As the summer heat reaches its peak and your kids are sick of the same local beaches, don't get stuck in a summer rut: we’ve selected beach towns from all across America with great reputations and which offer much more than just a place to cool off. A charming beach town can add so much to your trip. When you're not spending time at the water's edge, you can explore these interesting places that will add some cultural and historical spice to your vacation.
6 Charming U.S. Beach Towns To Visit This Summer
1. Hana, Hawaii
The state of Hawaii has countless beaches, but many of them are located right in front of a major hotel, spoiling the natural island beauty. Tourists looking for a respite “off the grid” should venture out to Hana, the easternmost town on Maui, where chain restaurants don’t exist and outdoor activities are endless. Hamoa Beach, the main attraction, boasts powerful waves for surfing as well as shady spots to sit and relax, flanked by Hala trees. Although this spot doesn’t have a lifeguard on duty (watch out for sneaky currents), Hamoa Beach does have a shower and bathroom facility. If you’re craving more adrenaline-fueled activity, try hang gliding with Hang Gliding Maui at Hana Airport, swimming under a waterfall at Blue Pool or marvel in the red sand beach (accessible via a slippery hike) at Kaihalulu Beach. In town, dig into some delicious Thai food at the Pranee food truck for noodles, curry and dishes using local fruit.
Looking for a low-key SoCal getaway for surfing and sunbathing? Choose Carpenteria, just south of Santa Barbara on Pacific Coast Highway, for a laid-back and affordable summer hangout. The stretch of sand that makes up Carpenteria State Beach is behind a bluff and a generously large parking lot, and features tide pools, views of boats going by and seals lounging around the Chevron pier—look out for mounds of naturally occurring tar. Full facilities are available, with bathrooms, showers, drinking water and full lifeguards on duty during the summer months. If the surf’s low on a given day, browse a collection of foreign and native plants at Seaside Gardens, which could surely be described as a zoo of flowering foliage. Beer enthusiasts will love checking out the competing breweries in town, Island Brewing Company and brewLAB: both establishments serve IPAs with fruity flavors and coffee stouts, but Island Brewing is open seven days a week (brewLAB is only open Thursday through Sunday).
Under two hours from Pensacola on the Florida Panhandle, Grayton Beach State Park showcases the best of the Gulf Coast’s stretches of white sand. Getting there will take you through a thicket of pine forest, a major difference in appearance from the calming, vast area of beach that sometimes features sandbars in the shallow water. There are no lifeguards at Grayton Beach, but facilities include restrooms, showers and picnic pavilions, along with two picturesque hiking trails—and what’s more, dogs are welcome here. For such a small town, there are several eateries that offer great seafood dishes like shrimp n’ grits, oysters and blackened grouper at Another Broken Egg, Hurricane Oyster and Chiringo, respectively.
What’s more charming than a Wisconsin lakeside beach town surrounded by forest? Visit the bike-friendly Point Beach State Forest in Two Rivers for not only an awe-inspiring view of Lake Michigan, but also a six-mile limestone trail that takes you to the working Rawley Point Lighthouse, the tallest structure of its kind on the Great Lakes. During the summer months, a concession stand serves refreshments and supplies. In the town of Two Rivers, lovers of typography and antiques should stop by Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum for artifacts from the Industrial Revolution and an all-around educational experience. To really get the most out of the area’s beachy vibes, head toward Unique Flying Objects, a one-of-a-kind store for kites, lanterns and eye-catching outdoor home decorations.
Come give Delaware the love it deserves, especially for its pristine beaches and rich history. In the summer, Rehoboth Beach and its mile long boardwalk bring in thousands of visitors, who marvel at the old Victorian architecture and gorgeous city parks. Families will enjoy the beachfront amusement park Funland with its 19 roller coasters, carnival games and video arcade—all at shockingly low prices (25 to 35 cents a ride ticket). There’s also Jungle Jim’s, a thrilling water park located deeper into town that has bumper boats, top-of-the-line batting cages and mini-golf, all for $38 a ticket if you’re over 42 inches, and $23 a day pass for shorter folks. Following a highly active day, make a reservation at Shorebreak Lodge and chow down on fresh seafood.
Get the feel of Myrtle Beach’s Southern charm by going further south—book a beach getaway in Charleston-adjacent Folly Beach, known for decent surfing opportunities, great weather, its fishing pier and, most notably, the abundance of shrimp n’ grits on local menus. Folly Beach County Park bodes well for seashell collectors and swimming, especially with a seasonal lifeguard on duty. In town, there are almost too many Creole restaurants and brewpubs to name, but St. James Gate fuses this theme with an Irish feel and pints of Guinness. Conversely, you can spend all your time at Folly Beach learning to surf life a pro with companies such as Charleston Surf Lessons, or become an expert stand-up paddler at Charleston SUP Safaris.
This article was written by Juliana Cohen.