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Alabama’s Gulf Coast isn’t all about the beaches: the 6,000-acre Gulf State Park between Orange Beach and Gulf Shores, for example, has six different ecosystems, including wet pine flatwoods, live oak maritime forests, coastal dunes and swales, longleaf sand ridges, freshwater marshes, and coastal hardwood swamps. You can explore them all by foot or bike on the paved, 15-mile Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail, keeping a sharp eye out for white-tailed deer, foxes, and alligators. After a day of pedaling, geocaching, and birding, settle down for the night at one of the park’s new outpost campsites, built on platforms and equipped with bunk beds, grills, and canvas tenting. Not into roughing it? Segway tours of the trail are available, too.
The city of Newport in Oregon has lots to offer at a reasonable price. The rugged seacoast provides the perfect place for exploring tide pools, hunting for fossils, or spotting a grey whale. Guests can drop by the city’s two lighthouses, one of which is the largest in the state. The Oregon Coast Aquarium houses all sorts of sea creatures, from sharks to sea otters. The museum’s Secrets of Shipwrecks exhibit dives into the mysteries of the deep with lots of activities for children. The nearby Hatfield Marine Science Center continues the educational afternoon, letting visitors examine local marine life in touch tanks or gaze at a giant Pacific octopus.
They say ’twas a bold man that first ate an oyster, but you don’t have to be an adventurer to enjoy a drive along the Virginia Oyster Trail. Virginia produces more farm-raised oysters than any other U.S. East Coast state, and the Oyster Trail combines a lovely drive on the Eastern Shore with an opportunity to meet local oystermen like those at Topping, Virginia's Rappahannock Oyster Co., who will show you how they bring these magnificent mollusks from water to table (don't miss the company's Merroir Tasting Room, shown here). For oysters fresh off the reef, the Dog and Oyster Vineyard in Irvington is a great choice—after all, this is Virginia wine country, too. After a day of shucking and slurping, the Tides Inn in Irvington keeps you close to the water: the resort is set on a peninsula between Chesapeake Bay and the Rappahannock and Potomac rivers—in other words, oyster central. (In the fall, Tides Inn offers a cool oystering experience package worth returning for.)
The “Spice Island” has something for everyone, including Afro-Caribbean culture, one of the Caribbean’s prettiest colonial cities, fragrant spice plantations, dozens of beaches and bays, and a mountainous national park great for hiking. In the capital of St. George, you can walk along narrow colonial streets lined with a rainbow of pastel-painted houses and shops and watch masted ships sail in and out of the harbor. While in town, browse the spice and food markets and visit the 18th-century French fortification Fort George.
Channel your outdoorsy soul (or your inner hippie) by renting a restored VW Westfalia camper van for a Northwest road trip on Washington's spectacular Olympic Peninsula. Peace Vans Rentals will hook you up with a fully stocked and versatile ride that smartly converts into a pop-up camper sleeping four. Hit the road in Olympia, near the southern tip of Puget Sound, and start by exploring Tolmie State Park, which has 105 acres of hiking trails, campsites, and beaches where you can try clamming or oyster harvesting. The South Sound region has both wine and craft beer trails, and when you’re ready to really get back to nature turn your wheels onto Highway 101, the gateway to the Olympia Peninsula, where you can camp in Olympic National Park and spend days exploring the rugged coasts and primordial forests.
There is no better place to tap into the boho exoticism of Goa than at Amarya Shamiyana, a collection of four Moghul-inspired tents in a palm-shaded oasis just down the beach from Jade Jagger’s boutique. The hotel is a riot of color, from playful hand-painted damask murals to metallic beanbag chairs and Pucci-esque pillows—many available for sale in the Nana Ki tented on-site boutique.
These barrier islands offer miles of pristine beaches along a coastline accented by amazing architecture. The natural splendor of Seabrook Island with its rich equestrian history, Isle of Palms’ upscale yet charming developments, and Kiawah Island’s alluring attractions make this area wonderful for a relaxing getaway to a semi-tropical setting. Sullivan's Island is the closest beach island to Charleston, and Folly Beach boasts some of the best East Coast surfing. Isle of Palms Sandy beaches, serene scenes and close proximity to city attractions make Isle of Palms an ideal vacation spot. A local marina provides a place to plan a fishing trip or rent a kayak. Kiawah Island Boasting unspoiled beaches, superior biking trails and natural beauty, this gated community is perfect for a beach vacation built around recreation. Seabrook Island Seabrook Island offers visitors an uncrowded and tranquil escape. A local equestrian center and nearby marina provide unique recreational experiences, while two golf courses and a tennis club ensure that visitors will have plenty of fun between relaxing on the beaches and enjoying the Atlantic breezes. Sullivan's Island Featuring historic forts, a one-of-a-kind lighthouse and breathtaking beach views, Sullivan’s Island is a picturesque paradise. Folly Beach Riding the waves on the East Coast doesn't get any better than surfing at the Washout in Folly Beach. While Folly Beach is known for its nostalgic air and beachy, laid-back vibe, it's only a 15-minute drive from the rich culture and Southern charm of historic downtown Charleston. Wild Dunes A gated community on the northern tip of the Isle of Palms, Wild Dunes offers gorgeous beaches, natural beauty and abundant resort amenities—all in a peaceful setting away from the crowds. -->
Uluwatu might be the world’s cheapest hard-core surf destination, home to five world-famous breaks and subject of the 1971 Australian documentary Morning of the Earth. The surfing is high-level stuff, so nobody’s going to blame you for relaxing in a beach shack and enjoying a cheap beer next to the breaks. While you’re here, definitely check out the Pura Luhur Uluwatu temple, an 11th-century Hindu temple atop a hill with the best views of the beaches.
Everyone in central Florida who wants to have an epic beach day makes their way here on the weekend. What results is one of the best beach parties in America, a sand-borne tailgate party where instead of playing football, people play in the ocean. If you find yourself on a landlocked Florida vacation to theme parks or otherwise, spending a day here is affordable and a whole lot of fun.
The brainchild of American-born Beverly Deikel and her Dominican partner, Patris Oscar, the eco-friendly property is a microcosm of the island—and its first great place to stay. Set on 22 lush acres, its 28 cottages, each with carved mahogany and red-cedar four-poster beds, face onto a rocky beach or the Rosalie River. One of the world’s few carbon-negative resorts, Rosalie Bay not only relies on solar panels but has its own wind turbine, organic gardens, and spring-fed onyx-colored swimming pool.
Travelers looking for an authentic Maine experience need look no further than Bar Harbor, Maine. A town that was once a retreat for the elite now offers affordable accommodations and activities at every price point. The free Island Explorer shuttle provides seasonal service to all three of the area’s public beaches. Tours and equipment rentals are available for a wide variety of watersports, including kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding. Abundant hiking and biking trails lead visitors along miles of scenic coastline. The perfect end to a perfect day is a lobster dinner at one of Bar Harbor’s many restaurants.
Hobe Sound may not be an obvious choice for best beach vacations in America, but it’s truly an unspoiled paradise—just what you want when you need to escape the daily grind. Don’t miss Blowing Rocks Preserve, where at high tide you might get to see sea water spraying up through holes in the limestone that’s embedded in the sands here. Running right alongside Hobe Sound is the long, narrow stretch of Jupiter Island, where you can bike your way along the beach or join a tour and watch baby turtles hatching.