Imagine that you are sitting in a reclined chair which is nestled into warm sand, listening to the sound of gentle waves hitting the shore. You have a cocktail in one hand while the other traces a path in the soft grains next to you. Can you feel it?
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Bucket List Beaches on the Atlantic Ocean
- Bucket List Beaches on the Gulf of Mexico
- Bucket List Beaches on the Pacific Ocean
- Bucket List Beaches in the Great Lakes or Inland Lakes
Nothing is as relaxing as a beach vacation. If you are ready to leave your land-locked location and head to the shore, here are some bucket list beaches to consider.
Bucket List Beaches on the Atlantic Ocean
Do you have a travel bucket list? Or are you interested in learning how to write one? We want to help you with one of the categories – your perfect beach location. However, this task is not for the faint-hearted. Not everyone agrees on which beach is best.
Here is a list of what many say are the best beaches on the Atlantic side of the States. We have tried to include a variety of styles of beaches. After all, while you might not want to sunbathe on a beach in Maine, you should still visit to see the fantastic views.
Here are some highly-rated Atlantic beaches to consider.
1. Tybee Island, Georgia
One benefit of visiting Tybee Island is that it is located near beautiful Savannah, Georgia. It’s known for having three miles of wide sandy beaches. It’s perfect for sunbathing, swimming, kayaking, and fishing.
The area also has historical significance. The Tybee Island Light Station and Museum celebrates the site’s history, as a lighthouse has stood at this location since 1736. The museum also includes exhibits about the Euchee tribe, the history of Fort Screven, and Tybee’s Golden Era.
There are a lot of accommodations and restaurants on Tybee Island.
2. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
If golf is your game of choice, choosing Myrtle Beach as your vacation destination is a no-brainer. Besides offering one of the best Atlantic beaches, it is also home to dozens of golf courses.
Myrtle Beach also has everything you would expect from a tourist town. There’s ample entertainment for the kids if you can pull them away from the pristine beaches.
3. Jekyll Island, Georgia
We know we have already featured a Georgia beach on our list. However, we wanted to include Jekyll Island for its abundance of spectacular natural areas. The island contains marshlands, maritime forests, and beaches, and it is home to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. You can learn more about the habitat of sea turtles and how to aid in the conservation effort to protect them by visiting Jekyll Island.
4. Bar Harbor, Maine
If a beach trip for you is more about the scenery and less about getting in the water, Bar Harbor is a perfect beach destination. Of course, some would consider the water temps frigid – even in the heat of the summer. However, it is the ideal location for whale watching, scenic walks along the shore, and lighthouse tours.
If you vacation at Bar Harbor, reserve one day to take in the inspiring views at Acadia National Park. While most of the shoreline at this park is made up of craggy rock, there is a 300-yard-long sandy beach to enjoy.
While you are in the area, don’t forget to enjoy a few crab rolls. Crab rolls come in two distinct styles and should be on your food bucket list.
5. Newport, Rhode Island
Several different beaches make up the Newport, Rhode Island area, and each has its own personality. So do a bit of research and choose the one best for your family.
Newport is also known for music festivals, bird watching at the Norman Bird Sanctuary, and the famous Cliff Walk. The Cliff Walk is a three-and-a-half-mile trail that features panoramic ocean views on one side and Gilded Age mansions on the other.
6. Virginia Beach, Virginia
Visitors say that the Virginia Beach beaches are family-friendly and offer a wide array of shopping, dining, and entertainment options.
The area has historical significance, as First Landing State Park is nearby. This sight marks the spot where English colonists who would found Jamestown first landed in 1607. The park is a National Natural Landmark and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Bucket List Beaches on the Gulf of Mexico
Our apologies if we left your favorite Atlantic beach off our list. Now we will consider the best beaches on the Gulf of Mexico.
The competition is fierce among the gulf shore beaches. Again, our apologies if we left your favorite off our list.
7. Destin, Florida
Destin, Florida, has beautiful beaches and great fishing. It also caters to tourists and offers a lot of beach-front rentals, fun activities, and white sand that goes on for miles.
8. Gulf Shores, Alabama
The aptly named Gulf Shores often competes with nearby Destin for tourists. We aren’t going to get in the middle of this argument. All we will say is that Gulf Shores, like Destin, has beautiful, soft, white-sand beaches that everyone loves. Perhaps you should try visiting both areas so that you can pick your favorite.
9. Clearwater Beach, Florida
Clearwater Beach is located on a barrier island on Florida’s west coast. It’s near Tampa and has the feel of a larger town instead of a tourist village. However, Clearwater Beach has lush, white-sand beaches and the popular Clearwater Marine Aquarium.
Because of its calm waters, Clearwater Beach offers year-round jet-skiing, parasailing, and stand-up paddleboarding. Some say it is the best beach in the gulf.
10. Galveston, Texas
Galveston has the designation as being one of the only locations on our list with a song. Additionally, it features Galveston Island State Park, a protected territory with coastal habitats such as dunes, wetlands, and beaches.
Galveston offers year-round beach activities like fishing, surfing, and kayaking like the other gulf beaches on our list. The area is also a cruise ship port, so you might be tempted to board a boat and escape life for a while.
11. Gulfport, Mississippi
Are you the type of person who can only sit on the beach for a limited amount of time? If beach-sitting makes you antsy, it’s important that you vacation in an area known for having a lot of other activities. Gulfport is one such area. One of Gulfport’s major draws is its casino. Golfing is another popular activity in the area.
Bucket List Beaches on the Pacific Ocean
Let’s journey to the other side of the country to discuss the best Pacific beaches. But, again, we are certainly going to leave someone’s favorite off the list.
12. Coronado Beach, California
Coronado Beach is located near San Diego. It offers beautiful, wide pristine beaches that are known for being family-friendly. Its most unique feature is the historic Hotel Del Coronado.
Coronado Beach is often voted as one of the best beaches in the country, and “The Del” is highly rated.
13. Kaanapali Beach, Maui
If you are looking for world-class snorkeling and surfing, you may have already visited Kaanapali Beach. You’ll have access to luxury accommodations on this beach. Additionally, you can witness a cliff-diving ceremony at Black Rock Beach that pays tribute to Maui’s King Kahekili.
14. Cannon Beach, Oregon
We head north for this next Pacific Beach. Cannon Beach is famous for Haystack Rock, which has made it one of the most photographed shorelines in the U.S.
Cannon Beach is located not far from Portland. The area is also great for bird watching, as it is a nesting ground for tufted puffins.
15. Laguna Beach, California
Laguna Beach is located in Orange County and describes a series of broken-up beaches. Each has its own personality. For example, some are known for sand volleyball, while nearby Crystal Cove State Park offers backcountry hiking.
16. Pfeiffer Beach, California
If you visit Pfeiffer Beach, make sure to take a photo of the sunset through its keyhole arch. Another distinctive feature of the beach is that the manganese garnet deposit gives the sands a unique purple hue.
17. La Jolla Beach, California
Also located near San Diego, La Jolla Beach is an excellent place for swimming and snorkeling. In addition, you can kayak or hike (depending on the tide) to secluded sea caves. However, La Jolla Beach makes our list because of the abundance of seals and sea lions that populate the area.
Bucket List Beaches in the Great Lakes or Inland Lakes
Of course, we don’t want to ignore the beaches along the Great Lakes. After all, you don’t have to have an ocean to enjoy a beautiful beach. So here are some bucket-list-worthy beaches to conquer.
18. Oval Beach, Michigan
Rent kayaks, sailboats, or go fishing at Oval Beach. It is located near Saugatuck and is nestled among towering sand dunes. This Lake Michigan beach is highly-rated.
19. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan
Michigan gets another nod as having one of the best lake beaches in the country. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore also offers camping and hiking, near some of the best views in the nation.
20. North Avenue Beach, Chicago
If you need a place to relax after eating an Italian beef sandwich and before eating your slice of deep-dish pizza, hang out on North Avenue Beach. This destination offers excellent views of the city and is a popular spot for people-watching.
Water recreation activities are available – or you can enjoy a stroll and walk off some of the calories you consumed.
Are You Ready to Pack Your Beach Bag?
As a Midwesterner, I can freely admit to having beach envy. So if, like me, you are ready to spend some time on a beach, do your research and make reservations today!