Best Beach Weekend Getaways
Related: America’s Best Little Beach Towns
Summer brings a craving for lazy, sunbaked days featuring ocean breezes and an inclined beach chair. Luckily, you don’t need to travel far to stake out your place in the sand: we’ve collected 18 easy beach weekend getaways from major U.S. cities.
For a still-sleepy beach destination, set your GPS to Anna Maria Island, just down the Florida coast from Tampa, where the pace lends itself to long days spent sunbathing and nights spent tucking into just-caught seafood along the waterfront. If you prefer your sunshine with a side of fresh sushi, creative cocktails, and street artists, head for Santa Monica, CA.
Related: Best Vacation Spots
Of course, Florida and California are hardly the only states that offer such escapes. This summer, you might explore the windswept beaches of Ocracoke Island, NC, or stroll among the boutiques, waterfront restaurants, and Victorian-era buildings that make up Port Townsend, WA.
Delaware serves up an old-fashioned romantic getaway at Rehoboth Beach, where couples take evening strolls along the boardwalk and compete at the kind of arcade games that will kick your nostalgia into high gear.
Your summer starts here.
Easy Living in La Jolla, CA
This tony suburb north of San Diego offers both windswept nature and accessible luxury. It’s got everything an urban nature lover could want. Here, the beach meets green hills, and modern shops, restaurants, and galleries line the streets of its village. Explore the area’s gentle trails, have a cocktail overlooking the water, and head to La Jolla Cove for sunset over the clear water.
Romantic Rehoboth Beach, DE
Rehoboth Beach is an old-fashioned beach resort town with a lively art gallery scene. Win a prize for your honey at one of the sweetly corny arcade games along the boardwalk and then celebrate with saltwater taffy and ice cream. The wide, sandy beach invites evening strolls. Back at the Victorian-era Boardwalk Plaza Hotel, leave your windows open, and let the sound of the surf lull you to sleep.
Surfing on Long Island
At the eastern tip of Long Island, the waves are surprisingly robust, but the living in Montauk and Amagansett is downright laid-back—even during summer months when New Yorkers flee to the closest coasts. Catch live bands on the patio of the Surf Lodge, and sign up for surfing lessons at the Sunset Surf Shack; ask for owner Craig Lieder, a quintessential hang-ten dude.
Anna Maria Island’s Sandy Seclusion
Getaway from: Miami
Past the industrial fruit juice-making town of Bradenton, you’ll find a clutch of beautiful hidden beaches and stoplight-free Anna Maria Island. Here, days are spent sunbathing on soft sand, sipping chilly cocktails on the boardwalk, and tucking into fresh seafood on the deck of a waterfront restaurant. Coquina Beach is popular for its gentle currents; for seclusion, seek out the white-yellow sands of Long Boat Key.
Seaside Serenity in Port Townsend, WA
Getaway from: Seattle, Portland
The entry point to the wilderness of Olympic National Park, this artsy enclave also has a lovely Victorian-era downtown. Dubbed the “City of Dreams,” the spread certainly is a bit dreamy: there are lots of chic boutiques, a cluster of seafood restaurants along the waterfront, and a yacht- and sailboat-dotted harbor. Take a stroll, then explore the surrounding beaches and wilderness on foot.
Exploring Lake Erie
Lake Erie, a Great Lake that stretches from the Welland Canal to the Detroit River, has a shoreline bordered by soft-sand beaches, quiet towns, and pretty parks. On the lake’s South Bass Island, the village of Put-in-Bay, OH, offers history, ferry rides, and lots of family fun. Fuel up on lobster bisque at The Boardwalk, then rent a kayak to explore the open water.
Driving North Carolina’s Outer Banks
Getaway from: Washington D.C.
This coastal stretch, connected by the scenic two-lane highway NC 12, has charming towns, wildlife sanctuaries, and enough surf, sand, and sun for beach sports like as sailing and kite surfing. The fragile barrier island of Hatteras is known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic, with a landscape of sunken wrecks to explore. Outer Banks Diving offers guided deep-water excursions as well as snorkeling trips.
Great Outdoors in Door County, WI
Getaway from: Chicago
In Wisconsin, the 70-mile-long Door County consists of five state parks, a handful of lighthouses, and 300 miles of shoreline. Its beauty is in the numbers: the region draws more than two million visitors every year. On its tip, the village of Sister Bay delivers crowd-building sunsets over Sturgeon Bay and outdoor activities year-round—not to mention ample shops and restaurants.
Chill Out in Laguna Beach, CA
Despite what impression you may have gotten from Fox’s “The O.C.”, this beachy stretch of California delivers plenty of casual, kid-friendly fun. Originally founded as an artists’ colony in the 1900s, the seaside town has a beautiful beach (crowded with families year-round), a sea lion rehab center, and restaurants dishing up super-fresh seafood for grown-ups and kids. Local chain Wahoo’s serves blackened fish tacos the authentic California way—with cabbage, salsa, and cheese in hot corn tortillas.
Southern Maine Coast Beach Weekend
Maine is chock-full of good old-fashioned New England history and charm—especially in summer. Drive at your own pace along the southern coast, pausing in towns such as Kittery, Ogunquit, and Kennebunkport. Here, you’ll play by the beach by day then refuel at laid-back dockside restaurants come early evening. Families tend to make a beeline for Short Sands Beach, which combines scenic coastline views with easy access to York's amusements. Nearby attractions also include an old-fashioned Fun-O-Rama arcade.
Endless Summer in Santa Cruz
On California’s central coast, Santa Cruz is the very model of a beach town, with 29 miles of sand fringed by redwood-filled mountains. The weather stays mild (ranging from the mid-70s to the mid-50s), meaning that a visit here is pleasant any time of year—even during the spring and fall, when the vacation crowds ebb. Roller coasters like the wooden Giant Dipper caters to kids of all ages. And just steps from the boardwalk, the Sea & Sand Inn has ocean-view rooms and a neo-boho attitude that jibes with Santa Cruz’s surf-city heritage.
Boating on Michigan’s West Coast
On Michigan’s western coast, the 5,300-acre Ludington State Park is an outdoor wonderland, with tremendous scenery, hiking through hardwood forests, and sand dunes along nearly seven miles of shoreline. Only eight miles south, the town of Ludington has a low-key vibe, with access to excellent beaches and a handful of restaurants serving freshly caught seafood. Experience a fish boil at Fish Creek’s White Gull Inn, where you can watch the preparation of Lake Michigan whitefish over an open fire.
Hit the Sand in Vero Beach, FL
Getaway from: Miami
On Florida’s Atlantic coast, Vero Beach has been nicknamed Velcro Beach because people are so loath to leave its sparkling white sands. Spend your afternoons channeling the town’s laid-back vibe by doing nothing but lingering on the beaches that rim Ocean Drive, parallel to Hwy. A1A, and dining at budget-friendly restaurants like Waldo’s at Driftwood Resort.
The (New) New Jersey Shore
South Beach chic has migrated north to glam up the Jersey Shore at Long Branch, where fried dough and carnival piers give way to infused cocktails and French cuisine. So forget New Jersey’s brazen, Soprano-fied reputation. You can still find a dignified existence, whether on the rooftop lounge of Avenue or at Cedars & Beeches B&B.
Oceanside Living in Cape Ann, MA
This “other Cape” offers affordable ocean delights. Located about 30 miles northeast of Boston, the rugged cape has pristine beaches, gentle hiking trails, and seafood fresh from the docks. It’s never crowded, and is prettiest in summer. In the picturesque town of Rockport, the Yankee Clipper Inn offers a spectacular vantage point to see the waves crash over the rocks. All but one of the eight rooms offers an ocean view.
Exploring Santa Monica, CA
Santa Monica promises the picture-postcard Los Angeles experience with its wide, palm-tree-lined beaches. What started as a seaside retreat in the early 20th century has today settled into a model city with a laidback urbanity that attracts artistic types, young professionals, affluent families, and celebrities as much as surfers and beach bunnies. A good deal of the action happens downtown on the pedestrian-friendly Third Street Promenade—lined with shops, restaurants, and street performers—and the tourist-flooded Santa Monica Pier.