When people think of the most incredible beaches in the world, the Eastern Coast of the United States might not be at the top of the list. However, the East Coast is full of hidden gems, and beautiful white sand beaches speckle the shoreline all the way from Maine to Florida.
Some iconic and crowded, some lesser known and peaceful, and some historic and quaint, the best beaches of the East Coast have their own distinct styles and suit different preferences and needs. Whether running between the ocean and a city, flanked by a bustling boardwalk, out on a skinny peninsula, or around the edges of an Atlantic island, these beach destinations are varied and unique, but somehow manage to have something for everyone.
We've rounded up 20 of the best beach locations of the East Coast, just in time for your August vacation. From an iconic Ferris wheel to a maze of sun-bleached driftwood, these beaches are memorable, stunning, and the best of the East Coast!
20 Tybee Island, Georgia
Just outside of Savanah, Georgia lies Tybee Island. The barrier island is known for its wide, sandy beaches, including South Beach (pictured). The 3.2 Square mile island features the town of Tybee Island, built right along the beach.
If you don't feel like eating at the pavilion or walking out along the pier, it's just a quick walk from the sparkling waters to a number of good eateries.
We recommend the casual all-you-can-eat American style restaurant Sunrise, or for a quick drink, the oceanfront Tybee Time sports bar. Whether you're fishing, sunning, or taking a dip in the Atlantic, Tybee Island's South Beach is the perfect place!
19 Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
An iconic and endlessly popular, South Carolina's Myrtle Beach is an iconic American beach destination. Generations of families have traveled to Myrtle's sandy shore every summer, and that's not likely to change any time soon. The city is the hub of the Grand Strand, a 60-mile stretch of beaches. The Sky Wheel of the Family Kingdom amusement park is among the nation's tallest, and a known fixture along the shore. Also along the coast are a number of arcades, restaurants and celebrity-owned golf courses. Definitely one of the more touristy beach locations, Myrtle Beach is not visited for privacy, but rather as an American experience.
18 Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
A popular beach with a classic preserved-vintage feel, Rehoboth Beach is a timeless Atlantic Ocean town. Dewey Beach extends beyond the town into a point, and the coast's boardwalk is lined with oceanside businesses, like Dolle's candy shop (pictured) as well as restaurants, bars, arcades, and shops.
All summer long, the Rehoboth Beach Beachstand hosts free concerts, and nearby is an old military base in Henlopen State Park, which hosts a lookout tower for visitors to climb.
Be sure to take the kids to Funland, an amusement park on the boardwalk, or Jungle Jim's waterpark nearby. Fun for everybody!
17 Cape May, New Jersey
Built on the tip of the Jersey Cape is the charming town of Cape May. The beaches extend out into the Atlantic Ocean and are dotted with lifeguard chairs and painted boats. Running about 2.5 miles, there are places for every type of visitor. Set up camp right in front of town if you don't mind crowds and would rather have a short walk to get a snack, or work your way further out if you're more partial to solitude. When you're done with the sun, walk into town to explore the numerous shops and cafes, and be sure to hit the 3-block pedestrian-only shopping center along Washington Street!
16 Hilton Head, South Carolina
Nearly 70 square miles, Hilton Head South Carolina is a sizable and well-known island in the Lowcounty region. Dotted with luxury resorts, Hilton Head is a popular destination.
The Harbour Town Lighthouse and Museum marks the southwest tip of the island, while the Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge salt marsh hosts deer, alligators, and birds between the Island and the mainland.
Aside from its fine-grain sand, palm tree-shaded beaches, and Atlantic ocean access, the island is known for its golf. The Sea Pines Resort has 3 golf courses on site. But back to the beach! Coligny Beach Park's center offers landscaped walking & biking paths, plus WiFi, swings & beach-equipment rentals.
15 Virginia Beach, Virginia
Where the Chesapeake Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean lies the city of Virginia Beach. The checkered Cape Henry Lighthouse has watched over the shore since 1792, and the scenic and historic coastal First Landing State Park marks the 1607 arrival of the Jamestown colonists from England. The three-mile-long boardwalk lines the city's coast, keeping a semblance of separation between the beach and the city and providing a great place to jog, bike, or rollerblade. If the sea and the sand tire you out, head to the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center to see sharks, rays, and sea turtles.
14 Nags Head, North Carolina
A narrow strip of land, composed of peninsulas and barrier islands, extends south all the way from Virginia Beach down to North Carolina, called North Carolina's Outer Banks. Nestled along a small part of it is the quaint and colorful town of Nags Head. Situated between the Albemarle Sound and the Atlantic Ocean, the town is mostly neighbored by water. Although a peaceful location, the town is a popular and established tourist destination.
Spend the day on the area's plentiful beaches, or head to Jockey's Ridge State Park to climb amongst towering sand dunes.
Enjoy the local flora and fauna with a Nags Head Woods Preserve walk. We recommend Roanoke Trail, which ends at a blissfully quiet and gorgeous beach!
13 Bethany Beach, Delaware
The small town of Bethany Beach on Delaware's coast is surrounded with bountiful beaches and coastal charm. Next to the town itself is a wide sandy beach backed by a boardwalk, which is a prime spot for convenience. However, there are also options all around: to the North is Delaware Seashore State Park, a barrier island with miles of beaches. Head South to find the surf: Fenwick Island State Park has dunes and a surf area just a skip and a jump away from town. If you're a nature lover, Holts Landing State Park has coasts, forests and fields preserved that are home to herons and osprey.
12 Kiawah Island, South Carolina
25 miles South of Charleston, South Carolina, is the barrier island of Kiawah. The island features primarily private beaches and golf resorts, accessible through local resorts and hotels like the Kiawah Island Golf Resort.
The private access areas include spacious villas, beachfront recliners and umbrellas and large and acclaimed golf courses.
Open to the public is the postcard-perfect Kiawah Beachwalker Park, with picnic areas, lifeguards part of the year, seasonal chair and umbrella rentals. Nearby is the Night Heron Park, which has kid's water play areas and a heated pool.
11 Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts
The Massachusetts Island of Martha's Vineyard sits just below Cape Cod. The longtime New England summer destination is known as an upscale destination, frequented by wealthy families. A patchwork of harbor towns and lighthouses, sandy beaches and farmland, Martha's Vineyard is an idyllic island accessible by boat or plane. The scenic beaches and dramatic bluffs were immortalized in Stephen Spielberg's 1974 classic, Jaws. Full of boutique hotels and chic summer homes available for rent, Martha's Vineyard is the only quintessential New England summer colony where you might bump into the Obamas at the beach (a favorite spot of theirs, they used to own a home on the island!).
10 Hammonasset, Connecticut
The largest State Park in Connecticut and the only beach in the state that allows overnight camping, Hammonasset is the most popular beach in Connecticut. The two-mile beach has facilities for swimming, camping, picnicking, saltwater fishing, scuba diving, hiking, and boating, as well as concessions. Popular with families are the on-site Nature center and interpretive programs.
If that's not enough, they also do summer bicycle rentals, which are perfect to ride along the lengthy slim boardwalk, which stretches end to end of the park and has incredible views.
Although the water is the still the Long Island Sound, this park is quite far up along the CT coast, meaning the water is cleaner and fresher than the rest of the Sound, but not as cold as the open Atlantic Ocean, making it perfect for swimming!
9 Nantucket, Massachusetts
The tiny isolated island of Nantucket is off the coast of Cape Cod. A historic 19th-century whaling hub, which at its peak was the third largest city in Massachusetts, the town retains a sense of nostalgic glory. The summer destination is covered in dune-backed beaches and marked by unpainted cedar-shingled buildings surrounded by manicured privets. The wharves and cobblestoned streets of the Town of Nantucket feature a number of steepled churches, high-end boutiques and gift shops, and restaurants serving up classic New England coastal fare. Between the beaches, the whaling museum, and the two lighthouses to tour, a weekend trip here is sure to be action-packed.
8 Block Island, Rhode Island
Accessible via ferry from Montauk or Rhode Island, Block Island is one of the New England island destinations that strays farther from the mainland. The scenic destination has a thriving summer scene and a number of very popular beaches. On the island's Eastside are Mansion and Scotch beach, as well as the port town of New Shoreham.
The historic hotels and salt-box homes are picturesque and perfect, whether you're looking for a room or a rental home, although we would recommend reserving far in advance as the island books up entirely for most of the summer.
Rent bicycles and ride to the beautiful South Lighthouse, or walk along the sandy shore and admire the massive bluffs.
7 Naples Beach, Florida
A true tropical paradise, Naples, Florida is a white-sand beach toward the Southern tip of the Floridian peninsula. The palm trees and blue water are stunning, and the rental chairs and palm-frond umbrellas that speckle the beach make it all the more luxurious. The generally gentle waves are a perfect place for families, and the water remains shallow for a further-than-average distance from shore. The warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico remain pleasantly temperate for most of the winter season. The beach extends into the town, with a number of high-end hotels staking a claimed section for private umbrellas and chairs, and a number of cafes are within walking distance.
6 Jekyll Island, Georgia
Known for its Driftwood Beach, Jekyll Island is as mysterious and foreboding at its namesake, although stunning and sunny. One of the Golden Islands of Georgia's barrier Islands, Jekyll is home to a number of historic and beautiful resorts and estates.
The Jekyll Island Club's main building looks more like a castle than a hotel, and guests stay in cabins or oceanfront suites.
The most unique part of Jekyll Island is the aptly named Driftwood beach. Gnarled pine and oak trees bleached and preserved by the sand, salt, seawater, and sun are strewn across the white sand, creating an otherworldly and unique seascape.
5 Provincetown, Massachusetts
Provincetown, Massachusetts is a hub of great beaches and sun-soaked afternoons. At the very tip of Cape Cod, the town of Provincetown looks over the Cape Cod Bay, protected an extra measure by the thin Long Point Beach peninsula that curls in towards town. While the town itself has a boardwalk and town beach with easy access, the beaches in this area are all worth exploring. Race Point Beach looks North into the Atlantic Ocean and is sometimes visited by seals. Herring Cove Beach has calm waters in the Bay for easy swimming, day parking, and an on-site snack shack. Finally, Long Point Beach stretches into the bay and has good swimming, sun, and sand in every direction.
4 Southampton, New York
One of the best beaches in the celebrated Long Island Hamptons, Southampton's water and sand are pristine. Opening out into the Atlantic Ocean, the Southampton beach stretches along the southern side of Long Island, along with the barrier strip of island.
Although many miles of this barrier area are beaches, those in the Southampton area are among the best.
Southampton Village Coopers Beach is open to the public, with lifeguards and chair and umbrella rentals, and a pricey parking fee. Also gorgeous is Dune beach, just a little further down, marked a historic landmark and flanked by natural sand dunes and raised wooden paths.
3 Kennebunkport, Maine
Kennebunkport is an idyllic lobster-fishing coastal town in Maine, known for its warm sandy beaches and historic spaces. Long, sandy Goose Rocks Beach near town, open to the public and stunning. You won't find white sand strips like this regularly this far north, and this one is quintessentially Maine. The views of the coast and nearby islands are stunning, and the beach is relatively quiet, with lifeguards and chairs for rent. Worth researching are the gorgeous local resorts, like the Lodge on the Cove, the Colony Hotel, and the Seaside Inn, many of which have saltwater pools, hot tubs, and private beaches.
2 Miami Beach, Florida
A hotspot of arts and culture along the Southeast, Miami is more than a flashy, overpriced vacation spot. The art scene is booming, with countless galleries and museums, and the city has a burgeoning music industry as well.
When you're not immersing yourself in culture or hitting the infamous designer shopping scene, enjoy the true highlight of the city: the stunning coast.
Although many people rent boats, the sandy shore itself is as luxe and comfortable as can be. Rent a chair or spread your towel, and enjoy watching the crystal-clear waters as the boats go by.
1 Madison, Connecticut
A small town in the Southeastern corner of Connecticut's coast, Madison has an idyllic chunk of beach and a fun music scene. With multiple venues hosting musical acts every weekend, this little town will surprise you. The East Wharf Beach Park is calm and peaceful, an ideal place to relax and a nice alternative to the nearby bustle of Hammonasset. Also worth checking out is the area's Madison Beach Hotel by Hilton, an elegant space seated right on the coast. The rooms have private balconies and ocean views, and the farm-to-table dining, spa and private beach access ensure an enjoyable stay for everyone.