10/02/2014 06:03 pm ET Updated Dec 08, 2014

Most Beautiful Coastal Towns (PHOTOS)

Being by the coast can conjure up memories of carefree days and a feeling of possibility. In our ever-connected world, it's a relief to look up from those screens and out onto a soothing expanse of blue.

The allure of a coastal getaway drew about 250 million visitors to the Mediterranean alone in 2008 (the most recent data available), according to the UN World Tourism Organization. They come to towns like Manarola, Italy, whose cliff-side homes practically tumble into the sea. Yet on the other side of the Mediterranean await lesser-known charmers like Sidi Bou Said in Tunisia, where blue-and-white buildings line the stone streets.

In the U.S., coastal states reap the most tourism dollars, not just because of urban powerhouses like New York and San Francisco, but also thanks to quaint small towns such as Camden, ME. Like all the places that we've featured, it has fewer than 15,000 residents.

Our coast-to-coast tour includes a stop to the east of Camden, across the Bay of Fundy and beyond to Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. "There's a feeling of enchantment and mystique here," says Shelah Allen, co-owner of Lunenburg Walking Tours. "It's the seafaring culture and the ocean and all the mysteries about it."

Her description could apply to many of the world's beautiful coastal towns. See which one calls out to you.

--Heather Eng

See All of the Most Beautiful Coastal Towns

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Most Beautiful Coastal Towns