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.
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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
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.
- Free entertainment
- Family-friendly dry town
- Geared more toward families than couples
- No bars or adult nightlife
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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.
- The iconic Cyclone roller coaster
- Accessible by subway from New York City
- Can get very crowded on weekends and holidays
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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.
- Rides galore
- Water park with ocean views
- 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
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.
- Lobster rolls
- Classic amusement rides
- You won’t find the adrenaline-rush attractions here that many newer boardwalks feature
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.
- Close to D.C.
- Classic boardwalk amusements
- It’s hard to find parking if you’re not staying at a nearby hotel
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.
- Biking path
- Live music on multiple stages
- The “boardwalk” is actually concrete
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.
- Sunset from the SkyWheel
- Retro-style fun
- Skews away from families and more toward adults after dark
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.
- Live music at the adjacent Margaritaville Hotel
- Easy beach access
- No family entertainment
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.
- 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
- Casinos are hard to avoid if you stay at one of the big boardwalk properties
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.
- The free nightly show at the Musical Fountain
- Lighthouse photo ops
- Lakes are nice, but it’s not the ocean
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.
- Thrills at the Belmont Amusement Park
- People-watching in the SoCal sunshine
- Hard to find parking
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.
- Grabbing a metal ring while going for a spin on the carousel
- Iconic California scenery
- The rides sometimes have long lines
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.
- Sun-powered spins on the Ferris wheel
- Gorgeous sunset views
- Less spacious than a traditional boardwalk
- Can get very crowded on weekends
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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.
- Some of the world’s most beautiful scenery
- Technicolor sunsets
- Not a “rides and attractions” boardwalk
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.
- 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
- Not a good spot if you want to enjoy a quiet stroll
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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.
- 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
- Walkers need to keep an eye out for bike and skate traffic
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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.
- Turn-of-the-century-style fun, including fringed surreys to peddle
- Easily accessible from EPCOT and Hollywood Studios
- Man-made beach and not on an ocean
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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.
- Easy to get to on public transportation
- Trendy dining options
- A lack of overnight options makes this more of a day trip
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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.
- 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
- Not a good choice for thrill rides
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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.
- Large selection of tween-friendly rides
- Pay-one-price bracelets are great for families
- Log flume for hot Texas days
- Gets crowded at night