Plan your fun beach getaway. Imagine whisking away to the inviting waters of the Atlantic Ocean. From Maine all the way down to Florida, America’s eastern shores are home to a diverse collection of beautiful beaches perfect for your next summer vacation. Here are the top Atlantic and Gulf beaches in no specific order
Bowman’s Beach, Sanibel FL
This quiet county park is home to one of the most popular beaches on Sanibel. Situated well off a long stretch on Sanibel-Captiva Road, the beach presents a certain “undiscovered” feel when you arrive. This also translates into excellent shelling and great photo opportunities, especially at sunset. The sand is white and there are miles of it for you to walk, unobstructed. The water is calm, great for swimming or floating. It’s also stunningly clear and it will wash all your cares away. The walk from the parking lot to the beach will take you a good five minutes but it’s worth it. The park features shady picnic tables, grills and public restrooms. Make sure you are ready to walk, because it’s about a five minute hike from the parking lot to a choice beach spot. You can walk for miles on the white sand. The beach is full of shells, the water is clear; it’s a peaceful paradise.
Coligny Beach Park, Hilton Head, SC
This public beach and park near the end of Hilton Head Island draws a crowd thanks to its many amenities, including restrooms, changing areas, outdoor showers, and chairs and umbrellas (available for rent seasonally). Unlike many private beaches on the island, Coligny Beach has several seasonal lifeguards on duty who monitor the action in the water. The park area features a gazebo with swings and rocking chairs, well-manicured walking paths and an interactive water fountain for children. After enjoying the surf and sand, beachgoers can head on over to nearby Coligny Plaza to shop, eat lunch or dinner, and grab a sweet treat.
The Cove, Cape May, NJ
The Cove is a beach for all seasons that draws swimmers, kayakers, and surfers in sultry weather; beachcombers, birders, and surf anglers arrive during the cooler months. The gray-sand beach has been a popular seaside retreat since Victorian days. The Cove Beach provides the perfect reason to get out of your comfortable hotel room for the evening and see a spectacular sunset. The ocean horizon seen from this popular beach is completely unobstructed, allowing for a panoramic view of the sky as the sun dips below the horizon. Sunset along The Cove is the perfect time for a stroll along the smooth beach sand with a loved one. During the day, the beach is still relaxed, but more crowded with the out of town folks. Plenty of kayakers and surfers can be seen dotting the water’s edge; at The Cove you can choose to just lay on a towel in the sand and watch the action, or join in the fun by renting a kayak or body board. Swimming is a bit difficult, as the water is not always calm, but dipping your feet in the water is always pleasant. Don’t forget to take a look at the excellent daytime view of the famous Cape May Lighthouse.
Virginia Beach, VA
Many visitors don’t realize that Virginia Beach is not just a beach; it’s actually made up of several unique beach experiences, each with their own distinct personality. Events happen almost every weekend, but some of the most popular include the Boardwalk Art Show, Neptune Festival, the East Coast Surfing Championship and the Rock ‘N’ Roll Half Marathon! Virginia’s most popular state park, First Landing State Park, features trails for hiking and biking, camp sites, swimming and rental sports equipment. Some of Virginia’s most visited attractions are in Virginia Beach, such as the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center, Cape Henry Lighthouses, the Association for Research & Enlightenment as well as the Ocean Breeze Waterpark! For the outdoor enthusiast, Virginia Beach offers sports fishing charters, SCUBA and snorkeling, surfing and sailing for the beginner with expert instruction and rental equipment. Biking along the Virginia Beach Boardwalk and Back Bay National Refuge, hiking and watching wildlife at North River Landing Natural Area, and just hanging out at ocean side make Virginia Beach a prime family vacation spot!
The sound of ocean waves, the starry night sky, or the calm of the salt marshes, you can experience it all. Shaped by the forces of water, wind, and storms these islands are ever changing. The plants, wildlife, and people who live here adapt continually. Whether you are enjoying the beach, kayaking the sound, or climbing the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse there is something for everyone to explore! Each summer, coastal birds find Cape Hatteras National Seashore beaches the ideal place to find mates, nest, and raise their young. Off-road vehicle use is allowed in certain areas of Cape Hatteras National Seashore, for both sound and ocean access.
Myrtle Beach, SC
As the largest resort along South Carolina’s 60-mile Grand Strand, Myrtle Beach is the East Coast’s ultimate vacation hub. The town teems with summertime action: beaches dotting the Strand, amusement and water parks, restaurants and live entertainment. Myrtle Beach’s actual beach is an extensive stretch of silky white sand, with opportunities for fishing, swimming, sunbathing, sailing and surfing. People choose to visit the Myrtle Beach area for lots of reasons, but it mostly boils down to this: options for fun. With 60-uninterrupted-miles of beautiful sandy beaches, this coastal strip of South Carolina known as the Grand Strand is the necklace that strings together a diversity of beach destinations. Pick your pearl: the quiet fishing village of Little River, the luxury resorts of North Myrtle Beach, the family-focused beaches of Garden City and Surfside, the culinary haven of Murrells Inlet, the laid-back, Southern pace of Litchfield and Pawleys Island, the historical richness of Georgetown or shoot the moon and go for the bustling, high-excitement amusements of Myrtle Beach.
Folly Beach, Charleston, NC
Besides the sand and waves, Folly is known for its growing restaurant scene, state park, and water sport rentals. Folly Beach is the ideal choice among Charleston’s many nearby beaches, due to the variety of lunch and dinner options, local watering holes and outdoor bars, and rental beachfront homes and bungalows. Stay at the Tides Hotel, which is located just steps from the shoreline and boasts a popular in-house restaurant, Blu. While you’re visiting Folly, grab some breakfast at Lost Dog Cafe, and head to Taco Boy for a midday shrimp taco break from the heat!
Located just a 20 minute drive from downtown Charleston, Folly Beach, also dubbed “The Edge of America,” is a family-friendly beach town popular with college students, surfers, and out of town vacationers year round. Choose Folly as your Charleston area beach destination for its delicious restaurants and bars, such as Taco Boy and Rita’s, as well as its numerous beachfront chair, umbrella and jet ski rentals. Surfing lessons are also easily obtained on Folly! Most street parking is free – avoid designated pay-as-you-park areas. Take note that alcohol is now prohibited on Folly Beach. This beach also employs some complicated dog policies: No dogs are allowed on the beach from May 1st through September 30th between 10am and 6pm (high season and peak time). During the off-season from October 1st through April 30th, your canine companion is welcome on the beach at anytime, as long as it’s on a leash. To learn more about Charleston, or to plan your vacation to this great beach travel destination, visit our Charleston Travel Guide.
Ocracoke Island Beach, Outer Banks, NC
Ocracoke is famous for the natural beauty of the sand, sun and surf. With sixteen miles of pristine, undeveloped, wild beaches, the island always has the perfect spot just for you. From the north end to South Point, the beach offers plenty of wide open spaces for all to enjoy. Surf fisherman, kite flyers, kite boarders, sunbathers, shell seekers, surfers, boogie boarders, sandcastle builders, nature lovers, and everyone else will find that Ocracoke’s beaches are the best. Dr. Beach ranked this beach #1 in the U.S. in 2007, and then retired it from the list to give other beaches a shot at the top ten. All of the ocean beach is owned by the National Park Service as part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Parts of the beach are open to Off-Road vehicles, but make sure and check the map to find out which ramps are open to driving. Seasonal closures for bird and turtle nesting may be in place.
Hunting Island State Park, Beaufort, SC
Hunting Island State Park is one of the most popular state parks and beach areas in South Carolina. The Hunting Island beach attracts over a million visitors a year. The pristine sandy beach, natural setting and warm Atlantic Ocean make a perfect getaway. Hunting Island features a campground, which has spaces for RV’s and tent campers, as well as a primitive camp site for established groups. The camping area has very easy access to the beach. The Hunting Island historic lighthouse is the only lighthouse open to the public to climb in the state. From the top platform, one can get a breathtaking view of the ocean, beach and the marshland. Fishing is popular in the lagoon, surf and the fishing pier which reaches 1120 feet into the Fripp Inlet. Located at the pier entrance, is the Nature Center, which has some very nice exhibits of the local wildlife and marine life. There are nature trails, a visitor center, a natural beach and even a boat landing. Hunting Island State Park is not just another beach… it’s a nature and wildlife paradise… right here in the USA.
Gulf Island National Seashore, Gulf Breeze, FL
Come and enjoy the crystal-blue waters and white-powder beaches, marshes and historic sites located along this stretch of 150 miles spanning from Santa Rosa Island to West Ship Island in Mississippi. Visit the barrier islands which feature historic sites including forts and a tree farm begun by John Quincy Adams. Swimming areas are located at Perdido Key, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Fort Pickens. Visitors may also choose to fish from the beach, snorkel, scuba dive and walk on nature trails. Camping fees are $16-30 with electricity, but reservations are required.
Not to leave out, in my opinion, the top beach in the U.S. You can find all the great information on this area here, St. Pete Beach & Clearwater Beach.