The East Coast’s historic cities are always popular summer tourist spots, but if you’re looking to stay cool when the weather gets hot, then you might want to skip the cities and visit some of the nearby beaches. From Maine to Florida, the Eastern United States is lined with summer hotspots, like Myrtle Beach, and some hidden gems, like Cape May.
To help you perfect your beach bum look (and find the perfect summer rental), we’ve put together a list of the top beaches east of the Rockies.
An island 30 miles off the coast of Cape Cod, Nantucket offers some of the finest beaches on the East Coast and some of the highest valued homes in the United States. Airport and ferry services help visitors travel to and from the beautiful island, but once you’re there you might not want to leave. Smith’s Point is located on the westernmost tip of the biggest beach on the island, Madaket, and is a fantastic fishing and bathing hotspot. Bring your oars, though, this beach is only accessible by boat.
Located in Horry County, South Carolina and stretching 60 miles down the coast, Myrtle Beach is a major tourist destination on the East Coast. The beautiful sub-tropical climate keeps families, couples, and young people coming back year after year to enjoy some fun in the sun. Breathtaking scenery and endless activities help Myrtle maintain its esteemed reputation on the East Coast.
Quiet and charming, this seaside town is situated in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Duck beaches are known for being uncrowded and walkable from anywhere in the town. Famous for watersports, fishing, and even destination weddings, this town is a family favorite and has been featured on the Travel Channel’s annual Best Beaches list.
Less than 20 miles away from Savannah, Tybee Island is historically known for being the site of an important port during the Spanish-American war. The small island attracts tourists from all over with its extraordinary history, museum attractions, and beautiful beaches. Every year, the island holds its annual Beach Bum parade, where onlookers spray each other with water guns in an effort to stay cool in the Southern heat.
The third largest island on the East Coast, nicknamed “Hollywood East,” Martha’s Vineyard is a fashionable, popular island beach resort. South Beach is a popular stretch of sand on the Vineyard that faces Smith’s Point, Nantucket and features quality surf. South Beach is easily accessible and if you are up for it, it’s an easy two-mile bike ride from Edgartown. The water is perfect for body surfing and floating in the waves, but swimmers must be careful of the small rocks and shells at the breaking point.
60 miles south of Manhattan, the Jersey Shore is home to some of the best beaches and summer fun on the East Coast. The famous boardwalks offer fun for everyone, whether you crave a quiet stroll or an almost endless onslaught of activities and entertainment. The Jersey Shore is sure to entertain the whole family all year long through fun-filled summer days at the beach and off-season festivities like the tree lighting ceremonies during the holidays.
Located at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay, Virginia Beach stretches 35 miles long and is perfect for family fun in the sun. The three-mile boardwalk is fully stocked with restaurants, shopping, entertainment, and other cool attractions. Whether you are looking for a quiet and peaceful week of relaxation or you want to get in the middle of the action, Virginia Beach has plenty to enjoy.
Just two hours away from Washington D.C., Rehoboth Beach is often dubbed “The Nation’s Summer Capital.” Considered to be a relaxing alternative to neighbor Ocean City, Rehoboth has plenty to offer tourists during the summer months. The boardwalk stretches a mile long and includes shopping, restaurants, spas, and live music and entertainment. Endless water activities like surfing, skimboarding, and sailing make Rehoboth a family favorite.
Legendary, wealth-laden, and beautiful, the Hamptons are a summer playground for the rich and famous. Favorite beach spots include Coopers Beach in Southampton and Main Beach in East Hampton because of their cleanliness and the food offerings along the shore. Many of the beaches require seasonal parking permits, but day passes can also be purchased for visitors. Tennis, art, baseball, dancing, charity events, sightseeing, and nightlife are all high priorities on a Hamptons summer to-do list.
Visit Maine recalls that back in the 19th century, Bar Harbor was a premier vacation spot for society’s A-listers because it was home to the largest hotel in North America and was the site of the infamous “Millionaires’ Row.” Travel to and from the seaside town is now much easier thanks to Hancock County-Bar Harbor Airport, which features direct flights to and from Boston. Music festivals, nightlife, comedy, movies, museums, and outdoor recreational activities are just some of the fun you will find in this New England town.
OCMD is an Atlantic Ocean resort town that hosts about eight million visitors every year, making it Maryland’s second most populated town during the summer months. The lengthy boardwalk offers arcades, theatres, buffets, and much more for all family members. During the summer, six nights a week are dedicated to fun and free family events like movies and concerts on the beach, parents-and-kids beach games, and even “Sundaes in the Park.” No matter who you are or what your budget, OCMD is a great place to spend a summer vacation.
New Jersey’s southernmost point is one of the country’s oldest vacation destinations. The entire city is a National Historic Landmark because it has one of the largest collections of Late Victorian style buildings in the country. Cape May’s promenade, or paved boardwalk, offers many different attractions for visitors of all ages. Early morning fitness classes on the beach, like yoga and Zumba, are pay-per-class and are a fun alternative way to stay in shape while on vacation. Other local highlights include brewery tours, haunted tours, golfing, jet skiing, kayaking, parasailing, spas, and even water parks… all within the city’s limits.
Located on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, Chincoteague offers a relaxed atmosphere and a serene option for vacation. Assateague Beach is ten minutes away from Chincoteague and features 37 miles perfect for beach combing, swimming, and surfing. Assateague Explorer Cruise & Kayaking is a tour that takes visitors around the island to see herds of wild ponies, eagles, dolphins, and other wildlife along the coast. Chincoteague Island is well known for its fresh seafood and holds its Seafood Festival in May as well as an Oyster Festival in October.
20 miles north of Savannah, Georgia this island gets its name from Captain William Hilton. Aside from boasting one of the top 10 family beaches in America, Hilton Head is home to plenty of things to do while living life as a beach bum. Golf lovers can find over 20 world-class courses in the area. There are also over 350 tennis courts, and the U.S. Professional Tennis Registry offers daily lessons for players of all levels. Sports not your thing? There’s plenty of history and heritage to discover on this South Carolina island. Or, you can opt to relax at one of the world-class Hilton Head spas.
As many as 50,000 visitors travel to Emerald Isle every summer, and the town has maintained its family friendly atmosphere by not allowing hotels to be built along the beach. Instead, the oceanfront is lined with homes both large and small that are perfect rentals during the vacation season. There are plenty of activities to keep all family members entertained, including pottery, golf, waterslides, aquariums, kayaks, movies, and lots of ice cream. There are even golf cart rentals available on the island to help make your vacation as relaxing and effortless as possible.
Kiawah Island is a barrier island located about 15 miles south of Charleston, South Carolina. It is mainly a beach and golf resort for tourists. With five award-winning golf courses, it’s one of the premier golf destinations along the coast. Leisure programs include pickup basketball, volleyball, and soccer games, as well as scavenger hunts, board games, and even a book exchange for beach reading.
Have your own favorite East Coast beach town? Share it in the comments or on Facebook!