The best family beaches on the east coast are inexpensive, offer activities for kids, have nearby family-friendly eating establishments, and provide plenty of beautiful white sand and clear, shallow water. Plentiful lifeguards, changing rooms, picnic areas, free parking, showers, and restrooms are also ideal. There are a number of stunning beaches along the coast from Maine to Florida.
1. Virginia Beach, Virginia
If a beach with “No Profanity” signs sounds right up your alley, you’ll probably enjoy taking the kids to Virginia Beach. Don’t forget your flip-flops-you’ll need them for walking the hot boardwalk. For small kids, there are two playscapes at the beach; one has a castle theme while the other looks like a pirate ship. In addition, there is water throughout the area designated for washing your hands or rinsing your hair. TripAdvisor.com mentions nightly concerts, buggy rides, tandem bikes, street performers, and even volleyball championship games and surfing competitions. Other opportunities for the family to enjoy together: watching jets take off and land at Oceana Naval Air Station, checking out the shipwrecks exhibit, baseball games in nearby Norfolk, fishing, canoeing, jet skiing, kayaking, and more.
2. Clearwater Beach, Florida (Tampa Bay area)
According to FamilyFun, Clearwater Beach has been named the top city beach in the Gulf region. Fodors.com says that you’ll find the pleasure of white sands, shallow water, and if you visit during the Fun ‘n Sun Festival, sandcastle building contests. There are public restrooms, showers, and lifeguards, and if you prefer to just lounge on the beach with no worries, you can rent a large umbrella or a cabana. If you’re the daredevil type, you can also pay for the opportunity to ride the waves. Overall, the water is calm, warm, and clear, and there are 35 miles of beach to enjoy in St. Pete/Clearwater.
3. Sunset Beach, Cape May, New Jersey
This is supposedly the country’s oldest beach resort. There’s a lighthouse to admire that is just a walk away from the beach. If your kids love picking up shells along the shore, they’ll also enjoy discovering the round quartz pebbles that can be found on this beach. If you go between June and September, there is also a flag ceremony at sunset just three miles from the beach at the end of Sunset Boulevard.
4. Coquina Beach, Nags Head, North Carolina
If your kids (or you!) enjoy ships or history, this is one of the best family beaches on the east coast. According to Fodors.com, locals claim that this is the most beautiful beach in the Outer Banks. There’s free parking, changing rooms for babies, showers, and picnic tables. In addition, families can enjoy the hunt for bits and pieces of a shipwreck that happened in 1921 in the Outer Banks. The remains of the ship were moved to Coquina Beach in 1973 to be put on display, but hurricanes have scattered and hidden them since. Not too far away is Jockey’s Ridge State Park, where the east coast’s tallest sand dune stands, waiting to be climbed.
5. Gulf Shores/Orange Beach, Alabama
Situated on the Gulf of Mexico, you can expect beautiful white sand and clear water. This site isn’t all sunbathing and lounging, though. If you’d prefer to spend at least some of your vacation days doing something active, there’s golf, tennis courts, game rooms, and pools. This isn’t a well-known area in comparison to some of the other best family beaches on the east coast, so it may be one of the more peaceful ones.
6. Nantucket, Massachusetts
USA Today and the Travel Channel both choose Nantucket, Massachusetts as one of the best family beaches on the east coast-and overall. There’s Children’s Beach, which is perfect for toddlers and even has a playground. Between mid-July and August, kids get to tie-dye their own shirts. There are also several festivals, such as the Sandcastle and Sculpture Day in August, along with windsurfing, kayaking, and sailboat lessons.
7. Vero Beach, Florida
Parents Magazine called Disney’s Vero Beach Resort one of the best in 2008. It’s a dose of Disney without the theme park lines and prices. In addition to traditional fun like swimming pools and beaches, there are soccer games, miniature golf, and a campfire sing-along complete with s’mores. If the mood does strike to go to Disney World while you’re there, it is only two hours away.
8. Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
In addition to enjoying stunning beaches, you get the opportunity to go horseback riding, kayaking, and more. According to FamilyFun, golf is huge in this area, so if you and your family love the sport as much as you love the beach, it could be a great location for your next vacation. You may also see dolphins and wildlife such as deer while you’re there.
9. York Beach, Maine
There’s plenty for kids to do here aside from just building sand castles and running through the water. There’s bowling, an arcade, mini-golf, and even the option for a peaceful stroll along Marginal Way, an oceanfront path just ten miles from the beach.
10. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Myrtle Beach hosts more than ten million visitors per year. There are shopping opportunities, water parks, and more. If your family likes music, try the Carolina Opry while you’re there. Trip Advisor has compiled a list of 85 things to do while you’re there, including user ratings, so you can see what others thought about their experiences before spending your hard-earned money.