The Best Beaches on the East Coast
From Maine to Florida, here are the best sandy stretches from each state that has its toes in the Atlantic.
Hammonasset Beach State Park, Connecticut
Cape Henlopen State Park, Delaware
With its gentle dunes and stunning views of the historic Henlopen lighthouse, this six-mile stretch of protected shoreline is a rich escape from the developed bustle of other Delaware beaches. It’s a haven for lovers of swimming, bird watching, fishing, boating, paddle-boarding, and windsurfing.
Canaveral National Seashore, Florida
At 25 miles long, this is the longest expanse of undeveloped land on the entire east coast of Florida and a true treasure. Sitting between the charming town of New Smyrna Beach and Titusville, the sands of Canaveral National Seashore are a sanctuary not just for savvy beachgoers, but for wildlife including sea turtles, which nest on its tawny shoreline.
Tybee Island, Georgia
A barrier island with five miles of powdery sands that host five smaller beaches, Tybee Island is called "Savannah's Beach" for its easy access to the thriving city just 30 minutes away. Those wide sands are great for fat-tire cruising in addition to strolling, and warm waters make for fantastic swimming nearly year-round.
Ogunquit Beach, Maine
Known more for rocky shores than sandy stretches, Maine is actually home to stellar beaches at its southern end, and Ogunquit—the native Algonquin tribe's word for "beautiful place by the sea"—is the crown jewel. There are three miles of broad, pale sands, and insiders know that the middle section is the quieter, sweetest spot.
South Ocean Beach, Maryland
Wild and windy, this “civilized” stretch in the midst of the famed Assateague Island National Seashore has 12 miles of drivable shoreline (with a proper OSV permit) and offers superb crabbing, clamming, surf fishing, and escape, not to mention wave riding in the steady Atlantic swell.
Coast Guard Beach, Massachusetts
Backed by dunes and open to the Atlantic (but with generally gentle waves), this tawny-sanded section of the Cape Cod National Seashore (near the charming village of Eastham) is a real New England treasure. It’s also a prime beach for ocean swimming.
Hampton Beach, New Hampshire
Who says New Hampshire doesn’t have beach bona fides? On its tiny (just 13-mile-long) coastline sits Hampton Beach, a great mix of broad sands, sweeping Atlantic views, and family-friendly amusements, including a band shell amphitheater.
The Cove, New Jersey
With 2.5 miles of great beaches facing the Atlantic on one side and Delaware Bay on the other (not to mention a remarkably picturesque Victorian downtown), Cape May has sandy charms in spades. Among several terrific city beaches here, The Cove—with its gentle slope and steady swell—is chief among the treasures and is beloved by families and surfers alike.
Main Beach, New York
Even celebrities can’t resist hitting the gorgeous, broad beach here in East Hampton. And who can blame them? One of five beaches owned by the Long Island village, Main Beach is impeccably clean, and has soft sands and gloriously clean water.
Ocracoke Beach, North Carolina
In a state blessed with extraordinary beaches from one end to the other, this barrier island beach has deep Outer Banks magic: 16 miles of undeveloped dunes and wild sands that lure everyone from sunbathers and sandcastle builders to shell-hunters and surfers.
Crescent Beach, Rhode Island
You’ve got to hop a ferry to get to Block Island, the teardrop-shaped isle 13 miles south of the Rhode Island coast, but it’s worth every nautical mile. Here on this little island full of wonders lies Crescent Beach, a 2.5-mile tawny stretch with family-friendly amenities and glorious surf. And it’s just a short walk from the ferry.
Folly Beach, South Carolina
A short drive from Charleston, Folly Beach is a barrier island both near to city life and millions of miles away. Funky, free-spirited, and full of surfers, sun-seekers, and quirky souls, this is beach life in all its glory. Get your action fix at Center Beach and the Folly Pier, and then head to Folly Beach County Park, at the island's west end, for a true escape.
Sandbridge Beach, Virginia
Officially a part of the Virginia Beach metro area, this secluded hideaway of five miles of pristine dunes and wild oats 15 miles south of the boardwalk-and-funnel-cake action is an incredible discovery with a family vibe. The peaceful community of beach houses and small restaurants just adds to the magic.