15 Gorgeous US Beaches to Visit This Summer
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Carefree summer beach days are on their way and you can find all sorts of interesting waterfront landscapes across the country, from rolling, hilly sand dunes to rocky cliffs, and even red sand! So this summer, head to some of these gorgeous US beaches, taking advantage of new hotels, new flight routes and even some exciting festivals too.
Cowell Ranch State Beach in California
Those wanting a serene beach experience should head to northern California. A short hike down from Highway 1 takes you to a staircase that leads to rugged Cowell Ranch State Beach, flanked by rocky cliffs and mesas. As you enjoy the sand, you’ll spot a variety of flora and fauna, even seals.
Why Now: With an influx of new flights to northern California, summer is the perfect time to head to the West Coast. You can hop from from Atlanta (ATL) to Oakland (OAK) six times a week Sunday through Friday on Delta from June 9 to Sept. 1 (service will then go down to four times per week). For those on a budget or sans SkyMiles, Spirit flies three times daily between Las Vegas (LAS) and Sacramento (SMF) starting June 20, 2019.
Kaihalulu Beach in Maui, Hawaii
Hawaii’s islands are ringed with endless beaches, so it may be hard to decide which one to try. But red sand sets Kaihalulu Beach on the island of Maui apart from the rest. The steep, narrow trail to the beach can be difficult and even slippery, but it offers a unique, crowd-free opportunity to enjoy the blue waves crashing against the rich, colorful sand.
Why Now: If you haven’t yet booked one of Southwest’s new Hawaii flights, there’s no time like the present. The Oakland (OAK) to Maui (OGG) flight launched back on April 7, and San Jose (SJC) launches on May 26.
North Avenue Beach in Chicago
One of Chicago’s finest city beaches, North Avenue Beach offers the refreshingly cold waters of Lake Michigan set against a perfect view of the city’s skyline rising up behind the golden sand. With an array of festivals like Wine Fest on the Beach (May 31), Volleywood (July 20) and the Air & Water Show (Aug. 17 to 18), North Avenue Beach’s allure lasts all summer.
Why Now: Chicago’s newest hotel, the Hoxton Chicago, has opened near Fulton Market. The hotel, which features design details like Marshall radios and local artwork, is just a short taxi ride away (or an easy, hour-long walk through Chicago’s Loop and Gold Coast) from the beach.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan
If the name sounds familiar, maybe it’s because Good Morning America named the national lakeshore in Michigan as the Most Beautiful Place in America, its towering sand dunes in perfect contrast with the sharp blue waters of Lake Michigan (and the smaller Lake Glen) and the surrounding green forest. Just a 45-minute drive from Traverse City Michigan, you can combine a beach trip with a stop for the famous Cherry Festival (June 29 to July 6), which includes parades, races, air shows and even performances by artists like Styx and Nelly.
Why now: Just in time for the Cherry Festival, United starts its seasonal service from Washington, DC (IAD), to Traverse City (TVC).
Sagg Main Beach in New York
Sagg Main combines the highbrow feel of the Hamptons with the relaxed comfort of a neighborhood beach. The beach feels secluded — backed by the Sagaponack pond, a carefree, natural area. Sagg Main is also slightly closer to Manhattan and New York-JFK airport than some of the other beaches in East Hampton or Montauk.
Why Now: Combine your summer beach visit with a stay at the brand-new TWA hotel at JFK, opening May 15. AvGeeks can obsess over the rooftop infinity pool and observation deck, where you can admire the traffic on Runway 4L/22R — while working on your pre-Sagg Main Beach tan, of course.
Grant Park Beach in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Though it’s just a quick 20-minute drive from central Milwaukee, Grant Park Beach feels like a hidden refuge. Accessible by car or a short, relatively easy hike along a wooded trail, you can swim in cold Lake Michigan and take advantage of beach amenities like spots to get snacks, children’s play areas, volleyball nets and even a nearby golf course.
Why Now: One of the best times of the year to visit Milwaukee is during SummerFest (June 26 to July 8). With over 800 bands performing, the lineup this year includes artists like Counting Crows, Jennifer Lopez, Lionel Richie, Lil Wayne, Snoop Dogg, Steve Aoki, Jason Mraz, T-Pain, Dispatch and more.
Cannon Beach in Oregon
Cannon Beach is located just an hour and a half from Portland. The rugged, grassy shoreline lining the sand and the picture-perfect view of famous Haystack Rock in the ocean are simply stunning. The town of Cannon Beach has quaint shops, gourmet dining options and beachy bars, all ideal for a relaxing trip to the seaside. Just beware that even in summer, it’s probably too cold to swim.
Why Now: Sun Country is flying between Portland (PDX) and Nashville (BNA) twice weekly starting on May 2, and upping the service to four times per week starting on June 6.
Tybee Island in Georgia
If rainy weather ruins your Tybee Island beach day, Savannah’s historic center is just 18 miles away. But when the sun is shining, wandering the barrier island’s long stretch of soft sand or along the picturesque boardwalk is the perfect way to spend the day. History buffs will appreciate the lighthouse, which dates back to 1736.
Why now: Beginning in early June, Allegiant is launching new routes to Savannah from Grand Rapids, Michigan (GRR), Niagara Falls (IAG), Allentown, Pennsylvania (ABE), and Portsmouth, New Hampshire (PSM).
Crescent Bay Beach in California
Bordered by cliffs on both sides, Crescent Bay Beach is a small cove in Southern California. A favorite for body surfers when the waves are high, the beach also attracts visitors to snorkel along the rockier edges of the bay when the ocean is calm. Keep your eyes peeled for seals and sea lions hanging out on famous Seal Rock, about 350 feet offshore.
Why Now: Combine a beach trip with a visit to the new Disneyland Star Wars: Galaxy Edge, which opens May 31 in Anaheim. The beach is about 25 miles away from the theme park.
Goosewing Beach in Rhode Island
A protected national preserve, Goosewing Beach is a serene mix of shoreline, dunes and a coastal pond. What the beach lacks in amenities, it makes up for in natural beauty (think: soft, silvery sands and many species of birds flying over the foamy swells).
Why Now: Sun Country recently launched new flights between Providence (PVD) to Nashville (BNA) four times per week.
Kill Devil Hills Beach in North Carolina
AvGeeks should head to Kill Devil Hills Beach — the actual site of the Wright brothers’ first flight. Brightly colored homes line the long, sandy shore, just a short drive from the Wright Brothers National Memorial, featuring a large statue, museum and even a special junior aviation center with children’s activities.
Why Now: Although the Outer Banks are a three-hour-plus drive from Raleigh, that’s the closest large North Carolina airport to the barrier islands. Frontier Airlines has just launched nonstop flights between Ralleigh-Durham (RDU) and eight new cities: Columbus (CMH), Jacksonville (JAX), Tampa (TPA), Philadelphia (PHL), Boston (BOS), Hartford (BDL), Albany (ALB) and Long Island MacArthur Airport (ISP).
Clearwater Beach in Florida
It’s hard to pick a favorite beach in Florida, but Clearwater is always a traveler favorite. The three-mile stretch of powdery sand and turquoise water should be enough, but there’s also plenty to do — jet skiing, parasailing and a beachfront promenade ideal for walking, rollerblading or biking.
Why Now: This barrier island doesn’t let the summer rainy season stop the fun. Evenings have daily live music and events around Pier 60 at sunset. The St. Pete LGBTQ Pride celebration is June 21 to 23 with a parade on June 22.
Reid State Park Beach in Maine
This 770-acre park is Maine’s first state-owned saltwater beach. Besides sandy beaches, which are a rarity along Maine’s mostly pebble-and-rock coastline, the park also has an abundance of plant and bird life, sand dunes, marshes and rock formations. It’s also one of the state’s most popular surfing areas.
Why Now: Maine is full of summer festivals like lobster and clambakes but the Great Falls Hot Air Balloon festival in Lewiston (a one-hour drive from Reid State Park) on August 16 to 18 is especially fun, with over 40 balloons flying over the city.
Dauphin Island Beach in Alabama
Dauphin Island State Park is a protected park that charges a small fee in summer, used to maintain and clean the park and its beaches (walkers are $2 per person, and $5 per car). Besides swimming off the tranquil beaches, you can hike trails, visit a bird sanctuary and see some historical monuments, including cannons.
Why Now: Frontier’s seasonal flights from Denver (DEN) three days per week and Chicago (ORD) two days per week started May 1 to Mobile, Alabama. Dauphin Island’s beaches are a 45-minute drive from Mobile.
Indiana Dunes State Park in Indiana
With 15 miles of coastline, Indiana Dunes has fantastic beaches, 70 miles of hiking trails and the famous sand dunes. With summer events like birdwatching and stargazing meetups, sand sculpture contests and s’mores days, there are lots of activities if you get bored swimming, lounging on the beach or frolicking on the dunes.
Why Now: Although low-cost carrier Spirit added daily, seasonal nonstop service to Indianapolis (IND) from Myrtle Beach (MYR) in May — following recent additions of daily, nonstop service to IND from Las Vegas (LAS) and Orlando (MCO) — it’s actually closer to fly to Chicago. This June, AA plans to operate a new Saturday-only service between O’Hare and Durango, Colorado (DRO), as well as a daily nonstop flight starting June 6 between ORD and Manchester, New Hampshire (MHT).
Featured photo of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park, Michigan by csterken / GettyImages.
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