16 Top East Coast Beaches to Visit – Part 1


Add these seaside destinations to your summer travel wish list.

Even if you only have one day to spare, these stretches of sand guarantee a relaxing getaway.

A trip to the beach is a favorite leisure activity among Americans – whether it’s within driving distance of home or a flight away. And while tourism in beach and coastal destinations generates a whopping $285 billion in direct spending each year, free outdoor activities like tanning on the sand, swimming in the ocean and strolling along the boardwalk can make beach vacations relatively affordable. These 16 popular beaches along the East Coast’s 2,000-plus miles of shoreline include activities for families, surfers, naturalists and other beachgoers to enjoy. (Note: Some of the destinations and events mentioned may be affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Check with the CDC, the U.S. Department of State and local tourism boards before traveling.)

Bethany Beach, Delaware

Mid-Atlantic families love the relaxed boardwalk in the coastal town of Bethany Beach, which can be found about 130 miles southeast of Washington, D.C., and less than 15 miles north of bustling Ocean City, Maryland. In this area, you’ll also find the barrier island beaches of Delaware Seashore State Park, plus sand dunes and prime surfing conditions at Fenwick Island State Park. Pets, alcohol, boating and ball-playing are prohibited on Bethany Beach while lifeguards are on duty, ensuring a tranquil visit. Vacation rentals are relatively affordable, and the town hosts free live concerts, movie screenings, bonfires and weekly programming for kids between mid-June and Labor Day weekend.

Canaveral National Seashore: Titusville, Florida

Located approximately 35 miles northeast of Orlando, Florida, Canaveral National Seashore attracts space fans and nature lovers alike thanks to its proximity to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex and its 24 miles of habitat. The National Park Service offers free audio tours and nature recordings of the Seashore, which is home to 1,045 varieties of plants and 310 bird species. Kids can also enjoy a complimentary Junior Ranger activity book while visiting this pristine barrier island. Past travelers enjoyed seeing birds, alligators and turtles at the Seashore’s Playalinda Beach. Keep in mind, there’s a clothing-optional section at the beach that’s accessible from parking lot No. 13. When it comes to lodging, Titusville’s abundance of RV campgrounds and small motels make it a budget-friendly home base.

Cape Cod National Seashore: Cape Cod, Massachusetts

While Massachusetts’ famous Cape Cod peninsula is lined with $25 million estates, bargain-hunting travelers may prefer the quieter, more affordable Outer Cape beaches near Cape Cod National Seashore. HI Eastham Hostel offers rustic summer cottages equipped with bunk beds and a community kitchen that sit close to the Cape Cod Rail Trail, which boasts proximity to top Cape Cod beaches like Coast Guard Beach on the Atlantic Ocean and First Encounter Beach on Cape Cod Bay. Families with teens may favor the HI Truro Hostel near Ballston Beach because it’s close to artsy Provincetown, an LGBTQ-friendly town that’s accessible by ferry from Boston.

Cape May, New Jersey

Head less than 48 miles south of Atlantic City, New Jersey, to get to Cape May, a popular New Jersey beach destination that’s home to the country’s oldest seaside resort. This charming, walkable town along the Jersey Shore is a National Historic District, boasting more than 600 preserved Victorian buildings. In this area, you’ll also find a Coast Guard Training Station. With a year-round population of 4,700, Cape May welcomes upward of 40,000 visitors at its hotels and bed-and-breakfast accommodations on some summer weekends. Multigenerational families come for the untouched beaches – including those situated inside Cape May Point State Park – antique shops, historic house tours, carriage rides, outdoor concerts, golf courses and other low-key activities and amenities. Teens will appreciate the town’s whale watching tours and the water parks available in nearby Wildwood, New Jersey.

Delray Beach, Florida

Visit Delray Beach for nightlife, shopping, sand and sun in one of the country’s only downtown areas nestled directly on the beach. At just 2 miles long, Delray Beach earns accolades for its cleanliness and nicely restored buildings. Previous visitors praised the presence of lifeguards, showers and concrete walkways for jogging, as well as the abundance of restaurants throughout the downtown area. Bed down in wallet-friendly chain hotels like the Hyatt Place Delray Beach to spend some time window shopping along Atlantic Avenue and hunting for street murals in the Pineapple Grove arts district.

Folly Beach, South Carolina

South Carolinians appreciate the Southern charm of Folly Beach – and you can, too. Known to locals as “the edge of America,” this barrier island 12 miles south of Charleston, South Carolina, offers budget-friendly lodging options like low-rise hotels, beach houses on stilts and cute B&Bs. Visitors can rent fishing gear and find a spot along the 1,045-foot-long pier or catch some waves at The Washout, one of Folly Beach’s most popular surf spots. For some extra family fun, sign up for a biking, kayaking, sailing or paddleboarding outing to enjoy the beautiful scenery in this top South Carolina beach destination.

Hampton Beach: Hampton, New Hampshire

Drive along New Hampshire’s 13-mile coast until you reach Hampton Beach, a broad stretch of sand overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. A beloved seaside destination since the 1840s, the Hampton Beach Village District draws travelers with its well-maintained restrooms, playground and Sea Shell Stage, which hosts the annual Miss Hampton Beauty Pageant in late July and concerts every night of the week from June through August. Other amenities include casinos, marine life study centers and a historical society. In addition to local budget motels, Hampton Beach State Park provides campsites and RV hookups from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Madison, Connecticut

More than 1 million summer visitors flock to Madison’s 2 miles of sandy shoreline on Long Island Sound to enjoy swimming, boating, hiking and biking. At Hammonasset Beach State Park, you’ll find more than 550 grassy campsites, a pristine beach and a nature center with live turtles and a touch tank. In town, you can go swimming and boating at three beaches. The Surf Club beach features barbecue and picnic facilities, while the East and West Wharf beaches offer fishing piers. Non-resident beach parking is limited; you may have the best luck finding spots during the week. Weekdays also typically offer cheaper nightly rates at the few in-town boutique hotels and B&Bs than weekends.

Courtesy of USNews