The Best Beach In Every US State
Americans love their beaches, even if they’re not anywhere near an ocean. If you’re searching for the best outdoor location near the sea, a hot spring, a marina, a lake, or a river, we’ve got you covered. Some of these selections are well-known favorites, while others are more rugged and off the beaten path. From Alabama to Wyoming and everywhere in between, these are the best beaches in every state.
Alabama: Gulf Shores
Vacationing along Alabama’s Golf Coast is a summer highlight for many families. With soft sand, warm water, and fun activities like fishing off the pier, parasailing, and boating, it’s easy to see why the Gulf Shores are so alluring. Schedule a guided excursion, charter a boat, or relax with your family on the beach, simply enjoying the view. Go beachcombing at Gulf Shores—and the neighboring Orange Beach—early in the morning for the best finds. Make time for a visit to Gulf State Park, where you’ll find hiking trails, geocaching, and 3.5 miles of beach to enjoy.
Alaska: Christianson Lake
With 33,000 miles of shoreline—more than two times longer than the shorelines of Florida, California, and Hawaii combined—Alaska has plenty of places that would suit a water lover’s itinerary. Perhaps it’s because a cat named Stubbs served as the mayor from 1997 to 2017 that Christianson Lake tops the list of Alaska beaches, or maybe it’s because this rugged lake, located just outside of Talkeetna, is stocked with rainbow trout for fishing. Either way, you’ll love spending time here while exploring the Susitna Valley.
Arizona: Castle Hot Springs
Arizona’s desert landscape transforms into a verdant oasis studded with palm trees at Castle Hot Springs, the state’s very first resort, in the Bradshaw Mountains. Not only will you likely see wild burros bathing at the base of centuries-old saguaro cacti, but you’ll also be able to soak in the canyon's storied, yet inconspicuous, natural hot springs. If that isn’t enough, you can also explore the nearby Lake Pleasant for water sports and sunny adventures.
Arkansas: DeGray Lake
Near Little Rock and Hot Springs, DeGray Lake is a one-stop shop for adventure. Go on a sunset cruise or a bird-watching tour; mountain bike on the Iron Mountain Trail System; or head to the marina to rent a pedal boat, kayak, or join a party barge. DeGray Lake Resort State Park also offers lodge accommodations as well as campsites and yurt rentals. Remember to pack beach chairs, water, snacks, and plenty of sunscreen to ensure a comfortable time in the sun.
California: Avila Beach
The list of beaches in California is very long. San Diego County alone has more than 40! For a unique adventure, travel to Avila Beach, located along the famous Highway 1 Discovery Route on the state’s central coast. Rent a kayak and paddle by barking sea lions, harbor seals, sea otters, pelicans, and other wildlife. Book a stay just 20 minutes from Avila Beach at The Bee’s Knees Fruit Farm, a well-designed, sunny rental in San Luis Obispo County. If you stay there between May and October, you can pick berries, apples, pears, apricots, figs, or peaches. Beyond the beach, the central coast has so much to offer, including wine tasting, aquarium visits, farmer’s markets, beach cycling, hiking, and golfing.
Colorado: Grand Lake
Enjoy views of the Rocky Mountains while being surrounded by dense national forest on three sides at Grand Lake, the largest and deepest natural lake in Colorado. You can fish for salmon or trout or explore the lake on a rented boat. Make time for a visit to Rocky Mountain National Park, where you can spot bighorn sheep, black bears, elk, and moose. As part of the Colorado River headwaters, Grand Lake is also host to several seasonal events and festivals. Be sure to drink plenty of water as Grand Lake sits at an elevation of 8,369 feet.
Connecticut: Sherwood Island State Park
Coastal cities thrive in the tiny New England state of Connecticut. Facing Long Island Sound, the beaches here have calm, glassy waters. The beach of Sherwood Island State Park stands out for its multi-hued sand. In addition to golden sand, you’ll also find red and black colors due to the state’s garnet and magnetite mineral deposits. Watch the vibrant stripes appear and disappear with the moving tide. Nearby, the Tidal Marsh Nature Trail is ideal for bird watching.
Delaware: Fenwick Island State Park
Fenwick Island State Park, the southernmost beach in Delaware, has 3 miles of pristine coastline and access to the Little Assawoman Bay. See a fire control tower dating back to World War II; look for nocturnal ghost crabs at night; and go kayaking, boating, or picnicking during the day. This is a peaceful stretch of beach where families can enjoy a low-key day in the sun, building sandcastles and finally finishing that book you’ve meant to read.
Florida: Miramar Beach
Clearly, Florida has dozens of options when it comes to beach destinations that are worth a visit. For families, the Gulf of Mexico is alluring for various things to do and places to stay. With more than 50 beach and bay access points along 26 miles of immaculate shoreline, South Walton is picture-perfect for those who love options. Explore Miramar Beach’s white sand and blue-green waters and stay at Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa for excellent deals and packages. The Village of Baytowne Wharf in Sandestin is full of possibilities for dining, nightlife, shopping, sunset viewing, and family-friendly activities like zip-lining, a ropes course, and a carousel.
Georgia: Cumberland Island National Seashore
Jekyll and Tybee Islands are popular for beachgoers, as is Cumberland Island National Seashore, Georgia’s largest barrier island with distinctive maritime forests and marshland. With 17 miles of rugged beach, you’ll have plenty of space to spread out and enjoy the outdoors. You should also visit the First African Baptist Church, the Plum Orchard Mansion, and Cumberland Island Wharf.
Hawaii: Kaanapali Beach
Dive into the aloha spirit with a stay in Maui and spend some time enjoying the spoils of Kaanapali Beach. It's long, expansive, and perfectly sandy, stretching from Black Rock to Canoe Beach—where you'll find the celebrated Whalers Village for boutique shopping, entertainment, and nightlife. Consider a stay at the well-designed, newly renovated, and award-winning beachfront property of Kā'anapali Beach Hotel. During your stay, you can learn how to play ukulele, get a Hawaiian language lesson, paddle in an outrigger canoe, snorkel, and enjoy nightly hula shows with stunning sunset views on the beach. You should also have at least one meal at the newly opened Huihui, an alfresco oceanfront restaurant that celebrates the tradition of Hawaiian wayfinding.
Idaho: Orval Hansen Point Beach
Large swaths of land and mountains as far as the eye can see draw visitors to Idaho each year. Sun Valley, best known for Dollar and Bald mountains, is also close to local swimming holes, fly fishing, and boating. Redfish Lake, located nearby at the headwaters of the Salmon River, is the largest lake in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and is where you'll find Orval Hansen Point Beach. Bring your sunscreen and beach blanket and enjoy a day of water-filled outdoor fun.
Illinois: Oak Street Beach
Chicagoans flock to Oak Street Beach, located on Lake Shore Drive at Oak Street, in the summer to play volleyball, people-watch at Oak Street Beach Cafe, and soak up the sun. The Chicago skyline views are incredible from this location, making the beach a perfect spot for taking photographs. Make sure you check out the Oak Street beach mural, “You Know What You Should Do” by Jeff Zimmermann. Keep in mind that lifeguards in the Windy City keep swimmers safe until 7 p.m., and parking is limited. Oak Street Beach is the place to see and be seen, and beachgoers often hang out all day, dipping in and out of Lake Michigan and sunbathing on beach towels.
Indiana: West Beach
Lake Michigan’s 15 miles of southern shoreline at Indiana Dunes has nine different beaches to choose from. Two parks make up the Indiana Dunes: Indiana Dunes National Park, with eight beaches, and Indiana Dunes State Park, with one beach. West Beach, located in Indiana Dunes National Park, is great for families because it has a sizeable band of sand, a bathhouse, plenty of parking, and an on-duty lifeguard during the summer months. Hike on the Dunes Succession Trail, where you’ll have inland fun, and spot the interdunal ponds while walking on the mile-long boardwalk. Keep your head on a swivel as you notice birds flying overhead and critters burrowing below in the grasses and lowlands.
Iowa: Marble Beach State Recreation Area
Visit the state’s resort region in Okoboji, where you’ll find the Iowa Great Lakes Trail, Arnolds Park Amusement Park, Arnolds Park Raceway, Dickinson County Nature Center, and Big Spirit Lake. The lake is the largest natural lake in Iowa and is where you'll find Marble Beach. Marble Beach is the largest in Iowa’s Great Lakes region, and families come here for boating, hiking, fishing, camping, and relaxing outside. Be sure to bring plenty of sunblock and water as much of the area is fully exposed to the sun.
Kansas: El Dorado State Park
Kansas may be landlocked, but the state still has beaches that draw families and friends. El Dorado State Park, located in the state’s southeastern corner, is popular for fishing and boating and hiking (there are seven hiking trails), biking, and horseback riding. Cabin rentals, playgrounds, and two great swimming beaches at El Dorado Reservoir make this a family-friendly destination.
Kentucky: Red River Gorge
In east-central Kentucky, you’ll find one of the most organically stunning outdoor landscapes in the state. Tucked inside Daniel Boone National Forest, Red River Gorge is a backpacker’s paradise. The Red River cuts through an expansive gorge where you’ll find about 150 sandstone arches, many of which are freestanding. Designated a National Natural Landmark, folks come here to rock climb, swim, mountain bike, hike, and kayak. With a little intrepidness, you’ll find waterfalls, swimming holes, and sandy areas for classic summer fun.
Louisiana: North Beach
Warm waters draw visitors to Louisiana’s beaches each year. North Beach, in Lake Charles, is special for its white sand and easily accessible inland location. Regular events occur here, like the Pro Watercross National Championship. Bring noshes and nibbles and picnic at the Lake Charles Beach Picnic Area. Further afield, explore the Creole Nature Trail, where you can spot alligators and various birds. Beachcomb for seashells along 26 miles of gulf beaches, located just 45 minutes from Lake Charles.
Maine: Mother’s Beach
Windswept trees and granite rocks line much of Maine’s rugged coastline, but the state still has 70 miles of sandy seashores. The powdery soft sand and protected tide pools of Mother’s Beach make it a great choice for families with small children. Mother's Beach is connected to Gooch’s Beach, also known as Kennebunk Beach, by Middle Beach. Gooch's Beach is the largest and sandiest section, while Middle Beach boasts rocky shores with black pebbles. Consider booking a stay in a bed and breakfast—the area has plenty to choose from.
Maryland: Assateague Island
With its many waterways and coastlines on the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, Maryland has plenty of beaches to choose from. Assateague Island is a popular beach destination located 10 miles south of Ocean City with a boardwalk, amusement park, shopping, and plenty of restaurants. This national seashore has salt marshes, maritime forests, and excellent beaches but is likely best known for the wild horses that inhabit the island. Hike on a nature trail, kayak, or plant yourself on the sand—all good choices.
Massachusetts: Singing Beach
You’ll find plenty of beaches to enjoy along the 200 miles of coastline in Massachusetts. For a unique experience, visit Singing Beach at Manchester-by-the-Sea, where locals say that they can hear the beach singing or whistling when sand grains rub against each other. This half-mile-wide beach has a bathhouse and restrooms, as well as on-duty lifeguards, and is perfectly situated for strolling from one end to another.
Michigan: Warren Dunes State Park
The eastern shores of Lake Michigan offer some of the state’s most beautiful landscapes. The main draws at Warren Dunes State Park are the large dunes and lakeshore beaches. Kayak at sunset, bring your dogs to the dog beach and enjoy street food via food and ice cream trucks. There’s a large parking lot, which makes it easy to bring along anything your family might need for a fun day in the sun.
Minnesota: Zipple Bay State Park
Hundreds of lakes and beaches are a part of Minnesota’s state parks. Located on one of the world’s largest lakes, Lake of the Woods, this 3,000-acre park has much to offer. The northern location is also home to various wildlife, including black bears, mink, bald eagles, coyotes, and otters. Bring fishing poles to cast a line at the Zipple Bay lakefront, look for lady slipper flora, and be sure to find a good spot for watching the sun dip below the horizon.
Mississippi: Gulfport Beach
The Magnolia State has much to offer when it comes to beautiful gulf coast beaches. Gulfport Beach is one of the most popular beaches in the state. People flock here to swim, sunbathe, fish, surf, or have a picnic. For big thrills, try jet skiing or charter a sailboat. Renting a beach tricycle will enable you to see much of the beach and connecting Long Beach. If you wake up early enough, you can comb the beach for treasures.
Missouri: Echo Bluff State Park
A year-round destination, Echo Bluff State Park is a great Ozark destination for families and adventurers. Smallmouth bass fishing, floating, kayaking, mountain biking, and hiking are all big draws for this area, as is geocaching. Echo Bluff towers above the Sinking Creek. Swim and snorkel in the water and bring your water shoes to explore the rocky crags.
Montana: Flathead Lake
Big sky country might not be the first destination you think of when it comes to beachy fun, but Montana has much to offer in terms of rivers and lakes. Adventure is on the menu at any of the 13 public access sites on Flathead Lake, managed by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. In addition to basically every water sport you can imagine, you can also fill your bellies with freshly picked wild cherries purchased at roadside fruit stands. A variety of rental cabins and campgrounds may be found in the towns of Kalispell, Big Fork, and Polson, or you could go for the most luxurious option and travel about two hours south to The Resort at Paws Up, situated on 37,000 acres and 10 miles of the Blackfoot River.
Nebraska: Calamus Reservoir State Recreation Area
Venture to central Nebraska where you’ll find Calamus Reservoir State Recreation Area, located in the Sandhills. Enjoy the outdoors on the 5,123-acre lake where bird watching, boating, fishing, and swimming (no lifeguards are on duty) are top activities. Central Nebraska is home to the annual sandhill crane migration. Go on a self-guided tour of the Calamus State Fish Hatchery, situated below the dam.
Nevada: Sand Harbor
Lake Tahoe is well-known as the largest alpine lake in North America. Sand Harbor is an ideal family-friendly vacation destination offering remarkable views, rock formations, and prime swimming opportunities. Boating, water skiing, fishing, picnicking, and the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival are popular draws. You can easily rent equipment on the beach, like kayaks and stand-up paddleboards. Hike the Sand Harbor to Memorial Point Trail, an easy half-mile trail that leads to secluded beaches.
New Hampshire: Hampton Beach
For such a tiny state—the fifth smallest by area in the country—New Hampshire has a lot to offer outdoor lovers. One can easily travel from the charming state capital, Concord, to the largest city in the state, Manchester, and visit everything the granite state has to offer along the way. While New Hampshire has the shortest ocean coastline of all the coastal states, you’ll find that there’s plenty to enjoy along the 18 miles. The wide and sandy Hampton Beach should be added to your must-visit list. Walk the length of the boardwalk, dotted with boutiques and restaurants, and then plant yourself on the sand with an ice cream cone.
New Jersey: Cape May
East coast folks flock to New Jersey beaches in the summer. To avoid the large crowds, visit one of the state’s best beach destinations: Cape May. Located on the state’s southern tip, Cape May features 2.5 miles of coastline, beachfront dining, colorful Victorian houses, and fun surfing spots. This city and seaside resort is the place to be for sand sculpting, volleyball, and swimming. Visit Cape May Point State Park, free to the public and idyllic for bird watching and nature walks. This state park, known for the Cape May Lighthouse, is just a bike ride away.,.
New Mexico: Elephant Butte
You can spend an entire weekend enjoying the outdoors at Elephant Butte Reservoir, part of New Mexico’s Elephant Butte Lake State Park. Fish off the pier, kayak, cruise on a boat, and enjoy 15 miles of hiking and biking trails. Family-friendly, camping here for a couple of nights is a real treat.
New York: Coney Island
Classic and part of the New York experience, Coney Island, located in the Brooklyn neighborhood, is a must-visit bucket list destination. Ride the famous Cyclone roller coaster, visit the New York Aquarium, and eat your way up and down the boardwalk. Coney Island is a lively place, with great people-watching, and the 3 miles of beaches are the setting for a myriad of events and festivals throughout the summer.
North Carolina: Emerald Isle
Expansive sandy beaches and a laid-back vibe characterize the coastal regions of North Carolina. Emerald Isle tops the list for many beachgoers due to a whopping 12 miles of shoreline and pier fishing. Families love the playgrounds, picnic pavilions, volleyball courts, and easy access to the water for kayaking and boating. The emerald waters on the Crystal Coast bring vacationers here for scuba diving to explore the shipwrecks.
North Dakota: Grahams Island State Park
North Dakota’s numerous lakes and rivers create a fun playground for families each summer. Devils Lake is the largest natural body of water in the state, providing lots of recreational opportunities like swimming, sunbathing on the sand, fishing, and water sports. Grahams Island State Park sits on the shores of Devils lake, with miles of lakeshore and plenty of camping sites to fully immerse yourself in nature.
Ohio: Headlands Beach
The Buckeye State has some hidden treasures for Midwesterners looking for a sandy summer vacation. Headlands Beach, located on the Lake Erie shoreline, is the largest natural beach in the state. The Headlands Dunes State Nature Preserve, next to Headlands Beach State Park, has great hiking opportunities where you can see wetlands and prairie full of switchgrass. Be sure to bring a pair of binoculars for birdwatching.
Oklahoma: Foss Lake
Brush up on your disc golf skills at Foss Lake, where you’ll find sandy beaches and water activities like boating, fishing, and swimming. Foss Lake, surrounded by Foss State Park, is the largest lake in western Oklahoma and is home to Sunset Beach, where you’ll find cute little huts for picnicking.
Oregon: Cannon Beach
Marvel at the iconic Haystack Rock, a monolith that rises 235 feet in the air, and an array of wildlife like sea stars, crabs, purple sea urchins, sea anemones, and tufted puffins at Oregon’s well-loved Cannon Beach. Situated 90 minutes west of Portland, Cannon Beach is also known for its tide pools and sea caves—feel free to investigate but don’t remove anything from the beach. To round out the adventure, make time for hiking at Ecola State Park, located 3 miles north of Cannon Beach.
Pennsylvania: Bald Eagle State Park
The artificial Joseph Foster Sayers Reservoir, situated in Pennsylvania’s Bald Eagle State Park, stretches 1,730 acres. During the warmer months, you can enjoy guided walks, wildlife viewing (including great blue herons, snapping turtles, sandpipers, ducks, and fish), and swimming by the 1,200-foot sandy beach—complete with a playground, public restrooms, and ample parking. Camp in a tent, yurt, or cottage at Russell P. Letterman Campground.
Rhode Island: East Beach
The Ocean State boasts 40 miles of coastline so picking the best beach is no easy task. The best for action might be Misquamicut State Beach in Westerly, while the best for quiet solitude might be Goosewing Beach in Little Compton. Taylor Swift fans will want to visit East Beach, in the affluent community of Watch Hill, where the singer has a summer home. This beach stretches from the Watch Hill Lighthouse past the Ocean House Hotel.
South Carolina: Daufuskie Island
There are no bridges connecting Daufuskie Island to mainland South Carolina and that’s part of what makes this secluded and rustic island so alluring. Few cars are on the island and most folks drive golf carts on the sandy paths to get from point A to point B. Ancient oak trees dripping in Spanish moss are all over the landscape, as well as old Gullah homes and landmarks. When you’re not at the beach swimming and playing in the sand, you can enjoy low country cuisine, outdoor art galleries, and exclusive golf opportunities at Haig Point.
South Dakota: Lewis and Clark Recreation Area
Travel to southeastern South Dakota, and you’ll find the Lewis and Clark Lake at the Lewis and Clark Recreation Area, ideal for vacationers that want to camp and play on the sandy beaches. If you’ve ever wanted to try archery, this is your chance. There’s a large archery range here for practicing. A resort, marina, and restaurant will ensure that you’ll have a fun-filled weekend with all the amenities and comforts of home.
Tennessee: Cheatham Lake
Built by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1950, Cheatham Lake in Ashland City has 320 miles of shoreline. Playgrounds, picnic sites, boat ramps, marinas, and protected beaches are safe for swimming allure vacationers from all over the state. Try windsurfing, kayaking, wakeboarding, and water skiing at this adventurer’s paradise.
Texas: Padre Island
With more than 370 miles of stunning coastline along the Gulf of Mexico, Texas offers some of the best beaches in the country. Padre Island National Seashore features the longest barrier island globally, protecting 70 miles of diverse ecosystems throughout its prairies, dunes, coastlines, and wind tidal flats. Beachcombing, beach driving, beach bike riding, fishing, swimming, bird watching, and camping are all popular summer activities. From June through August, you can watch turtle hatchling releases.
Utah: Sand Hollow State Park
Boaters, bikers, and ATV riders love Sand Hollow State Park, an adventurer’s playground near the towns of Hurricane and St. George in the Greater Zion area. The Mars-like landscape on Sand Mountain stretches for 15,000 dune-covered acres. It will be a reprieve from the sun to swim and play in the red sand at Sand Hollow Lake or rent a boat for the day. When you’ve had enough, pop on over to nearby Zion National Park, the state’s first national park, for a full southwestern Utah adventure.
Vermont: Boulder Beach State Park
Known for mountains, lakes, and forests, Vermont is an outdoor lover’s paradise. The Green Mountain State also offers a wide variety of scenic beaches. Boulder Beach State Park in Groton has a 250-foot beach and swimming area and an interesting landscape full of large round boulders left by glaciers long ago. Hike in Groton State Forest, rent a pedal boat, fish for perch and bass, and visit the Groton Nature Center.
Virginia: Virginia Beach
Easily the most popular state beach on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, Virginia Beach is close to the Chesapeake Bay. Surfing, sand volleyball, beach dining, and snorkeling are popular activities. Walk along the 3-mile boardwalk. When you’ve had enough of building sandcastles and floating in the water, rent a bike and venture on to the Back Bay Natural Refuge, a prominent habitat for migratory birds. Virginia Beach is also host to a bunch of fun summer events and festivals.
Washington: Ruby Beach
In the Pacific Northwest region of the U.S., several beaches attract families and friends each summer. The wide Ruby Beach, just off Highway 101 on the southwest coast of the Olympic Peninsula, is perfect for its accessibility, bald eagle and western gull sightings, and beachcombing opportunities. Managed by the National Park Service, the coastal waters here are home to various marine life. Nesting colonies of birds, like tufted puffins, live in the rocky landscape. Low tide at Ruby Beach is an excellent time to wander the grounds, looking for shells and signs of sea life.
West Virginia: Summersville Lake
Lakes, rivers, and the tree-covered Appalachian Mountains set the scene for this West Virginia outdoor utopia. Featuring 28,000 acres of water and 60 miles of shoreline, Summersville Lake, formed by a rock-fill dam on the Gauley River, is the largest lake in West Virginia. Swimming, fishing, boating, and picnicking are all on offer here. The steep sandstone cliffs provide a beautiful backdrop, and the water quality is excellent. Stay the weekend in a cabin or camp at an RV site, rent a pontoon boat, and enjoy a tour of the Summersville Lake Lighthouse.
Wisconsin: Sand Valley
For families that really want privacy and flexibility when it comes to an outdoor-focused vacation, look no further than Sand Valley Golf Resort, where you can see a show of stars in the dark and clear skies. Reserve a relatively remote cottage, with a backdrop of dunes and grassy knolls, located in the center of the state. While many folks vacation at the Wisconsin Dells or Door County—both great places—your family might want to try a newly developed destination that offers fat bike riding, stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, golf, tennis on grass courts, lake swimming, and fishing.
Wyoming: String and Leigh Lakes
Grand Teton National Park, near Jackson, is not just home to towering peaks; it also has lakes carved by glaciers thousands of years ago. Jackson Lake is the park’s largest, while String and Leigh Lakes are arguably the most popular for their swimming, hiking, and picnic access. Bring a boat and paddle around String Lake before portaging up Leigh (Leigh Lake is only accessible by foot or boat). Be aware of bears and don’t forget to bring your camera to capture the stunning countryside. For nearby accommodations, stay at The Lodge at Jackson Hole or sojourn in a nearby cabin or campground.
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