Ever hear that Americans don’t travel internationally? Visit the vast country and you’ll see one reason why. Not only does the “land of the free” have mountains with great skiing conditions in the Northeast and West, it also has over 10,000 miles of coastline with brilliant beaches on the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and the Gulf of Mexico. Although weather is moving towards fall in the States, we’re just gearing up for summer here in Australia, and we thought we’d share some of our favorite stateside strips of sand. There’s nothing wrong with planning your next winter’s holiday a little early!
Sunken Forest, Fire Island, New York:
[Photo Credit: Half Anywhere]
Sunken Forest takes some effort to get to, which only adds to this beach’s unspoiled beauty. It’s located on Fire Island, a barrier island stretching along the south coast of Long Island, a suburb of NYC. After catching a ferry to Sailor’s Haven from Sayville, beach-goers must then walk on a boardwalk through the living dune that forms the island. You’ll wind past cattails and calm beaches on the bay side, through a windswept, rare maritime forest that looks like nothing less than a magical land, and over the sand dunes before descending onto this pristine, white sand beach. There are no facilities on the beach, but if you walk a bit east, there’s a shorter path that leads back to Sailor’s Haven, where you’ll find restrooms, a marina and a snack bar. Enjoy some fried clams at the shady picnic tables there – you’ll be glad you did.
Siesta Key, Florida:
You only have to look at Florida’s shape and spend one day in it’s tropical climate to realize that this is beach paradise. The state is surrounded on most sides by blue waters of the Atlantic and the Gulf, and no matter where you are in the state, you’re only a few hours away at most from the nearest patch of sand.
On the Gulf coast, everyone who’s anyone pretty much agrees that Siesta Key, near Sarasota, offers the softest, whitest sand and the bluest waters. This one’s also a barrier island, protecting Florida from storm waters, and offering a great place to lay out in the meantime. At the Siesta Key Public Beach there are bathroom facilities, and the island itself has tons of accommodation, restaurants and shops. We recommend stopping at the closest Publix food store for some picnic supplies, and sticking to the sand for the day!
Cannon Beach, Oregon:
[Photo Credit: Jenny Frazier]
[Photo Credit: Randy Kashka]
Our love reserved for the West Coast goes out to the city of Cannon Beach, where the cliffs of the Oregon shoreline give way to the expanses of sand surrounding the magnificent Haystack Rock. The rock itself is located in the Tolovana Beach State Recreation Site, one of many parks along the town’s coast. Not as much of a swimming beach as the others on this list, Haystack Rock attracts us to its stunning scenery and wildlife instead. During low tide, beach walkers are able to get up close to tide pools that form and serve as home to creatures including starfish, sea anemone, crabs, chitons, limpets and more. The rock itself is a protected nesting ground for seabirds including terns and puffins. This is the perfect place for a scenic walk and a picnic, and also a great place for kids (and adults) to get an up close look at a unique marine environment.
Assateague National Seashore, Maryland and Virginia:
[Photo Credit: ClintJCL]
Assateague, another barrier island (sensing a theme?) off the coasts of Maryland and Virginia, is known for offering visitors the chance to get up close and personal with wild horses that make the sandy shores their home. Most of the park that draws visitors is located in Maryland, but the island is accessible by car from both states. Popular activities (besides sunbathing and swimming,) include camping and bay-kayaking – a great way to see the wildlife. The beach itself has nice sand and lifeguards. There are no records to confirm the origins of the feral horses roaming the island, local legend has it that they were survivors of a shipwreck off the coast of Virginia. Others think they’re descendants of domesticated horses brought to the island long ago. Funnily enough, the horses are split into two factions, Maryland and Virginia horses, and are kept separate by a fence on the state border. Be sure to stay a safe distance away from these beauties while viewing and snapping photos, though. They’re tough enough to survive in the windy and barren conditions of the island, and they may demonstrate their wild demeanor when provoked!
Lanikai Beach, Oahu, Hawaii:
[Photo Credit: Adueolsen]
[Photo Credit: By Vlachos (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons]
If you ever find yourself in Oahu, be sure to ditch Waikiki and Kailua for at least a day to head over to Lanikai beach, tucked behind houses in a neighborhood on the windward coast of the island. The beach itself only stretched for half a mile and thus gets crowded throughout the day, but even still, many claim it’s one of the best on the island. Arrive early, as there are no parking lots and you’ll have to find a (free) spot on the residential streets of the area, and you’ll be able to stake out your prime spot in the powdery white sands of the stretch. The beach is public, and access is through one of a few beaten paths between houses along the coast. When you emerge onto the shore to the sight of the white sand, crystal clear blue water and gorgeous scenery, you’ll see what all the crowds have come for. The calm waters are great for swimming, snorkeling, paddle boarding and kayaking, and many come here to paddle out to the two islands potted offshore, the Mokuluas, known fondly as the Mokes. There are no restrooms or lifeguards here, so keep that in mind on your way down. Also, remove any trash you may have, when you leave, to help keep such a beautiful beach pristine.
Kiawah Island, South Carolina:
Kiawah Island, another barrier beach, is located just off South Carolina’s shore, about 15 miles south of charming Charleston. The island is so beautiful that most of it has been taken over by a private, gated community, but lucky for beach-seekers, there’s one park, Beachwalker County Park, offering public access on the west end. Within the park there are lifeguards, restrooms, picnic areas, a snack bar and chair and umbrella rental, and plenty of soft sand to spread out on. Those up for a bit of a walk can head towards the mouth of the river to see dolphins feeding at low tide. The dolphins work together to corner fish up onto the shore, where they then get ambushed. If you’re going to watch, be sure to stay a ways back from the shoreline so the dolphins can feel comfortable and do their thing.