family walking to the beach. sand dunes beach michigan; Courtesy Slniecko/Shutterstock Courtesy Slniecko/Shutterstock
All Ages

7 Best City-to-Sea Getaways

See recent posts by Amanda Norcross

Want to expose your kids to the culture and history of a city, but also enjoy some downtime at the beach? In these destinations across the U.S., you can do both (and we’re not talking about city beaches, either). Instead, enjoy the buzz of walking tours, world-class museums, and delicious food markets before taking an hour’s drive (or less) to enjoy the peace of a wide-open beach, away from the crowds. These are the best city-to-sea getaways. 

1. Charleston to Isle of Palms, South Carolina 

Pineapple Fountain in Charleston; Courtesy Explore Charleston

Charleston is ideal for a weekend getaway, with the South Carolina Aquarium, Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry, Charleston Farmers Market, and Instagram-famous Rainbow Row among the highlights for families.

But a vacation to Charleston just isn’t complete without a visit to the area’s beautiful beaches, many of which can be found on the Isle of Palms, a barrier island. Approximately 30 minutes from Charleston, the Isle of Palms offers wide, open beaches and a family-friendly resort, Wild Dunes Resort, where families can stay in large homes with fully equipped kitchens, swim at the beach and pools, take a boat tour, and enjoy the simplicity of Lowcountry life. 

sunrise on the beach in Isle of Palms, SC; Courtesy CJ Sugg/Shutterstock

Recommended Hotel: Wild Dunes Resort

2. Traverse City to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan

downtown Traverse City; Courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

Michigan produces more cherries than any other state in the U.S., and much of those cherries come from Traverse City, dubbed the Cherry Capital of the World. You’ll find everything from cherry-infused salads to ciders in Traverse City (which is also known for its array of cideries, breweries and wineries), along with the main event, the National Cherry Festival, hosted each July.

When you’ve had your fill of cherries, make a trip out to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, where you can climb the mighty dunes, go for a hike, and while away your days on the shores of Lake Michigan. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore is located about 45 minutes from Traverse City.

Sleeping Bear Dunes Lake Michigan Walkway to Beach.
Courtesy LukeandKarla.Travel/Shutterstock

Recommended Hotel: Empire Lakeshore Inn

3. San Diego to Coronado, California

giraffe san diego zoo; Courtesy of Melanie Faulstick/Shutterstock

From Padres games at Petco Park to museums, rides, shows and the San Diego Zoo at Balboa Park, San Diego offers a whole lot of fun for families. But you can’t go to San Diego and not visit a beach; there are so many beautiful beaches surrounding this Southern California city.

Among the best beaches in and around San Diego is Coronado Beach, just 15 minutes outside of the city. The beach is just 1.5 miles long, but because it’s so wide, it never feels crowded, even in the summertime. The historic Hotel del Coronado sits on the beach, and you don’t have to be a hotel guest to enjoy it. Anyone is welcome to enjoy the resort’s restaurants, shopping and spa, and historic tours are also offered.

People stroll on the boardwalk on Coronado Central Beach; Courtesy Sherry V Smith/Shutterstock

Recommended Hotel: Hotel del Coronado

4. Portland to Cannon Beach, Oregon

Barista coffee shop in the Pearl District of Portland Oregon.; Courtesy Joshua Rainey Photography

Explore Portland, Oregon, by bike—it’s one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world—making stops at iconic sites such as Powell’s City of Books and VooDoo Doughnuts. You’ll also want to plan some time at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OSMI) and the World Forestry Center, where you can go on virtual rides to explore and understand the dense forests of the Pacific Northwest and beyond. 

After a few days in Portland, take an hour’s drive out to the coast to soak in the beauty of Cannon Beach. This dreamy beach is home to Haystack Rock, where puffins can be seen early-spring to mid-summer. Oceanfront lodging and a lovely downtown area make it a nice place to stay for a few days (or longer). 

cannon beach near portalnd oregon; Courtesy Gopal Seshadrinathan

Recommended Hotel: Hallmark Resort Cannon Beach

5. Savannah to Tybee Island, Georgia 

Savannah, GA Forsyth Park; Courtesy Visit Savannah

After you’ve explored the haunted history, picture-perfect Forsyth Park, and The University of Georgia Aquarium in Savannah, cool off on the beaches of Tybee Island, less than 30 minutes away. .

Tybee Island is home to the Tybee Island Light Station and Museum (the oldest lighthouse in Georgia) and the Tybee Island Marine Science Center, where families can visit local wildlife and learn about rehabilitation and conservation efforts. When it comes to accommodations, vacation rentals are a popular choice

Back River Beach in Tybee Island; Courtesy of TripAdvisor Traveller/Carolinawallace

Recommended Hotel: Hotel Tybee

6. Los Angeles to Santa Monica, California

hollywood sign in los angeles, CA; Courtesy logoboom/Shutterstock

“City of stars… are you shining just for me?” Kids—especially teens—love Los Angeles, where you can drive through the winding Hollywood Hills, past celebrity mansions, to explore the Griffith Park and Observatory and relive your favorite moments from La La Land. The Hollywood Walk of Fame and Universal Studios Hollywood are also a must for starstruck kids (and parents).

But when you want to enjoy some beach time in SoCal, head out to Santa Monica. We’re not saying it won’t be crowded, but we are saying that between the rides at Santa Monica Pier, shopping at the Santa Monica Third Street Promenade, and boogie boarding or surfing on the beach itself, your family will love it.

Santa Monica Pier, California; Courtesy Shutterstock

Recommended Hotel: Shutters on the Beach

7. Boston to York, Maine

Paul Revere Monument; Courtesy of Sean Pavone/Shutterstock

When it’s time for a break, drive an hour or so to York, Maine, just over the state border. York is home to two beaches—Shorts Sands and Long Sands—and offers a quaint downtown area with restaurants, shops, hotels and vacation rentals. Just outside of town, visit the Cape Neddick Nubble Lighthouse.

Boston is one the best cities for families in terms of size and things to do with kids (not to mention how easy it is to navigate by foot or subway). Highlights include Red Sox games at Fenway Park, 16 historic sites along the Freedom Trail, the Boston Children’s Museum, New England Aquarium, LEGOLAND Discovery Center (just outside of the city proper), swan boat rides at Boston Public Garden, and The Mapparium, the world’s largest walk-in globe. Phew!

houses on cliffs in York, Maine; Courtesy Jon Bilous/Shutterstock

Recommended Hotel: Cutty Sark Motel

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