25 of the Best Beaches in America to Hit This Summer
Whether you're looking to relax on a secluded, sandy island, hit up a major tourist spot, enjoy some culture, or find a beach filled with activities for your kid, you'll find a beach on this list that you'll love!
Grayton Beach, Santa Rosa, Florida
Known for its classic “beach town” appeal, Santa Rosa is considered one of the spots to enjoy your best beach vacation in the United States. Though there are other beaches in this beautiful town, Grayton Beach is a gem just outside of Destin known for its white sand beaches. Vicky Shickles of Indianapolis notes that the beach is beautiful and well maintained. “It’s great because it is not overpopulated and is very quiet,” she says. Don’t miss these charming small towns in America.
Waikiki Beach, Hawaii
Hawaii is known for its laid-back atmosphere and beautiful beaches. Waikiki is noted as one of the best beaches on the islands because of its tranquility and easy access from most resorts and hotels in Honolulu. Lalie Williamson of PLACE has visited and notes that it also wasn’t very crowded. “It was great to just lay on a towel and read without worrying about being disturbed.” Another reason it makes her best beach list? The clear water perfect for swimming.
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Vacationers flock to Hilton Head for its seven beautiful public access beaches and close proximity to restaurants and other activities. Gorgeous hotels and home rentals make this a popular “best beach” family vacation spot as well. These are the 12 best beach island vacations in the United States.
Riis Beach (Jacob Riis Park), Far Rockaway, New York
Queens, New York and beautiful beach may not be synonymous in your mind, but this beach is called “The People’s Beach,” for a reason. Known for its art deco bathhouse, this is a great beach retreat for a day off from the daily grind. According to Riel Peerbooms of Brooklyn, New York, “It’s super diverse, so close to the city, and yet such an escape—it’s all the things we love about the city, but at the beach!”
Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
Looking for a quaint and historical getaway? Check out Martha’s Vineyard. Both Aquinnah and Edgartown boast beautiful lighthouses and Aquinnah is known for its cliffs. The Vineyard is also home to some of the best seafood and is ideal for exploring, fishing, and if you’re so inclined, sketching and reading! Just know that if you’re planning on driving there, the summertime ferries are booked months in advance.
Anna Maria Island, Florida
Just 20 minutes from Bradenton, Anna Maria Island is a family-friendly vacation destination. With restaurants and lots of beautiful houses to rent for the weekend or a few weeks, this is a popular year-round destination. Orlando, Florida teacher, Angela Meechin, goes with her family and loves it thanks to its “laid back feel, wide-open beaches, and beautiful water on the gulf side.” You can take the whole crew to Anna Maria Island, or any of the 20 best family-friendly beaches.
South Beach, South Haven, Michigan
South Haven is a popular summer retreat thanks to its beautiful beaches on Lake Michigan, a popular destination of Midwesterners. South Beach is especially well-known as it boasts wonderful children’s playgrounds and its famous red lighthouse. Also, close to many colleges, it provides an escape for students and staff. “It allowed me to get away from all the stress,” notes Dustin Thomas of Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Boca Grande, Florida
Located on the Gulf shore, this is a stunning beach revered for great fishing and stunning views. Within a reasonable driving distance from Fort Myers, this is a great beach to visit in Florida that will have more locals than tourists. Enjoy shopping, lunch, and ice cream nearby. Find out the 10 beaches with the clearest water.
Carpinteria Beach, California
Former California resident Shelby Beam explains that Carpinteria is one of the best beaches in the United States due to its beauty as well as the activities. “There are lots of tide pools to explore, rocks to climb, starfish, and sea anemone that you can touch and hold,” she says. “The beach was great for riding waves on boogie boards, building sand castles, and exploring.” Looking for a camping spot as well? This beach is perfect for that!
Gulf Shores, Alabama
Now a major tourist destination, Gulf Shores, Alabama is considered the best beach by many. Florell Hand of Indiana has been traveling there for about 25 years. “Having grown up about a half hour from the Florida coast, beach vacations were simply non-negotiable and became a yearly retreat,” she says. What keeps her coming back? “We return year after year for the clean white sand, favorite restaurants, bike trails, the variety of shopping, and the down-home, laid back atmosphere.” Make sure you get the best deal possible with these 16 secrets for amazing airfares.
Visit this Pine State beauty during low tide and you’ll be rewarded with wide stretches of sand, perfect for hunting for treasure in tidal pools, building sand castles, or playing Frisbee. So it’s not surprising the 3.5-mile Ogunquit, which means “beautiful place by the sea” as named by the indigenous Abenaki tribe, is a popular spot for families. After a relaxing day on the beach, walk the cliff-side path known as Marginal Way to the charming fishing village of Perkins Cove for some lobster. The 145-year old Cliff House in nearby Cape Neddick underwent a multimillion-dollar refresh in 2018 and is better than ever. These are the 20 best travel destinations in the United States, according to TripAdvisor.
Cape May, New Jersey
Have an old-fashioned beach vacation at the nation’s oldest seaside resort. Located on New Jersey’s southernmost tip, Cape May is not the “Jersey Shore” you’re thinking of. Although the cape’s beaches are popular, they’re frequented by families and couples looking for a relaxing getaway—no rowdy crowds here. Cape May’s pristine sands also have the distinction of being one of the few non-island locations where visitors can see the sun rise and set over the ocean. Plus, the town is lined with historic Victorian homes, top-notch restaurants, and lovely bed-and-breakfasts.
Makalawena Beach, Big Island, Hawaii
You’d be hard-pressed to find a Hawaiian beach that wasn’t spectacular. And on the Big Island, Hapuna Beach is often ranked as one of the world’s best—but it also may be crowded, so our pick is the more remote Makalawena, where you’ll truly feel you’ve landed on a deserted isle.”Makalawena is a hidden gem—you have to hike to it,” says Sandy Bernardo, a frequent visitor to Hawaii. The 30-minute trek over a lava field is enough to deter most people, but those who can get to “Mak” are rewarded with picture-perfect white sand, clear water, and gentle surf—and far fewer people.
Sandbridge Beach, Virginia
Virginia is for lovers—beach lovers, that is! Although Virginia Beach proper has tons of attractions and activities, Sandbridge Beach, just south, offers a quieter, calmer experience. There’s not a lot to do besides enjoying the sand and surf of this secluded hideaway, but that’s part of its charm—and it’s close enough to busier Virginia Beach that visitors can venture out when they chose. But it’s so tranquil here, you might not want to leave! These are the best budget-friendly beach destinations.
Ruby Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington
Don’t expect to see palm trees here. But for those who prefer their beaches rugged and wild, check out Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park. Sea stacks, or mounds of rock that jut up from the coastline, make this a perfect spot for exploring. Tidal pools and piles of driftwood provide endless opportunities for searching for sea creatures, and visitors should also be on the lookout for eagles, otters, and whales. Plus, sandbars give kids the opportunity for wading in the water. “This beach is simply breathtaking, with the unique, rugged sea stacks out in the ocean…that make for some really cool photo opps, and kids love to climb on the lower parts of these,” one mom wrote on her blog. “The tide pool exploration is great during low tide.” Olympic National Park, which protects 73 miles of the most undeveloped coastline in the lower 48, is also home to other coastal treasures including Rialto Beach, Shi Shi Beach, and Kalaloch Beach.
Coquina Beach, Outer Banks, North Carolina
The Outer Banks, nicknamed OBX, are a national treasure, with 130 miles of gorgeous beaches on barrier islands off the North Carolina coast—not to mention national history, as the Wright Brothers first flew a plane on a windy beach near Kitty Hawk. Our pick for the best OBX beach, though, is Coquina Beach, part of Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Completely undeveloped, the white sands seems endless, and visitors will find ample beach-combing, shelling, surf fishing, and bird watching opportunities. You can also get a driving permit to off-road on the sand. Check out the 17 summer vacations everyone should take before they’re 50.
Wingaersheek Beach, Gloucester, Massachusetts
From Cape Cod to Nantucket, Massachusetts has no shortage of picture-perfect New England beaches, and north of Boston lies this beautiful stretch of shore. “Wingaersheek Beach is the most stunning beach in the northeast—I’m partial because it’s my hometown, but it’s truly gorgeous,” says Cara Bradshaw, who now lives in New Jersey. “Walk out on the mile-long sandbar at low tide, climb the rocks along the Anisquam River, and enjoy waters that, after July, rival the Caribbean in color and temperature.” Check out the best weekend getaways in every state.
Huntington Beach, California
Like Hawaii and Florida, it’s nearly impossible to pick the best Southern California beach—from Malibu and Santa Monica to Laguna Beach and San Diego, the possibilities for fun in the sun are endless. But if we had to, we’d settle on laid-back Huntington Beach, aka Surf City, USA. Even if you don’t ride the waves, this ten mile stretch of Orange County shoreline has tons to offer, with a wide, flat beach for relaxing and strolling—plus, free-use fire pits let you have your own private bonfire. Visitors can also walk the pier to the iconic Ruby’s Surf City Diner.
Driftwood Beach, Jekyll Island, Georgia
The walking path to this quiet beach on Jekyll Island, one of Georgia’s Golden Isles, may be a bit hidden, but those who can locate the spot are in for a treat. The surreal landscape of sun-bleached trees that seem to emerge right from the sand is a photographer’s dream—not to mention their branches are perfect for swinging from or hanging a hammock on. At low tide, the mudflats also provide ample opportunity for young explorers to search for sea life and shells. Find out about 11 amazing beaches to add to your bucket list ASAP.
Block Island, Rhode Island
Rhode Island isn’t called the Ocean State for nothing. Reachable only by ferry, the state’s offshore jewel Block Island boasts 17 miles of beaches, including wide swaths of sand and crystal-clear waters at Crescent Beach and Mansion Beach. But one of the most dramatic coastal locales is Mohegan Bluffs, where a narrow strip of shore is reached by 141 stairs descending the 200-foot cliffs. Bring a picnic for the day while enjoying the secluded spot and ocean views reaching all the way to Long Island. Here are 10 gorgeous beaches with the clearest water in the world.
Assateague Island, Maryland and Virginia
This 37 mile-long barrier island is home to natural beauty, warm waters, and wild ponies—literally. Thought to be the descendants of horses that swam ashore after a shipwreck centuries ago, they’re the main draw to the island’s beaches. But the protected National Seashore also offers an unspoiled coast perfect for swimming, shelling, crabbing, and birding. You can also plan to camp on the beach or find lodging in Chincoteague, Virginia, or Ocean City, Maryland. Check out 20 amazing family beaches you need to visit this summer.
Coopers Beach, Southampton, New York
The Hamptons conjure images of old mansions and a glamorous lifestyle, but their gorgeous beaches actually deserve the attention. Coopers Beach in Southampton, one of the best stretches of Long Island’s southern coast, offers white sand and calm waters. The $40 parking fee isn’t a surprise given the beach’s tony locale, but you can park in the village and take the free shuttle instead or bike from your hotel.
Indiana Dunes State Park, Indiana
Even Midwesterners can have their day at the beach with this secret spot. Its soft sand and blue-green water may have you wondering if you’re really in a landlocked state because Indiana Dunes truly rivals any ocean beach. With abundant natural beauty, wide open sands, and its namesake dunes, the area is the state’s top tourist attraction. Visitors can also check out Indiana Dunes National Park (recently upgraded from National Lakeshore), next door.
Fripp Island Beach, South Carolina
South Carolina has some of the East Coast’s best beaches—and it’s not hard to see why with rave reviews like this one for Fripp Island Beach, less than 20 miles east of Beaufort. “It is six miles long and secluded, a good place to get tons of sand dollars,” says Gina Wojciechowski of Ohio. “We started going there in 1983 and we will be going there once again this summer. It is just a beautiful, pristine, non-crowded beach—you can count on your one hand how many people are on the beach!”
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
For a classic summer beach vacation, head to Rehoboth Beach and boardwalk. This family-friendly destination is the perfect place to play in the surf and on the sand, then hit up the mile-long boardwalk for ice cream. The bandstand near the boardwalk also gives free concerts, so you can enjoy some music while relaxing in your beach chair. It may be a popular spot, but you can’t beat the vibe. Best of all, access to the beach is free. Don’t miss these affordable beach vacations to take with your family.
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