10 Beaches With No Bridges

Bridges make it easy to reach the beach, but a bridge also brings a gazillion cars, a gazillion people, chain restaurants and go-cart tracks. If that's not your thing, we can both agree that the best beaches are the ones you can only reach by boat. Here are 10 beaches where you’ll never have to fight for a parking space.

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Cayo Costa, Florida

Turquoise water, sugary white beaches, zero commercial development. That’s Cayo Costa, an island off the coast of Southwest Florida in the Gulf of Mexico. The 7-mile-long state park is a tropical wilderness, with trails leading through a pristine coastal forest dotted with palms, native wildlife and pre-Columbian Indian shell mounds. The island is known for outstanding shelling due to its location relative to the Gulf Stream, so you’ll find treasures after a high tide.

Ocracoke Island, North Carolina

This 16-mile-long barrier island has pristine beaches and just enough commercial development to be charming. Pick up seashells on the Atlantic side of the island, kayak Pamlico Sound, or walk the tree-lined streets of Ocracoke Village, a 19th century town on the island’s south end with mom-and-pop shops, inns and restaurants. Cars are allowed on the island, but no more than can fit on a ferry. 

Caladesi Island State Park, Florida

The sugar white beaches of this island off Florida’s Gulf Coast regularly appear on lists of the nation’s best beaches. Caladesi is a state park with rolling dunes, cabbage palms, shore birds and sea turtles. Kayak through four miles of marked trails in the mangroves or walk the 3-mile nature trail. Boat camping is allowed, there’s a snack bar and gift shop on the island, and you can rent chairs, umbrellas and kayaks.

Boat Beach, Grand Canyon

Not all beaches are on the ocean. Some are in the Grand Canyon, like Boat Beach, a favorite stop for rafters on the Colorado River. The sandy, secluded beach is at the bottom of the South Kaibab Trail that begins at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Boaters can get fresh water, swim, picnic and hike the quarter-mile trail up to Phantom Ranch, a 1920s lodge owned by the National Park Service. 

Cat Island, Mississippi

Cat Island has white sandy beaches, marshes, a coastal forest of slash pines and live oaks, and no commercial development. Swim, fish, hike the nature trails and listen to the sounds of an island uninterrupted by human noise. Despite the name, there are no cats on the island. When perpetually confused Spanish explorers showed up there 500 years ago, they thought the raccoons they saw were cats. So, Cat Island.

Dry Tortugas, Florida

The seven islands off Dry Tortugas National Park are 70 miles west of Key West, surrounded by gin-clear Gulf of Mexico waters and ringed with sugar-white beaches. Only two, Garden Key and Loggerhead Key, have development. The others are nature preserves full of local wildlife. Swim, kayak, snorkel, fish or dive the reef. Garden Key is home to Fort Jefferson, a 19th century military fortification used as a prison. Its most famous inmate was Dr. Samuel Mudd, the physician who treated John Wilkes Booth.

Nantucket, Massachusettes

Nantucket was the whaling capital of the world in the 19th century. Now the island off the coast of Cape Cod is an iconic summer destination with miles of wild beaches, rolling dunes and a village full of 19th century houses, inns and shops. The island’s population swells to 60,000 in the summer, but there are few cars. Most people get around by bike or on foot. Best of all, Nantucket has banned chain stores.

Don Pedro Island, Florida

This island off Florida’s Gulf Coast has private homes on one end and 230 acres of protected shoreline and forest on the other. The beach is untouched and the wildlife abundant. But the best thing about Don Pedro: the fossilized shark teeth that wash ashore in droves. Thanks to geography and currents, the Gulf waters erode the choppers of prehistoric predators out of the sea bed’s fossil layer and deposit them onto the beach.

Cumberland Island, Georgia

The southern-most of Georgia’s Sea Islands has pristine beaches, salt marshes, wild horses, enormous live oaks and a rich history. The 18-mile long island is home to the Gullah, descendants of slaves who worked plantations on the island and retained their African traditions. Cumberland was also a playground for Gilded Age industrialists. Be sure to visit the ruins of Dungeness, a 19th century mansion built by a Carnegie.

Lopez Island, Washington

Lopez, about 80 miles northwest of Seattle, has 63 miles of shoreline, 2,400 full-time residents and one vineyard. Walk the driftwood-strewn beaches, cycle the gently rolling hills and soak up the counterculture vibe of Lopez Village. Lopez is also a foodie paradise: There are farms raising everything from llamas to kiwis on the island, the legacy of Scandinavian farmers who settled the island in the 1850s. Residents have cars, but everyone else gets around on bikes. 

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