30 Most Beautiful Coastal College Campuses in the United States

We’ve compiled a list of the 30 most beautiful coastal college campuses in the United States of America. Each university is close enough to the coast that you can spend your days chilling on the beach or exploring rocky shores between your classes. From Rhode Island to California, there are some beautiful and interesting coastal colleges to explore that you might not even be aware of!

How We Picked These Coastal College Campuses

Our top priority is that the college campuses be absolutely, jaw-droppingly beautiful. And yes, beauty is subjective, so we’ve included all kinds of coastal colleges for you to browse. From the rocky shores of the Pacific Ocean by Washington state to the subtropical sunshine and white sands of Florida.

The beauty of the college campus and the coastline are what we first considered, then we calculated in the proximity to the coastline, and finally the reputation of the college or university. So, not only are our top 30 seaside campuses the most beautiful, but they are also excellent places to study.

You can always check the ranking of each college or university on our list by searching for them at US News.

1. Eckerd College

Location: St. Petersburg, FL

Distance to the Coast: 3 miles

Known for: large waterfront program and maritime search and rescue services

Eckerd College has a stunning campus bordering over 100 acres of the waterfront, close to the channels around South St. Petersburg and the Boca Ciega Bay. The campus has a private beach where you can find sailing and watersports equipment or paddle over to Indian Key for hiking and swimming.

If you want a public beach, you’re just 3 miles (a 7-minute car journey) from the white sands of St. Pete Beach where there are dive bars and restaurants too.

Eckerd college is undoubtedly the most beautiful coastal college campus thanks to the well-kept buildings, private beach, wide range of watersports programs and sublime subtropical climate.

2. Salve Regina University

Location: Newport, RI

Distance to the Coast: < 1 mile

Known for: jaw-dropping historical buildings on campus

Salve Regina is a Catholic, private university situated in one of the best surfing spots in New England. The 80-acre campus itself is mere meters away from the picturesque, rocky cliffs and is perfectly located for taking scenic cliff walks or heading to Belmont Beach in just a few minutes on foot.

This coastal college is best for sailing clubs and surfing on the rough ocean waves. The university also offers a great range of programs to study and values the tradition and culture of Newport, Rhode Island.

As one of the most beautiful campuses in the USA, it has both magnificent historical vibes from the campus buildings and breath-taking views of the wind-swept coastline.

3. Palm Beach Atlantic University

Location: West Palm Beach, FL

Distance to the Coast: 1 mile

Known for: strong Christian community and marine biology program

Located just a mile from the renowned Palm Beach in Florida, the Palm Beach Atlantic University is one of the most beautiful places to study under the bright sunshine, swaying palm trees and occasional fluffy white cloud.

PBA University is a Christian college with a modern, spotlessly clean campus and a range of programs to choose from, including their ever-popular marine biology program. This campus is also very close to the MacArthur Beach State Park, for a glimpse of natural Florida, and the vibrant, touristy areas of West Palm Beach for some fun when class is over.

4. College of the Atlantic

Location: Bar Harbor, ME

Distance to the Coast: < 1 mile

Known for: programs dedicated to human ecology

This private liberal arts college is surprisingly small and very niche! With a focus on human ecology programs, this ‘green’ college has organic farms, island research stations and acres of protected land for you to explore as you learn about how humans interact with nature and ocean life.

The campus borders the Atlantic ocean’s often choppy waves along the varied coastline. From rocky outlets to sandy bays, you can find so much to explore along the Maine coast. This East coast campus is staggeringly beautiful all-year-round, but you’ll particularly enjoy it when the colors change in fall and when snowfall turns the ragged coastline pure white over winter.

5. Flagler College

Location: St. Augustine, FL

Distance to the Coast: 4 miles

Known for: national historic landmarks and iconic buildings on campus

Not only does Flagler College enjoy the beautiful, sunny subtropical climate of Florida, but it also has a lot of history behind it. On campus you’ll find the Ponce de Leon building, first built in 1888, which is now a residence building for students. The Spanish Renaissance architecture is framed by the bright blue Florida waves.

Flagler College ranks 4th in the 2022 edition of Best Regional Colleges South! It’s a great college for education and enjoying the beautiful Florida coast.

You’re 4 miles away from the coastline at Anastasia State Park and close by to Vilano Beach and St Augustine Beach.

6. University of Tampa

Location: Tampa, FL

Distance to the Coast: 1 mile

Known for: large, urban campus and over 200 programs of study

The University of Tampa is just 1 mile away from Hillsborough Bay, leading out to the ocean. It has direct access to the bay via Hillsborough River, which runs right by the college campus and is awesome for boating trips with your professor and classmates.

This beautiful coastal college campus is considered a party school with clubs around the campus area, but it’s also dedicated to learning with over 200 programs of study and an average student GPA of 3.4.

University of Tampa ocean college campus is great for those that want access to the sea from an urban setting.

7. University of Hawaii at Manoa

Location: Honolulu, HI

Distance to the Coast: 2 miles

Known for: amazing oceanography program

The University of Hawaii at Manoa is a gorgeous campus college in Honolulu on the island of Oahu. There’s no better place to study oceanography than at UH, with the glistening ocean waves visible from your home on campus. The great oceanography program is split into 3 for physical oceanography, marine geology/geochemistry, and finally biological oceanography.

The campus is located high up in the hills of Honolulu with staggering views of the Pacific Ocean. The coast is roughly 2 miles away (downhill) where you can find renowned Waikiki Beach and Aquarium or surf to your heart’s content on the fresh ocean waves.

8. University of California at San Diego

Location: La Jolla, CA

Distance to the Coast: < 1 mile

Known for: being a world-class public research university

With a very respectable 87% graduation rate, UCSD is great to apply for if you want to enjoy the Californian coastline as you study. It’s less than a mile away from the coast, with ocean views blending into the blue sky from campus accommodation.

University of California San Diego is less of a party college compared to other UC universities, but it’s still within walking distance of great attractions for students. You’re in an urban setting, so there’s always a Starbucks close by and you’ve also got Black’s Beach and La Jolla walking trails for your inner adventurer.

9. Pepperdine University

Location: Malibu, CA

Distance to the Coast: 1 mile

Known for: Hollywood charm surrounding the hillside location

Pepperdine University in Malibu, South California, is a stunning location to study! You’re super close to the Malibu coastline along Route 1 with views of the ocean from all over the large campus. The college has many study programs to choose from, including a School of Law (pictured), all under the bright South Californian blue skies.

The nearest beach is Amarillo Beach and the campus itself is surrounded by national parks and hiking trails to enjoy in the year-round sunshine. You can find all you need for student life in Malibu, or you can reach Santa Monica LA in just 30 minutes by car – a beautiful scenic route along the coast.

10. Brigham Young University

Location: Laie, HI

Distance to the Coast: < 1 mile

Known for: Mormon student body and Olympic sized swimming pool

Brigham Young University in Laie Hawaii has a gorgeous campus just minutes away from the stunning, palm tree-lined coast of Hawaii’s Oahu island. The university primarily offers programs in math, liberal arts, and management and has a large LDS (Mormon) student body. Those that are members of the LDS church usually have discounted tuition fees. Nonetheless, the school is still open to everyone with around 3% of the student population being non-LDS members.

This campus is always verdant, green and refreshing with steep mountains in the backdrop and surf-perfect waves waiting at the nearby beaches.

11. University of California at Santa Cruz

Location: Santa Cruz, CA

Distance to the Coast: 3 miles

Known for: world-changing science programs and surrounding redwood forest

UCSC, or the University of California at Santa Cruz, is one of 10 beautiful university campuses in the UC network. The Santa Cruz campus is focused on changing the world with innovative science programs of all kinds.

The campus itself is surrounded by a magnificent redwood forest where you can escape the Californian sun’s rays for a few hours to study. You’re only 3 miles from the coast with sea views from the campus and within walking distance of the ever-popular Santa Cruz Beach and Boardwalk where student life is always vibrant.

12. Coastal Carolina University

Location: Conway, SC

Distance to the Coast: 10 miles

Known for: 1100-acre private island solely for student marine science

Located in Conway, the Coastal Carolina University is a top choice for anyone interested in marine science. Not only are you a short bus ride or car drive away from the infamous Myrtle Beach, but the university owns a private island! This island is used by students to study marine science in a practical environment.

The campus itself is beautiful with water features and plenty of grassy spaces for outdoor study or just watching the clouds float past. Although it’s not the closest to the coast of all these beautiful campuses, it does offer more marine study programs than most and has a selective 61% acceptance rate.

13. Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi

Location: Corpus Christi, TX

Distance to the Coast: < 1 mile

Known for: island-like setting

Texas A&M University is home to the islanders! This public university is pretty much an island, with the main campus sandwiched directly between Oso Bay and Corpus Christi Bay in the Gulf of Mexico. Not only do you enjoy the swaying palm trees, sandy beaches and blue waves of a coastal college, but you also have access to the suburbs of Corpus Christi. City life is within reach when you get tired of the beach…

…but that’s very unlikely. A&M University gives you access to private beaches and is undoubtedly one of the most stunning places to study.

14. New College of Florida

Location: Sarasota, FL

Distance to the Coast: < 1 mile

Known for: bayfront campus and flexible academic programs

This liberal arts college is one of the best if you want to focus on learning, researching and making a difference. New College of Florida is great for flexibility, allowing you to study and learn what you love at your own pace.

As for the campus, it’s impossible not to love. It sits right on the bayfront with steps down to the rocky shore and plenty of green spaces for you to study in the sea breeze. This beautiful college campus sits on the west coast of Florida and is sheltered nicely by the Longboat key.

15. Western Washington University

Location: Bellingham, WA

Distance to the Coast: < 1 mile

Known for: being the northernmost university excl. Alaska

If you love the coast but still want to enjoy the changing seasons, rainy downpours and coziness of studying inside over cold winter months, then choose Washington over the ever-popular Californian and Floridian campuses!

Besides having a great marine science program, you also have so many opportunities to enjoy nature from this 220-acre campus. With mountain ranges to one side and the San Juan Islands on the other (where you can find orca hot spots), there’s so much beauty to marvel at from Western Washington University.

WWU has an 85% acceptance rate so you should be considering this coastal college!

16. University of California at Santa Barbara

Location: Santa Barbara, CA

Distance to the Coast: < 1 mile

Known for: science engineering programs and private lagoon

Yes, you read that correctly. University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) has a private lagoon sitting between the main campus and the palm tree-studded coast. If you want to study science, engineering or marine life from California, this is one of the best University of California campuses to select.

The campus itself is stunning with views of the ocean (pictured) and plenty of grassy spaces to study under the Californian sunshine. With alumni including businesswoman Gwyneth Paltrow and singer Jack Johnson, this public research university is bursting with potential. What can you achieve if you study on this beautiful coastal college campus?

17. Point Loma Nazarene University

Location: San Diego, CA

Distance to the Coast: < 1 mile

Known for: competitive admissions and Christian values

This private Christian liberal arts college is highly sought after not just for health profession related study programs and sense of spirituality on campus, but for its proximity to the Californian coastline at San Diego.

Point Loma is a rocky section of coastline with splashes of soft golden sand when the tide pulls away. The water is as blue and bright as the clear skies over San Diego. This Californian college campus is beautiful in a more serene, natural way than the University of California campuses, with the rugged coastline and choppy waves (great for surfing) always lapping at the cliff edge of the college campus.

18. University of North Carolina Wilmington

Location: Wilmington, NC

Distance to the Coast: 5 miles

Known for: being North Carolina’s state coastal university

The University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNCW) has an urban campus with beautifully landscaped grounds in the heart of Wilmington city, North Carolina, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean.

The nearest beach to the UNCW campus is Wrightsville Beach which is a long, sandy stretch with pier and plenty of establishments that you’d expect at a beach resort – perfect for some fun after your studies.

Speaking of studies at UNCW, the university has an impressive marine biology program and is nearby to freshwater lakes at Airlie Gardens and the nature filled Masonboro Island Estuarine Reserve.

19. California State University at Long Beach

Location: Long Beach, CA

Distance to the Coast: 4 miles

Known for: enormous campus, underpriced

California State University Long Beach is, obviously, close to Long Beach California! There’s so much diversity here and unlimited things to do. If you want a beach college campus with access to all the urban amenities possible, Long Beach is a great option and is only 20 miles from Los Angeles. The campus itself is one of the largest in the USA.

As the university is so large, it’s known for a wide range of study programs, so you aren’t limited to studying marine-related topics while you’re here. Furthermore, CSULB is one of the most affordable coastal colleges in California.

20. University of Rhode Island

Location: Kingston, RI

Distance to the Coast: < 1 mile

Known for: graduate school of oceanography

The University of Rhode Island is a beautiful college in Rhode Island, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean. If you love the nature of the coast, not just sandy beaches, URI could be ideal. This coastal college is also known as a ‘party school’ so you won’t miss out on social occasions because of the rural location. But don’t underestimate your ability to focus on studies. URI has some amazing programs to choose from including many marine-focused programs.

Besides the stunning main campus in Kingston, the university also has a campus at Narragansett (pictured) where you’ll find the URI Graduate School of Oceanography.

21. Endicott College

Location: Beverly, MA

Distance to the Coast: < 1 mile

Known for: the seaside campus with access to beaches

Endicott College in Beverly Massachusetts is a small campus but is no less beautiful because of its size. Nothing stands between the New England seaside college campus and the soft ocean waves lapping at 3 private sandy beaches.

The campus itself is beautiful all year round, whether it’s buried under a blanket of glistening snow or baking in the warm summer sunshine. You have a great selection of programs to study at this coastal college and you’re only 20 miles away from Boston if you have the urge for some urban adventures!

22. University of San Diego

Location: San Diego, CA

Distance to the Coast: 4 miles

Known for: modern campus and interesting programs

Not to be confused with the University of California San Diego (number 8 on our most beautiful coastal college campuses list), the University of San Diego is a private Catholic research university close to Mission Bay. The campus is modern and beautifully landscaped with water features and wide-open spaces.

You’re within walking distance of the beach at the seafront, SeaWorld San Diego, and Fiesta Island Park. This university is great for anyone interested in aquatic sports and wildlife, as you’re close to the big waves of the Californian coast and Mission Bay park wildlife preserve.

23. Monmouth University

Location: West Long Branch, NJ

Distance to the Coast: < 1 mile

Known for: beautiful seafront campus and liberal arts programs

Monmouth University is a suburban college campus on the coast of New Jersey, with views out onto the North Atlantic Ocean. The college is nationally ranked and considered one of the best, especially in New Jersey.

The college bluffs are meters away from the seafront, and with the windows wide open you can drift off to sleep to the sound of gently crashing waves. Main campus buildings are a short walk away. The student accommodation buildings might not be the most beautiful, but you can’t deny the beauty of the New Jersey coastline!

24. Florida Gulf Coast University

Location: Fort Myers, FL

Distance to the Coast: < 1 mile

Known for: new, modern university with a private beach

Florida Gulf Coast University is practically brand new compared to the historical coastal college campuses on our list… but it’s no less beautiful. Situated in Fort Myers, West Florida, the campus is a little inland by the beautiful lakes and has a private beach complete with white sands and palm trees for relaxing after class.

Fort Myers Beach and Bonita Beach are nearby, within 5 to 10 miles, where the coast borders the Gulf of Mexico.

The university also has an aquatics center and scenic boardwalks between main campus buildings.

25. Mitchell College

Location: New London, CT

Distance to the Coast:

Known for: wooden boardwalks and quaint New England vibes

The private, liberal arts-focused university campus sits close to the docks of the Thames River (Connecticut, not England!) and has beautiful views out over the water all year round. Follow the coast to the river mouth and you’ll find the white sands of Ocean Beach Park and views out to the Block Island Sound and further out towards the North Atlantic Ocean.

If you don’t want to leave campus, you can always just chill out on the college’s private beach or enjoy the sights in the picturesque New England town of New London, CT.

26. University of West Florida

Location: Pensacola, FL

Distance to the Coast: 30 miles

Known for: huge 1600-acre campus, one of the best universities in Florida

University of West Florida (UWF) is a sprawling campus in North Pensacola, bordered by rivers and natural landscapes but still within walking distance of the urban city.

The campus is located approximately 2 miles from Escambia Bay, and approximately 30 miles from the gorgeous Pensacola Beach, bordering the Gulf of Mexico in the far west of Florida. So, you’re never too far away from sandy beaches, lakes, and rivers at this university!

UWF ranked number 34 in Regional Universities South, making it a highly desirable place to study.

27. College of Charleston

Location: Charleston, SC

Distance to the Coast: 1 mile

Known for: beautiful city location, being the oldest municipal college in the USA

College of Charleston in South Carolina is considered one of the best and oldest public liberal arts colleges. It sits right in the heart of Charleston but within walking distance of the coast if you fancy spending some time on the beach in between classes.

Folly Island is a very popular nearby spot for students, just 10 miles away. It’s a great location for surfing or wildlife spotting in the James Island County Park. If you need a coastal university that’s still a little urban within a small city, the College of Charleston could be just right for you.

28. Loyola Marymount University

Location: Los Angeles, CA

Distance to the Coast: 2 miles

Known for: entertainment, business and communication study programs

Located in Los Angeles, you are in one of the best places to study in the world. The urban city is always enticing, but with LA coastal college campuses, you also have white sandy beaches and fresh waves to surf. Loyola Marymount University (LMU) is closest to Venice Beach and overlooks Playa Vista and the coastline from the hills. Divine. You’re also within Downtown LA with plenty of student life to partake in.

LMU is a private Jesuit school with a 79% graduation rate and a 52% acceptance rate, as of the last survey in 2018.

29. University of Miami

Location: Miami, FL

Distance to the Coast: 2 miles

Known for: prestigious study programs and parties

The University of Miami has a truly beautiful campus that’s been kept in perfect condition. You’re approximately 2 miles from the coast and you’ll find Miami Beach is around 12 miles away. Life at this university is always centered around the beach, even if you decide to study at the UM School of Business.

Alumni from the University of Miami include Dwayne Johnson (AKA The Rock), Gloria Estefan and Sylvester Stallone, just to start with. This is a renowned university and is high on the list of the best universities in the USA. It just so happens to also have a beautiful coastal college campus.

30. The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina

Location: Charleston, SC

Distance to the Coast: 3 miles

Known for: being a senior military college

The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina is one of 6 senior military colleges in the USA. It’s located in the quiet town of Charleston and has a very beautiful, historic college campus.

The Citadel is about 3 miles from the tip of Charleston, while the college campus itself is close to the Ashley River and has direct access to it through marshy waters. You’ll be working hard and using the coast by the campus to train, but on your time off you’ll certainly be able to join the students of The College of Charleston at Folly Island.

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