NEW YORK (MONEY Magazine) -
Find Canada's Prince Edward Island on a map -- in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, 180 miles northeast of Maine -- and "beach vacation" won't be the first thing that comes to mind.
But don't let P.E.I.'s northern latitude fool you. Come summertime, the shallow waters around the island are among the warmest north of New Jersey, says Stephen Leatherman, an environmental studies professor at Florida International University and author of "America's Best Beaches."
And the island itself is a rustic throwback to what Cape Cod and the Hamptons used to be, before big bucks and megatourism cashed in on paradise.
Home prices are a throwback too. "For $500,000, you could have pretty much anything you want," says Century 21's Scott Miller, president of the P.E.I. Real Estate Association.
He isn't kidding. Beach home prices typically start at $100,000, while premium properties fetch between $250,000 and $400,000. A three-bedroom, 1.5-bathroom home on a 1.2-acre peninsula in the seal-watching haven of Montague is on the market for $246,000.
In Seaview, a town along P.E.I.'s most desirable stretch of beach, a three-bedroom chalet is listed at $370,000.
Click here for a gallery of affordable beach homes
Realtor Michael Poczynek says Americans are so astonished by P.E.I. prices that he's even had a few buy homes solely from photos on his Web site. "They think it's too good to be true," he says.
The island does have drawbacks. First off, it's remote. (There is an airport, with most flights from the U.S. connecting through Toronto or Halifax.) The peak beach season is only eight weeks long.
And there are ownership restrictions that officially limit non-P.E.I. residents to 165 feet of beachfront. Waivers, however, are fairly easy to arrange, locals report -- so long as you're not a landlubber developer looking to put up 100 beachfront condos.
The Outer Banks, North Carolina
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If you DO have a million to spend, here's a look at what you can get.