It might be gray and gloomy outside your window. Though brighter days are on the horizon. Take a moment to visualize the sound of crashing waves. Sound relaxing? It is and you need to plan a family trip to a beach near you. I’ve pulled together the top beaches in the US for families, even the best places to see some marine life or pick up a perfect shell.
Best Beaches for White Sand
Think all sand is white? Nope, find grey, straw, black, pink and occasionally white. True white sand beaches are hard to find except for a section of the Gulf Coast in the Florida panhandle and Alabama. And of course Hawaii is a family travel bucket list destination offering black and pink sand.
Florida Beaches along 30-A
Gulf of Mexico
From Pensacola to Panama City on Florida’s panhandle, families can find miles of sugar white sand beaches on Scenic Highway 30-A. A family favorite for years, the beaches remain uncrowded except around the larger towns. For day visitors, Grayton Beach State Park, in Santa Rosa Beach, offers parking and rinse-off showers.
Gulf State Park
Gulf Shores, Alabama
Orange Beach andGulf Shores, Alabama, offers families 32 miles of white sand beaches. Try Gulf State Park for a pavilion, restrooms with showers for a family day at the beach.
Best Beaches for Animal Watching
Kids love beaches as much as kids love animals. So I love to find beaches that combine both.
Corpus Christi, Texas
Kids are crazy for sea turtles. Padre Island National Seashore offers five different varieties of the Gulf of Mexico sea turtles, including the Kemp’s ridley. Hatchling releases happen in the spring and offer families the opportunity to see the tiny turtles make their way to the water, unaided.
San Diego, California
Kids love to discover tiny eco-systems so don’t miss this unique West Coast experience when visiting San Diego. Cabrillo National Monument offers one of the top places to tide pool in California.
Cabrillo features one of the best protected and easily accessible areas to explore with kids. With several different tide pool zones, families can see more animals.
Hearst San Simeon State Park
San Simeon, California
Elephant Sea lions nap along the beach in a large rookery. The Hearst San Simeon State Park offers a boardwalk to safely watch the massive seals. During our visit in June, the males fought each other for mating rights with bellows and battles.
San Juan Island, Washington
Whale watching usually requires a boat except on San Juan Island, a short ferry ride from the Seattle area. Lime Kiln State Park offers seasonal orca whale watching from their shore. San Juan National Historical Park-American Camp offers another spot to catch the resident pod of orcas.
Olympic National Park, Washington
My kids scampered over rocks and waded through shallow water to explore the tide pools. We found ribbed limpets, acorn barnacles, and giant green anemones. My kids loved this experience and talked about it for days.
Best Beaches for Shelling
Sitting in the beach chair reading bubblegum fiction pretty much equals a perfect day for me. Though take a moment and dig deeper by collecting some shells. Or consider visiting a beach known for shelling.
Sanibel Island, Florida
A barrier island near Ft. Myers, Sanibel Island offers some of the best shelling because of the east-to-west orientation of the beach.
Coronado Island, California
During a recent visit, I delighted in finding several whole sand dollars during my walk. Though protected by state law, I found lots of shells along the beach.
Hearst San Simeon State Park, California
Beaches offer more than shells. At Moonstone Beach, I found tiny tumbled moonstone, jade and bloodstone along the waterline. Dig a little deeper for larger stones.
Best Beaches for Catching a Sunset
West Coast beaches can’t be beat for sunsets. Catch the fiery sun as it drips below the horizon and watch the sky fade from aubergine to indigo.
Coronado Island, California
With the Victorian Hotel del Coronado as a backdrop, it’s San Diego’s most picturesque beach. On the largest stretch of sand, families can rent chairs, fly a kite or make a sand castle. The Hotel del Coronado offers rentals along with restaurants for day visitors.
Will Rogers State Beach
Pacific Palisades, California
A popular beach close to Santa Monica for families to watch the sun fall below the horizon in a kaleidoscope of color. It offers more parking than nearby beaches.
Know Before You Go
- Pack a cooler full of snacks if spending the whole day, like fresh fruit and lots of water.
- Parking is always an issue at the beach on summer weekends.
- Arrive early and bring cash for parking.
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