Are These the Best Beaches on the East Coast? 9 Unmissable Destinations!

best beaches in the east coast

Living on the East Coast? You’ve probably stumbled onto this secret by now: the most incredible, untouched escapes are often found cheek-to-cheek with the Atlantic Ocean. Yep, forget the overhyped West Coast beaches – the East Coast boasts a whopping 30,000 miles of coastline (compared to the Pacific Coast’s measly 7,863 miles). That’s right, folks, enough barrier islands, salt marshes, and quaint beach towns to make your head spin.

Now, we wouldn’t dare claim to be experts on every inch of those 30,000 miles (we’re not mind readers, people). But we’ve explored enough hidden coves and remote shores to know there are some seriously wild gems out there. And guess what? We’re feeling generous enough to share a few!

This ain’t your typical, yawn-inducing list though. We’ve got a mix of off-the-beaten-path paradises and classic destinations that are legendary for a reason (because, let’s face it, beach vibes are a real thing). We’re talking spots that ooze charm like Cape May, New Jersey, or Folly Beach, South Carolina. They might not have the glitz of all-inclusive resorts in Florida (although hey, there’s plenty of room for that kind of vacation too!), but they offer something far more unique: an escape from the ordinary.

So, pack your sunscreen (and maybe a bug spray cannon for the super remote ones), toss those flip flops on, and get ready to discover the East Coast’s best-kept secrets (and a couple of iconic classics for good measure). Trust us, you won’t regret ditching the tourist traps for these unforgettable beach experiences.

best beaches on the east coast

Best Beaches on the East Coast: Maine’s Sand Beach

Location: Twelve miles south of Bar Harbor
Why We Love It: Soft sand surrounded by the coniferous forest of Acadia National Park

best beaches on the East Coast

Sand Beach is arguably one of the best beaches on the East Coast and a crown jewel of Maine. Nestled in a picturesque pocket of white sand, framed by rugged rocky shorelines and wind-swept trees, this beach is an absolute stunner. It’s a beloved spot for New Englanders and with good reason—there aren’t many sandy beaches in this part of the state, making it a rare gem in Acadia National Park.

On a warm day, Sand Beach is perfect for sunbathing, thanks to its sheltered position that keeps the wind at bay. During the summer months, a lifeguard is on duty, ensuring a safe environment for all. However, don’t expect to see many swimmers; the water temperature rarely exceeds 60 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’re bold enough to brave the chilly Atlantic, you’ll find the swimming experience invigorating.

Despite its popularity, you can still find moments of seclusion if you time it right. The beach’s proximity to Acadia National Park means there are plenty of other activities to enjoy, like hiking and paddling. The Beehive Trail, a challenging 1.4-mile loop that ascends 450 feet, offers breathtaking views of the beach below and is a must-do for adventurous souls.

Know Before You Go: Access to Sand Beach is free, even though it’s within Acadia National Park. However, the parking lot can fill up quickly on busy weekends, so arriving early is a smart move.

Discover Roque Bluffs State Park: One of the Best Beaches on the East Coast

Location: In the heart of Down East Maine, eight miles from the quaint town of Machias
Best For: A unique swimming experience with both cold ocean waters and a freshwater pond

Roque Bluffs State Park is a hidden gem among the best beaches on the East Coast. Spanning 274 acres, this park boasts a half-mile crescent beach of sand and pebbles that creates a natural division between the 60-acre Simpson Pond and the chilly waters of Englishman Bay. On a hot summer day, you can choose your adventure: take a bracing dip in the ocean, then warm up with a swim in the relatively cozy waters of Simpson Pond.

best beaches on the East Coast

But let’s be clear—Roque Bluffs isn’t your typical lounging beach. The pebbly shore might make lying on a beach towel feel like a DIY acupuncture session. Instead, this beach is perfect for a relaxing stroll, offering dramatic views of rugged islands jutting out from the ocean.

For those who love a bit of a hike, Roque Bluffs features a series of short trails winding through fields and woodlands, with spectacular vantage points overlooking Pond Cove and Great Cove. These trails add another layer of adventure to your visit, making Roque Bluffs one of the best beaches on the East Coast for more than just swimming.

Know Before You Go: The park is a perfect day trip if you’re in the Machias area. Whether you’re up for a brisk swim, a scenic walk, or simply soaking in the views, Roque Bluffs offers a unique coastal experience that’s hard to beat.

Exploring Roque Bluffs State Park, one of the best beaches on the East Coast, is a must for any beach lover. From its dual swimming options to its scenic trails, this park is a perfect spot for those who enjoy a mix of adventure and natural beauty.

Seabrook Beach: A Hidden Gem Among the Best Beaches on the East Coast

Location: 15 miles south of Portsmouth, near the Massachusetts border
Why We Love It: A quieter, more pristine alternative to its bustling neighbors

best beaches on the East Coast

New Hampshire might have the shortest coastline in the U.S. at just 18 miles, but it certainly doesn’t skimp on quality. Hampton Beach often steals the spotlight with its white sand, long boardwalks, and carnival-like atmosphere. But for those in the know, Seabrook Beach is the real treasure, offering a serene escape with its impossibly white sand and consistent waves. This hidden gem stands out as one of the best beaches on the East Coast.

Unlike the crowded Hampton Beach, Seabrook Beach feels like a well-kept secret. Its tranquil, unspoiled charm is partly due to the challenging parking situation – no resident parking permit means no parking. But if you manage to get here, you’ll be rewarded with a vast expanse of sand perfect for strolling or setting up a beach umbrella. The surfing here is solid, and the wild dunes add to the secluded feel, even though you’re just minutes from the Hampton Beach buzz.

Know Before You Go: To bypass the parking hassle, consider taking an Uber or biking from Seabrook town, less than 5 miles away. Another option is to park at Hampton Beach and walk across Hampton Bridge to Seabrook, which is just over a mile away.

Exploring Seabrook Beach is a must for beach lovers seeking a quieter spot. It’s one of the best beaches on the East Coast, offering a peaceful retreat with beautiful sands and great waves, without the crowds.

Discover the Best Beaches on the East Coast at Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts

Location: The Outer Cape, roughly 90 miles from downtown Boston
Why We Love It: Unmatched, wide-open stretches of soft sand and wind-swept dunes

No list of the best beaches on the East Coast is complete without Cape Cod National Seashore. This 40-mile stretch of pristine beaches, freshwater ponds, and towering dunes is dotted with lighthouses, cranberry bogs, and hiking trails. The recreational opportunities are endless, and entire books have been dedicated to making the most of your visit here. But if you need a quick guide, here it is.

Best Beaches on the East Coast

Must-Visit Spots:

  • Coast Guard Beach: Located in Eastham, this beach is a favorite for lounging and swimming on the Atlantic side. Plus, you can paddle in nearby Nauset Bay or Salt Pond Bay.
  • Marconi Beach: For sweeping Atlantic views and a chance to feel like you’re walking off the Eastern Seaboard, this beach is your go-to. Hiking along the bluffs here might even make you believe you’ll spot a white whale.

Pro Tips:

  • Traffic Woes: Cape Cod traffic is notorious on summer weekends. If you plan to visit during peak times, consider staying overnight or through the weekend. Better yet, visit during the week to avoid the crowds.
  • Stay in Provincetown: Despite its popularity and higher costs, Provincetown is worth it. This lively artist colony and LGBTQ+ haven add a vibrant energy to your beach trip, perfectly complementing the tranquil days spent in the sun and sand.

Cape Cod National Seashore is undoubtedly among the best beaches on the East Coast, offering everything from serene sunbathing spots to adventurous hikes.

Sachuest Beach: A Top Contender for Best Beach on the East Coast

Location: Middletown, right next to Newport, Rhode Island
Why We Love It: A perfect blend of city convenience and natural beauty

Dubbed Second Beach by the locals, Sachuest Beach in Rhode Island stakes a strong claim as one of the best beaches on the East Coast. This mile-long sandy stretch isn’t just a spot for catching rays; it’s a full-blown beach experience with robust amenities. But don’t let its urban proximity fool you; it offers more than just sand and sun.

best beaches on the East Coast

Sachuest’s western edge, affectionately known as Surfer’s End, boasts consistent swells that make it a hotspot for surfers looking for reliable waves. If lounging or surfing isn’t enough to keep you entertained, just a stroll away at the beach’s eastern tip starts the Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge. Here, over three miles of trails await, making it a paradise for birdwatchers, with species like the harlequin ducks making a seasonal home here—one of the largest wintering populations on the East Coast.

And for those who think night falls too soon at the beach, Sachuest offers a unique twist: a night fishing permit system for catching striped bass under the stars. Yes, it’s one of the best beaches on the East Coast where you can literally surf, hike, and fish all in a day’s work.

Before You Go: Expect a bustling scene—this beach comes equipped with concession stands, bathrooms, grills, and more. It’s not your secluded island fantasy, but it’s a gem if you like your beach day with a side of convenience. Grab a surfboard rental, ride the Atlantic waves, and maybe post-beach, take a drive through Newport to gawk at the Gilded Age mansions.

At Sachuest Beach, you get the full package—sun, surf, and a sprinkle of history nearby. It’s easily one of the best beaches on the East Coast for anyone looking to blend a beach day with some cultural flair.

Ditch Plains Park Beach: A Surfer’s Paradise on the East Coast

Location: Just a stone’s throw (two miles, to be exact) east of Montauk Village, at the very tip of Long Island
Why We Love It: This place boasts one of the best surf breaks among the best beaches on the East Coast.

best beaches on the East Coast

Ditch Plains Park Beach is not just another sandy strip in New York; it’s a rite of passage for those who brave the East End traffic. As one of the best beaches on the East Coast, Ditch Plains offers a quintessential summer scene that rivals any Hamptons hotspot, complete with a surf break that deserves its own zip code.

The beach stretches for two miles, offering plenty of room to spread out your finest beach gear and pretend you’re on a less crowded coast. Lifeguards keep watch from Memorial Day to Labor Day, making it a safe bet for families and casual swimmers. And let’s talk about the Ditch Wich food truck—this local gem serves up poke bowls that can easily compete with the waves for your attention.

But the real star here is the surfing. The break at Ditch Plains is famously accommodating, happy to serve up decent waves no matter the direction of the swell. Yes, the lineup can be as packed as a subway car during rush hour, but visit on a midweek day in the fall, and you might just feel like you’ve booked a private session on one of the best beaches on the East Coast.

Before You Go: Keep in mind that parking is as exclusive as a Hamptons gala—only available to those with an East Hampton permit. Your best bet in summer is to embrace the local vibe: grab an Uber, or even better, rent a bike in Montauk and pedal your way to paradise. If you’re looking for the best beaches on the East Coast where you can catch a wave, soak up some sun, and maybe even enjoy a gourmet snack, Ditch Plains Park Beach should be at the top of your list.

Discovering One of the Best Beaches on the East Coast: Island Beach State Park, New Jersey

Location: Nestled on the Barnegat Peninsula, just south of the bustling town of Seaside Heights
Why We Love It: It’s a pristine escape with 10 miles of white sand, tucked away from the usual boardwalk chaos.

best beaches on the East Coast

Island Beach State Park might just be the East Coast’s best-kept secret, featuring a stunningly preserved stretch of coast that feels a world away from the typical New Jersey beach scene. If your idea of a beach day includes dodging frisbees and fighting for towel space, think again. Here, the scenery is wild and free—no boardwalk fries or blaring arcades in sight.

This gem covers over 10 miles of dunes, forests, and wetlands. It’s not just one of the best beaches on the East Coast; it’s a natural paradise begging to be explored. Birdwatchers can revel in sightings of the state’s largest osprey colony, alongside peregrine falcons and an array of shorebirds that make a pit stop during their migrations.

Anglers and kitesurfers alike are drawn to this spot, one of the best beaches on the East Coast for those who love a good catch or the thrill of riding the wind. Swimmers aren’t left out either, with a designated area perfect for a refreshing dip in the ocean. Prefer dry land? The park’s trails offer eight miles of exploration opportunities.

Pro Tip Before You Go: Embrace the adventurous spirit of one of the best beaches on the East Coast by kayaking from Island Beach into the Sedge Island Wildlife Management Area. With four unique water trails, it’s a paddle enthusiast’s dream. Forget sunbathing—Island Beach State Park invites you to discover its wild side.

Related: Top 12 Best Beaches in the World (You NEED to Visit in 2024!)

Uncovering Hidden Gems: Delaware Seashore State Park, a Top Contender for Best Beaches on the East Coast

Location: Just a hop, skip, and a jump (or seven miles, if we’re being literal) south of Rehoboth Beach
Why We Love It: Imagine six miles of sandy bliss and 20 miles of bay shoreline packed with every beach activity you can think of.

Best Beaches on the East Coast

Nestled between the confluence of Indian River Bay, Rehoboth Bay, and the Atlantic Ocean, Delaware Seashore State Park is an overachiever in the realm of beaches and one of the best beaches on the East Coast. This isn’t just a beach; it’s a multi-faceted playground for anyone who can’t sit still at the seaside.

Ready to dip, dive, or dabble? You’ve got swimming, surfing, and even sailing at your fingertips. If that’s not enough, try your hand at windsurfing, paddling, or crabbing. And for those who feel more at home on dry land, there’s a scenic one-mile hike through Burton Island Nature Preserve that promises not only a good stretch but also scenic marshland views from its raised boardwalks.

For the wave warriors, the Indian River Inlet serves up a surf break that’s as exciting as it is challenging, thanks to its shallow waters. And yes, with a bit of southern wind, it’s among the best beaches on the East Coast for catching a good wave.

Before You Go: Grab your wallet—there’s a $5 daily fee ($10 if you’re just visiting from out of state). But remember, it’s a small price to pay for access to one of the best-managed parks on the East Coast. This fee funds an array of resources that can guide you through an impressive lineup of adventures, from birding and surfcasting to paddling.

Delaware Seashore State Park is more than just a strip of sand; it’s a full-fledged adventure hub, proving once again why it ranks among the best beaches on the East Coast. Forget about a lazy beach day; here, you’ll be too busy seizing the sun-drenched day.

Wild Hearts and Wild Horses: Assateague Island National Seashore Among the Best Beaches on the East Coast

Location: Take a short 10-mile leap from Ocean City, Maryland, and you’ve escaped to Assateague Island’s wild embrace on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
Why We Love It: Thirty-seven miles of untamed dunes and the thrill of spotting wild horses running free—what’s not to love?

Assateague Island National Seashore isn’t your typical seaside getaway. Straddling the Maryland and Virginia border, this sprawling barrier island offers a breathtaking glimpse into what makes it one of the best beaches on the East Coast. With its rugged landscape and bands of wild horses, Assateague is more than just a beach—it’s a scene straight out of a novel.

best beaches on the east coast

For those eager to witness these majestic animals, the Maryland side is your best bet, or consider enhancing your chances with a guided tour. The island is divided into two distinct sections, each accessible by its own entrance—without a way to drive directly from one to the other unless you fancy a mainland detour.

If adventure is your middle name and you’ve got a four-wheel drive, an over-sand vehicle (OSV) permit could be your golden ticket. This pass unlocks nearly the full length of this best beach on the East Coast, from secluded fishing spots to solitary stretches ideal for soaking in the sea air.

Before You Go: Assateague might be getting popular, with a record 2.3 million visitors in 2022, but don’t let that deter you. Yes, it’s one of the best beaches on the East Coast, but with a bit of planning (think OSV permit or a good pair of walking shoes), you can still find your own slice of paradise away from the crowds. The northern end offers a bit more breathing room than the bustling south, so consider where you plant your beach umbrella.

Pack your sense of adventure and maybe a camera—Assateague Island National Seashore is more than just one of the best beaches on the East Coast; it’s a wild, natural spectacle that you won’t want to miss.


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