School’s almost out and summer’s almost here! That means it’s time to plan your summer beach vacation! Today we’re taking a look at the 13 best beach destinations for families in the USA. We’ve got great beach destinations for families on the east coast and the west coast. We’re even highlighting a couple of lakes that are so gorgeous, you won’t even believe you’re not swimming in the ocean- except that you won’t have to worry about sharks! Whatever kind of beach vacation you’re looking for, you’re sure to find the perfect location for your family’s summer vacation in our family-friendly beach guide!
Best Beach Destinations for Families
While Florida has numerous family-friendly beach destinations up and down the coast, Destin is one of the most popular. Destin is known for it’s beautiful white sand and turquoise waters. Two popular beach locations in Destin are Henderson Beach State Park and the Shores at Crystal Beach Park. There are lots of family-friendly resorts that cater to kids in Destin- plus many unique things to do! Beach Sand Sculptures offers lessons on building epic sandcastles (yes please!) and the Crab Island Adventure Tour will take you out to two amazing locations- the Gulf Islands National Seashore which has an inflatable water park plus snorkeling, kayaking and paddle-boarding, then you’ll ride over to Destin’s popular Crab Island sandbar where you can enjoy the calm, shallow water before heading back to shore.
Malibu is home to some of the west coast’s most stunning beaches and is one of the most popular beach destinations for families on the west coast due to it’s close proximity to Los Angeles. Leo Carillo State Park has amazing tide pools for kids and families to explore, plus giant rocks that are fun for everyone in the family to climb! Malibu Lagoon State Beach is another great location for tide-pooling. El Matador Beach may not be idea for families with lots of little ones (it’s a bit of a hike down- and then back up) but kids who can handle the stairs will love frolicking in the many caves at this gorgeous beach. It’s also known for hosting various photo shoots and is a popular location for many films- so you may even get to spot a celebrity! Be sure to stop at Malibu Seafood for a fantastic meal overlooking the Pacific Ocean!
Outer Banks, NC
The Outer Banks of North Carolina, also known as OBX, is an amazing beach destination for families. It’s especially great for large families or for meeting up with another family for your beach vacation because most accommodations here are beach homes and condos you can rent- and many of them are huge! The Outer Banks are a series of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina and are known for their soft white sand, great kite flying, surfing, and amazing views. The beaches of Nags Head and Kitty Hawk are great for kids while the beaches of Kill Devil Hills are best for surfing. Corolla Beach is your best chance for spotting the famous OBX wild horses! Take a drive down to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore for more secluded beaches and wildlife! You’ll find all sorts of kite shops and ice cream shops in the Outer Banks, making this a perfect family beach destination.
If you want to splurge on the ultimate beach vacation in the US, it’s time to head to Hawaii! While each island has beaches that will take your breath away- Maui is best known for it’s beautiful beaches. Lahaina is the most popular town on Maui and Pu‘unoa and Mala (better known as Baby Beach) is a great location for families. Just north of Lahaina you’ll find some truly incredible resorts and some of Maui’s most beautiful beaches in Kapalua. These beach towns on the western side of the island are known for calmer waters, golden sand and plenty of sunshine! Kihei is another place for families to stay on Maui, and here you’ll find the family-friendly Wailea Beach, plus the hotels in Kihei are a bit more affordable for many families. For those who are more adventurous- the Road to Hana will take you to Wai’anapanapa Black Sand Beach as well as Kaihalulu Beach, a red sand beach! And for the ultimate beach vacation, you can island hop to Oahu, Kauai or the Big Island to check out the most gorgeous beaches on each island!
Martha’s Vineyard, MA
Located just off of Cape Code in Massachusetts, Martha’s Vineyard is an island that is an uber-popular summer beach destination for celebrities and presidents! But it’s also a fantastic family destination too. Menemsha Beach, which faces the Vineyard Sound, is a popular and family-friendly beach with calm waters that are perfect for kids. Lambert’s Cove Beach is another beach on the Sound that is known for it’s calm waters and seashell hunting. Oak Bluffs Town Beach is another great family beach that is home to the Flying Horse Carousel which is the oldest platform carousel in the United States! Another highlight of Martha’s Vineyard is the incredible seafood. It’s a great place to introduce your kids to things like fish and chips and lobster rolls! You can drive your own car to the island via the ferry, but the Vineyard Transit Authority bus is a great way for families to get around if you don’t want to be bothered with a car.
Santa Cruz, CA
Located in northern California, about an hour and a half south of San Francisco, Santa Cruz is an amazing beach town with a laid back surfer vibe. With over 27 miles of beautiful beaches, you’ll find everything from surfing to tide-pooling in Santa Cruz. The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk makes this destination super popular with families. The beach front amusement park has over 40 rides for kids of all ages! Take a day trip to the other side of the Monterey Bay where you can visit the world famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. Santa Cruz is a great home base for a day trip down the Pacific Coast Highway to Big Sur- where you’ll find more beautiful beaches and stunning ocean views!
Amelia Island, FL
Amelia Island part of the Sea Islands chain of barrier islands on Florida’s northeast Atlantic Coast. It’s well known for it’s luxury resorts and vacation home rentals and boasts 13 miles of stunning shoreline, making it a great family beach destination. Seaside Park is great for swimming, paddle-boarding and searching the shores for seashells and shark’s teeth. Main Beach Park is another family-favorite with a playground and bathroom/shower facilities. Fernandina Beach on the northern part of the island is known for it’s shopping and dining, while the resorts on American Beach on the Southern end of the island are a bit more spread out for a more relaxing stay.
Cape Cod, MA
Cape Cod, Massachusetts is one of the most popular beach destinations for families on the east coast. Cape Cod is known for it’s beautiful beaches, charming east coast towns, kid-friendly museums, delicious sea food, and endless ice cream shops- what more could a family want?! The Cape Cod National Seashore boasts six stunning beaches. Outside of the National Seashore you’ll find more amazing beaches including Old Silver Beach, Nauset Beach, Chatham Lighthouse Beach and Crosby Landing Beach. Families will also love the Cape Cod Museum of Natural History, the Whydah Pirate museum, the Cape Cod Children’s Museum and the Chatham Shark Center! Cape Cod is home to many popular family-friendly resorts so you’ll have no trouble finding a great place to stay for your summer vacation!
Traverse City, MI
Home to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore, Traverse City is one of only two locations on our list of best beach destinations for families that isn’t on the ocean! Traverse City is located on the northern end of beautiful Lake Michigan. With it’s sparkling turquoise waters, the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Seashore won the title of “Most Beautiful Place in America” in the year 2011. It can be hard to remember you’re on a lake and not the ocean- the beaches and waters of Traverse City are just that beautiful. Except that you don’t have to deal with sharks or salt water! The Grand Traverse Resort and Spa is a fantastic family-friendly resort with a kids club and a private beach for guests. You can also explore many of northern Michigan’s charming beach towns including Petoskey and Harbor Springs, where you’ll find fudge and ice cream shops galore!
Virginia Beach, VA
Virginia Beach is a family-friendly beach destination on the east coast. It’s known for miles and miles of sandy beaches and a 3-mile-long boardwalk. Family Destinations Guide covers the 10 best beaches for families in Virginia Beach, plus families will want to stop by Grommet Island Park with it’s massive and fully accessible playground. The Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center is popular with families, as is the homemade ice cream at Gilly’s Creamery. Washington DC, and the historic towns of Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown are all just a day trip away- so if you’re looking to combine a beach vacation with a little hit of history, Virginia Beach is the perfect destination!
Sanibel Island, FL
Located on southern Florida’s Gulf Coast, Sanibel Island is a popular beach destination for families in Florida. In fact, after winning two categories in a readers’ poll in FamilyFun magazine- the best family-friendly vacation spot in the US and the top tourist town in the US- the Today Show on NBC declared Sanibel Island the number one family-friendly vacation destination in the US! Sanibel Island offers calm beaches that are perfect for young children, plus it offers world-class seashell hunting that can keep the whole family busy for days! Bowman’s Beach and Blind Pass are popular beaches for both swimming and shelling. Sanibel Island is also known for it’s affordable accommodations. You’ll find hotels, resorts, and vacation home rentals for all budgets here!
Myrtle Beach, SC
Myrtle Beach is another family-friendly beach destination in South Carolina. Myrtle Beach is part of the “Grand Strand” which is 60 miles of beach the North Carolina border to Georgetown, South Carolina. The soft white sand is perfect for building sandcastles and sunbathing. Families will also love the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk with it’s numerous arcades, the Sky Wheel with stunning views of the ocean and the boardwalk, the Family Kingdom Amusement Park and the Family Kingdom’s Splashes Oceanfront Water Park. Broadway at the Beach is Myrtle Beach’s version of Disney Springs- with lots of live entertainment, restaurants and great shopping!
Lake Tahoe, CA
Lake Tahoe is our second beach destination that is on a lake instead of the ocean! Lake Tahoe is a crystal clear alpine lake with unbelievably cobalt blue waters. Two thirds of Lake Tahoe sits in California while the other third sits in Nevada and it’s situated at just over 6,000 feet in elevation- which means the water can be chilly but it’s just too beautiful not to jump in. Lake Tahoe is an incredibly popular summer destination for families, with amazing beaches, water sports, bike riding, hiking, and exploring. Sand Harbor, Emerald Beach State Park and Zephyr Cove are all popular beaches for kids and families. Tubing and rafting on the beautiful Truckee River and the Tahoe Treetop Adventure Park are great for kids of all ages. Or take the gondola up to the EPIC Discovery mountain playground where you can ride a mountain coaster with amazing views of the lake!
Caribbean Beach Destinations for Families
If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous this summer and you’re looking for an international beach vacation, be sure to check out our post on the best Caribbean beach destinations for families!