Calm waters lap the shore of this peaceful haven, which boasts sprawling views of the Elizabeth Islands and surf ideal for relaxed swimming. Head here to collect sea glass and watch fishing boats come into the small village harbour.
Make sure you stay for sundown, as Menemsha beach is most stunning come early evening, when it's one of the best spots to catch sunset on the island. Bring a bottle of wine, pick up a lobster picnic from one of the convenient seafood shacks, and bundle together on a blanket to await dusk in quintessential New England style.
Image by Jonathan Bell on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York
For a day, swap bustling Manhattan for the retro seaside glamour of Brooklyn’s Coney Island. Here you will witness a diverse slice of New York City’s inhabitants lapping up the gaudiness whilst guzzling hot dogs and cotton candy.
Thrill seekers can get their screams on any number of roller coasters, or survey the shore from atop the 150ft tall Wonder Wheel. When the sun shines, crowds flock to this vast beach to feel sand between their toes and cool off in the ocean.
On gloomy days, the beach and amusement parks lining the boardwalk take on a more desolate air – which is oddly just as appealing.
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One of the USA’s oldest seaside resorts, Cape May is resplendent with history and offers an evocative dose of old Americana to vacationers. With its lengthy beach, perfectly preserved Victorian clapboarding and plentiful lobster rolls (arguably the east coast staple diet) there is much to see and do.
If you’re tiring of the sun/surf/swim formula, nature trails that lead from the beach to Cape May Point Lighthouse are open to the public to explore. The town offers a welcoming atmosphere for strolling and shopping, with the brightly coloured ‘gingerbread’ houses providing a picturesque setting throughout summer or winter.
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Siesta Beach, Sarasota, Florida
A beach famed for the quality of its sand must surely be worth a mention on any ‘best beaches’ list. Fine and white, the sand of Siesta is often described as having the consistency of powdered sugar.
Unlike other beaches, quartz contributes to 99% of the sand here – and to beautiful effect. In addition, waters are calm and clear: superb for swimming and paddle boarding.
Dolphin and whale watching trips are on offer, but if you have keen eyes, these beautiful creatures are often visible from the shore, where you can enjoy the view and tropical breeze from the leisure of your lounger.
Image by Robert S. Donovan on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Cumberland National Seashore, Georgia
This undeveloped island is a breathtaking destination for wildlife buffs and those of a more adventurous nature hoping to escape crowds. Although bikes are available to hire on the island, you must bring all your supplies with you, a proviso that discourages many. So if you can brave the lack of convenience, you’re in for a truly memorable day at the beach.
Home to a number of wild horses easily spotted roaming the pristine sands, along with wild turkeys, deer and even (in the fresh water ponds) alligators, this park makes an exciting retreat for a few nights beachside camping.
Image by Jason and Kris Carter on Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)
Welcome to Miami, a city bursting with cultural swagger and vivacious Latin vibes. This metropolis fuses artsy panache with a tropical climate, and South Beach (the so-called American Riviera) pulses with activity from dawn until dusk, drawing in surfers, sun worshippers and scenesters alike.
The architecturally renowned Art Deco district and instagram-worthy palms of Ocean Drive makes this beach a win for holidaymakers looking for something edgier, with a heady dose of glitz and glamour.
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Beachwalker County Park, Kiawah Island, South Carolina
Myrtle beach is the obvious option for tourists visiting South Carolina, but Beachwalker County Park (south of Myrtle) is a real treasure, and worth the $8 admission fee.
Without the crowds and usual tourist garb, this unspoiled islet can give the illusion that you’re holidaying on your own private beach, indeed ten miles of inviting sandy dunes ensures sun-seekers won’t have to hunt long for a secluded pitch. The water here is calm enough for beginner surfers, and lessons are on offer for all abilities.
Image by opacity on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Explore more of the USA with the Rough Guide to the USA. Compare flights, find tours, book hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to buy travel insurance before you go.