We love visiting the beach on vacation, and luckily, there are so many beautiful East Coast beach destinations for families. While many of these are within easy driving distance for us to visit, there are some that are more of a family vacation destination.
Here are some of the best spots for East Coast beach vacations. Did we miss your favorite?
Disclosure: We have visited some of these destinations at no cost for review. This post contains affiliate links. A purchase/click through one of these links may result in a commission paid to us at no additional cost to you. All opinions are our own.
The Best Destinations for East Coast Beach Vacations
My home state of Massachusetts features a number of great beaches for families. Most people immediately think of Cape Cod for Massachusetts beach vacations, and with good reason. Cape Cod features miles of coastline filled with great Atlantic Ocean beaches and the Cape Cod National Seashore Park.
While there are many options, two of our favorites are Old Silver Beach in Falmouth, and the beaches of Provincetown. These quintessential beach towns offers delicious seafood restaurants in addition to beaches, and are so much fun.
There are also the islands – Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. These islands are more of a vacation spot and not really a day trip, but they are perfect summer vacation destinations.
Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard offer more than just beaches, and get very busy in the summer. You’ll want to book your vacation rental home or hotel well in advance.
If you are interested in more of an island day trip, the Boston Harbor Islands are a great option. These islands, which are part of the National Park system, are accessible via public ferry. Some of them have beaches, and are great for a day trip if you are visiting Boston for the day or live locally.
North of Boston, you’ll find Cape Ann. Cape Ann offers beautiful beaches that are great for a day visit. When we visit the beach in the summer, typically we’ll head north rather than south.
Beaches on Cape Ann include Good Harbor and Wingaersheek Beaches in Gloucester. Parking lots for these beaches tend to fill up very early on the weekends and on hot days, so go early.
The best: Our pick in Massachusetts is Old Silver Beach in Falmouth (stay at the Sea Crest Beach Hotel). It’s a beautiful stretch of beach that includes a public beach as well as the part in front of the hotel. The Sea Crest offers chair service so you’ll feel pampered the whole time you are there.
If you are visiting the area on vacation, you can see reviews of Cape Cod hotels here.
Maine and New Hampshire Beaches
While many people think of the northern New England states of Maine and New Hampshire as ski destinations, they are also great East Coast beach destinations.
One of my favorite beaches to visit is Ogunquit, located in Maine right by the New Hampshire border. Ogunquit is a vibrant beach community with hotels (like the Meadowmere, where we stayed), a local summer theater program, shops, restaurants, and more.
While you could go to Ogunquit for the day, I’d definitely recommend staying there for at least one night. It’s a really fun town, and there’s a lot to do.
North of Ogunquit are some other Maine beaches, including Kennebunk and Acadia National Park. Just keep in mind that the water temps of these beaches never gets high, even in August.
In New Hampshire, on the Massachusetts border, you’ll find Hampton Beach. This area includes hotels, restaurants, and other family activities like mini golf and arcades. Because New Hampshire doesn’t have much Atlantic coastline, this really is your only option for a New Hampshire ocean beach.
The best: Our pick in Maine/New Hampshire is Ogunquit. The town offers a trolley, restaurants, hotels, and shops, and is so walkable. You won’t want to leave.
See hotels in Hampton Beach here.
Rhode Island Beaches
I grew up in Rhode Island, and I definitely didn’t appreciate the gorgeous beaches until I got older. Although Rhode Island is the smallest state in the United States, it boasts an impressive 384 miles of coastline.
Many visitors to the area like visiting the beaches of Newport and Newport County. These include Goosewing Beach in Little Compton, Easton’s Beach (also called First Beach) in Newport, Second and Third Beaches in Middletown, and Fort Adams State Park (in Newport).
On the other side of the state, you’ll find even more beaches and beach towns. These include Misquamicut State Beach in Westerly, Scarborough Beach in Narragansett, and Narragansett Town Beach in Narragansett.
This area of the state is a beautiful vacation destination for a low-key beach vacation. There are many vacation rentals in the area. Since Rhode Island is a small state, you can easily visit the entire state during your vacation.
In addition to the mainland state, Block Island has become a popular summer vacation destination. Block Island is a very small island, but it has some fun activities for families.
The best: As a native Rhode Islander, it is tough to choose just one. Easton’s Beach (First Beach) is centrally located for a Newport family vacation, and it also offers a small aquarium. But, if you are looking for the best sand and water, I’d definitely recommend Goosewing Beach in Little Compton, RI. It’s more of a drive, but is worth it!
See Newport hotels here.
Mid Atlantic Beaches
The mid-Atlantic area of the United States also offers some beach destinations for families. Like the beaches in New England, the mid-Atlantic beaches are more popular in the summer months, due to the weather.
In Maryland, you’ll find Ocean City Beach, which is free and offers a 3 mile boardwalk. Ocean City Beach hosts events in the city, including fireworks, beach olympics, and more.
Rehoboth Beach is located in Delaware. It offers a one-mile boardwalk that hosts activities throughout the year. Both Ocean City Beach and Rehoboth Beach are regularly listed on “best of” beach lists for both the United States and the East Coast.
A bit further south is Virginia Beach. This town, named for the beach, is actually home to several different beaches. Virginia Beach is a fun beach community offering many delicious restaurants, as well as an aquarium. You could definitely have a fun family vacation here.
The best: We love Virginia Beach, because there’s so much to do in the area. In addition to the beach, I definitely recommend visiting the fantastic aquarium.
The southern states of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia are home to many popular beaches. As you head south, beach season is definitely longer. So, these spots can actually be great beach destinations even in the late spring.
Barrier islands such as Tybee Island, the Outer Banks, Kiawah Island, Daufuskie Island, and Hilton Head Island offer beaches as well as family activities, restaurants, golf, and more.
The best: We loved our visit to Tybee Island. It’s near Savannah, so it’s perfect for a day trip. Yet, it has such a fun atmosphere with delicious restaurants. If you want to stay right on the island, we recommend getting a vacation rental because there aren’t many hotels.
The sunshine state is known for beaches on both sides of the state. On the East Coast of Florida, you’ll find Atlantic Ocean beaches, while the West Coast features the white sand beaches of the Gulf of Mexico.
There are so many beautiful beaches in Florida, so you have plenty of options. With a number of world-class theme parks, nature activities, and other things to do in Florida, you can definitely combine a beach trip with a longer Florida vacation.
Beaches on the East Coast of Florida include the barrier island Amelia Island, as well as Daytona Beach, Hollywood Beach, and South Beach. Amelia Island is a fun family travel destination because there are several resorts (including the Omni Amelia Island Plantation) that include many activities that appeal to kids.
On the Gulf Coast, the beaches have beautiful white sand. We recently spent spring break on Clearwater Beach and loved the beautiful beach. It’s been rated the top beach in the United States, and I can definitely understand why. Visit in the spring for the incredibly fun Sugar Sand Festival.
Destin and Fort Walton are two other Florida beach destinations that are popular with families. Beloved by southerners, these beaches are a bit of a hidden gem with others.
With warmer weather than the rest of the East Coast, Florida beaches are more of a year round destination (although they can be chilly in the winter months and early spring/late fall).
The best: In a state filled with gorgeous beaches, Clearwater Beach definitely stands out. It offers sugar white sand beaches, family festivals throughout the year, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, delicious restaurants, and dozens of hotel options.