Whether you’re a solo traveller, a couple, or a family looking for a great beach vacation, there are plenty of U.S. beaches that have everything you’re looking for, without breaking the bank. These beaches are just a short flight or car ride away for most of us, and offer white sands, cool blue waters, a relaxing atmosphere, beautiful weather, and plenty of activities, including boating, surfing, scuba diving, snorkeling, fishing, and more. Here are the top 10 domestic beach vacations.
10. Daytona Beach, Florida
Located on Florida’s Atlantic coast, Daytona Beach is as famous for its clear blue waters, long beaches, amusement parks, and boardwalks as it is for being the home of the world famous Daytona 500.
Daytona Beach’s biggest attraction is its 23 miles of white, sandy beaches, which are open to beachgoers year round, with no time restrictions. Prime beach season runs most of the year, starting in early March and ending in late November, although even in the winter, temperatures remain in the 60s, making Daytona Beach one of the best domestic beach vacations any time of the year.
Just off the waterfront, Daytona Beach has 10 waterparks. Other major attractions include the Daytona International Speedway, the golf courses, cruises, helicopter rides, cycling, fishing, and horseback riding.
9. Virginia Beach, Virginia
Virginia Beach is a city along the Atlantic coast in southeastern Virginia, at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. The area was first permanently settled in 1607 by English colonists, and has a rich colonial history that can be explored in local historical sites and museums. Famous sites include the First Landing Cross, Cape Henry Lighthouse, and Virginia Beach Farmers Market.
Virginia Beach has a reputation for being family friendly, with amusement parks, boardwalks, and long stretches of beach that are perfect for the whole family to relax, swim, surf, or fish on. The beaches have a classic feel, with yellow sands and dark brown waters characteristic of mid-Atlantic beaches. The weather is beautiful for most of the year, and more bearable in the summer months than the beaches further south, like in Florida.
Popular activities include fishing, boating, surfing, whale watching, golfing, hiking, kayaking, and cycling.
8. Wells, Maine
Wells Beach, located in the town of Wells in southern Maine, is a popular summer tourist destination. This beach is more remote and more affordable than most of the more popular beach destinations in the US in Florida and California. But in terms of domestic beach vacations with great weather, great scenery, and a relaxing beach atmosphere, a summer trip to Wells is hard to beat.
Wells has a plethora of inns and hotels along its beachfront. With a small residential population that swells in the summer months but remains much more sparsely populated than most other beach destinations, Wells maintains a relaxing atmosphere, perfect for family or couples vacations.
The town has 7 miles of beaches, which are publicly accessible, free, and feature yellow sands and dark blue waters. Recreational activities include swimming, boating, cycling, and hiking the nature trails that surround the beaches.
7. Wildwood, New Jersey
One of the most popular beaches at the Jersey Shore, Wildwood features all the amenities that have made New Jersey beaches famous–an expansive boardwalk featuring amusement parks and shops, hot, white sand beaches with free access, and plenty of beachfront hotels, inns, and houses for rent.
Main attractions in Wildwood include fishing, kayaking, boating, surfing, jet-skiing, parasailing, cycling, and swimming. There are also many casinos and theaters in the area, similar to the more famous Atlantic City. In the summer there are frequent parades and festivals that are fun for the whole family.
6. Outer Banks, North Carolina
A very popular vacation spot for families, solo vacationers, and couples from all over the mid-Atlantic and northeast regions, the Outer Banks are one of the best domestic beach vacations available. Known as OBX by the locals, the Outer Banks are a 200 mile long string of islands that features over 100 miles of coastline.
The Outer Banks has many hotels, inns, and rental houses all within a couple minutes walk from the beach. With so many miles of coast, the Outer Banks has everything from popular beaches with boardwalks, shops, and restaurants, to secluded beaches with barely any visitors. So whether you’re looking for a relaxing vacation away from the crowds, or you want to get right in the action, the Outer Banks will have something for you.
Besides the usual swimming, surfing, boating, and shopping, which are all available at the Outer Banks, popular recreation activities include hiking the nearby forests and dunes, hunting for ghost crabs on the beaches at night, flying kites, and visiting the nearby waterparks and the North Carolina Aquarium.
5. Gulf Shores, Alabama
A popular destination for spring breakers as well as families, Gulf Shores is a beautiful resort city along the Gulf of Mexico in Alabama.
The climate features long, hot summers and mild winters, and the beach season stretches from March through the end of November. The beaches are open year round however, with many people making Gulf Shores their winter home. May/June and October/November are considered by locals to be the best months to travel there, as the weather is beautiful and the crowds are much more sparse than in the middle of the summer.
The beaches are beautiful, with long stretches of white sand and hotels and inns located on the promenade just off the beach. The Gulf waters are serene with a blue-green color, and stay warm late into the year. Popular activities include beach fishing, boating, golfing, cruises, and dolphin watching.
4. Long Beach, Washington
On the West Coast, Long Beach, Washington is a sparsely crowded and well-kept secret of the Pacific Northwest. The area has a cool summer Mediterranean climate, meaning it rarely gets very hot or very cold, making it a great summer vacation destination.
Long Beach is known for its rustic scenery, featuring beautiful beaches that border seemingly endless northwest rain forests and stunning hills and cliffs. The area is as famous for its seafood and boating excursions as it is for its nature trails, hiking and cycling opportunities, and birds and wildlife.
The area is surrounded by state parks, making it a perfect destination for anyone looking to get some adventure on their beach vacation. Even if you’re just looking to relax, the beautiful beaches, restaurants, and museums are more than enough to fill up a whole vacation itinerary.
3. South Padre Island, Texas
A resort town in southern Texas, South Padre Island is a popular spring break and tourist destination. The weather is sunny year round, and although summers can get very hot, the calm, blue Gulf waters are a perfect place to cool off.
The island has a wide array of beachfront hotels and luxury rentals, to accommodate any budget. Popular activities on the island include boat rentals, fishing, kayaking, jet-skiing, bird watching, and enjoying the famous restaurants and music venues, all within walking distance on the island.
2. Huntington Beach, California
35 miles southeast of Los Angeles, is Huntington Beach, California, a scenic resort city featuring almost 10 miles of sandy beaches. The area has a cool summer Mediterranean climate, meaning the temperature is generally mild year-round, with summer temperatures rarely going above 85 degrees.
Huntington Beach has a strong southern California beach culture, with surfing, boogie boarding, kayaking, swimming, and relaxing on the beach being popular activities. Huntington Beach also features a wide boardwalk and pier with restaurants, arcades, and bars. Off the beach there are trails for hiking, running, and cycling.
Huntington Beach boasts some of the freshest seafood and most authentic Mexican cuisine available in the US. Stay at one of the many hotels and inns in the area, or rent a house in town.
1. Santa Cruz, California
Santa Cruz is a vibrant beach resort city in Northern California. Much less crowded than other coastal cities in California, like San Diego and Los Angeles, Santa Cruz is an ideal getaway for anyone looking for domestic beach vacations with sunny California weather and sparse crowds.
Famous for its year-round good weather, Santa Cruz boast attractions like the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, which is is California’s oldest surviving amusement park; historical missions and churches dating back to the Spanish and Mexican colonial periods, numerous state parks with untapped nature reserves, and some of the nicest beaches of anywhere in the world.
The calm waters are excellent for activities such as stand up paddleboarding, swimming, kayaking, boating, fishing, and more. And its surfing beaches are widely regarded as some of the best in the world.
For one of the best domestic beach vacations, be sure to consider making the trip to Santa Cruz.