Best Beaches in the United States
By Leah Lund
After a year of stay-at-home vacations, the travel bug is eating away at many folks. Enough of daydreaming over swoon-worthy beachscapes on social media. It’s time to start making your own future travel plans to the best beaches in the United States!
Here are ten beaches across the United States set to fulfill your wanderlust daydreams. From the expansiveness of the Atlantic coast to the lakeshores of Michigan, over to the west coast, and out into the Pacific, these beaches deserve to stand in the spotlight.
It’s easy to forget, but social media gives a false perspective on the current condition of our environment. Cheap and disposable plastic commodities flood the shores of our country’s magnificent beaches and threaten wildlife every day.
Join Ocean Blue Project in protecting these natural American marvels by cleaning up trash around your community. Gather your friends for cleanups and protect our beaches!
Go From Vacation to Fantasy on These Island Beaches in the Atlantic
From the ever-changing seasons of Maine to the tropics of Florida, the Atlantic Coast has a range of diverse beachscapes.
Sand Beach in Acadia National Park, Maine
Acadia National Park is on one of the largest islands off the coast of Maine – one of the thousands! Many species of woodland animals live on the island including moose, foxes, beavers, and porcupines. Humpback whales, seals, and an abundance of fish live in the surrounding waters. It’s a beautiful park to visit year-round, but the summertime is best for taking advantage of the park beaches.
Sand Beach must be on your go-to list of beaches. Maine’s coast is typically rocky, leaving spots to feel like a classic summertime getaway. This is one special location with incredible views of the Atlantic Ocean.
Sand Beach is a natural pocket beach tucked in Newport Cove. The soft sand is surrounded by forests and mountains. You feel as if you’re in a classic storybook setting, sitting on a pristine beach surrounded by the beauty of Maine.
Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island, Georgia
Visiting Driftwood Beach is like walking through a surrealist painting. Overexposure to the elements gives the trees a haunted, skeletal-like quality. The trees juxtapose themselves well against the lively ocean waves. The peculiar scenery makes for an excellent beach day of discovery.
On this southern island, you immerse yourself in the wonders of Georgia’s marine ecosystem. What makes Driftwood Beach even more special is the sea turtles that return every summer. Loggerhead sea turtles, an endangered species, are annual residents of Georgia’s coast. Georgia’s only sea turtle rehabilitation center is also located on Jekyll Island.
Make the trip to Jekyll Island and explore the educational opportunities the center has to offer. You might get lucky on a turtle walk and spot sea turtles on Driftwood Beach!
These are just a couple of the amazing beaches waiting for you on the East Coast.
The Atlantic is home to many of the best beaches in the United States.
Slip Away Amongst The Sand Dunes of Lake Michigan
As a Michigan native, I know sunsets over Lake Michigan have out beat sunsets anywhere else. Along the entire West Coast of the lower peninsula, you’ll find an endless amount of sandy hideaways and magnificent, rolling dunes.
Platte Point Beach in Sleeping Bear Dunes State Park
Michigan’s state treasure is Sleeping Bear Dunes State Park. The park’s name comes from a story passed by the Indengigous people of the Great Lakes area. Legend has it that the dune on the coast of the Leelanau Peninsula resembles the mother bear. She looks after her two cubs that had drowned and returned as the two offshore islands.
Stretching 65 miles of shoreline and bluffs reaching up to 400 ft, this park features several beach access locations. Hike well-defined trails through the forest and keep an eye out for native wildlife. The more places you submerge yourself in Michigan’s natural beauty, the better!
Platte Point Beach is a popular spot located where the Platte River meets the lake. Plan a day of kayaking or tubing the warmer river water, and end the trip by relaxing on the beach. There you’ll find a view of the Sleeping Bear bluffs extending high above the dark blue water.
It can’t get any better than exploring one of America’s most beautiful locations and all it has to offer.
Saugatuck Dunes State Park in Saugatuck, Michigan
North of downtown Saugatuck is a 1,000-acre coastal state park. Wooded hiking trails and sandy pathways lead you to the shoreline. Lay your beach towel near the freshwater lake for a relaxing summer day. Hike your way to the top of the rolling dunes looking out 200 ft above Lake Michigan. The views from the top are unreal, perfect for sailboat watching or enjoying a sunset.
This park is an excellent place for family activities like observing wildlife and easy hiking. For kids, playing on the beach grass and sand is a memorable time. There’s nothing more thrilling than running full speed down the dunes and splashing your way into the brisk water.
This coastal dune park makes you feel like you’re miles away from the hustle and bustle, but you won’t miss the conveniences of nearby small towns. There are so many activities to do on the water and nearby nature preserves.
Saugatuck is also an LGBTQ-friendly town, supporting queer businesses with accepting lodging accommodations. This little slice of coastal paradise is welcoming to everyone.
Explore Tranquil Hidden Treasures at These Historic Florida Forts
The Gulf of Mexico is popular for its brilliant turquoise water and silky white beaches. Pristine beaches lining the Gulf Coast of Florida make prime vacation spots. Whether you prefer to spend your days hunting for seashells or wading in the warm water, you can’t miss these two unique Florida beaches on your tour of the best beaches in the United States.
Fort Zachary Taylor Park in Key West, Florida
Key West, Florida is the furthest south you can drive within the continental United States. At the south end of the island, you’ll reach Fort Zachary Taylor Park. The park is home to a fortress constructed in the mid-1800s and named after the 12th president of the United States.
Winding around the fort are nature trails where you immerse yourself in history. Past the fort, before stepping onto the beach, you can relax in the shade of the trees. It’s a perfect spot for long picnics or lounging in a hammock.
Fort Zach rests along a coral beach, a haven for seashell hunters and snorkelers alike. Colorful little fish flutter about in the water around the rock formations. Pack a pair of goggles so you too can be a fish of the sea!
Fort De Soto Beach in Tierra Verde, Florida
Five little islands off the coast of St. Petersburg make up a historical park called Fort De Soto. Here you can wander the grounds of the fortress, bike nature trails, or explore tidal pools. Find your perfect spot of relaxation on the three miles of white sandy beach that line the park. Or take to the water on a kayak to paddle through the mangroves in search of turtles and manatees.
Escape Into the Beauty of West Coast Wonders
The west coast has no shortage of beaches to visit. Narrowing the west coast list down to two for this survey of the best beaches in the United States was hard.
Stand In Awe of the Views on Cannon Beach in Oregon
Located just 90 minutes west of Portland, Cannon Beach will take your breath away. Once featured in the movie “Goonies”, this picturesque landscape has much to offer. There are five hiking trails within 15 minutes of the beach. You can also enjoy watching Tufted Puffins, Roosevelt Elk, seals, sea lions, and a variety of whales. Who knows, you might even find a hidden pirate ship!
Ride the Waves of Huntington Beach in California
Known as Surf City USA, Huntington Beach is a great place to get your feet wet with surfing. Home to the Huntington Beach Pier and 8.5 miles of beautiful beach, you’ll find your home away from home.
Enjoy a nice walk down the boardwalk or head off to the Huntington Surfing Museum. This amazing stretch of coast is also the closest beach to Disneyland.
With lots of restaurants and shopping nearby, surfing to do, and surfing to watch… It’s easy to see why Huntington Beach is so popular.
Discover the Remote Reaches of the Pacific Ocean
Picture the rustic wilderness of Alaska or the lush rainforests of Hawaii. Which destination appeals to you? These stunning landscapes are pristine with native flora and fauna. The terrain of these two non-contiguous states makes some of the most out-of-this-world beach locations in America.
Kaihalulu Red Sand Beach in Hana, Hawaii
If you drive the Road to Hana, make sure to save enough time for the beaches of the small Hawaiian town. There are many popular, natural wonders to discover on the journey to Hana. A breathtaking one is Kaihalulu, also known as Red Sand Beach.
The Hawaiian islands are rich in the vibrancy of nature’s colors. Red Sand Beach is a natural pocket beach on the Bay of Kaihalulu bathed in a rich and earthy crimson. The jewel tones of this beach are stunning. Be extremely careful in the pursuit of visiting this precious spot, as the hike can be dangerous. The terrain is very slick and parts of the trail have eroded.
White Sands Beach on Kodiak Island, Alaska
Looking off the northeast coast of Kodiak Island is a silvery, white sandy beach. Not something you would picture when traveling to the most northern state of America! This tranquil location is outside of the town of Kodiak, making it an easy trip once arriving on the island.
This remote beach has serene views of Monaska Bay and Alaska’s forests and mountains. Make sure to plan your visit around the time of the tide changes. The white sand becomes visible when the tide is low, as the black sand rests higher up the beach.
Love These Beaches? Help Us Protect Them!
A few years ago, I was riding my bike down the road of Fort Zach to lay on the beach. While I was pedaling my way to a bike rack, a young couple was leaving on their motorbike. The woman riding on the back took her final sips left in a plastic cup and tossed it to the ground.
My heart dropped into the pit of my stomach.
With the flick of her wrist, a hollow clatter echoed as the cup hit the pavement. Another piece of plastic pollution threatened one of my favorite beaches.
I immediately scooped up the cup as they sped off. Not too far from the parking lot is a cafe with trash and recycling bins stationed outside.
We Are Stewards of Our One World Ocean
When not disposed of or sorted and recycled, plastic ends up in our waterways. It is estimated that over 13 million tons of garbage ends up in our one world Ocean each year. The trash ranges from large items to microplastics.
There have been too many pictures circulating the internet of sea turtles with plastic straws stuck in their nostrils. Numerous images capture the atrocity of plastic found within the stomachs of decomposing birds.
Plastic waste comes in every single form you can imagine. Take a minute and think of all the items you’ve used today that are plastic. A comb, food wrappers, a chapstick container, a pen, a phone case.
Our everyday items add up to a lot of plastic! Overconsumption and lack of disposal methods leave plastic pollution scattering all over the planet.
Is a legacy of pollution really what we want to leave on the best beaches in the United States?
Create a Beach Cleanup to Help Your Community Eliminate the Threats of Plastic Pollution
The best beaches of the United States won’t stay in pristine condition if plastic pollution continues to be out of control. About 61% of beach litter is plastic, and I guarantee you will find pieces of garbage on any beach you visit.
Being involved in beach cleanups is a direct way you can help fight this global issue. Ocean Blue Project makes involvement easily accessible no matter where you live.
By volunteering in Ocean Blue Project’s Beach Cleanups you are:
- Improving the health of your community
- Saving animals suffering from plastic pollution
- Preserving the beauty of our country’s beaches for years to come
- Teaching others to take action
Each piece of trash that’s picked up makes a difference. Even if your group starts out with only a couple of people, you’re still helping!
Take action in removing litter and trash. You can start a cleanup at a city park, nearby riverbank, or your local state beach. Be a part of the communal effort in removing 1 million pounds of plastic that is threatening our beaches, oceans, and wildlife by 2025.
Author Bio: Leah Lund is a Michigan native and travel copywriter. She loves walking nature trails and visiting breweries with her trusty greyhound, Jango.