Going to the beach is the ultimate family vacation. Just find a patch of sand, drop a blanket, slather on the sunscreen – and instant fun. Live near the Atlantic Ocean, or plan to visit there this summer? Read on for our list of the finest beaches of the East Coast.
What is your favorite beach town destination? Whether you prefer a bustling boardwalk, a quiet patch of sand or a rocky beach suited for long walk, the east coast has you covered. Here is our curated list of the best East Coast beaches.
Best Beach for Families in Connecticut
Old Saybrook is a classic New England resort town, with a white sand beach, marina, and historic buildings. The family friendly beaches are best for families with young children.
TravelingMom tip: While you’re in the neighborhood, take a ride on the Essex steam train. Buy tickets in advance.
Best Beach for Families in Delaware
Rehoboth Beach has a classic mix of a long boardwalk lined with restaurants, souvenir shops and places to rent a surrey or take a spin on a ride. In other words, it’s perfect for families with kids of all ages.
TravelingMom tip: Delaware has no state tax, so combine a trip here with back to school shopping.
Best Beaches for Families in Florida
There is a reason Miami used to appeal to the senior set. The clear water and gently waves that drew them in also make Miami the perfect beach destination for families with babies and young children.
TravelingMom tip: For the pampered (and maybe in Pampers) set, some hotels have private beaches with lounge and towel set up.
Daytona may best known as the home of NASCAR and the Richard Petty Driving Experience, but it also boasts wide sandy beaches. The dog friendly beaches are good for all ages. But teens and tweens may be best suited to the area, particularly if you want to take in the car related activities.
TravelingMom tip: Daytona has tons of free things to do if you need other diversions.
Best Beach for Families in Georgia
Tybee Island has ocean and river beaches. The river beaches are best for kayaking and sunset views. The ocean beaches are great for little kids. Be sure to walk north where you can collect seashells.
TravelingMom tip: Tybee Island is so close to Savannah that you can take a day trip here. But if you stay on the island, you can visit Fort Pulaksi, key in the Civil War.
Best Beach for Families in Maine
Kennebunk is the place to head if you want to bring your dog on your beach vacation. The white sand beaches here are all dog friendly. Since Maine is the furthest north of the East Coast beaches, the season here is short. Lifeguards are on duty from mid June to mid September. And the cold water makes these beaches better for tweens and teens, who may not be as sensitive to the cold.
TravelingMom Tip: Be sure to have lunch at The Clam Shack, which has some of the best lobster rolls and fried clams anywhere.
Best Beach for Families in Maryland
The dog friendly beaches in Ocean City are the best choice in Maryland for families. Teens and tweens will love Ocean City because there are two surfing beaches where they can practice the California version of hanging ten. And the boardwalk, with amusement parks and skeeball, will appeal to them.
TravelingMom tip: Don’t miss the antique carousel at Trimper’s, even if you think your kid have outgrown the merry go round.
Best Beaches for Families in Massachusetts
The Cape Cod national seashore includes 40 miles of beaches. The Coast Guard beach is best for families, with lifeguards and a wheelchair – and stroller – ramp to the beach.
TravelingMom tip: there is no parking, so you have to take a shuttle. A better idea: bike to the beach
Martha’s Vineyard can be reached by ferry or plane, but once you are there, you’ll want a bicycle to explore the island. Its low key charms may elude tweens and teens. That being said, my teens enjoyed it when they had cousins to hang out with. There are no amusement parks, though there is an antique carousel for young kids.
TravelingMom tip: Martha’s Vineyard is know for its celebrity sighting.
Best Beaches for Families in New Jersey
I started going to Cape May as a teenager and returned many times with my own family. Cape May, filled with Victorian houses, is great for all ages, but it’s particularly wonderful for tweens. There are inexpensive things to do, like skeeball, right on the promenade, Cape May’s paved version of a boardwalk. There’s also miniature golf nearby.
TravelingMom Tip: be sure to stay in a place that provides beach tags. In season, every person on the beach needs a beach tag and your ‘bargain’ hotel or rental could be quite a bit more expensive if you have to buy these.
We rented houses on Long Beach Island, a barrier island just past the party beaches of the Jersey Shore. The family friendly beaches have gentle surf, making them perfect for toddlers and young children.
Best Beaches for Families in New York
Well-heeled New Yorkers head to the Hamptons, where they spend their days on white sand beaches and nights at trendy restaurants. Since so many people have pools, the beaches never get too crowded. Bay beaches with their gentle waves are great for toddlers. In Southampton, the bay beach has a big playground right on the sand.
TravelingMom tip: If you stay south of the highway in Southampton, you can bike to the beach and not have to buy a pricey car permit.
Fire Island: this barrier beach doesn’t allow private cars, so it’s great for families who can stroll from house to beach. Fire Island is great for all ages. Kids love pulling the ubiquitous red Flyer wagons, the barrier island’s preferred mode of transporting goods. If you have teens, you don’t have to worry about them driving. But make sure your teen has a friend.
TravelingMom tip: Beaches on Fire Island are pristine, partly because you can’t eat on them. Be sure to feed the kids before you set out!
Best Beach for Families in North Carolina
The Outer Banks are paradise for anglers. You can fish off a pier, take a fishing boat tour, or go crabbing and shrimping. You can also climb the tallest lighthouse in the United States, and see wild horses. Since this is a more active beach vacation, it’s best suited to tweens and teens.
TravelingMom tip: The Outer Banks have lovely breezes, but don’t lose your hat! Get bucket hats for the kids with straps.
Best Beach for Families in Rhode Island
Part of the fun of Block Island is getting there – take the ferry from Point Judith (my personal fave) or Montauk. Once you’re there, you can relax on Crescent Beach, which is great for infants and toddlers. It’s nickname is even Baby Beach. But if you bring older kids, there’s plenty for them, too. The adjacent beach rents boogie boards.
TravelingMom tip: take a self-guided 7 mile bike tour. A QR code shows short videos at each station.
Best Beaches for Families in South Carolina
Myrtle Beach, part of a 60 mile stretch along the Atlantic Ocean, has everything for families. With arcades and amusement park rides along the boardwalk, Myrtle Beach is best for families with teens and tweens.
TravelingMom tip: take in a minor league Myrtle Beach Pelicans baseball game, with low priced tickets.
At Hilton Head, you can cultivate future golfers and bicyclists. The area has lots of golf courses, and there’s miniature golf to entice younger kids. And if you want to get your children to ride bikes, Hilton Head is truly unique. You can ride bikes ON the hard packed sand. The beach cruiser rentals don’t come with helmets, but it’s difficult to build up too much speed. Hilton Head is great for families of all ages.
TravelingMom tip: Though you can’t sunbathe in winter, Hilton Head is a great low cost off season destination.
Best Beach for Families in Virginia
The three mile Virginia Beach boardwalk is great for biking or pedaling a surrey. It’s one of the few boardwalks that welcomes cyclists at all times, with separate lanes for pedestrians. You can see dolphins May to October. The surfing and kayaking adventures make Virginia Beach great for tweens and teens but there is still plenty for families with younger children.
TravelingMom tip: The Live on Atlantic festival runs nightly, June through August, with a family friendly free FunZone.
Ready to head to your favorite East Coast beach? Download the Ultimate Beach Vacation Packing List Here!