10 Beautiful Beach Destinations

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If your ideal beach experience includes lounging beneath an umbrella on white sands while watching the sunset, we’ve got you covered. If you prefer a rigorous hike that yields expansive views, look no further. If you want to fly a kite, rent a boat, or ride an off-highway vehicle on the dunes, take a look at one of these spectacular locations. These beach destinations span the country and range from ocean-side to lake-side locations, each one offering unique and quality experiences and amenities.

Find yourself lakeside or by the ocean on these beautiful beaches in nine different states.

From sea to shining sea, our public lands have no shortage of stunning and surprising beaches

Padre Island National Seashore


Ink-blue, mauve, pink, yellow and gold sunrise over an empty, quiet beach

Padre Island National Seashore (Rebecca Latson, Share the Experience)

Padre Island National Seashore is 70 miles (112 km) of pure barrier island coastline, the longest of its kind. There are plenty of activities for the avid beach lover and outdoor enthusiast, whether it’s relaxing in the sun, camping, fishing, or birding. Malaquite Beach and Pavilion offers everything a beachgoer needs complete with observation decks, a visitor center, gift shop, bath house, picnic tables, shaded deck, wheelchair accessible boardwalk, ranger-led activities and more. Camping at Padre Island National Seashore is first-come, first-served, so plan ahead and get there early.

Olympic National Park


A large rock formation lined with trees juts out off the shores of a sandy beach at sunset

Olympic National Park (Kassidy Blair, Share the Experience)

Mora and Rialto Beach in Olympic National Park offer rocky beaches, giant drift logs, pounding waves and views of offshore islands known as 'seastacks' – a photographer’s dream. Just inland is the Mora area, characterized by towering trees, lush undergrowth, and the omnipresent roar of the Pacific Ocean in the background. Serene, dramatic, and beautiful best describe this northwestern coastal gem.

Gulf Islands National Seashore


Low sand dunes covered with scrub grass beneath a rainbow colored sunset

Gulf Islands National Seashore (Norman Lathrop, Share the Experience)

Imagine stunning blue water, sugar-white sand and rainbow sunsets and the picture will look a lot like Gulf Islands National Seashore. Spend a day at Perdido Key or overnight at Fort Pickens campground. Other services and accommodations are available in Pensacola. For the icing on the cake, further your education and enjoyment by joining a ranger-guided program.

Channel Islands


A horseshoe-shaped turquoise blue harbor between tall rocky cliffs by the sea

Channel Islands National Park (Stephanie Eng-Namba, Share the Experience)

At Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more scenic and adventurous beach getaway, overflowing with an abundance of sea life. The water is so crystal clear that you can see the massive kelp forests beneath the surface. Whales and dolphins visit the area every year, plus flourishing seabird colonies call this area home. You can also camp on one of the islands in Channel Islands National Park. The atmosphere is wild yet peaceful, with gorgeous white sand beaches. Hike, explore tide pools, dive, snorkel, kayak, or stand-up paddle…the activities are endless.

Additional camping near Orange and San Diego Counties is available in the Angeles National Forest. Reserve one of the group campsites or stay in one of the first-come, first-served campgrounds.

Cumberland Island National Seashore


A sand road cuts through a grove of southern oak trees

Cumberland Island National Seashore (Erica Brown, Share the Experience)

Cumberland Island National Seashore is a legendary East Coast destination. Designated Wilderness, undeveloped beaches, historic sites, cultural ruins, critical habitat and nesting areas, wild horses and thriving plant and animal communities are hallmarks of Georgia’s largest barrier island. The national seashore also offers a wide variety of camping opportunities. While vehicles are not allowed on the island, you can explore all the island has to offer by foot or bike. Sound like a fairytale? You’ll have to see it to believe it!

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore


A girl enjoying a sandy beach on the shore of Lake Michigan

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (Matt Layman, Share the Experience)

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore offers 65 miles (104.6 km) of sand beach and bluffs that tower 450 feet (137 m) above Lake Michigan. Clear inland lakes, unique flora and fauna, immense sand dunes, lush hardwood and conifer forests, meadows, wetlands, streams, and bogs are all features of this unique area. It is topped off with a huge helping of history – abandoned farm sites, U.S. Life-Saving Service stations, an island lighthouse, and countless shipwrecks to explore.

Book your advance camping reservations at Platte River or remote South Manitou Group Campground, a tent-only, backcountry facility on South Manitou Island reached by a 1.5-hour ferry or boat ride. A visit to Sleeping Bear Dunes is bound to make even the most traveled visitor feel the wonders of the natural world.

Acadia National Park


A ground-level perspective of a rocky beach on the Atlantic Ocean at sunrise

Acadia National Park (Weldon Williamson, Share the Experience)

Did you know one of the first places you can watch the sunrise in the United States is from Acadia National Park? This east coast treasure has 60 miles (96.6 km) of coastline and endless beaches to explore. Mount Desert Island is home to the aptly named Sand Beach, one of two swimming beaches in the park. Lifeguards may be onsite seasonally. If sand isn't your thing, there are plenty of rugged, scenic, and rocky beaches for bouldering, tidepooling, and hiking.

Golden Gate National Recreation Area


A woman stands on a wide sandy beach overlooking the Pacific Ocean

Golden Gate National Recreation Area (Sara Esslinger, Share the Experience)

Golden Gate National Recreation Area is more than just a bridge - the park is home to 19 different ecosystems, scenic vistas, and plenty of recreational opportunities. Kirby Cove Campground offers five tent-only campsites with access to the beach, historic Battery Kirby, and Marin Headlands. Muir Beach is a quiet, dog-friendly cove worth a visit with your furry companion. The Tennessee Valley Trail is a 1.7-mile (2.7 km) hike down to the beautiful, rocky Tennessee Beach (pictured above). This is a great spot for a picnic - just practice Leave No Trace and pack out all of your trash and food items.

Siuslaw National Forest


A wide sandy beach nestled in a rocky cove

Siuslaw National Forest (Andrey Dubovoy, Share the Experience)

For incredible experiences and sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean, head to Siuslaw National Forest along Oregon's central coast. Cape Perpetua is an ideal spot to hike, walk along the beach, and take in the sights and sounds of the ocean. Play for a day or book a stay at Cape Perpetua Campground to explore all that this forest has to offer.

If you're an off-road enthusiast who likes to ride the dunes, Sand Lake Recreation Area is a popular area spanning more than 1,000 acres (4.05 square kilometers) and is surrounded by incredible views of forests and the Pacific Ocean. Before the rubber hits the sand, be sure to pick up your off-highway vehicle permit

Pomme de Terre Lake


Two picnic shelters near the shore of a roped off beach and swimming area

Pomme de Terre Lake (US Army Corps of Engineers)

Known as the "Gem of the Ozarks," Pomme de Terre Lake offers campers cool, clear spring waters and a refreshing break from the Midwestern heat. Wheatland Park offers 36 campsites with electric and water hookups, an accessible group picnic shelter, a playground, shower houses, a boat ramp, and access to a swim beach. No matter where you choose to play, each beach has a large parking lot, two picnic shelters, bathrooms with showers and lots of sand to kick back and relax on. Pack your life jackets and get ready for a great day on the water!

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