Now let’s wade into our options!
- Coronado Beach (San Diego, California)
- Main Beach (Laguna Beach, California)
- Santa Monica State Beach (Santa Monica, California)
- Vikingsholm Beach (South Lake Tahoe, California)
- Cannon Beach (Oregon)
- Long Beach (Washington)
- Waikiki Beach (Honolulu, Hawai’i)
- Big Foot Beach State Park (Lake Geneva, Wisconsin)
- Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (Maple City, Michigan)
- Oval Beach (Saugatuck, Michigan)
- Indiana Dunes National Park (Porter, Indiana)
- Race Point Beach (Cape Cod, Massachusetts)
- Menemsha Beach (Chilmark, Massachusetts)
- Mother’s Beach (Kennebunk, Maine)
- Dewey Beach (Rehoboth Beach, Delaware)
- Sunset Beach (Cape May, New Jersey)
- Buckroe Beach (Hampton, Virginia)
- Corolla Beach (Outer Banks, North Carolina)
- Coligny Beach (Hilton Head Island, South Carolina)
- Kiawah Beachwalker Park (Kiawah Island, South Carolina)
- Gulf State Park (Gulf Shores, Alabama)
- Back River Beach (Tybee Island, Georgia)
- Seagrove Beach (Seaside, Florida)
- Siesta Beach (Siesta Key, Florida)
- Henderson Beach State Park (Destin, Florida)
1. Coronado Beach (San Diego, California)Coronado Beach has all the ingredients necessary to make a great kid-friendly beach. San Diego has one of the best climates in the country, making for comfortable beach conditions. Crowds at Coronado Beach are rarely overwhelming, so it’s easy to keep track of everyone. The water is cool and the sand won’t burn your kid’s feet as they run on the shore. When you’ve had your fill of the water, you can easily retreat to the city for food and added entertainment.
2. Main Beach (Laguna Beach, California)Laguna Beach, located along the Pacific Coast Highway, is easy to get to from either Los Angeles or San Diego. The posh town of Laguna Beach takes great care of its ocean access, which enhances the experience. The water is typically calm, so your kids can play in the water without risking colliding with surfers. There are also active whale and dolphin sightings in the area for added fun.
3. Santa Monica State Beach (Santa Monica, California)The kid-friendly state beach in Santa Monica has no shortage of space or activities. Stretching over 3 miles, the beaches make you feel like you’ve entered a public resort. The beaches are monitored by lifeguards for added security, and there’s a playground area and water toys available to rent. Follow the pathways to discover scenic lookouts, picnic areas and volleyball courts.
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4. Vikingsholm Beach (South Lake Tahoe, California)Want a taste of old-world Scandinavia without the hassle of a transcontinental flight? Then head to Tahoe to play on the shores of the lake in the shadow of Vikingsholm Castle. Built in 1928 by a Swedish architect to replicate the aesthetic of his home country, the castle is now managed by the Sierra State Parks Foundation.Tours are available between May and September. Even without access to the property, your kids will love playing in Emerald Bay, imagining their own Viking adventures.
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5. Cannon Beach (Oregon)National Geographic picked Cannon Beach as one of the best beach towns in the country, and it’s easy to see why. Fans of “The Goonies” will recognize the famous Haystack Rock jutting out from the water just off the beach. The beach spans 4 miles and is rarely crowded. The cold, shallow waters allow your kids to play in safety. And at low tide, your kids will love exploring the sea life that gathers in the small tidepools.
6. Long Beach (Washington)Long Beach, Washington — not to be confused with California — is about 40 miles north of Cannon Beach and well worth the visit when you’re in the area. Located on a peninsula, Long Beach lives up to its name, with sandy beachfront stretching across 28 miles.The flat open space makes for a perfect setting to hunt for shells, fly a kite or ride bikes. Marsh’s Free Museum is a local treasure that’s great for browsing oddities and picking up memorable souvenirs.
7. Waikiki Beach (Honolulu, Hawai’i)Waikiki has tropical weather, beautiful scenery and calm waters — what more can you ask for from a kid-friendly beach? Waikiki Beach Activities rents equipment like lounge chairs, toys and beach umbrellas, and lifeguards are on duty during the day. After a day at the beach, head to nearby Honolulu Zoo for a twilight tour and learn about its exotic animals.
8. Big Foot Beach State Park (Lake Geneva, Wisconsin)Lake Geneva was a popular destination for wealthy Chicago residents looking for summer escapes in the late 1800s. Catering to this crowd, the town turned into a resort community that exists to this day. The lake water is clean and swimmer-friendly, although many visitors prefer cruising on boats. The shore path wraps 26 miles around the lake, making for a peaceful tour of beautiful estates. Notable buildings include the Maxwell Mansion (now a boutique hotel) and Black Point Estate.
9. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (Maple City, Michigan)Sleeping Bear Dunes offers some of the best views of Lake Michigan. The beach is essentially one large sandbox, allowing the kids to dig, build and swim to their heart’s content. The kids can also run themselves ragged racing each other up the Dune Climb.The area is surrounded with hiking trails of varying difficulty. The Empire Bluff Trail follows a wooden pathway to scenic overlooks along the lake. There’s also the option to kayak or tube down the Platte River, which empties into the lake.
10. Oval Beach (Saugatuck, Michigan)Western Michigan is covered with great beach towns, but Oval Beach stands out as one of the best family beaches. Conde Nast named Saugatuck as one of the best lake vacation towns in the country. Oval Beach has rolling sand dunes and a beautiful shoreline. It also has showers, changing rooms and convenient, on-site concession stands.
11. Indiana Dunes National Park (Porter, Indiana)Indiana Dunes National Park covers 15,000 acres of sandy real estate that’s begging to be explored. Complete the three-dunes challenge by hiking to the top of the three tallest dunes in the area. There are 18 miles of beaches in the park, with State Park Beach and West Beach being the most popular. Visitors can play in the water and see the Chicago skyline on the other shore.
12. Race Point Beach (Cape Cod, Massachusetts)Race Point Beach is one of the best beaches for toddlers, thanks to its calm waters. Located at the tip of Cape Cod, it’s rarely crowded, making it easy to play and keep track of everyone. Older kids can enjoy paddleboarding and kayaking. The beach also connects to a short hiking trail that will take you through sand dunes to reach the Race Point Lighthouse.
13. Menemsha Beach (Chilmark, Massachusetts)Menemsha Beach, located on Martha’s Vineyard, delivers on the New England fishing village charm sought by many vacationers. The beach is small, but the surrounding area is sparsely populated, so you won’t be fighting for space. The waves are mild, so kids can easily play in the water. Nearby Larsen’s Fish Market is a great place to pick up take-out dinner before returning to the beach for an ideal sunset.
14. Mother’s Beach (Kennebunk, Maine)Mother’s Beach is one of three beaches along Beach Avenue in Kennebunk and is by far the most kid-friendly. Large rock formations on either end of the beach shield it from turbulent waves. The soft sand paired with a playground area make for hours of potential fun. The eastern side of the beach also has several tide pools enclosed by the rocks.
15. Dewey Beach (Rehoboth Beach, Delaware)Dewey Beach resides in an old-school beach town, serving as a mainstay of summertime activity. The Indian River Inlet has a great jetty for fishing. Dewey Beach Watersports rents pontoons, jet skis, paddleboards and more. Between March and December, head to the Hopkins Farm Creamery for award-winning ice cream after a day in the sun.
16. Sunset Beach (Cape May, New Jersey)As its name implies, Sunset Beach delivers beautiful sunsets. Unlike other beaches in New Jersey, this gem doesn’t attract the same large crowds of swimmers and sun tanners. There’s an old shipwreck just off the shore, which makes for an intriguing sight. Your kids will especially love hunting through the sand for Cape May diamonds — unique quartz pebbles that look like the real thing.
17. Buckroe Beach (Hampton, Virginia)Buckroe Beach sits on the Chesapeake Bay with lifeguards on patrol through the summer months. There are large restrooms and outdoor showers, and parties can rent picnic shelters equipped with grills and tables. There’s also a nautical-themed playground and an observation pier for added entertainment.
18. Corolla Beach (Outer Banks, North Carolina)Corolla Beach is a popular tourist destination on the Outer Banks islands. It has dozens of local activities that will delight your family. One of the area’s main attractions are the feral horses that roam freely. Tours of the coast are conducted via kayak, paddleboard and crab boat to accommodate all ages. The Donal C. O’Brien, Jr. Sanctuary preserves the natural beauty of the island and is a hot spot for watching birds and other wildlife.
19. Coligny Beach (Hilton Head Island, South Carolina)Coligny Beach is adjacent to downtown Hilton Head, and has plenty of activities along with a great beachfront. The beach has changing rooms and restrooms, and even free Wi-Fi. There are gazebos with swings and chairs for when you need a break from the sunshine, and Coligny Plaza has restaurants, ice cream stores and live entertainment.
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20. Kiawah Beachwalker Park (Kiawah Island, South Carolina)Kiawah Beachwalker Park is the only public beach accessible on the island. It’s equipped with lifeguards, a snack bar, dressing rooms and bathrooms. There’s also a boardwalk with a wheelchair-accessible ramp. The beach sand is compacted, ideal for bike riding. End your day with a stop at Freshfields Village for food and shopping.
21. Gulf State Park (Gulf Shores, Alabama)Gulf State Park sprawls across 6,150 acres and is filled with options for nature lovers. The Fishing and Education Pier is the ideal spot for fishing, complete with a retail store and concession area. Beach Pavilion has air-conditioned restrooms and provides access to three miles of beaches, giving your family plenty of space to spread out. Then head to Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail for more than 28 miles of potential hiking.
22. Back River Beach (Tybee Island, Georgia)Tybee Island is just 20 minutes from downtown Savannah, and is a favorite escape for locals. Grab a bite to eat at the Tybee Pier & Pavilion and spot the cargo ships coming to shore. The island has five beaches, though Back River Beach is considered the most family-friendly. The crowds are smaller and the waves are calmer than elsewhere on the island. Dolphins are also often spotted in the waters around sunset.
23. Seagrove Beach (Seaside, Florida)Seaside is a charming town in Northwest Florida that is known for being the filming location for “The Truman Show.” It remains a picture-perfect area, with pastel-colored buildings and white picket fences. Seagrove Beach has warm water and soft sand, and is lined with mangrove trees. Beach access is marked by unique pavilions that protect the dunes and offer easily identifiable meeting points.
24. Siesta Beach (Siesta Key, Florida)Siesta Key is just off the coast of Southwest Florida in Sarasota County, and Siesta Beach ranked second on Tripadvisor’s 2022 Travelers’ Choice Awards of the best beaches. The sand is remarkably soft — it feels like walking on powder. The beach features modern amenities, including showers, pavilions, a playground and wheelchair access. There’s also a full-service snack bar when you need some nourishment.
25. Henderson Beach State Park (Destin, Florida)Henderson Beach State Park is located in the Florida Panhandle and is a popular destination for events like family reunions. Visitors enjoy walking the nature trail and staying at the park’s campsites. There are six pavilions for picnicking and grilling, plus boardwalks for easy beach access and a playground for added fun.
9 tips for a family beach tripDon’t let the stress of planning your next family beach trip spoil all the fun. Follow these tips so your kids aren’t the only ones having a blast.
- Pack the night before: Decrease the chances of forgetting any essentials by packing when you aren’t pressed for time.
- Apply sunscreen before you leave: The first thing kids often want to do when they get to the beach is jump in the water. Sunscreen needs time to set in, so applying the first layer before you leave improves its effectiveness.
- Bring extra clothes and towels: Have extra layers on hand in case the beach or water is colder than expected. Plus, you’ll want plenty of towels to dry off and fresh clothes for a comfortable ride home.
- Have a bag for wet clothes: Separate your wet clothes and swimsuits to make for an easy cleanup when you get home, keeping sand and dirty water from spreading to other things.
- Bring reusable water bottles: Staying hydrated is important when you're spending hours being active in the sun. Either bring enough for the day or refill them if there are water fountains on-site.
- Portion out snacks in small bags: Help ensure your snacks last the entire day by portioning them out ahead of time. You can pass them out when needed without risking kids eating too much too fast.
- Bring your own shade: Many beachgoers' goal is to tan, but having a haven for everyone to get breaks from the sun is a good idea. A large umbrella or beach tent should suffice.
- Be selective with toys: Don’t feel pressured to bring every toy possible. One or two toys per child is usually all that’s needed. Consider toys that are collaborative, like beach balls, buckets and shovels.
- Have a travel potty: Even when beaches have bathrooms, they aren’t always well maintained or reliably accessible. Bringing your own travel potty can be a lifesaver in these situations.