While craggy lighthouses and chilly breezes don’t top the list of everyone’s beach vacation must-haves, the Atlantic coast offers an abundance of charm right alongside opportunities to shop, surf, and swim.
There are thousands of beaches totaling more than 2,000 miles along the East Coast, from the warm southern shorelines to the rocky coasts of the northeast.
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19 Best Beaches on the East Coast in 2023
It can be hard to pick which one is right for your visit with so many options. Fortunately, we’ve pinned down some of the most promising opportunities for your next adventure. This is our list of the 19 best beaches on the East Coast.
1. Tybee Island South Beach – Georgia
North Beach is a small but beloved beach on Tybee Island near Savannah, Georgia. The island is separated into several beaches: Mid, South, Back River, and North Beach. Each of these beaches has a bit of a unique atmosphere.
The waters on North Beach are much calmer than those on South Beach, making it a more peaceful visit. It’s also close to Jaycee Park, where you can bring your kids to swing and play on the slides.
North Beach is also great for shell-hunting. You can find plenty of starfish and oysters scattered over the beach in the morning. The lighthouse and Tybee Post Theater are popular tourist destinations on this East Coast beach.
2. Myrtle Beach – South Carolina
Myrtle Beach is one of the most visited tourist destinations in the country, and it continues its upwards ascent as the second-fastest-growing metro area in the United States.
The beach features moderate temperatures and plenty of attractions, including high-rise apartments, hotels, eateries, docks, marinas, and a Ferris wheel.
The community is home to more than 100 golf courses and is considered the mini-golf capital of the world. If that isn’t enough for you, it also has a big-cat habitat for lions, tigers, and other large cats.
Read Next: Best Time to Visit Myrtle Beach
3. Miami Beach – Florida
This list couldn’t be complete without Florida’s Miami Beach, home to the largest cruise ship port in the world. The shoreline is massive, at about 2.5 miles of glistening sand, loud music, and partying.
It’s a national icon for summer culture and beach bums everywhere. This beach is famous for its warm waters, a far cry from the chillier shoreline temperatures found up north.
It’s also stocked with restaurants, vendors, shops, museums, and art galleries. Miami Beach even borders several national parks.
The liveliest place to visit on Miami Beach is South Beach, the city’s glamorous and cosmopolitan cultural center. Penrod Park at South Beach is well-regarded for being a great spot to surf.
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4. Asbury Park Beach – New Jersey
This mile-long park in Monmouth County is an excellent beach and a great place to spend an afternoon. Asbury Beach is surprisingly large. Most guests will love the boardwalk and the many amenities of the park, including sections reserved for surfing and swimming only.
It is open from 9:00 a.m to 5:00 p.m on weekdays and from 9:00 a.m to 6:00 p.m on weekends and holidays.
The park has rental properties, hotels, live shows, and music. One of the best places to stay here is the 5th Avenue’s Asbury Hotel, which features a beer garden, rooftop bars, and a sound booth.
5. Virginia Beach – Virginia
Virginia Beach is a conveniently placed seashore destination for people who like large crowds, plenty of amenities, and quick access to the city.
Swimmers, surfers, and party-goers will find this beach a prime social hub, while the more introverted vacationers can enjoy the aquarium, docks, and verdant First Landing State Park.
Visitors can tour the boardwalk and its many hotels as they unwind from a day of swimming or carry the fun late into the evening in the ViBe Creative District, a local hotspot for emerging creatives and young professionals.
6. Cape Cod National Seaside – Massachusetts
From golden sand to the cool Atlantic breeze, patrons will have plenty to remember after a trip to one of Cape Cod’s many locales. It’s one of the most popular natural tourist destinations in Massachusetts.
Consisting of fifteen different towns dotted along 40 miles of coastline, this area of Massachusetts is rich with must-see landscapes, including six swimming beaches registered as official members of the Cape Cod National Shoreline:
- Head of the Meadow, Truro
- Race Point and Herring Cove, Provincetown
- Macaroni Beach, Wellfleet
- Nauset Light and Coast Guard, Eastham
Read Next: Best Places to Visit in New England
7. Coney Island Beach – New York
No vacation to New York is complete without an afternoon at Coney Island, a community that hosts hundreds of independent vendors, amusements, and restaurants.
The Coney Island boardwalk arguably makes it one of the most identifiable beaches on the East Coast. It’s full of arcades, bars, concessions, and rides, including the iconic Cyclone coaster.
This beach is more than 3-miles long and hosts 5 million visitors every year. It’s open to surfers, swimmers, and anglers, who will find the waters ripe with bluefish, bass, and herring.
With fresh seafood available right outside, Coney Island is also a foodie paradise. It’s also widely regarded as the hot dog’s origin as we know it today, though there is some debate whether New York or Michigan holds the title.
8. Ocean City – New Jersey
If you’re a fan of large crowds and meeting new people, this East Coast beach should be at the top of your plan. Ocean City Beach in Maryland is an intimidatingly large beach.
It has a mammoth of a sandbank where a whopping 8 million visitors walk every year. That’s bigger than the population of the state!
Ocean City Beach features a boardwalk lined with bizarre and quirky attractions, like the Ocean Gallery sign exhibit. This shop sells hundreds of unique oil paintings and knickknacks.
There are ample suites to stay in and eateries to visit in between bouts of surfing, swimming, paddle boarding, and other sports.
9. Cisco Beach – Massachusetts
Cisco Beach is a small beach in Nantucket, Massachusetts, popular with the surf crowd thanks to its cool, crystal clear waters and waves that can crest up to 5 feet tall.
Cisco Beach doesn’t feature as many amenities as other beaches. This makes it less favorable to families but more popular for students and groups of adults.
It’s a serene-looking place with a lot of potential, especially during the summer months. Spend your days exploring the nearby Whaling Museum, visiting the Great Point Lighthouse, or simply lounging in the sand.
10. Fire Island – New York
Fire Island is an 8-square-mile barrier island right off the coast of Long Island, New York. It’s a beautiful beach that is home to about 1,000 residents, many of whom reside in or near the town of Ocean Beach.
Fire Island is unique for its size and atmosphere. Unlike the busy streets of the big city, this park offers visitors a calm, discreet afternoon free of smog, traffic, and stress.
The whole coastline is quite long but makes excellent use of the space with a cornucopia of natural wonders. Fire Island is home to Robert Moses State Park, an 875-acre preserve where tourists can surf, go angler fishing, and even spot local deer.
Sunken Forest is also popular with outdoor enthusiasts, featuring a short hike through a hidden world of American holly trees nestled between the Atlantic Coast sand dunes.
11. Hampton Beach – New Hampshire
Hampton Beach features a long boardwalk, plenty of shops and restaurants, and a seasonal ballroom for hosting parties, shows, and concerts. Visitors praise the beach for its amenities, accessibility, and natural atmosphere.
Even though the beach can be quite busy, it’s sizable and comfortable, stretching over 1½ miles of pearly white sands. Hampton Beach is open year-round for fishing, camping, swimming, and picnicking.
But one of the best times to visit during the summer, when they host live fireworks shows every Wednesday. Check their calendar often, though, as these shows are put on pause according to when the local Piping Plovers begin nesting.
12. Brighton Beach – New York
Brighton Beach is a busy beach with some big waves and a popular spot for locals because of its comfortable swimming conditions. The water temperature here is in the mid-60s, just chilly enough to take the edge off a steamy summer day.
It is connected to the Riegelmann Boardwalk, which allows you to walk from Brighton Beach to Coney Island.
It’s very convenient and makes it easy to make more than one trip on your visit. Many local vendors and businesses visit the boardwalk, and the area is known for its Eastern European food and culture.
13. Old Orchard Beach – Maine
Old Orchard Beach is a classic attraction known for its combination of sun and fun. You can catch huge waves year-round at this East Coast beach, some as tall as 9 feet.
Families flock to the amusements and kiddy rides like the park’s carousels, roller coasters, and Ferris wheel. One famous example is Palace Playland, a local amusement park that has been around for more than a century.
The boardwalk and pier are populated with restaurants, shops, and rest areas. Old Orchard Beach also features charming New England-style bed-and-breakfast rentals and plenty of inns, like the Old Orchard Beach Inn and the Rebekah Inn.
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14. Carolina Beach – North Carolina
Carolina Beach is a lively beach in New Hanover County that stretches more than six miles. It presents tourists with many sites and eateries, including Squigley’s Ice Cream and Treats and Britt’s Donuts shop.
Once you’re ready to hit the water, there are plenty of spots for surfing calm waves, like the 475-long Crystal Pier. Visitors can drive four-wheelers around Freeman Park after a day out shopping or swimming.
This East Coast beach even has an aquarium, which fits more than 200 thousand gallons of saltwater.
It’s a fascinating hodge-podge of animals, with notable exhibits including a rare albino alligator named Luna, a touch pond filled with horseshoe crabs and stingrays, and a family of Asian small-clawed otters that recently welcomed a new litter of pups.
15. Westport Compo Beach – Connecticut
Westport’s Compo Beach is a small but sweet location in Fairfield County. Daily passes are limited to 100 per day, so it’s ideal if you want to enjoy the coast without dealing with busy crowds.
It’s only about 29 acres large, but this beach is very comfortable and hosts a softball field, a skate park, and basketball courts. It also has a pavilion and concession stands for classic outdoor refreshments.
The Compo Beach shoreline gives you a good view of the surrounding banks and marina. You are allowed to surf at the beach, but check out some of the online surfing forecasts before making your trip.
16. Folly Beach – South Carolina
Folly Beach is a 12-square-mile large barrier island that houses 25 restaurants and more than 2500 rooms in vacation rentals. The beachfront is considerably long and wide enough to fit visitors comfortably.
It’s a very accessible beach with ample parking spaces near the coastline. Folly Pier and the local clubs supply beachgoers with drinks and music. Thanks to their iconic salt marshes and swashbuckling, pirate-filled past, history buffs will find Folly Beach a delightful destination.
According to historians, Folly Island was once known as Coffin Land, as pirates headed towards the Charleston harbor would stop along their route to bury departed crewmates.
One exciting thing about Folly Beach is that Civil War cannonballs unearth themselves every few years. Following storms, these 200-year-old cannonballs wash up on the sand.
17. Long Beach – New York
When it comes to Long Island, Long Beach is the ultimate destination spot for fans of surfing and sand castles. Time Out magazine even named Long Beach the Best East Coast Beach Town of 2022.
The coast here is more than three miles long and very spacious. The sands here are very pearly and soft, perfect for walking on. There are many cinemas, pubs, and retreats along the boardwalk.
Some areas of the beach are even grassy, making good spots to picnic or lay down. Lifeguards are on duty at Long Beach between 9:00 p.m and 6:00 p.m.
18. Revere Beach – Massachusetts
Revere Beach is a superb beach along the seashore north of Boston. The beach can fit up to 1 million visitors on the weekend, but you can conveniently park for free on Revere Boulevard or reach the beach by the Blue Line subway service.
The Revere Beach reservation is a historic landmark and is open from dusk until dawn every day. The beach is also remarkable for one of its local species.
Piping Plovers are small, endangered species of bird that occupies a small section of the park. This beach is also the site of the New England Sand Sculpting Festival, which takes place in July every year.
If you’re good enough, you can win thousands in prize money. Some of the artwork you can find on this beach is truly spectacular.
19. Rehoboth Beach – Delaware
Delaware might be a small state, but you can’t beat it for an ocean view sunset. The best beach in Delaware has to be Rehoboth, named after the most visited city in the state.
The beach is open from 6:00 a.m to 10:00 p.m., which means you have plenty of time to enjoy the retro 1950s nostalgia and classic icons of Americana that this destination is famous for.
There are also some neat areas around the beach like Funland Amusement Park, Jungle-Jim’s Water Park, and Midway Speedway.
Things to Consider
Before taking your trip, there are some essential things to think about:
- How much is your trip going to cost?
- How far away is one beach on your list from the next?
- What amenities and attractions are most important?
Be sure to do your research to get the most bang for your buck, especially if you plan to visit multiple locations on an East Coast road trip. With a little trial and error, you can create a route map that hits many of these day trip dream destinations.
With that in mind, one of the most important things to consider is gas pricing. There can be a heavy commute near some of the larger public beaches.
Keep an eye out for free parking or metros, but keep some quarters in your car just in case the beach you’re visiting has parking meters. Lastly, consider how rowdy you like your beaches.
For example, families may want to avoid Miami Beach in March and April, when the area will be packed to the gills with college-aged tourists seeking their favorite vices.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some FAQs about visiting East Coast beaches:
What states are considered East Coast?
Every state from Maine to Florida is considered to be the East Coast of the United States. This is regardless if it’s in the North or South.
What is the best time to visit these beaches?
Summertime is the warmest time to hit the beach, as well as the best chances for catching big waves.
What beach has the best temperature?
If you like swimming and feeling the warm water on your skin, head to Florida and Georgia. If you like cooler environments, check out some New England beaches.
What is the busiest beach on the East Coast?
Myrtle Beach, Miami Beach, and Nantucket have millions of people who visit them annually. Smaller beaches like Compo and Tybee are calm and less crowded.
Where is the clearest water on the East Coast?
Folly Beach is well-known for its clear waters, where you can see passing sea turtles and dolphins dancing under the waves.
So What’s the Best Beach on the East Coast?
Without a doubt, our favorite entry is Miami Beach. Miami Beach has everything you can want on a beach, from public swimming and surfing to an active nightlife and atmosphere.
It’s warm, sunny, and very popular. It’s all a matter of opinion, but it’s definitely our choice for the best beach on the East Coast.