Clear your mind, imagine a world map, and think about a country with great beaches. Who are you picturing? Australia, maybe -- possibly Mexico or Italy. Tell you what, though: bring it on, world, 'cause the United States is a beach behemoth. One of the top 10 countries on the planet for total coastline, and unlike some of coast-rich heavies ahead of it on that list (Canada, Russia, Norway), America pairs a little thermodynamic add-on I like to call "warmth" with its sand.

What about Brazil, you say. Or Greece. Well, the States has as much coastline as those two combined. And beyond sheer quantity, America has the diversity: four distinct coasts (we see you, Great Lakes), plus Hawaii. There's no better country in the world for scratching out your patch of sunny sand. The top American towns that grow up around these blissed-out beaches -- from the Mid-Atlantic to New Jersey, the West Coast to Michigan -- are almost by definition world-class. Narrowing down the best is no easy feat, but here are the 25 finest in the land.

Ocean Springs, Mississippi

Why it’s great: The tiny Downtown, where every block has a creative bar with live music on sprawling outdoor patios most weekend nights. Those bars are intertwined with Southern barbecue and inventive restaurants, a giant art museum, and, of course, a beach. The Gulf here is calm, and after you’ve had your fill of culture and nightlife, you can take a paddleboard out to enjoy Mississippi’s natural beauty. Or take a boat out to the barrier islands and see beaches so remote and pristine they’ll make a Floridian jealous.

Must eat/drink: The pioneering gourmet biscuits at The Greenhouse on Porter. This converted greenhouse is doing for biscuits what Voodoo did for donuts, serving up stuff like jalapeño chili biscuits alongside weekly live music and yoga.

Don’t leave without: Getting out on the water. The town is so fun you might forget the beach is even there, but hit Paddles Up on Government St and find some water-bound expeditions.