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En español | When you want to leave daily cares behind, what better place to visit than a secluded beach? The wind in your hair and the surf at your feet feel like private pleasures when few other souls are in sight.1 of 11
PADRE ISLAND NATIONAL Park Service
Padre Island National Seashore, Texas
Home of the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world, Padre Island National Seashore is just the spot to escape the crowds. Beyond its sand and sun, the park is also known for the super-salty Laguna Madre, its population of endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtles and its offshore shipwrecks — some Spanish and dating back more than 500 years. Time your visit for the summer months, and you may be able to watch one of the park’s scheduled sea turtle hatchling releases (check dates at https://www.nps.gov/pais/learn/nature/hatchlingreleases.htm).2 of 11
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Ozette Beach, Wash.
Choose one of two three-mile hikes (mostly on boardwalk — sneakers are recommended for the sometimes slippery surface) from the end of the road at Ozette Lake. At the end you’ll find yourself on a rugged, wild beach that’s part of Olympic National Park. Set up camp here amid the tide pools and driftwood at Sandpoint or Cape Alava, where you can watch one of each day’s last sunsets in the Lower 48. Spend daylight hours hiking up and down the coast.3 of 11
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Gold Bluffs Beach, Calif.
A seemingly endless drive down a rutted dirt road pays off in the form of Gold Bluffs Beach in Humboldt County’s Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. There are campground sites on the beach here (reservations recommended from May through September) and a network of trails that snake into the adjacent redwood forest, home to some of the world's tallest trees. On one lucky loop, you might glimpse a banana slug, a herd of elk or even a gray whale4 of 11
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Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Mich.
With so many beautiful ocean beaches in the U.S., it’s easy to overlook those along the Great Lakes. Here, about 25 miles west of Traverse City, you’ll see some of the best dune specimens in the country looming 400 feet over Lake Michigan. It’s also home to a number of uncrowded and unique pockets of wildlife that include red fox, porcupine and snowshoe hare, along a shoreline dotted with forest and wetlands. Just inland, more than 20 additional lakes complement the great one.5 of 11
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Sandbridge Beach, Va.
Sometimes referred to as the “Outer Banks of Virginia,” Sandbridge Beach offers a peaceful alternative to the busy Virginia Beach resort area just a few miles north. Here you can lay your towel down anywhere along the five miles of golden sand that front the Atlantic without worrying about being overrun by other beachgoers. Bring or rent a bike to explore the adjacent Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge or False Cape State Park, where you will find a variety of seabirds and seasonal migratory birds.6 of 11
Cumberland Island National Seashore, Ga.
The National Park Service limits entry to this undeveloped barrier island so that it will remain unspoiled. Accessible only by ferry or boat, Cumberland was once a family retreat for the Carnegie family (it was also the site of John Kennedy Jr.’s secret wedding to Carolyn Bessette), but now it’s home to wild horses, armadillos and loggerhead sea turtles. You can camp, but it’s worth splurging for a night or two at the island’s only hotel, the elegant and historic Greyfield Inn.7 of 11
Washington Oaks Gardens State Park, Fla.
Although the beach is not ideal for swimming because of the coquina rock formations (composed of crushed, compressed shells) that line the shore, you will still find plenty to do here. The park, in Palm Coast, is on the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail, so pick up a birding checklist at the park’s ranger station to help you identify the species you spot as you stroll the beach. The centerpiece of the park is a formal garden where azaleas, camellias and many species of exotic plants thrive under the sheltering limbs of live oak.8 of 11
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Caladesi Island State Park, Fla.
Catch the Caladesi Island Ferry or take a private boat and spend the day swimming and shelling on the three-mile-long beach off the mainland coast near Clearwater. Paddle along the island’s mangrove-covered kayak trail or, if rest and relaxation are more to your liking, rent a beach umbrella and plop down on the sparkling white-sand shores of the Gulf of Mexico with a good book.9 of 11
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Polihale State Park, Kauai, Hawaii
Sprawling over several miles, Polihale State Park has one of the longest stretches of beach in Hawaii. After bumping down a long, rough dirt road, you’ll be rewarded with views of 100-foot sand dunes and the towering sea cliffs of the Na Pali Coast. Although there are some facilities available, no lifeguards are posted, so you may want to avoid the strong currents. Try not to leave the beach before admiring a stunning sunset over the island of Niihau.10 of 11
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