Popular, jam-packed vacation spots can often prove to be way more stressful than relaxing. If you are longing for the sand and surf but want to avoid getting swallowed up in a massive tourist tide, consider heading for one of these lesser-known beachy hamlets. Nestled in smaller towns, these five hidden beaches offer a perfect, crowdless surfside escape.
Silver Lake State Park, Michigan
Located in West Michigan along the Lake Michigan shoreline between Muskegon and Ludington, the Silver Lake Sand Dunes area boasts 2,000 acres of rolling sand dunes and miles of breathtaking beachfront for swimming, boating, fishing and relaxing. There are also plenty of trails for biking and hiking, along with beach buggy and boat rentals. Surrounding towns include Hart and Mears, which offer an array of camp sites, hotels, lots of yummy food and quaint shops. This natural oasis is just a few hours’ drive from Chicago or Detroit.
A large part of Padre Island National Seashore’s appeal is the vast amount of undeveloped wilderness to explore. The natural haven is southeast of Corpus Christi. Miles of sandy beaches along the Gulf of Mexico are chock full of interesting shells, driftwood and other relics for avid beachcombers to add to their collections. You can also drive along expansive stretches of shoreline, which are only accessible with a 4-wheel drive vehicle, to take in the sights. Other fun activities include camping, sand dune climbing, biking, fishing, windsurfing, and kayaking. Watching sea turtle hatchlings get released and head for the Gulf is a wondrous sight. Malaquite Beach is great for swimming and the visitor center loans free beach wheelchairs that easily navigate sand for visitors who may need them.
Shaw’s Cove Laguna Beach, California
This hidden West Coast gem is located south of the hustle and bustle of more densely populated Laguna Beach shorelines. Dramatic cliffs, expansive reefs and long, remote stretches of sand offer a tranquil setting and a great place for swimming, diving and snorkeling. All kinds of marine life inhabit the area including a wide variety of fish, sea urchins and anemones. Shaw’s Cove is accessible by car in the Laguna Beach area by turning south on Wave Street from Pacific Coast Highway. Wave Street will form a “T” into Cliff Drive. From there, look for parking on the right—it offers the closest access to the beach—which you will enter from a stairway at street level.
Nye Beach Newport, Oregon
There may be no better place to kick back and enjoy a classic “beach read” than Nye Beach in Newport, Oregon. About two-and-a-half hours southwest of Portland, the quaint town nestled along the Pacific Ocean is a popular writer and artist’s haunt and a virtual literary-lover’s paradise with several inviting book shops, scenic ocean views and lots of dining options. Enjoy fish and chips at The Chowder Bowl or tantalizing fine dining overlooking the water at Zach’s Bistro. The rustic Sylvia Beach Hotel offers more book lover’s bliss with author-themed rooms like a J.K. Rowling room complete with a Moaning Myrtle mural, shared guest meals in the Table of Contents dining room, a library, in-room journals and NO technology – that’s right, no TV, radios, in-room phones or WiFi. It’s peace and quiet at its relaxing, surfside, page-turning best. The gorgeous panoramic view includes the Yaquina Head Lighthouse. More active visitors can enjoy beachcombing, surfing, sail-boarding and clam digging.
Goose Rocks Beach, Maine
If you’re looking for a less-crowded alternative to Kennebunkport Beach in Maine, nearby Goose Rocks Beach rests on the Atlantic Ocean and offers three miles of quieter shoreline that is perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and hunting for beach treasures. Paths through rocks and dunes along Kings Highway lead down to the beach. Small tidal pools are great for children to play in and island views are spectacular. Goose Rocks proper has a general store, a restaurant, pub and two inns. Dock Square, which is Kennebunkport’s center hub, is five miles away and offers a wide variety of shops, casual and fine dining, ice cream parlors, golf courses and fantastic harbor views.