Best Family-Friendly Beach Vacations in the United States

A family beach trip is one of the most enjoyable vacations. As a parent, the last thing I want to do is bring my family to a beach that’s more suitable for college spring break. That’s why you should head to one of these family-friendly beaches instead.

Beach vacations are a great way to make family memories. After all, you can be as lazy or active as you desire at the beach. Whether you’re traveling with an infant or teenage children, the beach offers something for everybody.  




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Here are some of the best family-friendly beaches in the United States.

1. Hilton Head Island

One of the most relaxing beaches in the eastern United States is Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. It’s a perfect family-friendly destination any time of the year. In fact, we come back to Hilton Head each year because it’s child-friendly. The island has miles of sandy beaches and paved bicycle trails. 

At the bottom of Hilton Head Island is the Sea Pines Resort and the iconic red-and-white-striped lighthouse. You can also take day trips to historic Charleston and Savannah.  

Hilton Head, South Carolina


2. Outer Banks

The Outer Banks –aka the OBX– are a series of barrier islands off North Carolina’s coast. Most families stay in the northern shores area near Duck, Kitty Hawk, and Nags Head. If you are willing to drive another hour, you can stay on Hatteras Island which offers more privacy. When renting a beach house, you can either stay oceanside or sound side.

Besides the beach, you can visit Kitty Hawk’s Wright Brothers National Monument where the first successful airplane flight took place. You can also visit several lighthouses with the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse being the most-visited.

The Outer Banks is also one of the best areas for boogie boarding and surfing on the East Coast because of the wave action. 

Outer Banks


3. Anna Maria Island

There are a lot of awesome beaches in Florida. One of the best “old Florida beaches” for any traveler is Anna Maria Island just outside Bradenton. You’re also a short day trip away from Tampa and St. Petersburg.

You won’t want to miss watching the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico. The picturesque sunsets are possibly one of the most memorable events on the island. Bean Point is one of the best places on-island for sunset watching.

Holmes Beach is the most accessible family-friendly beach. Specifically, visit the Manatee Public Beach as there is plenty of sand, changing cabanas and restrooms. Bayfront Park is another worthy alternative.

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Anna Maria Island, Florida


4. Maui

So Maui may not be the easiest place to reach with a family. However, it’s a worthy cause if you can earn travel miles with cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. You can then use travel rewards like travel points and miles to reduce your travel costs.

While you might visit Maui for the pristine beaches, a fun excursion is the Haleakala National Park. Your children can participate in the Junior Ranger program to learn more about Maui’s active volcano. Don’t worry too much, the last eruption was approximately 400 to 600 years ago. You can also explore the Haleakala Crater and other scenic points within the park.

The Maui Ocean Center is another great way to learn more about Hawaii’s marine life. This aquarium has a 54-foot long tunnel to see sharks and stingrays up close.

Maui, Hawaii


5. Dauphin Island

Alabama’s Dauphin Island is a popular beach destination if you prefer staying on the Gulf of Mexico. You can enjoy the same beauty while avoiding the hustle and bustle that comes with Gulf Shores, Alabama or Destin, Florida. This quiet destination is a beach and nature lovers paradise. Dauphin Island Public Beach is quiet and clean. 

Children and parents can also enjoy the Dauphin Island Sea Lab Estuarium or the Audubon Bird Sanctuary let you see wildlife up close. History fans should also add Sand Island Lighthouse and Civil War-era Fort Gaines to the sightseeing list. For adventure, consider going on a fishing charter.

Dauphin Island, Alabama


6. Sandy Neck Beach

Cape Cod is one of the most desirable New England destinations. Sandy Neck is the longest beach in Massachusetts with six miles of beach access. Despite its name, pack water shoes as the shoreline has small pebbles mixed with the sand. The Sandy Neck Lighthouse is also on-site but it’s closed to the public.

You can also check out the Sandwich boardwalk. If you need to find a way for your children to nap, take the Route 6A Old King’s Highway driving tour through Cape Cod’s historic towns.

Sandy Neck Beach, Massachusetts


7. Santa Barbara

What some refer to as the “California Riviera,” Santa Barbara is the iconic California beach town. You can swim, surf or be lazy in the sand. East Beach is the most popular and family-friendly beach in Santa Barbara. There are different points of interest within the East Beach area including Stearns Wharf and Andree Clark Bird Refuge which has over 200 bird species in the park.

Another serene and less-touristy location off Santa Barbara’s main drag is Arroyo Burro County Park. Dogs are welcome at Arroyo Burro as well. 

Besides the beach, you can ride the Lil’ Toot water taxi which is a 30-minute scenic boat ride between Santa Barbara Harbor and Stearns Wharf. You can also go to Alameda Park which has a massive 8,000-square-foot playground. 

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Santa Barbara, California


8. Santa Monica 

If you are visiting Los Angeles, the Santa Monica beach can be a hit with your family. The Santa Monica Pier is a classic beach boardwalk that also has a century-old carousel and other rides. Adjacent to the Pier is the Santa Monica State Beach which has plenty of spots to play in the sand or water. 

Just a little further north is Will Rogers State Beach. It too has child-friendly amenities and can be less crowded than the Santa Monica State Beach. For more ocean views which also has walking trails you can explore.

Santa Monica, California




These family-friendly beaches in the United States can make for a perfect vacation. There are many other activities you can do when your family needs a break from the sand and water. Now it’s time to start planning your next beach trip.  


What other beach destinations can you recommend for a family vacation?



About the author:

Josh Patoka has been to six different countries and most of the United States. These days, he enjoys traveling with his growing family in his free time. You can find Josh writing about travel hacking on Johnny Jet.

*Photos do not belong to Wellington World Travels or the author – they were found online and are free to use under Creative Commons



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20 thoughts on “Best Family-Friendly Beach Vacations in the United States”

  1. Nice to hear about some new beach destinations in the US! Would love to do a surf holiday in Outer Banks. Maui seems amazing too, definitely one for the bucket list.

  2. Great pics and suggestions. I’m not based in the USA so haven’t been to a lot of these places, though did visit Santa Monica a couple of years back. Definitely family-friendly.

  3. It is not a surprise that the United States is filled with amazing and beautiful beaches. Thanks for shortlisting those who are family-friendly! I have a friend who will be moving to United States with the family next week. I will share this info with them 🙂 ! @ knycx.journeying

  4. These all look like great, family friendly beaches. I’m definitely planning trips to Maui and Santa Barbara. As a southerner, I’d also add Destin. ? Great read, thanks!

  5. I spent a lot of time on Sandy Neck Beach as a kid and I always loved it. I haven’t been back in years, but I imagine it’s still a great family friendly destination!

  6. Beach vacations with the whole family are not that easy, but thankfully these family-friendly beaches do exist, and we don’t have to spend a lot of time searching for one.


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