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Already taken your family beach vacation? It’s not too late to ride the last wave of summer — find a great destination, pack up the car and go again!
For us, the best family-friendly beaches are quiet (but not too quiet) with lots of activities that kids and parents can enjoy together, like kayaking and paddle boarding. Don’t forget to bring your Cudas sandals — they’re the best flip-flops for the beach! Here are seven of our favorite East Coast destinations, from Florida to New York.
1. Delray Beach, Fla.
Just 45 minutes from Fort Lauderdale, Delray Beach has a quirky, small-town feel and spacious white-sand beaches. In addition to the usual putt-putt and playgrounds, Delray has some unique kid-friendly attractions. Look for wildlife in the Wakodahatchee Wetlands and watch shark and alligator feedings at the Sandoway Discovery Center. Or, take stand-up paddle boarding lessons as a family.
2. Tybee Island, Ga.
With warm, gentle waves and soft sand perfect for building castles, quaint Tybee Island is the perfect retreat for families. Older children will enjoy a kayak tour to Little Tybee Island, an uninhabited island where you can collect shells and watch bottlenose dolphins. After you’ve worked up a big appetite, order a crab boil at the Crab Shack, where the kids can see (captive) baby alligators. You’ll want to walk everywhere on Tybee Island, so wear your best sandals for the beach.
3. Isle of Palms, S.C.
Isle of Palms has miles of beach, beautiful homes and great restaurants, all just 12 miles from downtown Charleston. Head to Isle of Palms County Park to enjoy the lifeguard-monitored beach, plus picnic areas and playground. When the kids get tired of the beach, visit Patriots Point and let them explore the historic aircraft carrier USS Yorktown, or spend an afternoon at the South Carolina Aquarium.
4. Ocean Isle Beach, N.C.
North Carolina has tons of family-friendly beaches along its coastline, but there’s something special about Ocean Isle Beach. Located in far southern North Carolina, just 20 minutes from busy Myrtle Beach, this small town offers a slower pace and seashell-scattered sands. From May through August, you can watch sea turtle hatchlings emerge from their nests and make a beeline for the sea. Awaken your kids’ imaginations by taking an evening ghost walk and hearing stories of pirate treasure, haunted plantations and lost planes.
5. Cape Charles, Va.
When most people think of family-friendly beaches in Virginia, Virginia Beach comes to mind. But if you drive across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, you’ll reach a quieter, more picturesque place: Cape Charles on the Eastern Shore. The bayside beach has warm, shallow water that’s perfect for young children. Local company SouthEast Expeditions leads guided kayak tours of the Eastern Shore National Wildlife Refuge and local clamming beds, where kids will get a kick out of digging for little neck clams.
6. Cape May, N.J.
At Cape May, kids can find diamonds on the beach — well, sort of. Cape May “diamonds” are round, polished quartz crystals that wash ashore on Sunset Beach. (Wear your best flip-flops for the beach, so you don’t hurt your feet on the pebbles.) The town has four other beaches for sunbathing and splashing. While beach tags ($6 per day) are required, Cape May offers lots of free and low-cost fun for kids, like the Cape May Zoo and the 1859 lighthouse.
7. Coopers Beach, N.Y.
Coopers Beach in the Hamptons is considered by many to be one of the best family friendly beaches on the East Coast — even though daily parking is $40. Ouch. The sand is inviting, there’s a snack bar and nice bathrooms, and the views of stately mansions can’t be beat. While the surf can be a little rough, there are lifeguards on duty daily.