Best East Coast Beaches

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Clearwater Beach

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.

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32 Comments

  1. Mike

    I have never been on the east coast but Clearwater sure looks nice! Very helpful and informative post! Thank you.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      I live on Clearwater Beach 🙂 I love it, but it is the top beach in the U.S. and EVERYBODY visits here for spring break. So we have a good 3 months of a really crowded beach and traffic….ugh…Yet, it is amazing! Thanks for stopping by the best east coast beaches.

      Reply
  2. Matthew

    I have always wanted to visit Florida with my family but to be honest with you it was mainly for the theme parks but after seeing these gorgeous beaches down the east coast of America I am rethinking our whole vacation. Could you family visit all these beaches in a 3 week holiday?

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Oh yes, you can definitely visit all three beaches in one week. Shoot I can hit more than one in a day if I want to (I live on Clearwater Beach :). The nice thing is that you could hit the theme parks as well. From Clearwater, Orlando is about an hour and a half drive. Not far at all. The traffic can get atrocious with people coming and going from the theme parks, so staying there for 3 days for the theme parks would be my recommendation. I love it here, and I know you would too 🙂 Thanks for visiting!

      Reply
  3. Ahmad Ballard

    Hello once again, thanks for the review of the best east coast beaches. Back in 2000, when I was 10 years old, me and my family traveled to Myrtle Beach, and we have enjoyed ourselves!!! I’m planning to return there very soon. Me and my family are planning a week’s vacation back to Atlantic City. A walk on the infamous boardwalk, and on the beach, is just what we need. We will try not to gamble too much lls. I would love to travel to Virginia Beach this summer as well, since it is close to where I live at. Another great article, and as always, keep up the great work because you are doing great!!!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Thank you so much Ahmad! Yes, I live fairly close to all the East Coast beaches, and I prefer them over the beaches on the west coast of the US. Hands down, I love them as I can see you do as well. Thanks for taking time to leave me a comment.

      Reply
  4. rags

    Awesome post on the east coast beaches in the states. I’m from Asia and love the beaches. Your post makes me want to fly there and have a taste of the type of beaches you have there. Please pray for me that I have a chance! Thanks for the great suggestions!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You will get the chance one day, I am sure! We definitely do have a different beach atmosphere worth checking out. Thanks for visiting!

      Reply
  5. travel and treatz

    We have been planning a vacation to North Carolina this summer, so this information is perfect. I love going to the beach and the Outer Banks is on my list of places we will visit. Okracoke Island Beach looks amazing! Thanks for your wonderful and detailed review of the beaches.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Everyone needs to visit the Outer Banks, North Carolina. It is just a really beautiful destination with so much to offer for everyone in the family. And yes, I would definitely visit Okracoke Island Beach! Please let me know if you need any additional information!

      Reply
  6. Larry

    Wow those are some awesome beaches! We are planning an anniversary trip to the east coast. I now have a great reference for where we definitely need to go. Thanks for compiling such an awesome resource!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      They are awesome Larry! I am planning on writing travels guides for all of the areas as well. If you want to sign up for our newsletter, you can get additional information for planning your vacation 🙂 Please let me know if you have any additional questions.

      Reply
  7. Penelope

    I lived on the east coast for years and really failed to explore all the great beaches listed here, from north to south! In particular, I never made it down to Virginia beach. I had no idea that so many attractions were right on the beach…but I’m getting a better idea of how to plan my next visit! Thanks for another superb post!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      I am guilty of that too Penelope. I lived in Texas for 10 years, and made it to one beach LOL. Texas also has some great beaches, and now I am wishing I would have taken advantage of them. Thanks for visiting beachtraveldestinations.com.

      Reply
  8. Nigel

    Traveling is my passion besides soccer and sports as a whole. I love beaches and the ocean. I have not been to the East Coast, but it looks amazing! I especially like the beaches in Virginia. Thanks for the great info and I am going to bookmark your site!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Yes Nigel, I think the beach and the ocean just call my name. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. The east coast beaches are beautiful for sure, and worth spending time there. Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  9. Jessica

    Being that I am on the East coast, I highly recommend Hammonasset Beach in CT. It is one of my favorite to go to. You should check it out. You aren’t going to get big waves but you get long stretches of beach.

    I should check out some of the ones that you recommended! Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      I will check it out Jessica! It might have to go on my list for sure! I am thinking about getting a beach house in Connecticut! I think it will be wonderful. Most people don’t realize that all along the east coast are some really great beaches!

      Reply
  10. Melissa Abbott

    Great info! It’s cold here in Minnesota now and I put Bowman’s Beach on my wish list. I hadn’t heard of it, and Texas beaches look great. Can’t wait to visit! Thanks 🙂

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      I think you will enjoy Bowman’s beach! Let me know if you need any help getting all the reservations done! Texas really is a great place, with so many things to do and see 🙂

      Reply
  11. Rosered

    Wow beautiful scenery you had me the moment the page loaded. Bowman’s beach sounds like a wonderful paradise to go away to. I’ve always wanted to walk along an actual beach. If the water is calm like you say it is a nice swim sounds great. You’ve sold me my vacation I have coming up I’m going book a trip to Bowman’s Beach. Thanks for the wonderful vacation idea.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You are very welcome! Enjoy your beach visit!

      Reply
  12. John

    Awesome post on the best east coast beaches!
    I am currently planning a trip to the east coast of the United States, and now I have some great ideas on where I should visit.
    I don’t know if I will fit them all in, but there are definitely a couple on my “must visit” list.
    Thanks for the great suggestions 🙂
    ~John

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You are most welcome John. Thanks for visiting!

      Reply
  13. Dee Walls

    Hi,

    Thanks for the referrals. I love going to the beach with my kids, they absolutely love it. I was hoping to see a beach I was familiar with like Clearwater or St. Pete Beach. As you might can tell, I’m from Florida. The Bay area of Florida. I haven’t been to the Carolina’s very much, but I am familiar with Virginia and Myrtle Beach. I have family up in Virginia and Maryland, they often visit these beaches. I hope to one day get to take my family to see some of these beaches. You make them seem so amazing. Thanks for sharing

    Dee,

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Dee, yes Clearwater and St. Pete are the best beaches, hands down, in the U.S. I was trying to separate them from this list as I have done a lot of write up on them 🙂 You are the second person who thinks they should be on this list, so I am going to make some changes as I agree 100%!

      Reply
  14. Greenvee

    Hi,
    the first impression is wonderful! Love it.

    I clicked on the Caribbean beaches and there were A LOT OF THEM; there was a lot of script and a lot of scrolling up and down. I stopped scrolling after a while.
    Navigating through long texts is not for me. If i may make a sugegstion, maybe divide them up some, have categories or sub-categories in the navigation menu. that way if i want to go forward or backward i can do this much easier – this would definitely keep visitors on the site longer i think.

    i agree with many of the comments – the site makes me want to travel and the pictures are attractive but i wouldn’t stay long enough to read it because like the majority of internet visitors, I want to know quickly what i am looking for and too much text is overwhelming for me

    just by the way, someone asked a question in one of the comments, about what language is spoken on Bonaire; you thanked her but did not answer her question.

    I do hope that this feedback was of some help to you. I have attempted to be honest, I do not mean to criticise.

    wishing you all the best
    valina

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Oh thank you Valina, I must have totally forgotten to answer her question 🙁 Thanks for visiting. And I am working on making the posts shorter.

      Reply
  15. verna8767

    Hi Leahrae,

    My family loves beaches. We live on the East Coast and have visited many of the ones you have mentioned. I guess I would have to say of the ones you mentioned, my favorite would be Virginia Beach. When my kids were young they wanted to go there every summer.

    At the end of this week we are going to Orlando, Florida for the Disney parks, but I have saved one day for the beach. We are going to drive over to Clearwater Beach which is about a 2 hour drive from the International Drive in Orlando. Its a great east coast beach! I replaced Virginia Beach with Clearwater Beach

    I am surprised you didn’t mention more of the beaches in Florida like, Cocoa Beach, New Smyrna Beach and Clearwater Beach to name a few.

    Thanks for doing this article because I am always looking for the next great beach!

    Cheers,

    Verna

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      I absolutely love Clearwater Beach! That area actually has the best beaches of anywhere in the U.S. for sure. I did do all of the beaches in Florida all on their own 🙂

      Reply
  16. Tony Lee Hamilton

    I have been to Virginia Beach, Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head and Gulf Breeze but not yet the others.

    I have been to Jersey Shore but the cove sounds much more relaxing and less busy. I will add that beach to my list of beaches to visit as well as the others that you mention.

    Both North and South Carolina are becoming known as more places to vacation at than in the past so I believe that the secret is out and that they will become busier as well.

    The view that you share of the Folly Beach pier is amazing and I can’t wait to see it in person.

    Thank you for sharing the best East coast beaches with us so that we now are reading to vacation there.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You are more than welcome Tony. Yes, I don’t think people realize that there are so many good beaches in the East Coast area. Plus the fact that there also lots of things to do besides lay around and bake. Thanks for reading!

      Reply

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