Are you worried about pandemic safety when you’re at a popular beach on the weekend and you’re umbrella-to-umbrella with fellow beachgoers? On most East Coast beaches, there is no alternative. Even if you arrive early and find a perfect spot, in an hour or two, you will be so close to families arriving later that social distancing is compromised. But, there are still a few secluded beaches on the Atlantic Ocean where you can find privacy in a beautiful beach town.
These “secret” beaches aren’t really secret. They are well-known by locals but rarely frequented by tourists. Some are in state parks or owned by conservation trusts dedicated to preserving coastal land to provide habitat for threatened species. Others are simply local, out-of-the-way beaches untouched by development.
So pack a lunch and plenty of liquids, and program your GPS for one of these eleven out-of-the-way beaches that time has passed by.
Island Beach State Park, Seaside Park, New Jersey
There are still a few beaches on the Jersey Shore without arcades, Ferris wheels, commercial boardwalks, and a ton of people. Island Beach State Park on Barnegat Bay in New Jersey is probably the best. It is the largest reserve of an undeveloped barrier island in New Jersey and sanctuary for ospreys, peregrine falcons, and other sea birds. The exceptional sandy beach has 300 feet of frontage for swimming and 700 feet of shoreline access. It is equipped with a bathhouse with public restrooms and 500 feet of boardwalk, with benches, lighting, and handicap access.
Bound Brook Island Beach, Wellfleet, Massachusetts
Accessible only by a narrow dirt road for more than a mile, this Wellfleet, Massachusetts beach is bursting with beauty. If you bump into anyone at all at this remote beach, it will likely be a beachtown local. At low tide, the massive stretch of sand is littered with aquatic life. At sunset, you’ll have the best seat on the Outer Cape. The view of Cape Cod Bay with the tip of Provincetown visible in the distance is spectacular.
Goose Rocks Beach, Kennebunkport, Maine
White sandy beaches, stunning views of the Atlantic and the islands, harbor seals sunning themselves, and a place to soak up the sun are what make Goose Rocks Beach in Kennebunkport, Maine undoubtedly one of the most beautiful beaches in the Northeast. Goose Rocks Beach is owned by the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust, which is dedicated to preserving land for use by current and future generations, and to managing properties in a way that reflects the natural and cultural heritage of Kennebunkport.
Silver Sands State Park and Walnut Beach, Milford, Connecticut
Milford, Connecticut is home to two of the best secret beaches in the state, and each offers a different outdoor experience. Silver Sands State Park covers almost 300 acres and consists of marshes, woods, dunes, and vast stretches of sand. It’s perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and birding. While Walnut Beach is conveniently located near Silver Sands State Park, making it possible to choose your beach experience– or choose to see both on the same day. Not only are Walnut Beach and Silver Sands Park close to each other, a boardwalk connects them. Walnut Beach is a sandy public beach with a view of Charles Island, which can be reached on foot over a sandbar at low tide.
Colonial Beach, Virginia
At the top of the list is one of the oldest beaches but still uncrowded beaches in the nation. It’s just 90 minutes or so from Washington, DC or Richmond, VA, and located on the Chesapeake Bay in the heart of Colonial Beach, Virginia– sharing the name with the beach itself. Both George Washington and James Monroe were born nearby, making this not only a beautiful vacation spot, but a historical as well.
Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, Kure Beach, North Carolina
Located in the city of Kure Beach, North Carolina are six miles of wide, pristine beach and trails through salt marsh brimming with wildlife await visitors to the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area, a park near Wilmington that touches both the Atlantic Ocean and the Cape Fear River. Visitors will also find a state aquarium and the ruins of a substantial Confederate fort that guarded the entrance to the river. Admission is free and registered vehicles with valid park-issued permits are allowed in the four-wheel-drive access area.
Golden Isles, Georgia
On the coast between Savannah and Jacksonville, Georgia, the Golden Isles are a group of resort islands off the coast of Georgia, including St. Simons Island, Sea Island, Jekyll Island, and Little St. Simons Island. All feature scenic and unspoiled beaches facing the Atlantic. Two on Jekyll Island known for their beauty are Driftwood Beach and Glory Beach. As its name suggests, Driftwood Beach, voted one of America’s “Ten Most Romantic Beaches,” is a great place to beach comb as well as to swim and sun.
Glory Beach was the site where much of the movie “Glory” was filmed. Access is by way of a long boardwalk built by the producers of the film, a comfortable walkway across dunes and freshwater pools. This section of the beach does not allow pets (leashed or unleashed). On a clear day, you can see Little Cumberland Island from the end of Glory Boardwalk.
Gasparilla Island, Florida
This offbeat and beautiful little island occupies an often-overlooked stretch of Florida’s Gulf Coast, north of Sanibel and south of Sarasota, where the quiet beaches are worth seeking out for their back-to-nature beauty alone. Gasparilla State Park‘s one mile stretch of beach can be accessed from any of the five parking areas along the gulf and the Boca Grande Pass. Search for new shells, sunbathe, go swimming or walk along the beach. Dolphins can often be seen playing in the beautiful blue-green waters of the gulf and you might even catch a glimpse of a manatee or sea turtle swimming offshore.