Summer isn’t over yet, and it isn’t too late to squeeze in a family beach vacation before back-to-school time. The east coast of the United States has so many beautiful beaches, from the rocky coast of Maine to the aquamarine waters of Florida and plenty in between. To fan the flames of your beach fever, we’ve put together a list of the best east coast beaches for families.
Cape Cod in Massachusetts draws families back year after year for its gorgeous beaches, charming beach towns and good old-fashioned family fun. The Cape Cod National Seashore is a family favorite, but each beach has its own unique flavor. Old Silver Beach offers calm waters in a protected cove; at Chapin’s Beach you might find sand dollars; and Skaket Beach offers amazing sunsets. Nauset Light Beach on the National Seashore is good for body surfing. You can go seal (and shark) watching in Chatham, or take a sand dune tour in Provincetown.
Not your typical beach, Acadia offers a rugged, rocky coastline with thundering waves, yet is still a family favorite. Inside Acadia National Park families can enjoy horseback riding, hiking, biking, and driving on its famous carriage trails. Out on the water, families can go whale watching, kayaking, fishing or whitewater rafting, or take a sail on a schooner boat or a lobster boat tour. When they are ready to hit the beach, families head to Sand Beach, a snug ocean cove comprised of unique shell fragments.
There is a reason New York City‘s elite began summering in the Hamptons. Main Beach in East Hampton has been named the best beach in the U.S. and consistently ranks high on lists of best beaches. This wide beach serves up waves for body surfing and soft sand for sand castle building. Nearby, families can enjoy horseback riding, a visit to the Long Island Aquarium, a ride on the Greenpoint carousel, or a stop at one of the many farms and wineries that dot the south and north forks of Long Island. Top it off with a stay at Gurney’s Montauk Resort.
Wildwood is famous for its wide beaches and 1.8 mile-long boardwalk, home to Morey’s Piers amusements and waterpark. Amusement parks and beach vacations go hand-in-hand, right? When not enjoying the boardwalk or free beaches, families can also participate in a variety of water sports, like Jet Skiing, parasailing, surfing or boating along the Jersey Shore. Families looking to get away from the hustle and bustle can also visit the nearby Victorian town of Cape May and enjoy attractions like the Cape May Zoo.
The Outer Banks is made up of four barrier islands that stretch over 100 miles along the Atlantic Ocean coast of North Carolina. From its towering sand dunes, where the Wright Brothers first took flight, to the wild ponies that roam the beach, there is much to see and do in the Outer Banks. Families can enjoy off-road adventures, hang gliding, kite flying, wind surfing, kayaking, fishing, crabbing, boating, biking, lighthouses and more. Whether you are in Duck or Hatteras, you will enjoy the beaches, the warm ocean water and searching for dolphins that travel up the coast. Vacation rentals dominate the accommodation options here, more than most beach destinations.
Carolina Beach offers miles of clean, family-friendly beaches, along with a vintage boardwalk that has been rated one of the top 10 in the country. They offer weekly entertainment, including summer fireworks, with great food like the famous Britt’s Donuts. Families can also enjoy world-class fishing, a lesson at the Tony Silvagni Surf School, kayaking, biking, and maybe even rescuing a sea turtle.
Hilton Head in South Carolina offers families wide beaches and calm water, along with plenty of fun activities. Kids can participate in junior golf academies, take a pirate cruise, and join in many eco-adventures. Hilton Head is a great place to spy wild dolphins, go fishing, learn to paddle board or go horseback riding. Evenings are spent miniature golfing or enjoying live music outdoors.
With 10 miles of pristine beach, Kiawah Island in South Carolina was named the best island in America by Conde Nast Traveler. Its award-winning beaches offer the perfect place to watch both sunrises and sunsets, with shallow surf and pleasant 85 degree water temperatures all summer long. Kiawah is also the ideal spot for golf, tennis, biking, boating and fishing in nature’s playground.
Jekyll Island once played host to the Vanderbilts and Rockefellers on their family vacations but today welcomes even those of us without personal fortunes. This seven-mile long island offers gorgeous beaches along with 20 miles of bike trails, Summer Waves Water Park, tennis, Segway tours, stand up paddle boarding and kayaking. Families also love visiting the Georgia Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Center, which offers marine science programs for kids and adults.
Every year, nearly one million visitors flock to Delray Beach, Travel Channel’s pick for the best beach in Florida. This two-mile stretch of beach offers soft sand, clear water, and moderate surf for swimming. Parents also enjoy the shops and restaurants that line the beach and nearby avenues. When families need a break from the beach, they can check out nearby attractions like Lion Country Safari or Butterfly World.
These two are not technically on the East Coast; they are on the Gulf Coast. But they’re still in the Eastern part of the United States and are definitely worth putting on your list:
Located on the west coast of Florida near Fort Myers, Sanibel and Captiva Islands are premier spots for shell hunting. Families will also enjoy the soft sand beaches and gorgeous sunsets, while keeping an eye out for birds, manatees, dolphins and gators. These quieter islands offer a more relaxed family vacation destination.
The white sand beaches of the Alabama Gulf Coast are a bit of a hidden treasure to most East Coasters, but this family-friendly beach has much to offer. When not enjoying the sugary soft sand and the crystal-clear water, families can go on a dolphin cruise, kayak, parasail, fish, and even go flyboarding! Off the beach there are over 15 miles of bike trails, ziplining with views of the Gulf and a small zoo. The fresh seafood alone is a reason to visit the Alabama Gulf Coast.
It isn’t too late to plan your end-of-summer getaway or get a head start for next year!
Need more comprehensive guidance? Our Family Travel Advisors do everything from recommending and booking accommodations (including qualified options not featured on Ciao Bambino) to developing comprehensive multi-stop itineraries. For more information and to request assistance, go to the Connect with a Family Travel Advisor page.
Editor’s Note: Photos by Tamara Gruber unless otherwise noted.
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