Sunshine and family vacations 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 breaking waves and rock pools to explore. Whatever the weather brings this year – it’s time to bring on the beach!
When it comes to family vacations, you name it, the East Coast of the USA has got it! From remote but beautiful spots on the outer banks to large city beaches that families simply love for their accessibility and nearby attractions.
We previously discussed our favorite worldwide family beaches here, but we know many of our readers want to explore domestically in the US, 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
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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 and the best family accommodations.
- 1. Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
- 2. Duck, North Carolina
- 3. Hilton Head, South Carolina
- 4. Tybee Island, Georgia
- 5. Virginia Beach, Virginia
- 6. St. Augustine Beach, Florida
- 7. Kiawah Island, South Carolina
- 8. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
- 9. Old Orchard Beach, Maine
- 10. Nantucket, Massachusetts
- 11. Newport, Rhode Island
- 12. Vero Beach, Florida
- 13. Coney Island, New York
- 14. Acadia National Park, Maine
- 15. Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
- 16. Cape Henlopen State Park, Delaware
- 17. Fire Island, New York
- 18. Wilmington, North Carolina
- 19. Ocean City, Maryland
- 20. Cape May, New Jersey
- 21. Bethany Beach, Delaware
- 22. Madison, Connecticut
- 23. Hampton Beach, New Hampshire
- 24. Block Island, Rhode Island
- 25. Montauk, New York
- 26. Amelia Island, Florida
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1. Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
Ask any beach addict, and they’ll tell you that 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 (more below!).
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 from seaside cottage rentals to luxury stays here. These are perfect for families wanting to spend some quiet time near the beaches. You can take walks to the village and find shops and eateries to enjoy a fun time together as a family. Don’t forget to bring along some toys for babies to keep them entertained if you have little ones who aren’t old enough to appreciate the lovely setting.
The beach is not overly crowded, so we love that canopy tents are welcome to provide you with a comfortable spot to relax and enjoy the ocean breeze.
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 beautiful beaches and lighthouses. Thus, you get a view that your kids will continue to turn into paintings till your next vacation.
We love that there are so many fun activities for kids in Hilton Head; Climb atop a lighthouse for an unforgettable panorama or enjoy the gentle waves, perfect for young children. The adventurous older kids can enjoy kayaking or paddleboarding or take advantage of the multiple beach biking paths on this island.
Hot sunny day at the beach? With young children especially, you will need to consider investing in a pop-up beach tent
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 the horizon 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 a Virginia coastal 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.
Discover the city’s macabre past on a ghost tour through the historic Old Town. Admire the fantastic furnishing of the Victorian era at Villa Zorayda Museum. Take an airboat safari to see Florida’s wildlife in the freshwater wetlands of St. Johns River. Looking for more ideas? Check out this list of things to do in St. Augustine.
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 for 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 your family members. 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 golf regions in this part of the country. Experience luxury at the villas facing the ocean with private beach frontage and hang out on the sandy stretches to enjoy the sunset. You can also go snorkeling, diving, and swimming with dolphins!
With its soft, white sandy expanses and few crowds for much of the year, it’s the perfect spot to pitch your pop-up beach tent and settle in for a full day of beach fun.
8. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Everybody knows that Myrtle Beach is one of the most pocket-friendly 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 tourists 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.
Vero Beach is also a popular choice with Disney fans, given its close proximity to Orlando, as well as being home to the Disney Vero Beach Resort.
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!
Not all beach vacations in the US need to be remote; whilst granted you won’t get the state’s softest white sand here it still makes an excellent daycation spot for NYC families.
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 east coast vacation destination. While its two beaches are the main attraction, you can also enjoy the stunning lakes and ponds here. It’s a serene place in the arms of Mother Nature, and a must-visit east coast National Park for every family.
Sand Beach has an unforgettable view of rocky cliffs and crashing waves. The other beach lines Echo Lake and is a calm spot amidst lush greenery, perfect for swimming with the family. Bicycle rides are particularly enchanting here, and you can also take a hike along the famed Ocean Path.
Where to stay: nearby, on a budget try High Seas Motel in Bar Harbor, or luxury try The Inn on Mount Desert. Campers staying in the National Park need to book in advance with recreation.gov with a rolling 60-day window.
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 building 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 nearby aquarium visits, sure to keep the family active and engaged on their east coast beach vacation.
17. Fire Island, New York
Fire Island National Seashore is yet another incredible beach destination found off 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, safely ride their bikes 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 17 small beach communities in total along the sandbar shoreline with houses on rent, perfect for families. And the real magic of Fire Island? You can only reach it by ferry, the island is completely car-free!
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 with a happening vibe 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 great for jet skiing and sea fishing.
For a unique experience, visit the nearby Assateague Island National Seashore, where you’ll find dreamy wild horses roaming around; also a great spot in Maryland for beach camping.
The beauty of Ocean City is it can really be a year-round destination (albeit we’d be sticking to the shores in winter!). It’s a great East Coast city to visit in the colder winter months, with Winterfest of Light a highlight, along with new Years fireworks and celebrations.
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. Bethany Beach, Delaware
If you find the bright lights of Ocean City and Rehoboth not quite to your taste and want a slightly more rustic and relaxed east coast beach vacation, Bethany Beach in Delaware could be that serene escape that you’re hoping for. Bethany Beach still has a boardwalk, though it is low-key and lacks the loud amusement rides and arcades, which can be some families’ idea of bliss!!
Don’t worry, there’s still plenty to keep the kids amused from mini-golf to weekly bonfire nights and movies on the beach in summer. Is the ideal place we’d recommend for a relaxed, multi-generation group gathering on a peaceful part of the east coast.
Where to stay: On a budget try the simple but well-appointed and located Hotel Bethany Beach, or Bethany Beach Ocean Suites Residence Inn by Marriott is a great family choice with family rooms overlooking the beach.
22. Madison, Connecticut
Connecticut, New England, is probably not the first place that springs to mind when you’re thinking of East Coast beach vacation, but for the curious, it DOES have some sandy beachfront! Nature lovers will adore a trip to the quaint historic town of Madison on Long Island Sound. It has an old beachfront town charm, but be warned, it can be packed with tourists on a hot summer’s day!
Hammonasset Beach State Park offers more than two miles of sandy beachfront among its 1000 acres, along with the Meigs Point Nature Center. There are also many trails to explore in the Madison Land Conservation Trust.
Make sure you rent some bikes to enjoy the best of the beachfront and the developing Shoreline Greenway Trail, or mountain bikers will be in their place at nearby Rockland Preserve, 650 acres and 17 trails of mountain biking heaven!
Where to stay: Summer camping is a must in the state park (but book early), or if you prefer 4 walls, the Grand Madison Beach Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton will be your top choice for a Connecticut beach vacation
23. Hampton Beach, New Hampshire
A nostalgic east coast family beach vacation experience can be had at Hampton Beach, New Hampshire. There are classics from arcade games to mini-golf for families to enjoy through to the Blue Ocean Discovery Center and Explore the Ocean World Oceanarium.
During summer, the Seashell Stage is the center of attention for movie nights (look out for fireworks on Wednesdays). Hampton Beach State Park is your best bet for a long and wide stretch of powdery sand perfect for sandcastle building and beach games. In August, you can catch the Hampton Beach Children’s Festival.
24. Block Island, Rhode Island
Looking for a remote east coast family beach vacation? It can certainly be hard to find but try Block Island, off the coast of Rhode Island for a simple secluded paradise.
Leave the bustle of city life behind and escape to this hidden gem by ferry. Fred Benson Town Beach has some of the softest white sand you’ll experience on the east coast, it’s patrolled by lifeguards and has gentle waves, or try Mansion Beach for larger waves.
With your older kids and if you’re up for the challenging steps, go beachcombing at Mohegan Bluffs (pictured) – a gorgeous secluded escape, from here you may even see Montauk on Long Island!
Block Island’s not huge but hilly, so the best way to get around if not bringing your car over on the ferry is by moped or renting some bikes. You’ll of course want to check out both the Southeast Lighthouse and the North Light while you’re on the island.
Many will day trip from Newport, but stay awhile for that unique east coast island escape.
25. Montauk, New York
Worthy of its reputation as one of the best beaches in New York, and on the beast coast, Montauk at the very eastern tip of Long Island, past the Hamptons. Known for its laid-back coastal vibe and as a wonderful place to escape the big smoke – just 3 hours from NYC (traffic dependent!) – it’s clear to see why it’s a favorite getaway for so many families.
Gin Beach is popular with families for its gentle waves, Kirk Beach also offers lifeguards, or Ditch Plains is where to go with your boogie boards and catch some bigger waves.
Think ice creams and candy shops, watercraft rentals from Uihlein’s Marina and Gosman’s Dock for the fish market and seafood restaurants – your quintessential east coast beach vacation (just plan your travel out of peak hour traffic!!)
26. Amelia Island, Florida
Last but not least, if it’s wide-open spaces and an escape from the crowds you want, you might just find your paradise in Amelia Island, the northeasternmost corner of Florida.
13 miles of unspoiled shoreline, pristine waters, and an abundance of wildlife, this is one of our favorite east coast beaches for families and one of the most beautiful islands in Florida.
Besides the beautiful beachfront at Main Beach Park, Fort Clinch State Park is a must for hiking, biking, fishing, and swimming. Head inland for kayaking or explore the giant sand dunes of Boneyard Beach.
For an unforgettable east coast vacation experience, why not try horseback riding on the beach at Amelia Island State Park?
There are so many more amazing family beaches in Florida we couldn’t fit them all in here, so make sure you check out our guide to the best Florida beaches for families here.
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 from our list of east coast beaches and start planning today!
More for your family beach vacation planning
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
- Toddler Beach Essentials – this tricky age group can be challenging at the beach; here’s how to come prepared for all eventualities
- The Best Beach Toys for Summer 2022– 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
- Best Kids Beach Chairs – keep (almost) sand-free on your beach trip with these perfectly kiddy-sized beach chairs
- Sandproof & waterproof beach blankets – big enough to fit all the family, see why we take one of these on every sort of family vacation!
- Perfect gifts for Mamas who love the beach – a gift guide for unique beach gifts ladies in your life will love – plus check out these gorgeous beach quotes and captions you can have printed for unique beach vacation memorabilia.
And if you’re looking for more inspiring beach vacation ideas in the USA you may also love:
- Camping Near the Beach on the US East Coast – combine the beach and outdoor adventures by staying at these beachside campsites.
- Beautiful Family Beaches in O’ahu, Hawaii (plus where you can turtle spot and snorkel!)
- California’s Best Family Beaches – from the best of southern California and San Diego to northern California hidden gems, these are the best west coast beach vacations (or look for these beaches which are closest to Disneyland!).
- Most Accessible Beaches on the Olympic Peninsula – prettiest doesn’t always mean easiest! A super helpful guide to picking kid-friendly spots on the WA Pacific Coast.
- Incredible Coastal Towns of Oregon for Family Vacations – with so many incredible pretty spots to choose from, which Oregon coastal town will suit your family’s vacation style best?
- Best Family Beaches on the Gulf Coast – A look beyond just Florida to all the fabulous beaches families will love around the Gulf of Mexico.
- Incredible Destinations Around the World for Beginner Snorkelers (you can guess where the best spots are in the USA!)
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