami, but after being suspended from school she’s sent to Haiti where her journalist mother has been living with her twin sister after some fallout of her own at work drove her from Miami back to Haiti. Alaine is working on a “spring volunteer immersion project,” wanting to follow in her mother’s journalist footsteps. Like many interesting family stories, there are secrets to be unraveled and relationships that need work. Oh, and did I mention curses?
It’s incredibly rare to pick up any novel set in Haiti, so I thought this one was nice exposure to the country and its history and culture. I enjoyed Alaine’s snarky voice (sounds like a real teenager, haha), and it was really nice to see three strong non-white women at the center of a story. I don’t normally read young adult, but this one is definitely worth a read.