Bucket List July 07, 2021
These 22 Beaches Across America Absolutely Must Be Added To Your Bucket List
There is little more delightful than a trip to the beach; it’s the classic American vacation. And there are two main kinds of beach vacations: the adventurous,
carpe diem, thrilling type of trip that features activities such as parasailing, surfing, and snorkeling; and the “get away from it all” kind of retreat that involves beach chairs, toes in the sand, book in hand, and perhaps an umbrella-topped drink. Happily, in the U.S., you’ll find beautiful beaches sure to satisfy both camps. From coast to coast, and even in between, these 22 beaches across America are all superlative places that offer so much more than just sun and sand, and will absolutely inspire you to plan your next beach holiday.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life. While we continue to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, please take proper precautions or add them to your bucket list to see at a later date. If you know of a local business that could use some extra support during these times, please nominate them here:
Northeast United StatesMontauk Point State Park - The Hamptons, New York
2000 Old Montauk Hwy, Montauk, NY 11954, USA
The juxtaposition of rugged, weather-worn lighthouses and million-dollar mansions is unique to The Hamptons; a beautiful dissonance that defines the area. While many of the Hamptons' beaches can be prone to crowds, Southampton's Coopers Beach has some of the most serene, pristine shoreline on the island, offering a quiet and relaxing retreat for vacationers. For a truly unique Hamptons experience, skip the hotel and instead book a luxury
for an unrivaled experience of this island.
Cape May - New Jersey
One of the best beaches on the Mid-Atlantic coast, Cape May is a postcard-perfect place to kick back and enjoy a good, old-fashioned vacation. An island comprised of several small regions, the beaches of Cape May are all beautiful and family-friendly, with most easily walkable to charming accommodations, attractions, and dining venues in town. Affectionally referred to as "America's Original Seaside Resort," the town of Cape May is itself noteworthy, too; it's a designated National Historic Landmark due to its concentration of well-preserved Victorian buildings. In fact, the town's
opened in 1816 as the first seaside resort in the country. Today, this historic hotel offers vacationers a completely unique and charming place to stay in Cape May.
Ocean City Beach - Maryland
Ocean City Beach, Ocean City, MD 21842, USA
With 10 miles of spectacular shoreline, a public promenade, and beautiful boardwalk (that has its very own Ferris wheel), Ocean City Beach offers visitors a classic beach experience. You'll feel like a true vacationer while at Ocean City Beach, as its endless shores and nostalgic seaside attractions are delightfully postcard-perfect. The open, sandy shore is perfect for enjoying old-fashioned beach activities like volleyball or picnicking. And if your perfect beach day begins with an immense, inspiring sunrise, this
is definitely for you.
Goose Rocks Beach - Kennebunkport, Maine
Goose Rocks Beach, Kennebunkport, ME 04046, USA
Goose Rocks Beach is pure, unadulterated
. With its craggy coastline, quiet atmosphere, and winsome architecture, Kennebunkport, Maine, is as postcard-perfect as it gets. This region is home to some of Maine's most scenic shoreline, with nearly four miles of beaches from which to choose. Goose Rocks is Kennebunkport's largest stretch of shoreline; a protected area featuring wide-open spaces and wonderfully soft sand. It's the best place for spending a relaxing day reading a book, toes buried in the sand, waves sonorously splashing in the background. If you're feeling ambitious, wander into Kennebunkport; this
charming coastal town
is home to incredible seafood restaurants and classic Old Maine architecture.
Southern United StatesLake Travis - Austin, Texas
Lake Travis looks like something you'd see in Hawaii, not the middle of Texas. This pristine lake offers Texans the opportunity for a beach day that rivals any of its coastal counterparts. Technically a reservoir, with 30 square miles of surface area, Lake Travis has the largest storage capacity of the seven reservoirs known as the Highland Lakes, and it feels oceanic. A popular place for outdoor recreation (Lake Travis is home to the
largest zip line in Texas
), the sunsets here are positively perfect and best enjoyed over a relaxed dinner at
Hilton Head Island - South Carolina
Hilton Head Island, SC, USA
There's a reason Hilton Head is such a top U.S. vacation destination, and that's because this South Carolina island is home to some of the country's most beautiful beaches. From the moment you drive over the iconic James F. Byrnes Bridge into Hilton Head, you'll truly be on island time. This well-planned island boasts 12 miles of beaches and is divided into 11 primary locales, each with its own restaurants, shopping, recreation, and beach access. Nothing about Hilton Head feels commercial or touristy either, as the main attraction here truly is the beach. And with a near-endless expanse of picturesque shoreline, you're sure to have the ultimate beach vacation at
Hilton Head Island
Ocracoke Island - The Outer Banks, North Carolina
Ocracoke Island is constantly ranked as one of the best beaches in the country, and it's not difficult to see why. This
beach in The Outer Banks
is unique for myriad reasons, including its historical significance as the home of the infamous Blackbeard. As with most beaches in OBX, Ocracoke is more dunes and high tides than calm, pristine coastline, but there is a lot to be said for its rugged handsomeness. In fact, the choppy tides and uneven terrain make way for some of the best beachcombing in the country; a veritable treasure hunt that would make Blackbeard proud.
Virginia Beach - Virginia
Virginia's eponymous beach is proof that you'll find some of the country's best beaches along the Eastern Seaboard. A beautiful coastal retreat with distinct New England ruggedness, Virginia Beach boasts 35 miles of scenic, sandy shores. There are many ways to enjoy Virginia Beach, but if you're looking for an adventure that's bucket-list worthy, opt for a
. During these guided tours, the horses trot right along the incoming tide, for what will surely be one of the most magical experiences of your life.
Rosemary Beach - Florida
Rosemary Beach, FL 32413, USA
If the turquoise waters and white sand beaches of the Caribbean are beckoning, leave the passport at home and head to Rosemary Beach, a lesser-known locale along the Florida panhandle. You'll be on official "island time" once you set foot on this beautiful beach, which boasts shimmering blue waters and white quartz sand. Rosemary Beach, however, really is the sum of its parts; in addition to its brilliant shoreline, the eponymous town features charming old architecture, stone sidewalks, and delightful restaurants. It's so quaint that a visit to this
really is a true
Caladesi Island State Park - Florida
Caladesi Island, Dunedin, FL 33767, USA
Florida's Caladesi Island (one of Dr. Beach's 2021 picks for Best Beaches in the U.S.) is the very definition of an
. Accessible by ferry or boat only, this Florida inlet features soft, white quartz sand, captivating turquoise waters, and near-perfect coastal panoramas. The ultimate place to unwind and "get away from it all," Caladesi Island also has amazing opportunities for outdoor recreation, including a kayak trail that traverses straight through the Florida mangroves and has unrivaled wildlife watching.
is completely unlike anything you'd expect from a Florida beach, in the best possible way.
Midwest United StatesIndiana Dunes National Lakeshore - Indiana
Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, 1050 N Mineral Springs Rd, Chesterton, IN 46304, USA
Indiana Dunes is one of the Midwest's greatest secrets. Located on the shores of Lake Michigan, Indiana Dunes National Park features more than 2,000 acres of gorgeous beaches, dazzling coastal vistas, and a hilly, sandy terrain that's tailor-made for unique outdoor recreation. While renting dune buggies is certainly on most adventure seeker's Indiana Dunes bucket list, the
here is also phenomenal, and might actually the park's biggest draw. With some of the darkest skies in the Midwest, distant stars and galaxies are often visible above the rolling dunes and lulling waters of this national park, making for a wondrous, life-affirming, experience.
Schoolhouse Beach - Washington Island, Wisconsin
Schoolhouse Beach Park, 1824 Washington Harbor Rd, Washington, WI 54246, USA
In Wisconsin, there's a beach that's superlative in every way.
is an oasis in Wisconsin that will take your breath away. A geological wonder, Schoolhouse Beach has a white shoreline, but no sand. Instead, the shore is covered in a layer of white limestone rocks that have literally been there for hundreds of thousands of years. The pebbles are silky smooth, having been buffed by millennia of waves and glacial movement. These rocks are so treasured, in fact, that there's a federal law prohibiting their removal from this beautiful beach.
Iona’s Beach - Two Harbors, Minnesota
3548 MN-61, Two Harbors, MN 55616, USA
It should come as no surprise that there are some truly spectacular beaches in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, but the lesser-known Iona’s Beach on Minnesota’s North Shore is something special. Unlike some of the expansive white sand shores on this list, the terrain here is pink and pebbled, and as it is located within a designated Scientific & Natural Area, it’s one of the best-protected beaches on Lake Superior in Lake County. The color of the smoothly-worn stones isn’t the only impressive feature at this peaceful beach - when the waves hit the pebbles, they make a musical tinkling sound that has led to the nickname “the Singing Beach.”
Southwest United StatesWindsor Beach - Lake Havasu City, Arizona
Lake Havasu City, AZ, USA
Out to prove that Arizona is more than just desert,
Lake Havasu is an absolute oasis
that you might not expect to find in the landlocked Southwest. The fine, white sand (imported from nearby Nevada) and copious palm trees on Windsor Beach would look right at home on any tropical island, but it’s beckoning you to explore the Grand Canyon State beyond its world-renowned natural wonder. Once you’ve had your fill of fun in the sun on Lake Havasu’s stunning shores, dive right into the refreshing lake or consider renting a boat to take part in the endless options for exciting watersports. While you’re in Lake Havasu City, make sure to visit the
London Bridge, which was imported from England in 1968.
Lake Powell - Arizona & Utah
Lake Powell, AZ 86040, USA
As the second-largest reservoir in the United States, you better believe that Lake Powell offers some truly beautiful beaches. The lake itself is one of the most pristine in the Southwest, created as a result of damming the Colorado River and straddling the border between Arizona and Utah. Sandy shores rim much of the reservoir, providing plenty of options when you visit. Lone Rock Beach is a particularly laid-back spot for swimming and camping, while Wahweap Beach provides stunning views while you kick back and relax. For the ultimate Lake Powell experience, consider renting a houseboat and spending a few days on the water to explore the copious canyons and seemingly endless selection of sandy nooks reachable only via boat. You’ll likely find a spot that you can enjoy all to yourself!
La Jolla Beach - California
La Jolla Shores, San Diego, CA 92037, USA
If it's a laid-back, technicolor
California you're seeking, La Jolla Beach is the destination for you. Known for its breathtaking blue waters,
La Jolla Beach
is a dazzling California gem. The waters at this beach are so clear, you can see to the bottom of the ocean floor, which makes for amazing snorkeling. You'll want to stay as the sun goes down, as the sunsets at La Jolla Beach are downright glorious. The sky is ethereal as the sun dips behind the ocean and the experience will truly fill your soul.
Half Moon Bay - San Mateo County, California
If you're looking for a postcard-perfect coastal experience, head to Half Moon Bay. This winsome town is located just south of San Francisco, and it's famous for its eponymous beach, which is so expansive that it's actually divided into several smaller beaches. In Half Moon Bay, Dunes Beach at the northern end and Francis Beach at the southern end are both must-visit shores. For the most sweeping beach views, pack your hiking shoes and head to the California Coastal Trail. While you're in Half Moon Bay, stay and enjoy some of the most scenic waterfront dining in the state - you'll find the
best lobster roll in NorCal
at Sam's Chowder House.
Sand Harbor State Park - Lake Tahoe, Nevada
Sand Harbor, 2005 NV-28, Incline Village, NV 89452, USA
Nevada's Lake Tahoe is an American treasure, and Sand Harbor State Park its crown jewel. The beach here is stunning; the white sand shores and turquoise waters look like something you'd find in the Caribbean. But Sand Harbor State Park is
, because it's nestled in one of the most pristine and picture-perfect places in the U.S. Lake Tahoe is the ultimate vacation for outdoor enthusiasts, offering some of the best hiking, camping, and recreation in the country. There's even a three-mile
pedestrian bike path
that will take you right up to Sand Harbor's stunning shores, for the perfect Lake Tahoe experience.
Northwest United StatesRuby Beach - Olympic National Park, Washington
Ruby Beach, Washington 98331, USA
Ruby Beach is one of the greatest treasures of the Pacific Northwest. Here, the craggy coastline of Olympic National Park is on full display, making the sunset vistas that much more sublime. A classic PNW beach, Ruby Beach is marked with dramatic sea stacks, abundant driftwood, and rocky shores. This postcard-perfect sea setting makes Ruby Beach one of the most popular places in the park - which is saying something, because Olympic National Park is home to some of the most
wondrous places on the planet
Harris Beach - Oregon
Harris Beach, Brookings, OR 97415, USA
Sea stacks and tide pools, verdant green foliage, and sand dunes - that's the Oregon Coast. And while most of Oregon's beaches are a bit more rugged, Harris Beach is a delightful anomaly, with a soft, sandy shoreline and cerulean blue waters. Swimming, hiking, and biking are popular activities at this
. Abundant wildlife, including migrating whales, harbor seals, and California sea lions, only add to its charms. The camping at Harris Beach is also spectacular -- fully-equipped campgrounds for RVs, tents, and even a few yurts are located a quarter-mile from the beach -- offering visitors the opportunity to immerse themselves in pure, PNW splendor.
Lake McDonald - Glacier National Park, Montana
Lake McDonald, Montana 59936, USA
Montana's Lake McDonald is the largest lake in Glacier National Park, and it offers a beach experience that's truly unlike any other in the world. Known for its pebbly waters and scenic surroundings, this idyllic lake is also the perfect place to dip your toes and unwind in the majestic Montana naturescape. Because of the park's year-round low temperatures, the waters of Lake McDonald are incredibly clear, and also quite cold. But if you can brave the chill,
's crystal-clear waters and prismatic pebble beaches are sure to take your breath away.
Non-Contiguous United StatesHāpuna Beach State Park - Hawaii’s Big Island
Hapuna Beach, Hawaii 96743, USA
Best Beach in America
by Dr. Beach in 2021, Hāpuna Beach is the very definition of paradise. It's a 61.8-acre oasis with a gorgeous stretch of white shoreline and crystal-clear waters ideal for swimming, bodysurfing, snorkeling, and scuba diving. Hāpuna Beach State Park is also part of a sweeping sea change that's happening in Hawaii: in order to protect and preserve its pristine shores, the state has banned the sale of all SPF sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate, and smoking is prohibited on all Hawaii beaches. Small steps can affect big change, and Hāpuna Beach State Park certainly is a treasure worth preserving.
While some of these beautiful beaches may challenge your very conception of a beach, the fact remains that
all of these places make for incredible waterside retreats. Craggy coastlines, pebbly sands, waters in every blue and aquamarine hue, horizons dotted with sea stacks and lighthouses – you’ll find all of these things at America’s beaches. Don’t be limited by definitions; be open to expanding your horizons. Because that’s when you’ll discover some of the most spectacular places in the entire country.
If you’re looking for more beautiful destinations for your bucket list, be sure to check out these
crystal clear lakes across the U.S. Address: Hapuna Beach, Hawaii 96743, USA Address: Ruby Beach, Washington 98331, USA Address: Harris Beach, Brookings, OR 97415, USA Address: Lake McDonald, Montana 59936, USA Address: la Jolla Shores Beach, La Jolla Shores Beach, San Diego, CA 92037, USA Address: Half Moon Bay, CA, USA Address: Sand Harbor, 2005 NV-28, Incline Village, NV 89452, USA Address: Lake Travis, Texas, USA Address: Rosemary Beach, FL 32413, USA Address: Caladesi Island, Dunedin, FL 33767, USA Address: Hilton Head Island, SC, USA Address: Ocracoke Island, North Carolina 27960, USA Address: Virginia Beach, VA, USA Address: Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, 1050 N Mineral Springs Rd, Chesterton, IN 46304, USA Address: Schoolhouse Beach Park, 1824 Washington Harbor Rd, Washington, WI 54246, USA Address: Ocean City Beach, Ocean City, MD 21842, USA Address: Cape May, NJ 08204, USA Address: Montauk Point State Park, 2000 Old Montauk Hwy, Montauk, NY 11954, USA Address: Goose Rocks Beach, Kennebunkport, ME 04046, USA Address: 3548 MN-61, Two Harbors, MN 55616, USA Address: Lake Havasu City, AZ, USA