Searching for the ultimate family beach vacation? These are our top picks for 2018, offering the amenities that matter most to families: clean sand and surf; lifeguard supervision and/or other safety measures; restrooms; showers; and nearby attractions, accommodations and dining. These are the 10 best beaches for families in 2018.
Clearwater Beach – Clearwater Beach, Fla.
Clearwater Beach never feels too crowded, and you’ll find restrooms, showers, restaurants and hotels just steps away. There are also lifeguards here. When it’s time for a break from the sand and surf, head to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium to visit Winter the Dolphin — yes, the dolphin who inspired “Dolphin Tale!” Winter’s friend, Hope, also lives here. Another can’t-miss experience? The sunset celebrations at Pier 60! Clearwater Beach is under two hours from Disney, so you can easily combine your beach vacation with a trip to see The Mouse too.
Recommended Hotel: Sandpearl Resort
Coney Island – Brooklyn, N.Y.
Nothing says summer like a trip to Coney Island, located at the southernmost tip of Brooklyn. The boardwalk and amusements at Luna Park are as worthy of a visit as the beach itself, and no trip to the island is complete without a spin on the Cyclone and a hot dog at Nathan’s Famous. On the 3-mile-long beach, you’ll find calm waves, lifeguard patrol, and the availability of showers and restrooms. Coney Island is perfect for a day trip from Manhattan, or you can book a budget hotel or vacation rental for a longer visit.
Recommended Hotel: BEST WESTERN PLUS Brooklyn Bay Hotel
Coronado Beach – Coronado, Calif.
The wide-open shoreline of Coronado Beach, California (just outside of San Diego), makes it feel pleasantly uncrowded — no matter what time of year you visit. Clean restrooms and showers are available to the public, and lifeguards keep a watchful eye over swimmers and boogie boarders. We especially love the shallow tidal pools that form along the beach! Add local accommodations, attractions and dining — including two new restaurants — and you’ve got a classic California beach vacation.
Recommended Hotel: Loews Coronado Bay Resort
Gulf Shores Main Public Beach – Gulf Shores, Ala.
“Alabama has a beach?” Yes, in fact it has 32 miles of beach. Our favorite stretch for families, Gulf Shores Main Public Beach offers a boardwalk and walking paths, plenty of shade, a new restroom facility and lifeguard protection. We also appreciate the area’s flag system that denotes when the water is too rough for swimmers. Off of the beaches, Gulf Shores offers a fabulous array of family activities, from rides, games and delicious food at Lucy Buffett’s LuLu’s (Jimmy Buffet’s sister) to hiking, biking and Segway-ing the Backcountry Trail at Gulf State Park. A new beachfront resort by Hilton is projected to open early next year.
Recommended Hotel: The Beach Club
Massengale Park – St. Simons Island, Ga.
One of Georgia’s Golden Isles, St. Simons Island is a darling beach destination for families, with full-service beach resorts and rentals, trolley rides, a fishing pier, lighthouse, and the Neptune Park Fun Zone among the highlights. When you’re ready to head to the beach, we recommend Massengale Park, which offers restrooms, outdoor showers, shaded picnic areas, grills, lifeguard patrol in the summer months, and a playground. We especially love the sand — it’s so packed down that you can comfortably push a stroller along the beach!
Recommended Hotel: King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort
Virginia Beach Oceanfront – Virginia Beach, Va.
Virginia Beach isn’t the Virginia Beach you visited 10 years ago; heck, it’s not even the same place you visited one year ago! The famous beach destination has experienced a revitalization, with new additions including farm-to-table dining, zip-lining at the Virginia Aquarium, and The Cavalier, a boutique hotel with the country’s first hotel distillery. Our favorite new addition? JT’s Grommet Island Park, a beach designed for those with special needs. Of course, the beach and boardwalk remain favorites for families, with lifeguard supervision and restrooms, showers, and lodging just steps from the sand.
Recommended Hotel: Holiday Inn & Suites North Beach
Old Orchard Beach – Old Orchard Beach, Maine
Two words: Palace Playland! The only beachfront amusement park in New England, Palace Playland offers good old-fashioned fun for all ages, from roller coasters (including a new one in 2018!) for teens to a carousel for little ones. Other diversions include mini-golf and beach shacks serving fresh “lobstah” rolls. The beach itself is wonderful for families, with restrooms, showers, and lifeguards, and you can find budget-friendly accommodations nearby. Bonus: Old Orchard Beach is located near other family-friendly beaches, including Short Sands and Long Sands in York, and Ogunquit Beach in Ogunquit. Make it a multi-beach vacation!
Recommended Hotel: Echo Motel and Oceanfront Cottages
Siesta Beach – Siesta Key, Fla.
Siesta Beach beckons families with calm, teal-blue waters and talcum quartz sand, plus kid-friendly amenities including a playground, restrooms, beach concession stand and lifeguard supervision. Rentals close to the sand are the most popular lodging choice in Siesta Key. When it’s time for a break from the beach, explore downtown Siesta Village and, in nearby Sarasota, the Sarasota Jungle Gardens and wildlife boat rides in Myakka State Park. You can also experience the area’s circus roots at The Ringling Museum, as well as The Circus Arts Conservatory, where you can learn how to fly on a trapeze!
Recommended Hotel: Captiva Beach Resort
Surfside Beach – Surfside Beach, S.C.
Surfside Beach isn’t just a family-friendly beach destination; it’s the first certified autism-friendly destination in the world. This means staff at most area hotels, attractions and restaurants are trained and certified by the Champion Autism Network. The beach itself offers wheelchair access (beach wheelchairs also available), public restrooms, showers and lifeguard supervision. Book a stay at one of the oceanfront hotels or rentals in Surfside Beach and when you’re ready for some thrills, head to Myrtle Beach Boardwalk and Promenade, a 15-minute car ride away.
Recommended Hotel: Sea Watch Resort
West Beach (Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore) – Gary, Ind.
Located on Lake Michigan, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore offers 15 miles of shoreline preserved by the National Park Service. Our favorite stretch for families is West Beach, where you’ll find the convenience of restrooms and showers, and the protection of lifeguards during the summer. Families can expect clean, calm waters at the beach, as well as sweeping sand dunes and beautiful hiking trails nearby. On a clear day, you can actually see the Chicago skyline in the distance! Other points of interest include Deep River Water Park and Old Michigan City Light. The area offers budget-friendly accommodations, from camping to vacation rentals. Fun Fact: Indiana Dunes could soon become Indiana’s first national park and the country’s 60th.
Recommended Hotel: BEST WESTERN PLUS Portage Hotel & Suites