Popular US Cities With Beautiful Beaches

The U.S. is a country diverse in landscape. Whether you're on the West or the East Coast, the beaches are nothing short of spectacular. Better yet, you don't need to drive far or stay in a small coastal town to enjoy the sound of crashing waves, the feeling of sand below your feet, or the laid-back vibe that will relax even the most stressed-out visitors. Many cities offer seaside access and the sense of a beach town but with all the amenities of an urban center.

So, if you're craving a trip by the ocean but still want plenty of options for meals and activities, consider one of the cities below. We've selected a variety of cities, from major metropolises to smaller beach towns. So, no matter what you're looking for in a city break along the coast, you'll have all the inspiration and tips to start planning a trip to remember. 

San Francisco, California

San Francisco is frequently an anomaly when it comes to weather. It seems like any time the rest of the nation is locked in a heatwave, the Bay Area is chilling, literally, in the 60 to 70 degree Fahrenheit range. That's because of the unique climate created by its location on the Pacific Ocean. When the cold ocean water meets the warmer air and low pressure of the east, a vacuum pulls in the marine layer. This phenomenon then coats the city and creates those iconic foggy mornings.

You might be unable to plan for days full of sunbathing or swimming, although the cloud cover usually burns off by the afternoon. Your best bet for beaches in the city limits that aren't too difficult to reach are Baker Beach and Ocean Beach. Baker Beach is a stunning part of the Presidio area, with golden sand set against some of the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin Headlands. You can take a lovely, long walk from Fisherman's Terminal through the Marina District to reach the beach. 

Alternatively, Ocean Beach sits at the westernmost end of the city with a rugged and faraway-from-the-city feel that will instantly relax you. Between the two is Land's End, arguably the best hiking and nature access within the city limits. Some more secluded beaches are here if you're willing to walk.

Sarasota, Florida

The Sunshine State has no shortage of fantastic beaches, so choosing where to spend your time can be challenging. For the best bang for your buck, head to Sarasota, where numerous beautiful shores are just a short drive away. Local favorite Siesta Key was named the No. 2 best beach in the U.S. by Tripadvisor in 2023. Additionally, Lido Beach is an easy 15-minute drive from the center of Sarasota and is a stunning stretch of sand with plenty of concession stands, bathrooms, and recreation areas.

Dead Tree Beach, on Beer Can Island (Longboat Key), has about a dozen access points along the Gulf of Mexico. It is known for the dead trees that wash ashore, giving it a unique and eerie feel. One appeal of this area and Dead Tree, in particular, is that they lack the crowds so common in South Florida. However, the tradeoff is that there aren't many amenities, such as food or restrooms. June through October is peak hurricane season, and a nasty one hit the area last year, so for the most stress-free trip, try and visit during a different part of the year.

Newport, Rhode Island

Rhode Island is known as "the Ocean State" for a reason. There aren't many places to enjoy the luxurious beach clubs up against Gilded Age Mansions followed by a more lowkey stroll along the coast. Remember, though, this is New England, so don't plan to swim outside the summer months — even then, you may still find it a bit too chilly to brave the Atlantic. And note that while the town's beach clubs are the stuff of dreams, they're only open to members. So you'll need to know someone to visit Bailey's, Hazard Beach, or Castle Hill.

For those without fancy club memberships, try King Park Beach, an idyllic stretch of grass that gives way to sandy beaches that are rare in New England. It also has a sweeping view of the harbor. Additionally, with its bright blue water and white sand, Gooseberry Beach could be on a colder Caribbean island. Its location in a quiet cove also provides tranquility for those looking for a calmer beach day. Easton's or First Beach is also lovely and where the beautiful Cliff Walk, a scenic 3.5-mile walk along the sea, begins. 

A historic mansion you might want to check out is The Breakers, the imposing summer home of the Vanderbilts, right on the water. Other "cottages" of the rich and famous you might want to tour include Rough Point, Marble House, and The Elms.

Wilmington/Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina

Just 20 minutes east of Wilmington or 2 hours from Raleigh is this delightful beach town. Wrightsville Beach is a true gem of a southern city as it has a walkable town center minutes from the famous Carolina sandy shores. You rarely enjoy one of those features in an American city, let alone both! It's known for bright blue waters that aren't too cold (unlike those New England beaches of the same water further north) and a fantastic dining scene.

And, unlike, say, Miami or other popular southern coastal destinations, the beach in Wrightsville doesn't have major crowds. So you'll almost always be able to find a spot to suntan or lay your things while you get in the water. If you're looking for a more active trip, don't worry; there's plenty to do on this 4-mile-long island. Surfboards, kites, and paddleboards are available to rent, and lessons, too, if you're a newbie to any water sports. Additionally, many beach volleyball pits, tennis courts, and playgrounds for kids can be found around town. And if you like to snorkel, you're in luck, as the clear waters off this coast make it an ideal location!

Seattle, Washington

Seattle is known for its proximity to the water and the mountains, but people often forget the city is also full of beaches. The best ones in the city can primarily be found in two neighborhoods: Ballard and West Seattle. Ballard (the historically Scandinavian suburb) is home to Golden Gardens, which is arguably the city's top beach. And it lives up to its name! While most Washington (and Pacific Northwest) beaches are rocky, full of driftwood, or a mix of both, Golden Gardens is nothing but golden sand. Okay, and a few rocks and logs, this is still the northwest! There's also an off-leash dog park up from the beach; you just need to climb a few flights of stairs.

Carkeek Beach is also located in Ballard and is a particularly good option for families as there's a large playfield (complete with a salmon slide for the kids), many shaded picnic areas, and miles of hiking trails for four-legged and two-legged friends. Across the sound is Alki Beach in West Seattle, just a short 10 to 15 minute water taxi away from the city, but it feels like a different world. You'll need to walk about a mile or take a shuttle to the beach from the ferry drop-off location. Finally, if fresh water is more your style, head to idyllic Greenlake or Madrona Park, Denny Blaine Park, or the Arboretum along the shores of Lake Washington.

Portland, Maine

Portland is known as an outdoor haven and coastal paradise where the beach is never far away. East End Beach is the only public beach in town, offers fantastic views of the bay and departing sailboats, and is a nice mix of sand and pebbles. Should you want to bring your sails or rent kayaks or a dinghy from the port, there is a boat launch. Another nice way to visit is to take the Eastern Promenade from the Old Port for a leisurely 1.5-mile stroll along the water.

Willard Beach in the southern portion of Portland is a local favorite. The quiet 4-acre stretch has calm waters perfect for families or others not as comfortable in stronger surf. It's also home to the Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse, which you can visit year-round, weather permitting. Willard also houses a fair amount of sea glass, so keep your eyes peeled for colors while walking the sand. And further outside of town, you have numerous wonderful southern Maine beaches, including Crescent Beach, Ferry Beach, and Higgins Beach, just a short drive from Portland.

Cannon Beach, Oregon

Cannon Beach is the most popular destination on the Oregon Coast and possibly the most frequented beach in the Pacific Northwest by those outside the region. The adorable art and beach town welcomes visitors throughout the year. The main center is full of cafes serving top-notch PNW coffee, craft brewpubs, retro candy shops, and many great art galleries. So whether you're looking for a fantastic spring break destination, a not-too-chilly winter vacation, or a summer getaway, Cannon Beach won't disappoint.

The sandy stretch and rolling waves of the Pacific make a great scene for long, relaxing walks on the beach. And its popularity doesn't make it any less peaceful as even on a busy summer, there's still plenty of room to enjoy views of Haystack Rock. You'll see various birds, such as black scoters, ducks, and more, breeding on the rock at different times of the year. This also means that most days, the ambiance is quite busy with all the air traffic, making it fun for kids.

Cannon Beach is especially great if you're a dog parent. It's one of the most dog-friendly destinations in the country, and you'll be hard-pressed to find accommodation or eateries that don't allow four-legged friends. And if your dog is social, it'll be their best vacation yet with all the potential friends running around on the beach.

San Luis Obispo, California

The Central Coast of California is known to have some of the most beautiful beaches in the U.S. San Luis Obispo, or SLO, as the college town is affectionately known. The small city boasts a large number of great cafes, breweries, and restaurants, and don't miss the farmer's market downtown every Thursday at 6 p.m. The picturesque Highway 1 briefly merges with Highway 101 in town and runs along the coast, where 80 miles of sandy shores are available for exploration and relaxation.

Thus, visitors will enjoy an endless supply of options. Avila Beach is closest to SLO, just a 15-minute drive away, and situated along the San Luis Obispo Bay. The Point San Luis Lighthouse is nearby, and visitors can take guided tours every Saturday and Wednesday. A bit further down the freeway, Pismo Beach resembles a spring break destination year-round. The beach has a long pier that provides great views of the beach and has a fun whale-themed playground for kids. 

Finally, Montaña de Oro State Park provides a more rugged and natural coastal experience. Tall bluffs tower over hidden beaches, and campsites are available to reserve up to six months in advance. Just note while dogs are allowed in camps, they are not permitted to be on trails or the beach in the state park.

Savannah/Tybee Island, Georgia

Tybee Island is a popular day trip from Savannah for those looking to escape the city's humidity and hustle. In just about half an hour, you'll be amongst some of Georgia's most tranquil areas and stunning beaches. There are five main beaches on the island. The closest to town and the visitor's center is Mid Beach, located just at the end of Highway 80 before you turn left to head further down the island. It's a quieter area with some seaside accommodation and dining options, without the crowds elsewhere on Tybee. Next door, North Beach has an even more chilled-out feel and is the place to go if you want to unplug.

Alternatively, if you take a left on the freeway at Mid Beach, you'll eventually reach South Beach, where the pier and pavilion are located. This part of the island is considered the heart of downtown, and the main street, Tybrisa, is full of bars, eateries, and shops. You'll still enjoy a day at the beach but with a lot more life and people around! 

Back River Beach is sometimes called the "secret beach" due to its more out-of-the-way location. Tucked into a corner of the Tybee River, this is where locals and those in the know come to relax. And finally, right across the water from Back River is the nature preserve called Little Tybee Island, accessible only by boat.

Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts

Martha's Vineyard has been a popular island escape forever, and there's no better place to spend your trip than the charming (and now Instagram-famous) Oak Bluffs neighborhood. Home to adorable gingerbread cottages and calm waters, there's no better place to relax on the sand! 

Inkwell Beach, also known as Oak Bluffs Town Beach, is fantastic as it is protected and lacks waves that might intimidate children or less confident swimmers. Eastville Beach features a fun drawbridge between the town and Vineyard Haven on the other side. The State Beach and The Jetty Beach are popular because they have easy parking, shallow waters, and perfect white sand.

Oak Bluffs also hosts an annual lantern festival called the Grand Illumination Night. Each year, typically in August, lanterns light up the brightly colored houses in the neighborhood for a lovely evening of magic. Music and piano duets kick off the event at The Tabernacle, a large outdoor concert area. Visitors can roam the enchanting scene once the honorary lamp lighter ignites the first lantern.

Chicago, Illinois

You might not think of the second city as a beach destination, but its location on the shores of Lake Michigan means there are numerous beaches. Better yet, many that dot the lake throughout the city, from the suburb of Evanston to the South Shore, are free to visit. 

Rainbow Beach is the perfect option on the south side as it sits next to giant dunes and the Rainbow Beach Public Gardens, one of Chicago's oldest. Thus, the area feels more like a large waterside park than any old city beach. North Avenue Beach is known to have some of the best white sand right along the downtown skyscrapers, making it feel like a less tropical version of Miami. It has many amenities, including a beach house, concession stand, water sports rentals, and volleyball courts.

Another South Shore favorite is Margaret T. Burroughs Beach, formerly known as 31st Street Beach, which boasts one of the best views of the Chicago skyline. There is also a small boat harbor and public fishing dock. Montrose Beach in Uptown is great if you have a dog, as there's a fenced-off area. Just note swimming is only permitted when lifeguards are present, from Memorial to Labor Day weekends.

Saugatuck, Michigan

Michigan is known as the land of the lakes and is home to plenty of relaxing shores. One such city is Saugatuck, named the best beach town in the Midwest in 2020. There are a bunch of beaches within walking distance or a short drive away. 

Oval Beach is situated right on Lake Michigan but without the mass development of coastal beaches in California and Florida. There are bathrooms, picnic areas, and a few concession stands (with infrequent seasonal and staffing-dependent hours), but plentiful paid parking. Visitors come to Oval to relax and truly get away from it all, not to party at beach clubs or enjoy lakeside fine dining. There is also a no-dog and no-alcohol policy that is strictly enforced, which is important to factor into your decision to visit.

If you're looking for a more relaxed area that isn't so strict on the rules, try tranquil and tree-lined Douglas Beach. Parking is more limited but free. Additionally, Pier Cove Beach, further south on the lake, is lovely for a day with your family. The quiet seclusion and calmer waters are perfect for kids; note there are some steep stairs down the shore. If you want more exercise, excitement, and beach views, head to Saugatuck Dunes State Park, where you can hike amongst large sand dunes or take a guided tour.

Rehoboth, Delaware

A little-known secret about Delaware is that it is home to some of the best beaches in New England. One of which is Rehoboth Beach, an adorable little town right on the Atlantic full of pastel-colored cottages and cute cafes to pass your time. The long stretch of soft sand set against the crashing waves of the dark blue Atlantic is straight out of a postcard. Additionally, the mile-long boardwalk is full of old-school beach town charm with rides, amusement park games, and plenty of sweet treats to keep you full until dinner.

Down on the beach, you can rent paddle boards or kayaks at the pier to beat the heat. Additionally, whale and dolphin watching tours and fishing tours depart multiple times a day from Fisherman's Wharf if you desire some time at sea. Just note that Rehoboth is very popular with Delaware residents and those coming from further afield, so it can and will get crowded in the summer. If you're looking for a bit more quiet, try the much less crowded Dewey Beach just down the shore.