The 10 Best Beaches in the Continental US

Looking for a fun beach vacation this summer? The U.S. boasts some great beaches on all three coasts, so whether you want to go east, west or south is up to you. Let’s take a look and explore some of the best family-friendly beach destinations across the continental United States. We’ll start on the East Coast!

Coney Island Beach, Brooklyn, New York

One of the oldest amusement parks in the nation, Coney Island is beloved for its well-known boardwalk, the New York Aquarium, and miles and miles of sandy shores. Not only is it a great beach destination, Coney Island also has tons of family-friendly activities, including the Cyclone roller coaster, the Wonder Wheel (a 150-foot Ferris wheel ride), and other rides and attractions. The public beach section is 3 miles long and is awesome for families trying to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Nantucket, Massachusetts

Another East Coast treasure, Nantucket has a reputation as a getaway for elite New England residents, but it also is a great place for a family vacation. This tiny Massachusetts island offers stunning beaches such as Jetties Beach, Surfside Beach, and Madaket Beach. All of Nantucket features amazing beach views, the freshest seafood, chances to whale-watch, lighthouses to explore, and plenty of opportunities to fish or just relax and enjoy the natural scenery.

Seaside Beach, Seaside, Florida

A hidden gem of Florida, Seaside Beach is located in the heart of the Florida Panhandle between Panama City Beach and Destin. Seaside is especially charming because it’s a planned community that is completely pedestrian-friendly – no car? No problem! The rows of lovely, pastel-colored cottages provide Seaside vacation rentals to all sizes of families, and everything is within walking distance. Explore the sugar white beaches, ride bikes through the cozy town, and watch the sun set over the bright blue Gulf waters as you relax and enjoy the sights and sounds of this quiet beach town.

© Michael Gäbler / Wikimedia Commons

North Beach, Tybee Island, Georgia

There is a fabulous beach called North Beach only 18 miles from Savannah, Georgia. North Beach features the historical Tybee Island Lighthouse with stunning 360-degree views (after climbing 178 stairs!). This barrier island is often named one of the top-rated beaches in the U.S. for a great family getaway. Relax in the sand and surf, fish, take the kids on a chartered dolphin tour, and try a variety of water sports all in one place.

Gulf Shores Public Beach, Alabama

Gulf Shores is a popular vacation spot and for good reason. This beach in Alabama offers white sands, clear water, and lots of tropical palm trees. It also has a fun boardwalk area, which leads to plenty of restaurants and shops. Its relatively calm surf is perfect for playing beach volleyball or boogie boarding if you want to get your family in the water, especially if you have very young kids who have taken early swimming lessons. It’s also a great place to watch the fishermen, pelicans, and occasionally see the dolphins pass by.

Hilton Head, South Carolina

Hilton Head, South Carolina, is another well-known beach destination. This beach is a little different because the sand on the shorelines is fairly hard-packed, which makes it perfect for family bike rides (60 miles of bike trails) or throwing a ball around. Coligny Beach Park, Driessen Beach Park, or Mitchelville Beach are all great family-friendly beach options, each offering something a little different depending on what you and your family want to do. Not only does Hilton Head have amazing beaches, it also has world-class golf courses.

Outer Banks, North Carolina

North Carolina’s Outer Banks are 200 miles long and steeped in history, so be ready to explore! The beaches at Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills offer swimming, surfing, and skimboarding for the more adventurous. Kill Devil Hills is where the Wright brothers took their first flight and where the pirate Blackbeard fought his last battle at Ocracoke. The Outer Banks is also home to 3,000 shipwrecks (“the graveyard of the Atlantic”) that can be explored by snorkeling or scuba diving. Fishing, boating, windsurfing, and wildlife watching are also popular activities in the Outer Banks.

Harris Beach, Oregon

Harris Beach is located on Oregon’s southern coast in a state park that hosts miles and miles of beach shorelines, interesting geological rock formations and some amazing tide pools. It also features a host of wildlife, including migrating grey whales, California sea lions, and other birds and animals. This amazing retreat from everyday life also offers a fully equipped campground for your RV or tent. If you are feeling especially close to nature, you can also avail yourself of a few yurts located near the beach as well.

Roger Sylvia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Coronado Beach, San Diego, California

On the West Coast, there are many beaches to choose from. One of them is warm, sunny Coronado Beach in the San Diego area. This beach is only a mile and a half long, but its beautiful sand glitters with bits of mica and welcomes one and all to its sunny shores. The whole family can enjoy swimming, surfing, and sunbathing. Another cool spot to investigate is dog-friendly North Beach, where you can watch the puppies run and play in the water’s surf all day long.

Santa Monica Beach, California

Another stunning California destination is Santa Monica State Beach just west of Los Angeles. This beach is true Southern California, where the weather is sunny all year round. It’s about 3.5 miles long and the perfect spot to sunbathe, swim, surf, fish or watch the sun set. It’s home to the Santa Monica Pier, which is similar to Coney Island. The Pier has an amusement park with a roller coaster, Ferris wheel, midway games, and carnival food for great family fun. You can also enjoy the Heal the Bay Aquarium, which is beneath the carousel and features hands-on activities for kids and adults alike.

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