Summer by the Seashore

10 National Parks for Your Coastal Vacation
June 2, 2017Travel Ideas
Canaveral National Seashore

Summer days are meant to be spent by the seashore. The relaxing rhythm of the waves lapping onto the sand. The embrace of the heat radiating from every surface, made bearable by the breeze sweeping in from the water. The boundless opportunities for adventure and relaxation. Treat yourself to all this and more at any of the coastal gems of the National Park System.

There are 10 sites designated as national seashores on the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf coasts, all preserving remarkable shorelines, bustling wildlife, and thrilling recreational activities. Get a sense of what awaits you at these coastal national parks, let your mind run wild with possibilities, and be inspired to start planning your perfect summer vacation.

Canaveral National Seashore

Wooden boardwalk ramp down to the sandy beach of Canaveral National Seashore
Marcus Morin, Share the Experience

The longest continuous stretch of undeveloped land on the east coast of Florida, Canaveral National Seashore is a welcome change from the hotels and high-rises that overtake many of the state's beaches. The park's 24 miles of pristine shoreline also harbor an abundance of wildlife, including endangered sea turtles that nest there every year. 

Assateague Island National Seashore

Brown and white horse walking on the white sandy beach of Assateague Island National Seashore under a cloudy sky
Zach Egolf, Share the Experience

Assateague Island National Seashore straddles the border between Maryland and Virginia, offering seaside campgrounds along with great swimming and surfing opportunities. Horseback riding is permitted on the beach, and excellent surf fishing is available.

Point Reyes National Seashore

Colorful sunset behind the rocky cliffs of the California coast at Point Reyes National Seashore
Matt Skalski, Share the Experience

Point Reyes National Seashore lies just an hour north of San Francisco, where it provides a wild coastal escape from the big city and its traffic. Though heavy surf and strong currents can make swimming at Point Reyes dangerous, it's an incredible place for wildlife viewing, from a breeding colony of elephant seals to the gray whales migrating northward past the shore.

Fire Island National Seashore

Striped lighthouse on the shore of Fire Island National Seashore during a colorful sunrise

With beautiful beaches perfect for swimming and water sports, Fire Island National Seashore is an ideal Long Island getaway, though it might be a good idea to plan your visit mid-week to avoid the crowds from New York City. Camping is also available, along with fishing, hiking, boating, beachcombing, bird-watching, and star gazing opportunities. 

Cumberland Island National Seashore

Horse walking on a sandy beach with the sun rising into the blue sky behind it
Gabriel Friedrich, Share the Experience

A short ferry ride from the Georgia town of St. Marys will take you to Cumberland Island National Seashore, home to untouched beaches, salt marshes, maritime forests, and a thriving population of wild horses. You can unwind on the island by enjoying great surf fishing opportunities and stargazing, or get your heart pumping by kayaking or hiking.

Padre Island National Seashore

Myriad of colorful kites flying over the sandy beach of Padre Island National Seashore
National Park Service

You can explore 70 miles of coastline at Padre Island National Seashore, the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island on earth. Overlooking the Gulf of Mexico just south of Corpus Christi, Texas, Padre Island is also one of America's best birding areas, with more than 380 bird species that can be spotted around the island each year.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Sunset on a grassy sandy beach at Cape Hatteras National Seashore
Diane Bivins, Share the Experience

From its windswept dunes to the treacherous offshore shoals once dubbed the "Graveyard of the Atlantic," Cape Hatteras National Seashore preserves some of the wildest parts of North Carolina's Outer Banks. Surf fishing, hiking trails, and its historic light stations offer plenty to see and explore.

Gulf Islands National Seashore

Close-up of tall grass growing on the edge of the white sandy beach of Gulf Islands National Seashore
National Park Service

Spread out across several islands off the coasts of Florida and Mississippi, Gulf Islands National Seashore is one of the premier spots for seaside fun in the Gulf of Mexico. Snorkeling, diving, sea kayaking, and swimming are just a few ways you can enjoy this gorgeous park.

Cape Cod National Seashore

Wooden fence along the sandy beach at Cape Cod National Seashore
Melissa Machonis, Share the Experience

Henry David Thoreau wrote of Cape Cod in 1865, "a man may stand there and put all America behind him." Today, Cape Cod National Seashore encompasses untamed beaches, inland ponds, thick forests, and wild cranberry bogs, much as it did in Thoreau's day. 

Cape Lookout National Seashore

Diamond-patterned lighthouse on the sandy seashore
Sofia Hein, Share the Experience

Cape Lookout National Seashore preserves a stunning 56 miles of beaches on three barrier islands in the southern Outer Banks of North Carolina. In addition to abundant beach activities from swimming to beachcombing, tours of historic villages and lighthouses offer unique opportunities to explore. 

These 10 national parks are some of the best coastal vacations in the country from which to enjoy the beach in a stunning, fascinating setting. Lighthouse histories, wildlife, and mile after mile of sandy beaches will distract you from everything you left behind. Be sure to keep your national parks in mind when you're planning your next beach getaway!

Comments

You guys missed the BON SECOUR NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE/PARK near Gulf Shores, Alabama.... Beautiful !!!!
Mike
May
Got a serious case of wanderlust here, I felt like living in STL, MO for 3 years, I covered allot of ground. There's so much more to explore. The Gulf Islands National Seashore looks divine. Thank you Rene Young
Rene
Young

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