Family Beach Vacations On The U S East Coast

Pick a fun East Coast beach for your family vacation.

With beaches lining the eastern seaboard, singling one out for your family vacation can appear daunting. Family-friendly attractions fill quaint towns all along the coasts, but some places have more pizzazz than others. Beyond rollicking in the waves, you can take your family to amusement parks, nature parks and cultural attractions such as museums.

Clearwater, Florida

With beaches, adventure attractions and cultural fare, Fodor’s ranked Clearwater, Florida, as the nation’s top family beach on the East Coast. Nearby attractions include Tampa’s indoor water park called Adventure Island, Busch Gardens amusement park and J.B. Starkey’s Flatwoods Adventures, a working cattle ranch that the Florida Audubon Society has designated an important bird area. Around dusk, head to Clearwater’s Sunsets at Pier 60, where street performers play and artisans display crafts for two hours before sunset and two hours after. Florida Monthly readers voted the Pier 60 sunset as the second-best in the state. The whole family will enjoy nearby botanical gardens with free admission, 150 types of animals and a special trail targeted to children. Clearwater also offers the Salvadore Dali–a museum featuring the largest collection of Dali work outside Spain–and the nearby Leepa-Rattner Museum of Arts, which hosts works from Picasso, among others.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, features 60 miles of white sandy beaches and tons of family-friendly activities. The kids can learn to surf, the family can explore inlets on kayaks and everyone can don scuba gear and see underwater wonders. Myrtle Beach, also known as the golf capital of the world, offers more than 100 golf courses. Take the kids to the 312-acre Myrtle Beach State Park, which features 1 mile of beaches, campgrounds, cabins and a nature center. Or, you might schedule your trip to coincide with one of Myrtle Beach’s family-friendly festivals including September’s Beach, Boogie and BBQ Festival, complete with a Kid Zone, wake board demonstrations and free rides on the lake. Myrtle Beach businesses also rent out jet skis, offer parasailing tours and sunset cruises.

Ocean City, Maryland

Ocean City, Maryland, offers fun family activities such as an ice skating rink, the chance to sail on a pirate ship and paintball. Adults will love the fishing, golfing and affordable hotel rooms. Ocean City’s Boardwalk features family-friendly activities including Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum, pier games and Jolly Roger at the Pier, an amusement park with roller coasters, miniature golf and a Ferris wheel. The pirate ship, Pirate Adventures, departs several times each day. On it, kids can sing pirate songs, take the sailor oath and hunt for treasure. The ice skating rink at Carousel Resort Hotel features professional ice shows at night during July and August. The building that houses the rink also contains pool tables, pinball and video games. Dad might enjoy his pick of championship-level golf courses. Mom can schedule a massage or facial at one of the local spas. The whole family can enjoy a sightseeing cruise.

Ocean City, New Jersey

Ocean City marks New Jersey’s most family-friendly beach destination. The city’s laws banning the sale of alcohol mean that the rowdier crowds typically stay out, leaving families like yours lining the 8 miles of beaches. However, attractions like Atlantic City’s boardwalk–with its famous salt water taffy–remain within a close drive. Ocean City also has its own 2 1/2-mile boardwalk with two amusements parks and a water park. The Travel Channel selected the town as one of the nation’s Best Family Beaches in 2007 and Best Beaches in 2009. Surfer Magazine has also named the destination as one of the Top Ten American Surf Towns. Besides beaches, you can enjoy tons of restaurants and the 12-hole Ocean City Public Golf Course.