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20 Best Beach Boardwalks in America

These fun-filled boardwalks offer gorgeous water views and an incredible array of activities and attractions right next to some of the country's best beaches.

Every editorial product is independently selected, though we may be compensated or receive an affiliate commission if you buy something through our links. Ratings and prices are accurate and items are in stock as of time of publication.

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The Coney Island Boardwalk at sunset, Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, New York City, NY, USAAlexander Spatari/Getty Images

Step right up to the best boardwalks

With views of the ocean, easy access to the sand, and a range of amusements and things to do, not to mention great people-watching, boardwalks are the heart of a great waterfront getaway. We love walking the boards at any time of day—catching the sunrise in the morning, strolling to get a snack in the afternoon, and watching the lights come on as the sun sets and the action picks up in the evening. Beaches and beach boardwalks are also great family vacation destinations, especially if you book a stay at a nearby beach house rental, which could turn it into a surprisingly affordable beach vacation, too.

How we chose our top 20

To find the best beach boardwalks around America, we first created a list of criteria. The top requirement, of course, was a stellar location with a sandy beach, as well as water (although not necessarily an ocean). The boardwalks didn’t have to be made of wood, but they did need to be more than a simple sidewalk. And while there are plenty of lovely quiet wooden walkways around the country, our choices needed to have plenty for visitors to see and do at some of the best beaches in the country. To make sure our picks were truly the best, we considered recommendations from travel experts and online reviews of these destinations. In short, we did a lot of work so you don’t have to! Just scroll down for the perfect beachside spot and some serious fun in the sun.

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ocean city new jersey boardwalkJohn Greim/Getty Images

Ocean City, New Jersey

Best for: Families with small kids

Named one of the Best Beaches in America by Trips to Discover as well as one of Coastal Living‘s All Star American Beach Towns (among many other accolades), Ocean’s City’s stretch of boards features fun-packed rides, free entertainment, and worth-breaking-your-diet treats. Don’t miss the warm caramel corn at Johnson’s Popcorn and Philadelphia-style, thin-crust pizza served in a converted movie theater at Manco & Manco. Ocean City is a dry town, meaning there are no bars or liquor stores, making this a favorite with families—it’s actually called America’s Greatest Family Resort. Here are more top beaches in New Jersey to visit with your family.

Pros:

  • Free entertainment
  • Family-friendly dry town

Cons:

  • Geared more toward families than couples
  • No bars or adult nightlife

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coney island boardwalkAlan Schein/Getty Images

Coney Island, New York

Best for: Urban beach fun

New York City’s classic beachfront boardwalk is the home of iconic rides such as the slow-spinning Wonder Wheel and the wooden Cyclone roller coaster at Luna Park, the boardwalk’s beachside amusement park. The 2.7-mile stretch of Coney Island Boardwalk is also where to find the original Nathan’s Hot Dogs and its annual July 4th hot-dog-eating contest. That said, you can visit any time of year to sample their famous dogs, crosscut fries, and lemonade.

Pros:

  • The iconic Cyclone roller coaster
  • Accessible by subway from New York City

Cons:

  • Can get very crowded on weekends and holidays

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Wildwood new jersey boardwalkJohn Greim/Getty Images

Wildwood, New Jersey

Best for: Action rides

You can ride a tram car to check out the 38 blocks (nearly two miles) of nonstop action at this southern Jersey Shore favorite. The boardwalk here is legendary, filled with attractions, stores, restaurants, live entertainment, arcades, and water parks all vying for your attention. Morey’s Piers, family-owned and operated since 1969, offers more than 100 rides ranging from a photo-worthy Ferris wheel to a raging roller coaster to little-kid-friendly spinners on three separate piers along six beach blocks, in addition to two spotless beachfront water parks. If rides are your thing, find out which theme park is best from a man who’s been to 333 amusement parks around the globe and ridden 903 different roller coasters.

Pros:

  • Rides galore
  • Water park with ocean views

Con:

  • It’s a looong walk if you don’t want to spring for tramcar shuttle along the boards

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Old Orchard Beach Maine boardwalkVictoria Chen/Getty Images

Old Orchard Beach, Maine

Best for: Small-town charm

This New England beach is a top choice for families, and its unique boardwalk is one of the reasons. First, there’s the long boardwalk pier that picturesquely extends over the Atlantic and is filled with great boutiques, cafés, and treats. Back on the sand is New England’s only remaining beachside amusement park, Palace Playland, where you can ride a classic Ferris wheel, a carousel, or two speeding roller coasters, all within a few feet of the beach. Visiting this area in the fall? Check out our guide to the best places to see New England fall foliage.

Pros:

  • Lobster rolls
  • Classic amusement rides

Con:

  • You won’t find the adrenaline-rush attractions here that many newer boardwalks feature

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REHOBOTH BEACH, DELAWARE - JUL 1: Boardwalk at Rehoboth Beach in Delaware, as seen on July 1, 2017. It is a popular regional vacation destination.Ritu Manoj Jethani/Shutterstock

Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

Best for: Avoiding crowds

Fun food spots line the shore, from pizza to ice pops and more, making for easy eats even for the pickiest kids at beach boardwalk in Delaware. Here, you can partake in classic beach fun without crowds or high prices, including arcades, mini golf, waterslides, and go-carts. Basically, you’ll have all the ingredients for one of the best family beach vacations within a short driving distance from the Washington, D.C., area. Rehoboth is also one of our picks for the best family beaches.

Pros:

  • Close to D.C.
  • Classic boardwalk amusements

Con:

  • It’s hard to find parking if you’re not staying at a nearby hotel

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Virginia Beach, Virginia - April 2016: The Boardwalk of Virginia Beach at Sunrise. The Boardwalk is 28-feet wide and stretches three miles along the Virginia beach and is very popular for vacation.Jay Yuan/Shutterstock

Virginia Beach, Virginia

Best for: Biking

Can’t find the boardwalk along the sun-kissed Virginia Beach? Just keep an eye out for King Neptune, a 24-foot, 12-ton bronze statue, and the most popular photo op at the beach. He’ll lead you to the three-mile boardwalk that stretches a massive 28 feet wide. It features a separate bike path, so rent a bike or a multiple-person surrey to explore any time of day. Live music and entertainment are offered nightly during the summer months at four oceanfront stages, and there are restaurants with outdoor seating all along the peaceful pathway.

Pros:

  • Biking path
  • Live music on multiple stages

Con:

  • The “boardwalk” is actually concrete

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Myrtle Beach, South Caroline, USA-July 10, 2014. Boardwalk in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.Arina P Habich/Shutterstock

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Best for: A Ferris wheel ride

Although it’s one of the newer boardwalks on our list, you’ll find plenty of vintage favorites here, including fudge shops and arcades and a family amusement park, plus several Ripley’s attractions and the nearly 200-foot Myrtle Beach SkyWheel, one of the tallest Ferris wheels in the country, all of which make this a favorite family vacation destination. Myrtle Beach Boardwalk is also one of our favorite summer bucket list destinations.

Pros:

  • Sunset from the SkyWheel
  • Retro-style fun

Con:

  • Skews away from families and more toward adults after dark

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HOLLYWOOD BEACH,USA - AUGUST 25,2015 : The famous Hollywood Beach boardwalk in Florida on a summer dayKamira/Shutterstock

Hollywood Beach, Florida

Best for: A beachside jog

It’s actually a “Broadwalk,” but we’ll forgive the one-letter flip of this sunny Florida favorite. It runs two and a half miles along a sun-kissed beach, and you can bike, stroll, people-watch at outdoor cafés, stock up at the popular weekend farmers market, or check out the dog beach where part of the movie Marley & Me was filmed. While you’re in the Sunshine State, you should also visit the best Florida beaches locals want to keep secret.

Pros:

  • Live music at the adjacent Margaritaville Hotel
  • Easy beach access

Con:

  • No family entertainment

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ATLANTIC CITY, NEW JERSEY - SEPTEMBER 9, 2012: Tourists walk on the boardwalk in Atlantic City.Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

Atlantic City, New Jersey

Best for: Grown-up entertainment

For pure history, Atlantic City is a must for all boardwalk lovers and an East Coast vacation you need to take at least once. It sports the longest boardwalk in the world, at 5.5 miles, and also the oldest, first offering visitors the chance to stroll the sand-free walkway in 1870. It was here that Miss America was first crowned, where diving horses thrilled the crowd, and where thrills of other kinds later followed with legalized gambling and family-friendly adrenaline rides. Today, Steel Pier still offers up an adrenaline rush for kids of all ages, and new casinos and restaurants—including a Hard Rock Hotel & Casino and the Ocean Casino & Resort—continue to join classic saltwater taffy and fudge shops that line the vintage wooden boards.

Pros:

  • Historic highlights abound, like the “World’s biggest pipe organ” at Boardwalk Hall
  • Free beach access
  • High-end restaurants, top entertainment, and casino action for adults

Con:

  • Casinos are hard to avoid if you stay at one of the big boardwalk properties

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Grand Haven Pier and Lighthouse After Sun DownLeene/Shutterstock

Grand Haven, Michigan

Best for: Lakeside family fun

The 2.5-mile boardwalk along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan is a favorite of Parents Magazine for its family-friendly vibe. There are myriad opportunities for biking, strolling, and boating here during the day, but in the evening, all eyes turn to the Grand Haven Musical Fountain, a synchronized water and light show that’s been an attraction here since 1962. It’s the world’s largest musical fountain of its kind and can easily be seen, and heard, from most of the Grand Haven Boardwalk.

Pros:

  • The free nightly show at the Musical Fountain
  • Lighthouse photo ops

Con:

  • Lakes are nice, but it’s not the ocean

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SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 9, 2018: People walk on the midway at Belmont Park, an amusement park built in 1925 on the Mission Beach boardwalk with the iconic Giant Dipper roller coaster.Sherry V Smith/Shutterstock

San Diego, California

Best for: Skateboarders

San Diego’s Ocean Front Boardwalk is a three-mile boardwalk running along Mission and Pacific beaches. By day, it is a never-ending parade of bicyclists, skateboarders, and sun lovers catching some California rays. By night, it becomes a happening scene with clubs coming alive SoCal-style. Along the boardwalk, visitors will find Belmont Amusement Park, which features great views of the ocean from its wooden roller coaster.

Pros:

  • Thrills at the Belmont Amusement Park
  • People-watching in the SoCal sunshine

Con:

  • Hard to find parking

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SANTA CRUZ CA USA 04 14 15:The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk is an oceanfront amusement park in Santa Cruz, California. Founded in 1907, it is California's oldest surviving amusement parkmeunierd/Shutterstock

Santa Cruz, California

Best for: A classic carousel ride

If you’re a movie buff, you’ll probably recognize this beachfront classic from The Lost Boys and Sudden Impact, among others. Although Hollywood-perfect, this boardwalk wasn’t built just for show; it’s been a northern California favorite since 1924. Don’t miss the classic carousel, where you can still grab for metal rings—a rarity in modern versions. Another “only here” feature: the Roaring Camp Railroad steam train that offers open-air rides right from the boardwalk through the soaring Redwood Forest. Looking for something more than a day trip? Make this just one of your stops on a California road trip.

Pros:

  • Grabbing a metal ring while going for a spin on the carousel
  • Iconic California scenery

Con:

  • The rides sometimes have long lines

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Santa Monica Pier in Californiastellalevi/Getty Images

Santa Monica, California

Best for: A solar-powered ride

Southern California’s favorite boardwalk is really a pier, but we’re not going to quibble since this wooden walkway is a Cali icon. Go old-school by fishing, riding the historical Santa Monica Pier Carousel, or trying your luck at one of the 200 games at Playland Arcade. Or take a thoroughly modern ride on the world’s only solar-powered Ferris wheel at Pacific Park.

Pros:

  • Sun-powered spins on the Ferris wheel
  • Gorgeous sunset views

Cons:

  • Less spacious than a traditional boardwalk
  • Can get very crowded on weekends

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Hanaka'o'o Beach Park, aka Canoe Beach, Maui, HawaiiDouglas Peebles/Getty Images

Kaanapali, Maui, Hawaii

Best for: Tropical sunsets

There are few walkways anywhere in the world with the views you’ll find at Kaanapali’s boardwalk. You can stroll for more than a mile from golden Hanakao’o Beach Park past the sunset spectacle at Black Rock all the way to Duke’s Beachhouse Restaurant, our favorite beachfront dining spot pretty much anywhere. This is a purely walking, biking, taking-it-easy pathway, which is exactly what you’ll want to do in this tropical paradise. If you need a place to stay in Maui, you can’t go wrong with one of these all-inclusive Hawaiian resorts.

Pros:

  • Some of the world’s most beautiful scenery
  • Technicolor sunsets

Con:

  • Not a “rides and attractions” boardwalk

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Ocean city, MD boardwalk and pier at sunset 2015abriggs21/Getty Images

Ocean City, Maryland

Best for: Families with teens

Newsweek called this a “quintessential American beach town,” and it’s hard to disagree. The area’s long golden stretch of sand is paired with a three-mile-long boardwalk filled with amusements, including a vintage carousel from 1902, and decadent beach eats including malt-vinegar-doused Thrasher’s fries and creamy Kohr’s frozen custard. In short, this is an affordable family vacation idea everyone will love.

Pros:

  • Arcade games, fried food, and lots of rides make this a teen magnet
  • Tramcar so you don’t have to walk the whole three-mile stretch

Con:

  • Not a good spot if you want to enjoy a quiet stroll

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Miami Beach, FL, beachwalkWalter Bibikow/Getty Images

Miami Beach, Florida

Best for: People watching

One of TripAdvisor’s top picks for beach boardwalks to visit, this beautifully landscaped pathway starts in bustling South Beach. The boardwalk then heads north for 40 blocks along the Atlantic Ocean. It’s a great option for rollerskating, biking, walking, or simply people-watching. While you’ll be treated to pretty white-sand beaches in Florida, here’s where you can find stunning colored-sand beaches around the world.

Pros:

  • The sizzle of South Beach, Art Deco hotel gems, and white beaches are all within view from the boardwalk
  • A car-free way to get around often-congested Miami

Con:

  • Walkers need to keep an eye out for bike and skate traffic

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The Boardwalk at Disney World...John Greim/Getty Images

Disney World BoardWalk, Florida

Best for: Disney magic

OK, we know Orlando isn’t on the coast, but the same way Disney can create, say, the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars, it’s created a classic beach boardwalk right behind EPCOT. It’s a bit of nostalgia combined with Disney magic, and you’ll find surreys to peddle with your friends or family, arcade games, live entertainment, and plenty of sweet treats from ice cream to funnel cake. And yes, there are even views of a (man-made) sandy beach across rippling water.

Pros:

  • Turn-of-the-century-style fun, including fringed surreys to peddle
  • Easily accessible from EPCOT and Hollywood Studios

Con:

  • Man-made beach and not on an ocean

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rockaway beach boardwalk in new york Sascha Kilmer/Getty Images

Rockaway Beach, New York

Best for: East Coast surf vibes

Did you know New York City has a surf culture…that you can reach by subway? Head out to this city beach and you’ll not only discover some pretty rad surfers hitting the waves but also a fabulous 5.5-mile boardwalk that’s perfect for strolling and studded with hip spots to eat, drink, and play. Head to the Beach 97th Street section for a full array of gourmet food trucks, picnic tables, and, on occasion, live music.

Pros:

  • Easy to get to on public transportation
  • Trendy dining options

Con:

  • A lack of overnight options makes this more of a day trip

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point pleasant new jersey boardwalk at nightKena Betancur/Getty Images

Point Pleasant, New Jersey

Best for: Rides for kids

Jenkinson’s Boardwalk is the name to know for northern Jersey Shore family fun in the town of Point Pleasant. The one-mile stretch is full of rides and games, mini golf, a kid-pleasing aquarium, and lots of indulgent boardwalk ice cream and snack spots. During the summer, there’s an extra bonus: fireworks every Thursday evening. Once you visit, you might want to take the same trip every summer.

Pros:

  • Large selection of kid-friendly rides that spin in circles
  • Pay-one-price “wristband days” make repeat riding on kiddie favorites more affordable
  • The aquarium is a great break from the sun

Con:

  • Not a good choice for thrill rides

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historic pleasure pier galveston texasKimberly Brotherman/Getty Images

Galveston, Texas

Best for: Families with tweens

One of our favorite affordable beach getaways, Galveston is home to Historic Pleasure Pier. The pier was once dubbed “the Coney Island of the South” back at the turn of the last century, before getting knocked down by fierce hurricanes and then recessions. But, as of 2012, the waterfront area is all lights and action as an amusement park that includes a Ferris wheel, a tilt-a-whirl, a log flume, and plenty of places to eat and drink all in an easy-to-navigate area. For another type of vacation that has everything in one spot, check out this list of the best all-inclusive resorts.

Pros:

  • Large selection of tween-friendly rides
  • Pay-one-price bracelets are great for families
  • Log flume for hot Texas days

Con:

  • Gets crowded at night

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Melissa Klurman
Melissa Klurman is a freelance travel writer and editor with more than 27 years experience who reports on travel trends around the planet for Reader's Digest. Winner of a Lowell Thomas Gold Award for excellence in travel writing, she started her career as an editor at both Frommer’s and Fodor’s travel guides, then went on to write about travel for many publications including Family Traveller, Parents, and Working Mother magazines. More recently she has been a contributing editor at Saveur, Islands, and Caribbean Travel and Life and a senior contributor at Travelocity. A New Jersey native, ice cream addict, and a lifelong Bruce Springsteen fan, Klurman lives in Montclair, New Jersey, with her husband, son, and rescue dog.

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