Sunshine and exploring on the East Coast of the United States
Nothing screams summer vacation to us louder than crashing waves and melting ice creams along beachfront promenades! We are equally fond of wide sandy beaches as granite cliffs with crashing waves and rock pools to explore. Whatever the weather brings this year – it’s time to bring on the beach!
You name it, the East Coast of the USA has got it; From remote but beautiful spots in the outer banks to large city beaches that families simply love for their accessibility and nearby attractions.
We previously discussed our favourite worldwide family beaches here, but we know many of our readers will only be able to travel domestically in the US this year so we are seeking out the best beaches across the country – starting with the East Coast.
This post is part of our beach vacation series and Discover the USA
Best East Coast Beaches for Families in the US
The entire East Coast of the US has some gorgeous beaches. Who wouldn’t love to sink their feet into the sand and relax in front of scenic views? Here are some of the best beaches on the East Coast for families.
1. Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
Ask any beach addict, and they’ll tell you: Rehoboth Beach is one of the best East Coast family beaches in the US. It is a popular destination in the beach town of Delaware, with many fun options to keep your family together. Visit the boardwalk for eateries, shops, and free concerts on a summer night.
Rehoboth Beach is a fun place for kids where they can enjoy exciting activities and rides in the Funland amusement park and Jungle Jim’s complex. The small beach museum is a must-visit to see everything from vintage postcards to old bathing suits. Don’t miss the natural fauna at Cape Henlopen State Park.
2. Duck, North Carolina
Ensconced in the lap of the Outer Banks, Duck is one of the most scenic beaches in the East Coast region. The quaint island of Duck offers a view of the vast ocean. You’ll also enjoy the calm and picturesque Currituck Sound, the only freshwater sound in this region.
You’ll find private accommodation options like seaside rentals and luxury stays here. These are perfect for families that want to spend some quiet time close to the beaches. You can take walks to the village and find shops and eateries to enjoy some fun time together as a family.
3. Hilton Head, South Carolina
Hilton Head Island offers one of the best beaches in South Carolina for families. Lined with tall oak trees and moss, this island offers beaches and lighthouses. Thus, you get a view that your kids will continue to turn into paintings till your next vacation.
Climb atop a lighthouse for an unforgettable panorama. The gentle waves are perfect even for young children. The adventurous older kids can enjoy kayaking or paddleboarding. Meanwhile, you can take advantage of the golf courses and beach biking paths on this island.
4. Tybee Island, Georgia
Tybee Island is a small but culturally rich city that beckons visitors with its storied past. It is also lined with one of the best East Coast beaches where you can take your family on an unforgettable vacation. Besides five mesmerizing beaches, the place has picturesque dunes.
Here on Tybee Island, you can watch the sun dipping into horizons and spot dolphins. Don’t miss the tallest and oldest lighthouse in the state. Take your family on a hike to Fort Pulaski, where you can enjoy bird-watching and biking – and follow it up with a boat ride and seafood dinner.
5. Virginia Beach, Virginia
Bordering the southeastern coast of the City of Virginia is Virginia Beach, with a family-friendly environment. It is an excellent location to visit with your kids. They will thank you for the thrilling trip, with experiences of go-karting and spotting wildlife at the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge.
Don’t forget to take the young ones to Chick’s Beach. Here, the waves are gentle enough to keep the little ones safe as they swim in the ocean. With various hotels, restaurants, and shopping destinations for both luxury trips and budget vacays, you can plan the trip that suits your pocket.
6. St. Augustine Beach, Florida
With picture-perfect beaches, colonial architecture, and extraordinary wildlife, St. Augustine is more than one of the best East Coast beaches in Florida. It is one of the ideal spots for a family trip, with a little something for everyone. It provides a wide range of activities, besides breathtaking views.
In this coastal location on Anastasia Island, you can try your hand at fishing at St. Johns County Pier. Here, the kids can have fun at the beach-facing park. Don’t miss the Ocean Hammock Park where you’ll picnic spots to pool up with your cooler and nature trails – not to forget the sea-turtle nesting areas!
Where to stay: On a budget try Quality Inn & Suites St Augustine Beach or luxury try Embassy Suites St Augustine Beach Oceanfront Resort
7. Kiawah Island, South Carolina
If you’re looking for a secluded destination to have a quiet getaway with your family, Kiawah Island is an excellent spot for you. This quiet South Carolina beach location has lots to offer to all the members of your family. From young adventure-seekers to older nature-lovers: everyone will enjoy it here.
If you love golf, you’ll love this location because it is one of the premier gold regions of this part of the country. Experience luxury at the villas facing the ocean and hang out at the sandy stretches to enjoy the sunset. You can also go snorkeling, diving, and swimming with dolphins!
8. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Everybody knows that Myrtle Beach is one of the most pocket-friendly among US beach vacation destinations. It is also quite easy to access, making it a popular choice for families. You can hang out at the beautiful beaches with your family and bask in the glorious rays of the sun.
The exciting thing about Myrtle Beach is that it is more than a family beach. You’ll have lots of fun things to do with your family. From shows to retail therapy, from go-karting to devouring delicious food – it’s all here. Your kids will also enjoy the Wonderworks Amusement Park and Ripley’s Museum.
9. Old Orchard Beach, Maine
Old Orchard Beach is one of the favorite locations for US families because of the engaging entertainment options for both children and adults. The beach area is absolutely safe, with lifeguards stationed all around to keep an eye on your security. You can also enjoy long walks and sunbathing.
If you’re an adventurous soul, don’t miss the opportunities to go bodysurfing, jet skiing, and kayaking. You must also visit the Pier where you can shop till you drop and enjoy delicious seafood. You can also visit Palace Playland, a beachfront amusement park with rides for both adults and toddlers.
10. Nantucket, Massachusetts
With a heavenly coastal stretch of 80 miles, Nantucket Island is a massive draw for vacationers, especially families. Along this stretch, Children’s Beach will be your family’s instant favorite, which has a fairly self-explanatory name. You’ll be relieved to see so many lifeguards keeping an eye on your safety.
Don’t forget the Jetties, with the photogenic Brant Point Lighthouse and the delightful Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge. This region has many other local attractions that will keep you busy. If you’d like to spend more time in the waters, you can charter a yacht for an excursion.
11. Newport, Rhode Island
Long walks along the beach, bird watching, seasonal music concerts – that’s what Newport is all about. Once a colonial town, Newport now harbors a synagogue that is considered the oldest in all of the United States! You’ll also be mesmerized by all the waterfront mansions in this region. The playgrounds and the skate park here should keep the children happy, too.
You can even enjoy a scenic walk along the Cliff Walk trail, though it’s best not to cover too much of it with young children. That’s because parts of this rocky trail can be somewhat dangerous. There are plenty of hotels and suites near the beach, along with restaurants that offer eclectic menus.
12. Vero Beach, Florida
Another excellent vacation spot located in Florida is Vero Beach on the Treasure Coast. Lacking the crowds of tourist that await at many of Florida’s east coast beaches, this small coastal hamlet offers wide sandy beaches and a picturesque beachfront, filled with pelicans, sandpipers and turtles.
The area is considered an important nesting area for loggerhead turtles. The whole family will enjoy a day trip to the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge to learn about sea turtle conservation. Seafood lovers will also be spoilt for choice and enjoy a stroll through historic downtown, filled with museums, boutique shops and art galleries.
13. Coney Island, New York
If you think New York City is all about skyscrapers and Times Square, you need to take a trip to Coney Island! Here you will find a family-friendly vacation spot with a soft, inviting sandy stretch. On a beautiful summer day, you’ll find this beach buzzing with families like yours, all relaxing and having fun. It’s the quintessential US city beach experience.
It has a Ferris wheel like the Wonder Wheel and an amusement park-like Luna Park. Don’t miss the chance to enjoy a dip in the ocean between the morning and the evening – and follow it up by snacking on hot dogs!
14. Acadia National Park, Maine
For a unique vacation that’s nothing like your run-of-the-mill, fun-in-the-sun trip to the beach, Acadia National Park is an excellent destination. While its two beaches are enormous attractions, you can also enjoy the stunning lakes and ponds here. It’s a serene place in the arms of Mother Nature.
Sand Beach has an unforgettable view of rocky cliffs and crashing waves. The other beach lines the Echo Lake and is a calm spot amidst lush greenery, perfect for swims with the family. Bicycle rides are particularly enchanting here, and you can also take a hike along the famed Ocean Path.
15. Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
Martha’s Vineyard is skirted by around twelve beaches, most of which are open to visitors. The most popular public beaches are in the south, though, and you can enjoy a gala time with your family in this stretch of the island. There’s a lot to do here, including a picnic on the beach.
With soft white sand and big beautiful waves, Long Point Beach and South Beach are absolute must-visits, especially if you want to try bodyboarding. There’s also a private lake in the Long Point Wildlife refuge, which is perfect for kids. Don’t miss the delicious food and sunset at the rocky Menemsha Beach.
16. Cape Henlopen State Park, Delaware
Cape Henlopen State Park, with more than 5000 acres of shores, is a place of wild beauty. It is the ideal US beach vacation destination in the East Coast area for any adventurous family that wants to go hiking or horseback riding. The forests and marshlands in this region make the place unique and exciting.
The rolling waves and the meandering beach are perfect for spotting dolphins and build sandcastles with the kids. On the other hand, the bayside offers calm waters, and the Cape Henlopen Lighthouse adorns the view in front of you. There are many activities here, ranging from camping trips to aquarium visits.
Where to stay: In Lewes, try Home2 Suites by Hilton
17. Fire Island, New York
Fire Island National Seashore is yet another incredible beach destination in Long Island, New York, ready to embrace you with the beauty of nature. Here you can enjoy miles of beaches and dunes, as well as a sunken maritime forest. It is the ideal place for kids to enjoy walks and observe flora and fauna.
Make sure to take your family to this island’s iconic lighthouse, where you will find an interactive museum. There are beach communities with houses on rent, perfect for families, and you can only reach them by ferry. When you’re not watching sunsets, enjoy a shopping spree and a fun family dinner.
Where to stay: Try a beachfront cottage to yourselves
18. Wilmington, North Carolina
Is your family a mix of fun-lovers and peace-seekers? Then, Wilmington is one of the best US beach vacation destinations on the East Coast, with a little bit of both. There are three public beaches: Carolina, Kure, and Wrightsville. Each of these offers a different mood and environment for different types of families.
Wrightsville Beach will be ideal for you if you’re looking for surfing and sunbathing experiences, paired with great seafood. Kure Beach, on the other hand, is a place for quiet walks, collecting seashells, and making sandcastles. Carolina Beach’s boardwalk offers amusements that every kid loves!
19. Ocean City, Maryland
Families looking for US beach vacation destinations love Ocean City with its enormous beach and ample facilities. Patrolled regularly by lifeguards, it is one of the safest places to enjoy a beach experience, even with kids. The boardwalk offers restaurants, shopping locations, and play areas.
There’s also an amusement park where you and the kids can indulge in plenty of games and rides. Ocean City is also a great place to try jet skiing and sea fishing. For a unique experience, visit the Assateague Island National Seashore, where you’ll find dreamy wild horses roaming around.
20. Cape May, New Jersey
This historic city is a seaside gem! The entire city is a National Historic District with over 600 preserved Victorian buildings that can be seen on a trolley tour. But family-friendly? Absolutely! Beachfront promenades beckon along with the oldest working lighthouse in the country.
Cape May is a great spot, for families who love to mix their beaches with exploring and adventure. The Atlantic surf is brilliant for kids who want to grab their Boogie Board and hit the waves or your older thrill-seekers can try their hand at parasailing or jet ski. A day trip out on the Cape May Whale Watcher is a must for whale and dolphin spotting, or take a kayak through the inland marshes.
21. Amelia Island, Florida
If it’s wide-open spaces and an escape from the crowds that you want, you might just find your paradise in Amelia Island, the very north-easternmost corner of Florida. 13 miles of unspoilt shoreline, pristine waters and an abundance of wildlife this is one of our favorite East Coast beaches for families.
Besides the beautiful beachfront at Main Beach Park, Fort Clinch State Park is a must for hiking and biking, fishing and swimming. Head inland for kayaking or explore the giant sand dunes of Boneyard Beach.
A beach trip with the family can be as laid back or adventurous as you want. Small moments of hiking along the rocky beach and collecting seashells can become precious memories. Thankfully, the East Coast of the US offers coastlines for the best family beach vacations. So, pick a destination and start planning today!
More for your family beach vacation
Before you go, don’t forget to check out the beach vacation planning section of our website. Here you can find;
- Our Ultimate Beach Packing List – essentials for every beach trip + a downloadable beach packing checklist
- Tips for your baby’s very first trip to the beach – top tips from sun safety to controlling the sand & items you’ll want to pack
- Best beach sun canopies – from baby beach tents to something big enough to fit the family, why you might want to invest in one of these for a big day at the beach
- The best beach toys for summer 2021– the essentials we always keep in our beach bag
- Boogie boards suitable for kids – you’ll definitely want one of these if you’re heading to any of the beaches with big waves
- Will your kids need beach shoes? A look at different styles of water shoes and when you might need them at the beach
- Sandproof & waterproof beach blankets – big enough to fit all the family
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