It might be gray and gloomy outside though brighter days are on the horizon. Take a moment to relax and visualize the crashing waves. Sound divine? It is and now is the time to plan a family beach trip. Spring Break is weeks away and summer creeps closer by the day. To find the best beaches for families in the US, we pulled together a list of beaches for animal lovers, shellers and sunset worshippers.
As a Traveling Mom who’s driven across the continental US, friends always ask what’s my favorite beach. Kinda like asking me which kid I like best. So depending on your destination and interests, I’ve pulled together a list of the best beaches in the US for families.
Best Beaches for Animal Watching
Kids love beaches as much as kids love animals. So I love to explore beaches that combine both.
Lime Kiln State Park, 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 seasonally orca whale watching from their rocky shore. And I found a lighthouse too.
San Juan National Historical Park
American Camp offers another spot to catch the resident pod of orcas which has a larger beach. Located on San Juan Island, an island getaway in Washington.
Hearst San Simeon State Park, San Simeon, California
Elephant seals 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 to the delight of my 9 and 12-year-old sons.
Beach 4 or Ruby Beach, 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.
Padre Island National Seashore, Texas
Kids are crazy for sea turtles. Padre Island National Seashore offers five different varieties of Gulf of Mexico sea turtles, including the Kemp’s ridley. Hatchling releases happen in the spring granting families the opportunity to witness the tiny turtles make their way to the water.
Best Beaches for White Sand
Think all sand is white? Nope, it ranges in colors like grey, straw, black, pink and white. True white sand beaches are hard to find, and my favorite white sand beaches are located along the Gulf of Mexico in the Florida panhandle and Alabama. And of course. Hawaii is a family travel bucket list destination offering sand in a rainbow of colors.
Florida Beaches along 30-A
From Pensacola to Panama City Beach, on the Florida’s panhandle, families can find miles of white sugar sand beaches on Highway 30-A, a scenic byway lined with beach towns. A family favorite for years, the beaches remain uncrowded except around the larger towns. For day visitors, Grayton Beach State Park in the town of Santa Rosa Beach, offers parking and rinse-off showers, my family’s favorite.
Gulf Shores, Alabama
Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama, offers families 32 miles of white sand beaches. Try Gulf State Park for a pavilion and restrooms with showers for a family day at the beach.
Napili Kai Beach, Maui, Hawaii
For families who want a Hawaiian resort beach to enjoy the sunset, Maui’s Napili Kai Beach Resort offers all-inclusive convenience for beach-loving families. Clear water with rock outcroppings allows for family water adventures, like paddle boarding and snorkeling, close to the beach.
TravelingMom Tip: One of our favorite things to do when taking a beach vacation is to hire a photographer for family photos. This is a special gift and souvenir that we cherish. We use Flytographer to book a local photographer located in the area that we're traveling to. Use this link and you will get $25 off your photo session.
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Best Beaches for Shelling
A list of the best beaches for families in the US list has to include a few shelling beaches. While my kids fly kites or make sand castles, I stroll along the waterline looking for shells.
Silver Strand State Beach, Coronado Island, California
During a recent visit, I squealed when I found several whole sand dollars during my walk. I found lots of shells along this popular stretch of San Diego beach.
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. Depending on the season, shellers can find conch, Lightening Welk and cockle shells.
Moonstone Beach, Hearst San Simeon State Park, California
Beaches offer more than shells. At Moonstone Beach, on the central California coast, I found tiny tumbled moonstone, jade, bloodstone along the waterline. Dig a little deeper for the larger stones and stay for the sunset.
Best Beaches for Catching a Sunset
West coast beaches can’t be beat for sunsets. Catch the fiery sun as it dips below the horizon and watch the sky fade from aubergine to indigo.
Will Rogers State Beach, Pacific Palisades, California
This popular beach close to Santa Monica offers families a place to watch the sun fall below the horizon in a kaleidoscope of color. It offers more parking than nearby beaches.
Coronado Central Beach, 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 and hotel staff can even arrange a campfire with s’mores.
Beach Tips from a TravelingMom:
- Parking is always an issue at the beach on summer weekends.
- Arrive early and bring cash for parking.
- Pack a cooler full of snacks if spending the whole day, like fresh fruit and lots of water.
- National and State park prohibit taking shells or driftwood off their beaches.