If the unusually warm temperatures this past winter have told us anything, it’s that we are in for a really freakin’ hot summer. We already published a lineup of underrated beaches this year, but, with the way the sunshine is shaping up, we think a Part Two is warranted. This time around, we are focusing on lesser known, seasonal beaches, ones best experienced during the summer. Just like in Part One, these are some absolutely incredible stretches of sand that aren’t teeming with the masses, yet still offer that serene, seaside escape we all dream about. However, come winter, the waters will be too cold and the seabreeze too sharp to really enjoy these shores. So the clock is ticking. Get out there and see the sands of the Most Underrated Beaches in America: Summer Edition.
Boy Scout Beach, Alaska
Glaciers? Sure. Black bears ripping salmon out of running streams? Absolutely. But beaches? While Alaska is known for a great many scenic wonders, beaches aren’t always the first that come to mind. Surprisingly, Alaska is home to some beautiful and untouched shorelines. Though many are only reachable by boat or float plane, Boy Scout Beach near Juneau is — by Alaska standards — pretty accessible. You’ll hike the 4.6-mile-round-trip Boy Scout Trail through a coastal rainforest ecosystem coated in trees and greenery to a white sand beach with mirror-flat waters framed by dramatic, snow-capped mountains. While the water might be a little chilly for swimming, a picnic enjoyed in this scenery makes for an equally alluring beach adventure.
Calvert Cliffs State Park, Md.
Best known for its abundance of aquatic fossils buried in the cliffs and on the beach, Calvert Cliffs is the odd beach where you can waste away an afternoon laying out in the sun and frolicking in the Chesapeake Bay, then throw on some water shoes and hunt for prehistoric shark, ray, whale and bird fossils in the dirt and sediment. If you’re lucky, you may even find a megalodon tooth. Now that’s a souvenir way cooler than a suntan.
Cape Blanco, Ore.
Sometimes a beach is as much about the journey as the destination. Such is the case with this beach in Oregon’s Cape Blanco State Park, where the sand is only accessible via eight scenic trails. Once you’ve traversed the tall grass and rocky cliffside, you’re rewarded with a stunning vista of the seemingly infinite deep blue waters of the Pacific, and a historic lighthouse not far away. The 19th-century ship building isn’t just for show, and you can take a tour Wednesday-Monday, from May-September.
Fenwick Island, Del.
Fenwick Island is kind of like the forgotten middle child between the tourism powerhouses of Ocean City, Md., and the Dewey-Bethany-Rehoboth stretch in Delaware. Spanning over 307 acres, Fenwick has its own dazzling blue waters abutting beautiful white sands, perfect for sunbathing or a few games of beach volleyball or spike ball. Fenwick Island State Park sits right next door, giving you access to walking trails and views of the ocean and a historical WWII tower.
Kill Devil Hills, N.C. (the Outer Banks)
Obsessed with “Outer Banks” and want your own little OBX getaway? Sadly Kildare isn’t a real place, but you can experience much of the same laid-back, beach-to-yourself vibe in Kill Devil Hills (sounds close enough, right?). This less-trafficked shore has miles of public beaches, and, if you hit them in the off-season, you can take an AWD vehicle up on the sand. During busier times, you can still enjoy an afternoon tanning session or catch some waves in one of North Carolina’s top surf spots. If surfing’s not your jam, explore the estimated 3,000 shipwrecks along the Outer Banks with your snorkel, including the Triangle Wrecks near the beach access at Second Street.
Rialto Beach, Wash.
While it’s not exactly a “lay out with piña coladas” kind of place, when it comes to thick, green coastal forests lined up against crashing blue Pacific waves, it doesn’t get much better than this beach in Olympic National Park. If you’re not so keen on taking a dive in the frigid ocean, explore the hiking trails around the beach, maybe taking the two-mile walk to Hole-in-the-Wall, a natural arch in the rock visible during low tide. The rocky sand beaches and giant boulders in the sea are also ideal places for spotting local wildlife like otters and sea lions.
Sand Dollar Beach, Calif.
The pounding surf of Big Sur is often not compatible with calming beach days, but wander down to Sand Dollar Beach and you’ll find a secluded cove with just enough flat sand for your towel and a cooler. The mountains of the central coast surround you as you watch giant waves dissipate before rolling softly into the little bay. Those waves are how the beach got its name, as they often carry with them small sand dollars that wash up on the shore. While the spot is popular with shell and stone scavengers, you’ll also find surfers, daytime sunbathers and overnight campers.
Ship Island, Miss.
If you didn’t know better, this empty barrier island just off of Gulfport, Miss., could pass for Florida, with powdery white sand and aquamarine water stretching out for miles. A public ferry from the mainland takes visitors to Ship Island from May to August, and the party starts before you hit the shore. Once on-island, explore the historic Civil War-era Ft. Massachusetts before posting up with a lawn chair in the sand. Amenities are limited, so pack a cooler if you plan on spending the day enjoying cold drinks. Walks around the island can be a fascinating education in coastal wetland ecosystems, with ospreys and bald eagles dipping in and out of the marshes.
Sand Beach, Maine
This beach in Acadia National Park isn’t winning any awards for creative naming. But what it lacks in originality it more than makes up for with Caribbean-like aquamarine waters that make Sand Beach one of the most stunning shores in the region. The 290-yard beach is hidden away among the mountains of Mount Desert on the park’s east side, where the golden sand is dotted with rocks and bright green pine trees. While sitting on the sand is a good way to appreciate Sand Beach’s beauty, for a more panoramic view head to the Great Head Trail entrance and take the short 1.4-mile moderate hike around the peninsula. It’ll take your breath away.