National Parks With the Best Beaches for a Summer Trip from National Parks With the Best Beaches for a Summer Trip
National Parks With the Best Beaches for a Summer Trip
The best summer memories are almost always at the beach. Whether you’re hitting up the shores of the Pacific, the Atlantic, or one of the Great Lakes, it’s bound to become one of your fondest memories with your friends and your family. As you plan your summer sun shenanigans, consider these U.S. national parks and their beaches for your next trip.
The Active Times has selected these beaches as the best, for their popularity and overwhelming natural beauty. These areas are protected, so you know you’re getting a clean beach with tons of flourishing flora, fauna, and animal populations. They are also all over the country, so no matter where you are, or if you’re planning a road trip — they’re going to be fairly accessible whether you live near an ocean, a gulf, or a lake.
Click through our list of U.S. national parks with the best beaches for a summer trip, and start planning your next vacation. Remember to bring SPF!
Acadia National Park, Maine
This incredibly popular national park is best known for its dramatic rocky coastline, but there is, in fact, a stretch of sand in Acadia that gives way to the Atlantic Ocean. The aptly named cove is called Sand Beach (pictured here) and it’s a popular spot in the summer despite chilly water temperatures. There are other spots to access water in the park, like Echo Lake Beach, which happens to offer warmer waters, but one of the best ways to see the coastline is from the water — consider kayaking Acadia for some of the best views.
Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin
12 miles of mainland and 21 keys make up the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore. Gorgeous Lake Superior provides a sparkling water backdrop for visitors who come from far and wide to kayak, boat, fish, swim, and explore the islands’ lighthouses during Wisconsin’s warm summer weather. Guests can even go diving in the clean, clear lake water and discover underwater rock formations and even shipwrecks!
Canaveral National Seashore, Florida
The most amazing things about Canaveral National Seashore are the sea turtles. From April through October, giant sea turtles come ashore to nest on this national park’s beaches that sprawl out just half an hour south of Daytona Beach. If you’re not into seeing sea turtles, it’s still a super summer spot for water and waves. Tons of people love to tan, surf, and boogie board on these shores.
Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts
Cape Cod is an iconic New England cape that offers everything from a fishing village to darling homes, pine and oak forests, beaches for swimming, lighthouses, and endless beauty. From the pilgrims to Samuel De Champlain, Cape Cod is steeped in history. It’s also the historic site of Guglielmo Marconi’s first successful transatlantic wireless radio message.
Cape Lookout National Seashore, North Carolina
The only way to get to Cape Lookout is by boat. The wild North Carolina beaches of these barrier islands are full of birds, marine animals, and wild horses. It’s a popular place to camp and go shelling and birding. It’s remote (three miles off shore) but absolutely stunning.
Cumberland Island National Seashore, Georgia
Located in Georgia, these 9,800 acres of wilderness are full of gorgeous beaches, marshes, and maritime forests, and more. Visitors can see wild horses, over 50 miles of hiking trails, tons of boating and kayaking, as well as Dungeness Ruins, Plum Orchard Mansion, and more on a guided tour of what’s on the mainland and on the island.
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Alaska
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is not your typical sandy beach. This Alaskan beach offers jaw-dropping views of snow topped mountains, humpback whales, seals, otters, and tons of birds. Paddle through the placid water in a kayak, or take a guided boat tour of some of its 3.3-million-acre grounds. Glacier Bay also happens to be one of the world’s largest protected areas and part of a 25-million-acre world heritage site.
Gulf Islands National Seashore, Florida and Mississippi
This idyllic beach is perfect for a summer trip due to its white sandy beaches, crystal blue waters, and strong fishing community. These barrier islands off the Gulf Coast are protected to maintain the lush natural beauty found in the water around them, and in their bayous and coastal forests.
Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park, Hawaii
This beautiful Hawaiian beach offers more than just sun, sand, and lava rocks. Visitors can wander around Native Hawaiian fish ponds and sacred temples and even see an ancient stone slide built for Hawaiian royalty on this Big Island park.
Olympic National Park, Washington
The Pacific Northwest is home to astounding landscapes such as Olympic National Park. The 73 miles of shoreline offer many beach experiences whether you’re looking to surf, sunbathe, or hike. Visitors to this Washington spot can take in sweeping views from cliffs, gaze at the tiny wildlife inside tide pools, or venture into nearby forests.
Padre Island National Seashore, Texas
Padre Island National Seashore is perfect for the summer adventurer. This remote park is one of the longest stretches of undeveloped barrier islands on the planet and full of wildlife. People come to see the sea turtles hatch, go camping, or go canoeing, fishing, and more on this protected Texas land.
Redwood Forest National and State Park, California
Due to its name, you might have never guessed that the Redwood Forest National and State Parks has a beach. There are around 40 miles of beach-y coast in this state park. Visitors can experience breathtaking views of the water from bluffs and cliffs, and the more adventurous visitor can even take a stroll through slippery 50-foot canyon walls. Plus, if you get sick of the beach, there’s always those super-impressive redwoods.
Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, California
LA’s best kept secret is the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. It’s not flashy like Runyon Canyon or busy like Venice Beach, but these sandy shores are perfect for every summer activity. Visitors like to run, work out, sunbathe, picnic, and even rock climb in this area. This beach is also frequently used in TV commercials, shows, and movies, most notably One Direction’s music video for “What Makes You Beautiful.”
Virgin Islands National Park, U.S. Virgin Islands
Travelers looking for the tropical beach vibe will be blown away by the pristine beauty of Virgin Islands National Park. Set directly east of Puerto Rico, the park covers roughly 60 percent of the island of Saint John and almost all of Hassel Island. It’s world-renowned for its protected land, beaches, and waters — the scuba diving and hiking are hard to beat.