While California and Hawaii often take credit for their beaches, most of the country’s best sand is along the Atlantic Ocean. From coastal islands like Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard to the Art Deco playground of South Beach, here are the best beaches on the East Coast.
Great Point, at the easternmost end of the island of Nantucket, is one of the most secluded beaches in the world. That’s because you need a 4×4 and a beach permit to get there. Once you do, you’ll find miles of beachfront, a historic lighthouse, and even piping plovers from time to time. Madaket Beach, on the opposite end of the island, is another good choice—especially for sunset-watching.
Accessible by ferry, Block Island oozes New England charm. It’s worth the effort to get to Mohegan Bluffs, which is at the base of a set of 141 wooden steps leading down to the sand. With clay cliffs and a view that reaches Montauk at the eastern tip of Long Island, this beach is especially unique.
Named the best beach in the country in 2013, Main Beach in East Hampton is known for its wide stretch of sand plus a snack bar, bathrooms, and lockers. On-site parking is only available to village residents but there are free beach shuttles available.
Moshup Beach (also known as Aquinnah Beach) is at the coastal island’s western end. The famous Gay Head Cliffs provide a backdrop for this stunning setting, an isolated destination that requires a 10-minute walk from the parking lot.
This Jersey Shore getaway’s beaches have been declared the best in the state, and its collection of Victorian bed and breakfast destinations attract visitors from around the country. In fact, the entire city was listed as a National Historic Landmark in 1976.
Located off the coast of Georgia, this 5,700-acre barrier island is famous for its nesting sea turtles and hermit crabs. Glory Beach got its name because the producers of the 1989 movie Glory, featuring Matthew Broderick, Morgan Freeman, and Denzel Washington, built a long boardwalk to the beach that remains in place.
South Carolina’s Myrtle Beach is crowded for a reason. Its amenities are popular with families, especially the 200-foot tall SkyWheel.
This town at the northernmost end of Cape Cod is beloved for its gay-friendly atmosphere, charming town, and beautiful beaches—more than 30 miles of them.
With some of the best golfing in the world and beaches that stretch for 10 miles, this island 15 miles south of Charleston has hosted notable names like Joe Biden, George Clooney, and George W. Bush. While the island is private, the five-star hotel The Sanctuary offers access to non-residents.
South Beach is unlike anywhere else in the country—or the world, for that matter. A-listers, models, and the rest of us love the sunny scene for its top restaurants and hot hotels along with the Instagram-worthy beaches.
If you’re brave enough to climb the 257 steps to the top, the view from the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse offers a spectacular sense of the surrounding area. Seashells are also a top draw at this Outer Banks beach.
Virginia Beach’s boardwalk is considered one of the best in America. It’s 28 feet wide and stretches for three miles, with street entertainers, arcade games, and live music.
About 15 miles west of the aforementioned East Hampton, Southampton has more than seven miles of shoreline. Cooper’s Beach, which has a snack bar and offers umbrella and chair rentals, is considered one of the best beaches in the Hamptons. Make sure to check out some of the extravagant architecture on Meadow Lane on your way there—at least what you can see over the hedges.
Connecticut’s largest public beach is also one of its most popular. It includes two miles of sand along the relatively calm waters of Long Island Sound waters, making it a great choice for families. The on-site Meigs Point Nature Center also offers daily nature walks.
Goose Rocks Beach offers nearly three miles of white sand along the scenic coast of Maine. The Goose Rocks barrier reef—visible at low tide—protects it from choppy seas, and looking for marine life in the tidal pools is a popular activity with children. Visit Bennett’s for sandwiches and Market Day for snacks, and you won’t miss the lack of a concession stand.