After a very long, cold winter, a beach vacation may be just what the doctor ordered. From Oregon to California, and from Georgia all the way to Maine, here’s a look at some of the most ideal stretches of sand to spend your holiday.
Oregon is known for its beautiful, wild beaches with spectacular scenery as well as plentiful wildlife. At the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, you’ll find wind-sculpted sand dunes that tower 500 feet above sea level, providing lots of opportunity for fun recreational activities such as riding dune buggies, dirt bikes or ATVs, or exploring the area on horseback. As this area is also dotted with a number of freshwater lakes, it’s also the perfect setting for swimming, fishing and canoeing. You can even watch for gray whales that feed along the coast, too.
If you’re looking for a more tranquil, remote experience, further south into northern California between Fort Bragg and Eureka, you’ll find one of the Golden State’s true hidden gems. Shelter Cove sits among the “Lost Coast,” as this region is called, just west of the magnificent redwood trees. Here you’ll find a secluded stretch of beach with pristine ocean views, minus the hordes of tourists. This peaceful seaside resort is a nirvana for outdoor enthusiasts, with the opportunity to hike, fish, crab, dive or watch for whales. The rocky shoreline provides a refuge for sea lions and seals, as well as boasting some of the richest tidal pools on the planet.
About an hour south of San Francisco, Santa Cruz is the home of the famed oceanfront Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk as well as one of the most popular beaches in the state. This is a great destination for families with kids who want to be able to enjoy a wide variety of activities and lots of exciting action, in addition to soaking in the sun. Ride heart-pounding thrill rides, play carnival games and enjoy free live entertainment. You can also build sand castles on the beach, play in the water, watch some of the best surfers in the world ride the waves or walk along the Santa Cruz pier to shop and check out the sea lions lazing underneath.
Down in the Los Angeles area, Malibu Lagoon State Beach offers the chance to rub elbows with the rich and famous — or at least look up in the hills to view their impressive homes. Formerly known as Surfrider Beach, this is also one of the most surfed spots in the region. Nonsurfers can go for a swim, do a little bird watching or fish off the historic wooden Malibu pier. Dockweiler State Beach, just west of LAX, is the place to go if you’ve got an RV, as it’s the only one in Los Angeles with an RV park. It’s also the only place that allows bonfires, for an extra fun night at the beach roasting marshmallows and enjoying the sounds of the surf and the sights of the stars.
Venice Beach is the quintessential So Cal beach, offering some of the best people-watching in the state, including all manner of folks in their barely-there bathing suits. Along the sidewalks are a wide range of entertainers, from the slightly crazy to the crazy talented. Here you can rent a bike or roller skates, or just take in the fascinating scene.
La Jolla Cove is considered the “jewel” of San Diego and the very best area for swimming, kayaking, snorkeling and diving. As it’s ecologically protected, you’ll find an abundance of brilliant orange garibaldi fish as well as lots of other species, including yellowtail and rays.
On the country’s East Coast, about 100 miles of Georgia shoreline can be found, including the 17 miles of beaches at Cumberland Island National Seashore, just off the mainland. Visitors travel by ferry to reach it, so you’ll find fewer people here than on other, more easily accessible beaches. Sea Camp Beach is a wide, wild stretch of sand on the Atlantic side, strewn with driftwood and thousands of shells. Here you can roam the beach in search of wild horses as well as sea turtles and manatees just offshore.
Kiawah Island is a private island, less than 30 miles from historic Charleston, South Carolina. A causeway connects the coastal island to the mainland, so it’s easy to reach. Here visitors can enjoy the feel of warm sand beneath their toes along its 10-mile stretch of powdery sand, and experience the ultimate in peace and tranquility of island scenery along with an abundance of wildlife. This is home to all types of birds, deer, bobcats, raccoons, alligators and even loggerhead sea turtles.
Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, is known as the home of some of the best surf on the East Coast. It’s also an outdoor enthusiast’s heaven, with clean and uncrowded, vast stretches of sand as well as the clear, warm waters of the Gulf Stream.
Farther north in Southampton, New York, you’ll find unspoiled beaches with windswept dunes and gently waving grasses. Cooper’s Beach is often ranked as one of the best in the entire nation, with idyllic sand, perfect conditions for sunbathing and the charming beach town of Southampton nearby.
On Nantucket Island off the coast of Massachusetts, discover a picturesque backdrop of bright, blue waters at the edge of a community of weathered white cottages surrounded by wild roses. Here there is a beach for almost everyone, including the remote Quidnet Beach with views of the Sankaty Head lighthouse and Miacomet Pond where little ones can play in the fresh water. Surfside Beach is a popular sandy stretch for families, offering calm waters and a wide beach great for picnics, beach games or surfcasting.
Finally, in Maine, it’s worth the long trek down the Georgetown peninsula, just north of Bath, to discover this area filled with gorgeous sandy beaches, grassy dunes, a tidal river, lagoon and rocky headlines. At the Mile and Half Mile beaches, search for sand dollars while taking in sweeping vistas of this breathtakingly beautiful seascape, and look for hidden treasures in the tide pools while watching bald eagles and osprey soar above.
So, who is the winner when it comes to best West Coast vs. East Coast beaches? The only real winner is you, as you enjoy your holiday on any one of these spectacular stretches of sand. There’s hardly any reason to travel internationally when the diversity and beauty of U.S. beaches are enough to astound and amaze. So grab your sunblock, your beach chair, and head to the best beaches — coast to coast!