Best beaches to visit before summer ends
Main Beach – East Hampton, New York
Superstorm Sandy may have trashed a lot of beaches in New York and New Jersey, but Main Beach in East Hampton on Long Island rose above the regional destruction to win the title of America’s #1 Beach in the annual ranking released by coastal expert Stephen P. Leatherman (aka Dr. Beach), a professor at Florida International University in Miami. The Hamptons may be home to the rich and famous, but the beach is democratic. People who frequent Main Beach say that the sand and water are exceptionally clean and the beach beautiful and uncrowded.
North Beach at Fort De Soto Park – Tierra Verde, Florida
Warm, clear water, white sand and seashells, abundant nature activities for beachgoers of all ages, and a large lagoon that is never more than 3 feet deep (thanks to a protective sandbar just offshore). No wonder Parents magazine chose North Beach at Fort De Soto Park as its number-one beach for families in 2011. Located near St. Petersburg on Florida’s Gulf coast, North Beach also has a shady playground where kids can pretend to be pirates, a snack bar with snow cones and other treats, Gulf Pier (a great place to spot dolphins) and the old fort for which the park is named. And if you bring the canine member of the family along, there’s also a quarter-mile beach where dogs can run free as well as two fenced off-leash areas with doggie showers for those hot days, all part of the award-winning Paw Playground.
Haystack Rock – Cannon Beach, Oregon
The biggest attraction at Cannon Beach on the Oregon Coast is Haystack Rock, a 237-foot-high monolith that rises from the surf on a beautiful stretch of sandy beach that attracts visitors all year long. The tidal pools around the base of the rock (a state-protected marine garden) are filled with sea life such as crabs, sea anemones, and orange and purple starfish. The rock also attracts tufted puffins, gulls, cormorants and other nesting seabirds. Volunteers from the Haystack Rock Awareness Program often show up to share their knowledge of local flora and fauna. The quaint town of Cannon Beach is right next to the beach, and a cliffside picnic at nearby Ecola State Park will reward beachgoers with spectacular ocean and coastal views.
Coronado Beach – San Diego, California
Coronado Beach, located on a peninsula across the back from San Diego, is 1.5 miles of sparkling sand, literally, due to the mineral mica it contains. Named America’s best beach in 2012 by “Dr. Beach,” Coronado Beach has near-perfect weather and a picture-postcard setting. One of the most notable features of the beach is the red-roofed Hotel del Coronado, the last of California’s Victorian seaside resorts that were once scattered up and down the coast. Built in 1888, Hotel Del, as it is affectionately known, was featured in the 1958 film, “Some Like It Hot,” which starred Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis.
Sleeping Bear Dunes – Glen Haven, Michigan
Not all great beaches are on the ocean; some of the best beaches in the United States are along the shores of the Great Lakes. A case in point is the half-mile beach in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore on Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. Nestled on the shore of Lake Michigan near the town of Glen Haven, the Sleeping Bear lakeshore features towering sand dunes, well-groomed hiking trails, and an inviting beach that is rarely crowded. It’s also a great place to hunt for Petoskey stones, a distinctive type of fossilized coral.
Cape Hatteras National Seashore – North Carolina
If you’re interested in seeing sea turtles hatch or doing some serious bird watching, consider a trip to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore, which preserves a 70-mile stretch of the Outer Banks of North Carolina between Bodie Island and Ocracoke Island. Wildlife is a key reason to visit the beaches of Cape Hatteras, along with their incomparable beauty, magnificent local seafood, and activities such as camping, kayaking and wind surfing. Bottlenose dolphins are native to the waters off Cape Hatteras and the areas is a stopover for many migratory bird species, but the sea turtles are something really special. There are only seven species of sea turtles in the world, and five of them can be found at Cape Hatteras. Three of those species return to Cape Hatteras beaches to lay their eggs.
Asilomar State Beach – Pacific Grove, California
If you’re looking for some beach-based inspiration, try Asilomar State Beach in Pacific Grove, California. Nobel Prize-winning author John Steinbeck lived in a Pacific Grove cottage for several years and was inspired by the beaches there and in other parts of Monterey County. Many other artists and writers, such as photographer Ansel Adams and poet Robinson Jeffers, also lived in the area. This Pacific Grove beach is only a mile long, but its exceptional beauty, natural diversity and breathtaking sunsets are a true inspiration.
Long Beach Peninsula – Washington
The Long Beach Peninsula, at 28 miles, is the longest beach in the United States. It also offers one of the most diverse beach communities, with two historic lighthouses, three state parks and a national wildlife refuge as well as cranberry bogs and oyster farms. The Long Beach Peninsula also has annual kite-flying and sand sculpture competitions that are must-see events.
Glass Beach – Ft. Bragg, California
Glass Beach, one of the most dazzling beaches you’re ever likely to see, was once the town dump. Until the late 1960s, the people of Ft. Bragg routinely tossed their garbage into the ocean from the cliffs above what would later become Glass Beach. Decades of surf and sand gradually transformed all of those broken beer bottles, dishes and other refuse into smooth, translucent pebbles of every shape and color. Today, Glass Beach has the highest concentration of sea glass in the world. And although it’s tempting to slip a few pieces into your pocket as you walk the beach, the rule is strictly touch, but don’t take. Collecting is forbidden because Glass Beach lies within MacKerricher State Park.
Haulover Beach Park – Miami, Florida
Haulover Beach is one of south Florida’s most beautiful beaches, a 1.5-mile stretch of white sand, sparkling water, wind-sculpted dunes and shaded picnic areas. Haulover Park is also one of the few tax-supported public nude beaches in the country. Unlike so many clothing-optional beaches, Haulover Beach has paid lifeguards, police patrols, shower facilities, clean bathrooms and concession stands to supply everything from cold drinks to beach umbrellas. Catering to singles, couples, families and beachgoers of all ages, Haulover Beach provides a clean, safe seaside experience for the au natural crowd.