21 Best Family Beach Vacations for Summer Travel

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in the Florida Keys is a great place to go snorkeling. Photo courtesy of Florida State Parks
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in the Florida Keys is a great place to go snorkeling. Photo courtesy of Florida State Parks

In addition to warmth, sunshine, and gorgeous beaches, the best family beach vacations offer extra activities to make summer travel truly magical. After all, is it even a real beach vacation without a round of themed mini golf, a scenic cruise or bike ride, or endless visits to local ice cream shops? 

We've rounded up 21 of the best family beach vacations for summer travel in the US, starting from Florida and the South, up to the Northeast and New England, and all the way across the country to California. For each one, we've highlighted some of the best aquariums, zoos, museums, and other fun things to do with kids.

Check out our Family Travel Guide for even more summer travel ideas, including epic road trips, exciting all-inclusive resorts, and the best family vacation spots in the US that are off the beaten path.


Manatee Lagoon in West Palm Beach, Florida
How many manatees can you spot at Manatee Lagoon? Photo courtesy of the the lagoon

Best Family Beach Vacations in Florida

1. West Palm Beach

Got a baseball fan in the family? Head to West Palm Beach in late February through March, when you can catch four MLB teams (the Nationals, Cardinals, Astros, and Marlins) during spring training. But this city along South Florida's Atlantic coast also makes for one of the best family beach vacations all year long. Frolic on miles of gorgeous beaches, meet recently rescued sea turtles at Loggerhead Marine Life Center, see manatees at Manatee Lagoon, and have other animal adventures at Lion Country Safari and the Palm Beach Zoo. There are also plenty of museums, hiking trails and snorkeling sites.

2. Amelia Island

If you want sunshine and warmth, summer is the perfect time to visit this island just south of the Florida-Georgia border. Amelia Island boasts 13 miles of gorgeous beaches, lush state parks, loads of mini golf (and real golf) courses, and great shopping and restaurants. Many of the island's activities are nature-related—think horseback riding on the beach; animal programs at the Amelia Island Nature Center; dolphin, manatee, or sea turtle cruises; and hiking or biking along amazing trails. For a peek into the past, visit the Amelia Island Lighthouse or the Amelia Island Museum of History.

RELATED: Fun Things To Do Around Miami with Kids Before They Grow Up

Playa Largo Resort and Spa, Florida Keys
Playa Largo Resort and Spa is one of many great places to stay in the Florida Keys. Photo courtesy of the resort

3. Florida Keys

You'll feel like you've left the country when you visit this 125-mile chain of islands off the southern tip of Florida. From Key Largo (home to one of our favorite Florida Keys resorts, Playa Largo Resort and Spa) all the way down to Key West, each of the islands has its own character. Breathtaking beaches abound, but there are also plenty of other things to do with kids. Snorkel at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, go fishing in Islamorada, visit sick and injured sea turtles at the Turtle Hospital in Marathon, and so much more. Be sure to try the area's signature dish, Key Lime pie.

4. Naples

This city in southwest Florida boasts more than just amazing golf courses and high-end shopping. The beaches in Naples are perfect for families, with powdery white sand, blue-green water, and gentle waves. When they need a beach break, families can visit animals at the Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens, have hands-on fun at the Golisano Children's Museum of Naples, explore nature at Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, and more. Hiking, kayaking, airboat rides, and other outdoor fun can round out one of the best family beach vacations.

5. Destin

Located on the Florida Panhandle's "Emerald Coast" along the Gulf Mexico, it's no surprise that Destin's claim to fame is its beautiful beaches with impeccably clear waters. Families can naturally take part in many ocean- and beach-related activities, such as hiking and swimming at Henderson Beach State Park, snorkeling in Destin's artificial reefs, getting up close with marine life at the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park, and more. On a rainy day, families can learn why Destin is known as "the world's luckiest fishing village" at the Destin History & Fishing Museum.

RELATED: 98 Things To Do in Charlotte, NC with Kids

Myrtle Waves Water Park in Myrtle Beach
Make a splash at Myrtle Waves Water Park in Myrtle Beach. Photo courtesy of the water park

More of the Best Family Beach Vacations in the South

6. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

The best family beach vacations offer something for everyone, and you'll find that in Myrtle Beach. For grown-ups there are world-class golf courses and amazing shopping centers. For kids there's a fantastic children's museum called EdVenture, a large water park, and the amazing Ripley's Aquarium. And the whole family will love the boardwalk with rides of all thrill levels, the fantastic mini golf courses, the loads of entertainment options at Broadway at the Beach (including WonderWorks), and the 60 miles of pretty beaches. There are also dozens of great ice cream spots.

7. Virginia Beach, Virginia

Virginia Beach is a popular summer travel destination for East Coast families because of its seven wide, kid-friendly beaches and its three-mile boardwalk with a bike path, a fully accessible playground, shops and restaurants, and live entertainment all summer long. Visit the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center and the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge to see marine life and other animals, climb to the top of the Cape Henry Lighthouse, explore museums, and more. And like any of the best family beach vacations, there are several fun places to play mini golf.

8. Jekyll Island,Georgia

For a more laid-back beach vacation, head to this barrier island midway between Savannah, Georgia and Jacksonville, Florida. Development on Jekyll Island is limited to preserve the ecosystem, so you won't find the hustle and bustle of other popular beach towns. Here families can relax on 10 miles of natural shoreline with unique beaches like Driftwood Beach and Sharktooth Beach, go biking and horseback riding, explore a nature center, and meet rehabbing sea turtles at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. A seasonal water park makes Jekyll Island particularly great for summer travel.

RELATED: 35 Things To Do in Savannah, Georgia with Kids

Sea Island Resort in Georgia
Sea Island Resort boasts several pretty pools. Photo by Jackie Jones

9. Sea Island, Georgia

Sea Island is another gorgeous barrier island between Savannah and Jacksonville, but it's privately owned and more developed. To visit, you must be a guest of the luxurious Sea Island Resort, which is loaded with family-friendly amenities including five miles of private beach, several pools, a playground and nature center, a free arcade, a small bowling alley, delicious restaurants, and lots more. Families can also enjoy plenty of outdoor activities like biking, boating, horseback riding, and golf. Accommodations range from hotel rooms to private rental homes.

10. Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama

For one of the best family beach vacations that's off the beaten path, try these towns nestled along Alabama's Gulf Coast. You'll find white-sand beaches, back bays full of outdoor adventures like fishing and kayaking, water activities such as parasailing and bumper boats, and loads of mini golf courses. The Wharf is full of entertainment options for families, including a giant Ferris wheel, an arcade, a selfie museum tweens and teens will love, an escape room, and more. For an extra cool experience, had to the Florida-Alabama state line to stand in two states at once.

Come to Galveston Island State Park to stroll the beach or splash in the waves. Photo courtesy of Texas Parks and Wildlife

11. Galveston, Texas

Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico are home to some of the best family-friendly beaches in Texas, but the island of Galveston offers plenty of other family fun as well. Enjoy amusement rides and games at Pleasure Pier. Go hiking, fishing, kayaking, or camping at Galveston Island State Park. Make a splash at Schlitterbahn Water Park. And explore plenty of museums, including the Galveston Children's Museum.

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Funland Reboboth Beach
Catch some thrills at Funland on the Reboboth Beach Boardwalk. Photo courtesy of Funland Reboboth Beach

Best Family Beach Vacations in the Northeast and New England

12. Delaware Beach Towns

Delaware is home to five beach towns that all have their own vibe but are very family-friendly—Rehoboth Beach, Bethany Beach, Fenwick Island, Dewey Beach, and Lewes. They all have the ingredients that make for the best family beach vacations, including gorgeous beaches, themed mini golf courses, loads of ice cream spots, and fun water parks. Some can't-miss spots are Funland Rehoboth on the Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk for rides and games, Bethany Beach Nature Center for hands-on exploration, and DiscoverSea Shipwreck Museum for one of the largest collections of shipwreck artifacts in the Mid-Atlantic.

13. Jersey Shore

With over 130 miles of shoreline and loads of great family beaches, from Sandy Hook to Cape May, the Jersey Shore has long been a popular summer travel destination for families from New York, New Jersey, and beyond. Whether you're looking for a bustling boardwalk full of rides and games, a beachside water park, thrilling animal encounters, or a quieter beach day in a town like Long Branch, the Jersey Shore has it all. Check out our Jersey Shore Travel Guide for all the scoop, including our three-day itinerary for a long weekend at the Jersey Shore.

RELATED: Best Beaches Near Long Island for Kids and Families

East Hampton, Long Island
East Hampton has one of the most gorgeous beaches on Long Island. Photo by cgc76 via flickr

14. The Hamptons and North Fork, Long Island

Another popular summer travel locale for East Coast families is Long Island's East End, home to the Hamptons and North Fork. There are so many things to do with kids here, including fantastic beaches (some with beach playgrounds), family-friendly wineries, historic lighthouses, and awesome shopping and restaurants. There are also plenty of indoor things to do on a rainy day, including kid-friendly museums and an adorable puppet theatre. And with so many great hotels in the Hamptons, you're sure to find the perfect accommodations for your family.

 Cape Cod National Seashore
Explore the Cape Cod National Seashore. Photo by Clementina Verge

15. Cape Cod, Massachusetts

This peninsula off the southeast corner of Massachusetts is known for its pristine beaches, charming main streets, legendary seafood, and loads of family activities. And with many attractions only open in the summer months, Cape Cod is perfect for summer travel. Frolic on some of the best Cape Cod beaches for families, explore fun museums like the Cape Cod Children's Museum and the Whydah Pirate Museum, take a boat tour, and so much more. Check out our Guide to Cape Cod and the New England Islands for a more in-depth look at several towns on the Cape.

16. New England Islands

The New England islands of Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard, Block Island, and more are loaded with charm, fresh lobsters, gorgeous beaches, and plenty of fun things to do. Nantucket offers tons of family activities like surf lessons, critter cruises, an aquarium, and more. Martha's Vineyard has a more old-fashioned, small-town vibe, with plenty of fairs, parades, and local baseball games to enjoy all summer long. Block Island is home to towering lighthouses and ancient cliffs. And no matter which New England island you visit, you're sure to have plenty of perfect beach days.

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Horseback riding on the beach in Santa Barbara with Los Padres Outfitters
Take a horseback ride on the beach in Santa Barbara. Photo courtesy of Los Padres Outfitters

Best Family Beach Vacations in California

17. Santa Barbara

This seaside community about 100 miles north of Los Angeles offers lots of activities for families both on and off the sand. When the ocean is calling, families can ride horses on the beach, take a whale-watching or dolphin-spotting cruise, or relax on the city's four miles of pretty beaches. Off the beach, they can visit animals at the Santa Barbara Zoo, stroll the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, or visit one of many kid-friendly museums such as the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. Be sure to enjoy all of the shops and restaurants at Stearns Wharf.

18. Santa Cruz

This funky surfing mecca about 75 miles from San Francisco is home to miles of awesome beaches, a retro beach boardwalk full of rides and games, and a wharf with delicious seafood spots. Check out the legendary Mystery Spot, see the towering redwood trees at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, visit sea life at the Seymour Marine Discovery Center, and immerse yourself in surf culture at the Santa Cruz Surfing Museum. And if you've got a train lover, be sure to hitch a ride on the Roaring Camp Train.

19. South Bay, Los Angeles

The South Bay offers a more laid-back vibe than Hollywood, Burbank, and other bigger LA cities, and it's also home to some of the area's best beaches. Explore the Redondo Pier and splash in the Seaside Lagoon in Redondo Beach. Rent bikes and take a family surf lesson in Hermosa Beach. Slide down sand dunes and visit the aquarium in Manhattan Beach. South Bay is also full of great parks and playgrounds, hiking trails, indoor play places, and more fun for families.

RELATED: Los Angeles Visitors' Guide for Families

Santa Monica Pier
The Santa Monica Pier is one of LA's top tourist attractions. 

20. Santa Monica

This seaside town is home to one of LA's top tourist attractions, the Santa Monica Pier. Here, families can enjoy rides and games, see marine life at a small aquarium, take trapeze classes, and more. Santa Monica State Beach is one of the most famous beaches in the US, with over three miles of coastline and 245 acres of sand. Active families can rent beach cruisers and bike along the sand for a quintessential LA experience, or try the rings, ropes, and more at the Original Muscle Beach. An airplane museum, and great parks and playgrounds add to the family fun in Santa Monica.

21. San Diego

This SoCal city and its surrounding areas are home to loads of gorgeous beaches, many of which offer a little something extra. Take La Jolla Cove, where you can see sea lions basking in the sun, or Coronado Beach, where you'll feel like you can reach out and touch the naval planes flying overhead. San Diego is also home to the world-famous San Diego Zoo and near some of the country's best amusement parks, including Sesame Place San Diego, SeaWorld San Diego, and Legoland California. Beautiful parks and hiking trails, whale-watching cruises, museums, and more add to San Diego's summer travel appeal.