17 Beach Essentials
New products in beachy colors to stock your bag.
Packing for the beach can be a major, stress-filled endeavor. Did you remember the sunscreen? For face…and body? The lip balm? The towels? The drinking water? So many essential items, and nothing is worse than forgetting something critical when you are a long way from your hotel.
Decrease your stress level and get into your swim and surf groove with some happy items to tote on your next vacation. In the interest of making things a bit easier, or at least a bit more calm, cool and collected when your beach time arrives, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite beach-friendly products, the indispensable sandals, bathing suits, hats and towels that will make your seaside idyll not just pleasurable, but stylish too. And of course, we’ve included the perfect bags to corral all of those essentials.
Sleek, simple and ultra-comfortable, this classic tank suit is a great staple for your beach bag you can rev up with a great coverup, sandals and hat to make a statement. It's also not going to ride up or reveal anything you don't want under wraps, even when swimming and other activities are in the cards.
This super flattering swimsuit from L.L. Bean is old Hollywood chic with a great shirred style to hide all manner of flaws. In black it's an elegant standard sure to flatter a variety of figures.
Benni Spinelli/L.L. Bean
There is a lot to love about this super-compact shelter that will save you not just money -- because you won’t need to pay for a cabana or umbrella -- but will also rescue you from a vacation-ruinous sunburn. This lightweight Sunbuster Folding Shelter from the outdoor masterminds at L.L. Bean comes in our favorite seaside shade of blue and sets up in one easy gesture: no poles to insert or sloppy wrestling with stakes. The shelter folds up into a handy, toteable bag with a strap you can throw over your shoulder. A fabric with UPF 50+ sun protection and enough space for some serious lounging, this is basically a personal cabana you can take anywhere with privacy panels for when you need a midday nap.
Eric A. Zepeda/Mark and Graham
I love the nautical look of this seafaring bucket bag from Mark and Graham. Classic in cotton canvas with leather trim, this capacious bucket bag comes with a free monogram so you can strut your stuff in singular, personal style.
I’m not going to lie to you: I let out a squeal of delight when I first saw the uber-sweet design on this smiling whale tote bag from L.L. Bean. Adorable without being saccharine, this pitch-perfect tote boasts a beach-ready design as cute for grownups as it is for kids.
David Michael Zimmermann/RESCUE
Vacation can be hard on your diet, but also on your skin care routine. Without your usual medicine chest full of product, it’s easy to take the easy road. These wonderful travel-sized RESCUE combos of travel-ready serums and moisturizers are advertised by the folks at Rescue as “Your new routine. No routine.” And it's true: totable serum and moisturizer that helps in calming sun and sea stressed skin makes a travel beauty routine super easy.
This embroidered tunic coverup from L.L. Bean is sweet simplicity in white, blue or black and cool, lightweight 100% cotton. It's a little sheer in white, but will keep everything you need hidden covered-up in style.
Bell coverups are the perfect blend of function and style. Made from 100 percent cotton, these boho-chic tunics are a stylish way to hide your assets beachside. The Lillian Coverup boasts a gorgeous, pink and blue print with chic tie-in-front styling.
Duluth Trading Company
You may not believe it until you try it, but these Armachillo Cooling T-Shirts in a host of yummy colors have a silky texture that will glide over wet skin (making them ideal beach wear or coverups) and they really do make you feel cooler. The Armachillo's super-comfortable combo of polyester and spandex also makes them quick drying. This miracle shirt also wicks moisture and protects you from the sun with a UPF of 40+.
Duluth Trading Company
More of a sarong-style coverup fan? This super-comfy 7-foot long hemp knit scarf is enormous: great for looping around your neck when there’s a chill in the air, but also perfect for wrapping around your waist to make an impromptu coverup so you can run into town. This ultra-soft material also packs up brilliantly, making it easy to store in a bag for impromptu trips to the beach. Made of soft 70 percent cotton jersey and 30 percent hemp, this scarf is one of those multi-use accessories (in-flight blanket anyone?) you’ll reach for again and again.
This Breton hat has a lot going for it: classic style with an edge thanks to a jaunty leather wrap and internal ties to keep the hat secure when the wind kicks up. This one will be your go-to beach hat.
Super functional, this waterproof hat from Wallaroo stretches to fit, packs flat and can be handwashed. With a UPF of 50+ we can't think of anything more we'd need in a traveling-minded beach hat.
The Diamond Sandals from Bogs are a great beach companion: a festive, turquoise color and soles that are built for walking on wet terrain. These are also waterproof and their adjustable buckles in two places offer the perfect fit. The Rio Diamond sandals also come with fancy DuraFresh technology for fighting, you know, odors. Men’s Rio Sandals are also available from Bogs.
We love the fresh colors of these waterproof Gracie Sandals from Bogs with ridged outsoles and insoles to provide traction and that handy DuraFresh technology that helps fight odor, putting them a step above your usual warm-weather kicks.
Who doesn't love the iconic Lacoste alligator icon? That distinctive emblem looks fresh and new on these thirsty, oversized beach towels that will bring a pop of preppy to your beach tableau.
Put a Cork in ItLeave your key ring at home and take just your house, condo or car key to the shore. Tip: Screw an eyehook into an old wine cork and attach the crucial key to it. If you accidentally take it into the surf, you’ll have a buoy and a good story instead of a locksmith referral. 960 1280
The Right FitTraditional beach blankets have a habit of mutating into mainsails during an onshore gust. Instead, take an old bed sheet (fitted is best) and fill the corners with sand to keep it on the ground where it belongs. If the local municipality permits, further stabilize your foundation with an iced bucket of beer or bubbly. 960 1280
Sound the UV AlarmIt’s easy to lose track of time at the beach, but you need to stay alert to avoid getting sunburn. Set the timer on your phone or, for a more stylish setup, score a cute alarm clock at the thrift store (or a modern knock-off) and set it for a wake-up call. Your dermatologist will thank you. 960 1280
A Spot of TeaIf you forgot the sunscreen and wound up scorched, Earl Grey can help. Black tea contains tannic acid, which is one of the most effective ways to treat sunburn. Brew a few cups of strong tea, let cool and apply with cotton balls, or just apply the teabag directly to the affected area. 960 1280
Shore Thing: 8 Handy Beach Hacks 9 Photos
Seaside, South Walton, FLWith turquoise waters, white sandy beaches and 16 charming beach neighborhoods, it’s hard to pick just one best beach for kids in South Walton, but time and again, families flock to Seaside on Florida’s northwest coast. Enjoy biking and stand-up paddleboarding before heading to Airstream Row for food trucks serving up everything from grilled cheese to homemade custard. 960 1280
Kailua Beach Park, Kailua, HI
A favorite beach for many on Oahu, Kailua Beach Park boasts turquoise blue waters, plenty of free parking and lots of family-friendly water activities, like kayaking and boogie boarding. Kids will love watching the kite surfers, maybe even more than a trip to Island Snow for shave ice. Kalapawai Market is located at the park entrance, so pick up some deli sandwiches for an afternoon picnic on the beach.
Agios Georgios Beach, Naxos, GreeceMany of the beaches in Naxos boast warm waters that are gentle and shallow, particularly those on the southwest coast of the island, making them ideal for families with small children. One of the best is Agios Georgios Beach. Eat breakfast at one of the cafés on the beach for fantastic views of the bay. The beach is also an easy walk to Hora, the island’s colorful capital city. 960 1280
St. Pete Beach, St. Petersburg, FLFor white sandy beaches and calm, clear waters, St. Pete Beach is a must for families. Grab your fishing poles and sleeping bags for a camp-out right on the beach at Fort De Soto Park. Bike along a 7-mile paved trail, kayak or canoe through mangrove forests and take time to explore the historic fort. You can even take your furry pal to a dog park called Paw Playground. 960 1280
Maho Bay Beach, St. JohnSituated on the north shore of St. John, the calm waters make Maho Bay Beach the ideal spot for learning to stand-up paddleboard as a family. It’s also one of the best places on the island to see sea turtles, particularly on the west side of the bay where snorkelers can watch turtles and rays munching on the sea grasses. For hiking, try the Cinnamon Bay Nature Trail. 960 1280
St. Augustine Beach, St. Augustine, FLFor wide beaches, a 4-acre beachfront park and plenty of space to play, even with your dog, head to St. Augustine Beach in St. Augustine. Walk along the shores where Spanish explorers landed so many years ago, then let the kids go wild at the splash park on the pier. Spend time at nearby Anastasia State Park where you can bike on the beach and paddle in a saltwater lagoon. 960 1280
Carmel Beach, Carmel-by-the-Sea, CAKids can play on the white sandy beach by day and make s’mores around a bonfire by night at Carmel Beach. Pet lovers will love this dog-friendly (and leash-free) beach, so bring a tennis ball or two to make a few new furry friends. Take the free trolley into town for cheese blintzes at the Little Swiss Café or ride out to Monterey for an afternoon at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. 960 1280
Menemsha Beach, Martha's Vineyard, MAMartha’s Vineyard is widely touted as one of the loveliest parts of New England, though kids may love the area more for its beaches than its beauty. Try Menemsha Beach, a popular pick for families in search of gentle surf, fantastic sunsets and one of the best clam shacks on the island. Crowds at The Bite line up early, so keep this in mind if you’re thinking about a beach picnic. 960 1280
Coligny Beach, Hilton Head, SCFor families who want to be active from morning until night, head to Hilton Head for kayaking, tennis, crabbing, stand-up paddleboarding, and of course, splashing in the waves at Coligny Beach. Rent bikes at Hilton Head Outfitters in Palmetto Dunes. It’s the best way to explore the island. Go on a boat cruise with Pirates of Hilton Head or fly through the sky at Zipline Hilton Head. 960 1280
Short Sands Beach, York, MEOne of several popular beaches in York, Short Sands Beach has sand, surf, a playground, and even an arcade. Have a picnic at Ellis Park then spend the afternoon at York’s Wild Kingdom, the largest zoo and amusement park in Maine. Take the trolley to Long Sands Beach for views of the Cape Leddick Lighthouse before heading to the “Surfing Only” area to pick up pointers from the surfers. 960 1280
Coronado Central Beach, San Diego, CAJust across the bridge from downtown San Diego you’ll find Coronado Central Beach. Kids will love building castles from sand that glistens year-round thanks to the glittery mineral, mica, which is mixed in with the sand. Walk along the beach to take in historic mansions, as well as the majestic Hotel del Coronado, the inspiration behind Walt Disney World’s Grand Floridian. 960 1280
Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman IslandConsistently ranked among the best beaches in the Caribbean, Seven Mile Beach has soft, white sand and gentle waters that are ideal for first-time snorkelers eager to see tropical fish and colorful coral reefs. Off the beach, kids can splash in the fountains at Camana Bay, pet stingrays at Stingray City and get up-close with green sea turtles at the Cayman Turtle Farm. 960 1280
Resort Beach, Virginia Beach, VAThere’s no shortage of things to do both on and off the beach in Virginia Beach. Walk or ride a surrey bike along the 3-mile boardwalk before snapping a selfie with the 34-foot bronze statue of King Neptune. Go horseback riding or take surfing lessons at Resort Beach, then let the kids go wild at Grommet Island Beach Park, a 100% wheelchair accessible children’s park. 960 1280
Podaca Beach, Makarska Riviera, CroatiaStretching nearly 40 miles between Makarska and Split is the Makarska Riviera, which boasts a number of beach towns with palm tree-lined promenades, ice cream shops and pedal boats to take out onto the delightfully blue water. Book a villa or stay in a family-run campsite along the pebble beach. Off the beach, kids will love hiking around nearby Biokovo Nature Park. 960 1280
Cannon Beach, ORCannon Beach is wide and flat, offering plenty of room for kids to walk, run, ride three-wheelers or go tide pooling in search of sea life and shells. Its postcard attraction is Haystack Rock, a 235-foot tall rock, which sits on the beach near the downtown area. Kite flying is perfect at Cannon Beach since the winds seem to blow at just the right speed. 960 1280
Coast Guard Beach, Eastham, MACape Cod is a favorite year after year and Coast Guard Beach is perfect for long walks and building sand castles as a family. At the Salt Pond Visitor Center, pick up the park newspaper for the scoop on ranger-led nature walks and Junior Ranger programs. Ride bikes along one of three paved bike trails or go kayaking through the famous salt marshes. 960 1280
Corolla, NCThe Outer Banks of North Carolina has long been a top pick for families. Book a vacation rental right on the soft, sandy beach or park near the southernmost beach access point in Corolla for restrooms and showers. Go biking, take the ferry to Knotts Island or get hip to all kinds of water sports at Kitty Hawk Kayaks & Surf School. 960 1280
Gulf State Park, Gulf Shores, ALIn summer, families flock to incredible beach towns in Alabama, like Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. Kids will have a ball swimming, crabbing and kayaking along the two-mile stretch of beach at Gulf State Park. There are hiking and biking trails, as well as a nature center that hosts guided nature walks. Just off the beach, head to Waterville USA for water slides, a lazy river and mini golf. 960 1280
Poipu Beach Park, Kauai, HIFamilies with kids of all ages will love Poipu Beach Park. Look for snorkeling and surfing for the big kids, as well as a playground and a shallow wading area for little ones. Enjoy a picnic under the shade of the palm trees or go for a coastal hike along the Mahaulepu Heritage Trail. In the evening, book a relaxing sunset catamaran cruise to see more of the scenic south side of the island. 960 1280
Coco Plum Beach, Exumas, BahamasThe beaches of the Exumas are among the best in the Bahamas, especially for those eager to return home with beautiful shells and sand dollars. Located on the north end of Grand Exuma, Coco Plum Beach is a quiet beach with plenty of shady palm trees. For lunch, head to Big D’s Conch Stop, which serves up tasty conch fritters and salads. 960 1280
La Concha Beach, San Sebastian, SpainOne of the most famous city beaches in Europe, La Concha Beach, is also one of the best beaches for familes. Look for a carousel and multiple playgrounds that dot the beach and the town. Take the funicular railway to the top of Monte Igueldo for unmatched views of La Concha Bay. As a bonus, there’s an amusement park at the summit complete with bumper cars and pony rides. 960 1280
Kiawah Beachwalker Park, Kiawah Island, SCJust south of Charleston, explore nature, wildlife and beautiful South Carolina coastline on Kiawah Island. Kids can sing songs and take art lessons at Kamp Kiawah, as well as splash and play at Kiawah Beachwalker Park, a quiet beach that’s well-suited for small children. Rent bikes to explore the island or take classes to become a Junior Naturalist. 960 1280
Long Beach, WADig for razor clams or take in the views of the Pacific from the half-mile wooden boardwalk located on the Long Beach Peninsula. Explore nearby lighthouses with the kids, hike along the Willapa Interpretive Art Trail or get your game on at the Funland Arcade. Work up an appetite paddling at Willapa Bay before indulging in a milkshake at Hungry Harbor Grille. 960 1280
Bowman’s Beach, Sanibel Island, FLWith more than 25 miles of paved trails, Sanibel Island is a fantastic place to explore by bike. Look for warm waters and gentle surf, as well as more than 300 kinds of seashells. Enroll the kids in Sanibel Sea School to learn about marine conservation before hopping a ferry to Cayo Costa State Park. Families will especially love Bowman’s Beach, which has a playground and magical sunsets. 960 1280
Assateague Island National Seashore, MDNearly 38 miles long, the Assateague Island National Seashore is a protected wildlife sanctuary. Stay in nearby Chincoteague or camp out on the beach of this barrier island. Kids will love hiking, clamming, crabbing and fishing on the beach, but the main attraction is the wild ponies, which have roamed the beaches and saltwater marshes since the 1600s. 960 1280
Wingaersheek Beach, Gloucester, MAKnown for soft, white sands and gentle waters, Wingaersheek Beach is the place to take the kids at low tide where you’ll find loads of clams, shells, even sand dollars, all over the beach. Pack a picnic lunch or grab a bite at one of several snack shops that that dot the beach. Parking isn’t cheap and you’ll need to get there early but you will be rewarded with kids who can’t wait to go back. 960 1280
Eagle Beach, ArubaKids and families love Eagle Beach in Aruba. It’s a beach where you can easily spend the entire day relaxing in a beach chair and splashing in the turquoise waters. Walk along the beach in search of the island’s famous Divi Divi trees. Water sports are popular, so rent a jet ski, a kayak or a stand-up paddleboard, or get set up to go snorkeling or parasailing. 960 1280
Sunset Beach, Cape May, NJSunset Beach is one of a handful of spots on the east coast where you can see the sunset from the beach. Come for the Victorian homes, the free parking and the crab cake sandwiches at the Sunset Beach Grill. Kids will love splashing in the surf and hunting for Cape May diamonds (quartz pebbles). Bring a camera to snap photos of the S.S. Atlantus, which sits just offshore. 960 1280
Camusdarach Beach, Arisaig, ScotlandLocated in one of the most scenic parts of the Scottish Highlands, you won’t go wrong camping near Camusdarach Beach and taking sea kayaks out into the water to explore the coves. Children will love playing in the sand and the calm, clear waters on the beach. Collect shells and enjoy the views of the Isle of Skye before settling in for the evening sunset. 960 1280
Clearwater Beach, Clearwater, FLPier 60 is the place to be in Clearwater Beach for spectacular sunsets and a nightly sunset festival that includes live music, magicians, stilt walkers and local artisans. The crystal clear, warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico makes this a great choice for families. Book a dolphin cruise or take to the sky for parasailing. Look to nearby Caladesi Island State Park for great shelling. 960 1280
30 Best Beaches for Families 30 Photos
Kite-Flying on Long Beach, WashingtonThe beach at Long Beach, WA, is a perfect spot for flying kites. For starters, (as its name suggests) the beach is long, wide and relatively flat. More important, because the town sits on a peninsula in the southwest corner of the state, wind is always whipping off the Pacific, providing ideal conditions for keeping canvas kites aloft. Kite-flying in these parts is so renowned that local chambers of commerce band together to sponsor the Washington State International Kite Festival every year. Long Beach itself is even home to the World Kite Museum, an informative facility started by kite enthusiasts in the 1980s that also sells hundreds of specimens for those visitors who come unprepared. 960 1280
Crabbing in Cape Cod Bay, Massachusetts
Most New Englanders who summer on Cape Cod frequent the wave-ridden ocean-side beaches that line Cape Cod National Seashore. For a quieter experience, however, take the family to the calmer beaches along Cape Cod Bay, and be sure to bring a trowel to dig for crabs that burrow in the sand. Some of the least populous beaches on the east side of the "elbow" are in and around Eastham; First Encounter Beach, for instance, is popular among locals. Though the crabs that can be found here (they're called rock, or peekytoe, crabs) aren't necessarily meaty, kids and grownups alike love the process of looking for breathing holes and digging for treasure.
Exploring Dunes at Silver Lake, MichiganLakefront beaches are just as spectacular as ocean beaches -- especially when they come with giant sand dunes waiting to be explored. Such is the case with the Silver Lake Sand Dunes area, situated along Lake Michigan just west of US-31. The area boasts the only dunes east of Utah to allow motorized vehicles in the summer, which means they are a favorite spot for families with kids old enough to zip around on Go-Karts, dune buggies and ATVs. Snowboarding fans like surfing down the dunes, too -- go figure, but the technical term is "dune surfing." At the end of every summer, the area also is home to the annual Apple & BBQ Cookoff Festival. 960 1280
Surf-Casting Along Playalinda Beach, FloridaYou don't have to head out on a boat to fish from the ocean; at least not when the family is vacationing near Cape Canaveral National Seashore and Playalinda Beach. This stretch of shoreline -- located in the shadow of the Space Shuttle launch site -- is renowned in fishing circles as a destination for surf-fishing, a type of fishing in which one casts into the water from the spot where waves break on shore. Up for grabs in this part of the world: pompano, black drum and whiting, among other fish. Fishing is best roughly 2 hours before or after high tide. While you're out there, keep your eyes peeled for bottlenose dolphins cavorting in the warm water. 960 1280
Tidepooling South of San Francisco, California
Life abounds in the pools left behind by the retreating tides at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve in Moss Beach, CA. Here, in the cracks and crevasses of the rocky shore, beachcombers can find everything from colorful sea anemones to skittish hermit crabs, prickly sea urchins and tiny shrimp. On certain days, the area also is climbing with California sea lions, many of which bob their heads above the water's surface like periscopes. Families can explore the tidepools independently, or they can take a guided interpretive hike led by local rangers and docents. While the area has tidal pools year-round, the pools are most accessible on days with the lowest tides of the year.
Best Family Beach Activities 5 Photos