haveseen / Getty Images
haveseen / Getty Images

Fun in the Sun on Sandy Shores

Imagine sugar-white sands and shimmering turquoise waves lapping at your toes. Sound divine? Whether you choose to frolic in the brilliant green sea along Florida's Emerald Coast or prefer to unwind in an exotic island locale such as Thailand or the Philippines, read on for beach vacation inspiration.

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Clearwater, FL
Clearwater, FL

Clearwater, FL

Blessed with tranquil Gulf breezes and true-to-its-name crystal-clear waters, Clearwater's status as one of America's best shorelines has lured vacationers to the year-round beach town for over a century. Families and couples tend to avoid the heavily developed and at-times-raucous neighbor St. Pete's Beach (if not the traffic) by crossing the soaring bridge to the slim barrier island of Clearwater Beach. 960 1280

  

South Beach, Miami

South Beach, Miami

The American Riviera, SoBe or the Art Deco District — whatever you call it, Miami's South Beach is hot year-round. After all, these time-tested nicknames were rightfully earned by its notorious party scene (drinks flowing, filled with celebrities — when they're not aboard their super-yachts, of course), its part-American, part-Cuban cultural heritage, and its eccentric, candy-colored architecture along palm-lined streets. 960 1280

  

Ocracoke, NC

Ocracoke, NC

Visitors on the East Coast and beyond looking for a peaceful escape will find 16 miles of enchanting, untouched beaches and a charming, close-knit village (about 1 square mile) on Ocracoke Island. In place of high-rise hotels or a business district, you'll find quaint rental cottages, elaborate gardens tucked behind picket fences and commercial fishermen’s yards — marked by their nets and crab pots. 960 1280

  

South Padre Island, TX

South Padre Island, TX

Every year the sunny shores of South Padre Island beckon to rowdy spring breakers to cross over the 2.5-mile Queen Isabella Causeway from the Texas mainland in mid- to late March. The rest of the year, however, it appeals to budget-conscious families and honeymooners looking for access to water sports, restaurants, bars and shops — without a big price tag. 960 1280

South Padre Island Convention and Visitors Bureau  

Cannon Beach, OR

Cannon Beach, OR

Nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Coast Mountain Range, Cannon Beach is named for a cannon that washed ashore in 1846. Its forested headlands, towering monoliths, charming art town and 3.5 miles of serene beaches make it one of the most beautiful places in the US.  960 1280

  

Honaunau Bay, HI

Honaunau Bay, HI

Honaunau Bay is one of a series of tranquil, turquoise bays tucked into the Big Island's South Kona coast. The adjacent Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Park is nicknamed "City of Refuge," with 238 acres of land and plenty of seaside picnic tables and barbecues. For snorkeling, head to nearby 2-Step Beach (named for it's easy-in, easy-out, 2-step entry into the water), which is also known for dolphin encounters. 960 1280

  

Hilton Head, SC

Hilton Head, SC

Just 45 minutes from Savannah and Beaufort, SC, this boat-shaped island — one of the largest on the East Coast — is perfect for both families and individuals who are looking for a large resort area with more to do than just relax by the shore (although this isn't a bad place to do that, too). Hilton Head is home to countless trails for biking and running, more than 30 golf courses and 300 tennis courts.  960 1280

  

Little Palm Island, FL

Little Palm Island, FL

The resort at Little Palm Island, FL, is one of the best in the country, with one of the best beaches in the entire stretch of the Keys. Just a scenic 30-minute drive from Key West, you'll find a marina, exquisite accommodations (with ocean views from each suite), gourmet meals and a full-service spa. 960 1280

  

Myrtle Beach

Myrtle Beach

As the largest beach along South Carolina's 60-mile Grand Strand, Myrtle Beach is the East Coast's ultimate vacation hub. While travelers come first and foremost for the extensive white-sand beach, Myrtle Beach also boasts amusement and water parks, restaurants (1,700 of them!), live entertainment, nature preserves, outlet shopping and more than 100 golf courses (most open to the public). 960 1280

  

Poipu Beach, HI

Poipu Beach, HI

Poipu Beach is a series of 3 white crescents curving beside turquoise waters along Kauai's south coast. Poipu Beach is a near-perfect destination for multigenerational vacations, where older kids and active adults can head closer to the rockier coastline to catch some surf, while younger waders can stick to the crescents' middle beaches, where the water tends to be calmer. Or make a day of it at Poipu Beach Park, where you'll find picnic tables, restrooms, showers and a lifeguard on duty for your convenience. 960 1280

  

Clinch Park Beach
Clinch Park Beach

Clinch Park Beach

Clinch Park is the most popular beach in Traverse City, MI, since it's just minutes from downtown, close to the Clinch Park Marina and adjacent to the zoo. 960 1280

Traverse City Convention and Visitors Bureau  

Bradford Beach

Bradford Beach

On Lake Michigan, Bradford Beach offers volleyball courts for pick-up games, room for families to spread out and build sand castles, food carts serving Wisconsin cheddar cheese curds and more. 960 1280

VISIT Milwaukee / John Nienhuis  

Sleeping Bear Dunes

Sleeping Bear Dunes

Once called "America's Hidden Riviera," Sleeping Bear Dunes on the north side of Lake Michigan has 2 things lacking on Lake Superior: swimming beaches and loads of sand. While some dunes rise over 450 feet, the 150-foot dune climb is more manageable for families with small children and still offers serene views. 960 1280

wsilver, flickr  

Kohler-Andrae State Park

Kohler-Andrae State Park

Kohler-Andrae State Park is an expansive --nearly 1,000 acres --natural area on the western shore of Lake Michigan. Roughly 50 miles north of Milwaukee, the beach is popular for its sand dunes, cordwalk (a walkway made from boards and rope), nature trails and 137 campsites. 960 1280

Chris Bentley, flickr  

Point Beach State Forest

Point Beach State Forest

Don't let the name fool you, this state park in Two Rivers, WI, has 6 miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, sand dunes and the Rawley Point Lighthouse, which has been maintained and operated by the U.S. Coast Guard since 1853. 960 1280

Princely Nesadurai  

North Beach

North Beach

Watch boats bob in Racine Yacht Club's marina, kayak around the harbor or listen to live music on this impeccably clean beach in Racine, WI. 960 1280

Real Racine  

Oak Street Beach

Oak Street Beach

Palm trees mere minutes from Michigan Avenue? It’s true. Opened in 1890, this popular white-sand beach stretches beneath Chicago's Magnificent Mile skyscrapers. 960 1280

Greg- Timm, flickr  

Lake Calhoun

Lake Calhoun

Lake Calhoun is part of the Chain of Lakes and the largest lake in Minneapolis, MN. Of its 3 swimming beaches, North Beach is popular for swimming (of course), biking on the lake's 3-mile trail and (happily) lining up for a bite at Tin Fish, a casual seafood-fry restaurant. 960 1280

  

Park Point Beach

Park Point Beach

Lake Superior’s Park Point is located on the world's largest sand bar (just over 7 miles), east of Duluth's famed Aerial Lift Bridge. 960 1280

Explore Minnesota Tourism  

Presque Isle Beach

Presque Isle Beach

White sands, green pines, blue lake and black rocks -- the view from this Marquette, MI, peninsula can't be beat, especially from Sunset Point. Another sight to behold, brave cliff divers plunge into the icy Lake Superior below. 960 1280

Heidi Blanton, flickr  


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