America’s Best Beaches, US 2017-07-16T17:04:40+00:00

US Best Beaches, America

Venice Beach skate park, Los Angeles, CA. Photo Cookaa

Venice Beach skate park, Los Angeles, CA. Photo Cookaa

Looking for a beach in the US

The US, the world’s third largest country, has 12, 383 miles of coast (19, 924 kms) with a vast variety of beaches on three sides, from untouched nature reserves to funky city beaches, from the Atlantic’s chilly expanses to the Pacific’s wild surf play grounds, you name it, they got it.

The United States of America is the most commercialised country on earth so the extent and quality of the beach facilities available is considerable – even in remote locations – with restrooms, showers, parking, accommodation, shops and cafés rarely far away.

In addition extensive local information can usually be obtained via the internet.

Many beaches, especially those in national parks, have regulations such as no alcohol, no food or pets on the beach, and often charge entrance or parking fees.

The best beach season

This is impossible to define but generally in the northern half of the United States it’s basically July and August whereas in the southern half of America it’s from May to September, though water temperatures are best in late summer, August/September.

However, Florida’s best beach season is a bit different due to the storm season arriving in August, along with debris, squalls, seaweed on the sand and overpowering humidity.

Miami South Beach, Florida, USA

Miami South Beach, Florida.

The USA‘s Sunshine State of Florida encompasses hundreds of beaches on 1, 100 miles of three coasts- if you count the Florida Keys as the south coast. Beaches range from popular spring break city sand such as glamorous Miami South Beach and long, flat, car-friendly Daytona beach, to diminutive tropical beaches in the Florida Keys, or unspoilt National Park beaches such as Canaveral and Perdido Key on Florida’s West Coast.

Compared to America’s Pacific beaches, Florida beaches – especially those on the west or south side – are swimmer-friendly, often with soft, fine white sand and warm, calm and clean waters – in season. Florida waters are not warm or necessarily calm in wintertime!

You may find city beaches overcrowded and face an accommodation shortage in the high season from Easter to Labor day, roughly April to September. We have included some famous names that are not on the best beaches list but still warrant inclusion for their activities.

Huntington Beach, California, USA

Huntington Beach, California. Photo by Anthony Reyes.

California is one of America’s most popular holiday destinations, known for its countless outdoor activity options and home to many great Pacific shore beaches including some frequently featured in Hollywood movies and TV series such as Venice Beach and Coronado Beach.

Since more than half of the state’s inhabitants lives within 100 km of the coast, traffic in the high holiday season can be a smoking, steel-belted nightmare; if you value your elbow-room, both on beaches and roads, it’s wise to visit in low season.

California’s southern end beaches are wide, warm, sunny and sandy while those on the northern coast tend to be windy and rocky but curvaceous, tree-hugged and more scenically attractive.

Pacific Ocean water is nothing like clear Caribbean blue, more of a dark green while sand quality is not as fine as that on the east coast, usually beige or golden colour with coarse grains, and often unmanicured so if you’re looking for isolation then seaweed, flotsam and jetsam is part of the deal, especially on state park shores.

Lanikai beach in the east of Oahu island, Hawaii, USA

Lanikai beach in the east of Oahu island, Hawaii. Photo by Hakilon.

Hawaii, a short line of a tropical paradise islands in the Pacific Ocean, ‘the lovliest fleet of islands that lies anchored in any ocean ‘ according to Mark Twain, offers a terrific climate, sophisticated hospitality, fantastic soft sandy beaches – with plenty of space if you get away from Waikiki, magnificent landscapes, zero deadly land critters and, of course, stunning surf, literally.

The USA’s best beaches are mostly in those three states, however. . .

There are a few alternative hotspots on America’s east coast

New Hampshire

Hampton Beach, far from natural but large and clean, this well-developed and lively stretch of soft sand is one of America’s most loved beaches, with plenty of action day and night in the summertime, from music concerts, regattas, and sand sculpting contests to food festivals, so expect large crowds particularly from July to August. There are several state parks with fine beaches and first class golf courses in the area, as well as other entertainment facilities such as cinema and shopping malls.

Getting there: Hampton Beach is 15 miles (24 km) south of Portsmouth.

Massachusetts

Cape Cod Bay, Massachusetts, USA

Cape Cod Bay, East Coast US. Photo by PapaDunes.

Cape Cod’s National Seashore is a little far north to offer perfect, bathing-suit beaches, but is nevertheless home to some of the USA’s most attractive coastlines, with an unspoilt, scenic shore that includes 40 miles of fine sandy beaches dotted with woods, rocky bays, handsome seaside towns and lively harbours, with terrific hiking and biking trails. Cape Cod beaches are washed by clean but very chilly waters and the air temperature is generally none too hot either.

Some of the most scenic National Seashore beaches can be found in Provincetown at the eastern tip of the Cape, such as Race Point and Herring Cove with spectacular dunes and brilliant sunsets.
For swimming, try the largest and most popular beach, Nauset, or less busy Coast Guard Beach and Nauset Light Beach in Eastham, though the Atlantic waters are always cool.

Alternatively head over to Skaket Beach in Orleans or Sandy Neck Beach in Sandwich for warmer Cape Cod Bay seas. Sandy Neck is also popular for beach auto cruising, though it officially requires a special permit.

The best public facilities are found at Jetties Beach in Nantucket including a board walk, tennis courts, volleyball nets and a skate park. Various watersports lessons and rentals are also available.

If your prime interest is walking, try Gay Head Public Beach (Mosh-up Beach), Aquinnah town on Martha’s Vineyard island for its spectacular red clay cliff views, lighthouse and hard packed sand. It also offers good surf and an area set aside for naturists. Off Moshe-up Trail. However, parking is expensive and limited.

Getting there: From Boston take Route 3 south to the Sagamore Bridge in Bourne. Follow Route 6 eastward to Eastham and Provincetown. From Providence, RI take I-95 north to, I-195. Follow Route 6 eastward as above.

Rhode Island

Newport Rhode Island, USA

Newport Rhode Island. Photo by Michael Kagdis.

With Rhode Island’s 411 miles of rugged coastline and small but pretty beaches it makes perfect sense to call the place the ‘Ocean State’.
South County (the southern part of the state) has fine sandy beaches, many of them with protective dunes, as well as the stony and rocky kind shores that are the province of walkers.

Some of Rhode Island’s best beaches are: Misquamicut State Beach in Westerly, with half a mile of soft sand; Napatree Point with grassy dunes and the Victorian resort of Watch Hill in Washington; the local’s favourite swimming spot East Matunuck State Beach, has a glorious view over the dunes of the Succotash Salt Marsh at South Kingstown in Washington; the Ninigret Conservation Area in Charlestown with 1, 700-acre saltwater pond is great for both swimming and walking.

Getting there: Drive via Interstate 95, the main east coast major highway from Maine to Florida. Interstate Routes 95 and 195 offer access to most of Rhode Island’s major cities from Westerly to Providence to Pawtucket to East Providence.

New York

Lido Beach on Long Island, New York

Lido Beach on Long Island, New York. Photo by Michael LoCascio.

Long Island, the biggest island on the country’s east coast with 400 miles of coastline and only a short drive east of Manhattan (via the Brooklyn Bridge) embraces some of America’s best beaches, known for their long stretches of sugar white sands, mild surf, clear refreshing water, colorful communities and flashing nightlife.
Prepare for crushing crowds in summer months, particularly driving along route 27.

The celebrated Hamptons Beaches, known simply as ‘The Hamptons’, is an entire area of the South Fork, where the glitterati have been spending their summers for more than 100 years.

Some favourites are:
• East Hampton’s Main Beach for July 4th fireworks.
• The large public beach in Jones Beach State Park.
• Stylish Southampton’s Coopers Beach if you do not mind sky-high parking fees.
• Fire Island National Seashore for its natural beauty.

Getting there: a dozen major roads from New York City lead into Long Island, all New York airports offer transport there and ferries run the gauntlet too.

New Jersey

Atlantic City's famous Boardwalk and redeveloping dunes, New Jersey, USA

Atlantic City’s famous Boardwalk and redeveloping dunes, New Jersey.

Although Atlantic City is well-known for the world’s first and longest board walk, entertainment complexes and vast beach, the Jersey Shore hosts more than 90 miles of superb beaches in its 127 miles of coastline.

Some of the region’s best beaches can be found at
• Southernmost Cape May, New Jersey’s most historic beach with village atmosphere, great for children.
• In the small beach resort of Ocean City.
• Local favourites are Wildwood & Wildwood Crest.
• Less-known is Long Beach Island.
• The tiny beach community of Seaside Heights on a barrier island.
• Secluded Stone Harbour Point.
• Eco-friendly Island Beach State Park.

Getting there: the Jersey Shore is New Jersey’s Atlantic coast.

North Carolina

Cape Hatteras Light Station beach, North Carolina

Cape Hatteras Light Station beach, North Carolina. Photo by Azaelpitti07.

The best beaches in North Carolina’s 300 miles of coastline and barrier islands can be found along the Outer Bank such as The Cape Hatteras National Seashore, the first protected seashore in the country and its 16 miles of wilderness beaches offer a wide variety of outdoor activities as well as historic interest. This is regarded as one of the country’s best water playgrounds.

The beaches on the Pamlico Sound side are easier to swim in, with shallower, calmer waters than the Atlantic Ocean side and its powerful currents.

The most accessible beach is Carolina Beach State Park combined with the Freeman Park Recreation Area, providing countless sport options, entertainments and facilities, so this works well for family vacations.

Getting there: Carolina Beach is located off US 421 in New Hanover County on Dow Road, 10 miles south of Wilmington.

South Carolina

America’s No. 1 golf destination, South Carolina is remarkable for its variety of beach resorts. In the north, there is well-developed, family friendly Myrtle Beach and the Grand Strand; in the middle, pleasant golf resort beaches such as Kiawa Island and Folly Island in the historic Charleston area; or the south is where Lowcountry’s scenic natural beaches lie, such as the outermost Fripp Island, or well-known resort of Hilton Head, the largest island between New Jersey and Florida with nearly 20 kms of beach.

The best beach may be Beachwalker Park, the only one open to the public in the private island of Kiawah, boasting 18 kms of unspoilt sandy. The park features a wide boardwalk, river view and picnic area.
If you are a surfer, try easygoing 11 km long Folly beach, one of the best surfing destinations on the East coast.

Getting there: South Carolina Beaches are located off US route 17; each resort areas has an airport (Myrtle Beach international, Carlton International and Hilton Head Island Airport).

Texas

South Padre Island, Texas, USA. Photo by David.

South Padre Island, Texas. Photo by David.

Tourists don’t normally associate beaches with Texas but there is no shortage of welcoming sand along nearly 400 miles of Gulf coastline and seven barrier islands.

Sea Rim State Park, though severely damaged by recent hurricanes is for nature lovers, Mustang Island State Park with its 5-mile stretch of powder sand, 30 minutes ferry from Corpus Christi, is great for weekends.

The finest beach is the popular resort of South Padre Island, with 30 miles of silky sand, calm water, mild weather and excellent nightlife, an ideal destination for spring vacations and very, very close to Mexico if you run out of tequila.

For absolute solitude, try sleeping on a primitive beach campground at Matagorda Island State Park and Wildlife Management Area.

Getting to South Padre Island: Take Interstate Hwy 37 south from San Antonio to U. S. Hwy. 77, then east on Texas 100. When your feet get wet, you’re on the beach at South Padre Island!

Looking for more?

Cumberland Island National Seashore, Georgia for wildness – pristine maritime forests, undeveloped beaches and wide marshes.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan for dune climbing and if the force is with you take a hike on the 3. 5 miles round trip Dunes Trail to Lake Michigan. Climbing the dunes is fine exercise and there is stunning view of Glen Lake from the top. With the parking lot and picnic area at the base of the dune, you can stop climbing when you get tired and let gravity bring you back down.

Shi Shi Beach in Olympic National Park, near Seattle, Washington State, is a wild place that works perfectly for sea-stack sunsets and sensational though potentially perilous beach hiking (beware tides, fast stream crossings, bears and flaky rocks).

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