There’s nothing like the beach on a beautiful summer’s day. And there’s nothing better than having the space and privacy to enjoy it. Here are five gorgeous, off-the-beaten-track beaches from Massachusetts to California where you won’t be sprayed by sand as others walk by your towel.
Nantucket beaches are some of the most beautiful in the world. Since Nantucket itself is 30 miles offshore from Cape Cod, Massachusetts, it is no wonder that seagulls outnumber people, even with the summer tourist influx. The town reminds, “Leave nothing but your footprints!” Madaket is a huge beach. Kids climb the lifeguard tower to announce the magical moment when the setting sun kisses the ocean on the horizon; Madaket is known locally for its spectacular sunsets. Most arrive on a bicycle along a 5.5-mile path to the western end of the island. The westernmost tip of Madaket is accessible only by four-wheel drive. Heavy surf, restrooms, no food facilities, so bring a picnic and a camera.
Windansea Beach, La Jolla
Be a lazy beach bum. Known to the locals as fabulous for surfing, Windansea is an almost hidden gem at the foot of a residential pocket on the Pacific. Stunningly beautiful, where pounding waves crash upon both smoothly eroded and rugged sandstone rock formations, and big enough for spreading out your towel. From time to time, December through March, whales are spotted in the near distance. There are only 18 parking spaces, so search the adjacent palm-lined streets, and there’s an hourly lifeguard patrol truck when they remember. Dogs love it, and kids enjoy the 1940s seagrass hut. No restrooms, no facilities, no tourists, but a smattering of fit, well-tanned locals. It’s hard to believe you’re only minutes from downtown La Jolla, near San Diego.
Singing Beach, Manchester-by-the-Sea
Bostonians often head to Cape Cod, but the lesser-known beaches are north toward Cape Ann. Best of all is Singing Beach. It is a 15-minute walk from the commuter train station of this quaint village via residential Beach Street, complete with an ice cream stand at the beach end. The water is cold, but this is New England! Clean, white sand that is claimed to sing when you tread upon it, clear water that you can see through to the bottom of the Atlantic, and few waves, which does mean seaweed. Singing Beach is nestled between a cliff and a hill topped off with impressive mansions. There’s a small food shack offering frozen slush, free showers, and restrooms; lifeguards; and a $5 walk-on fee, which keeps some people away.
Muir Beach, Marin
Half an hour from San Francisco over the Golden Gate Bridge, Muir Beach is small, special, and secluded. A winding mountain road delivers you from the Shoreline Highway (Route 1) to this town of 300, where one of California’s cleanest beaches is found just two miles from the giant redwood forest. The beach is only 1,000 feet long and 200 feet wide, but the views are panoramic. This beach has free parking, restrooms without flushing toilets, a pay phone (cells don’t work here), barbeque grills, bonfire rings, and picnic tables. Expect dogs, sea lions sunning on the rocks, foggy days, few people, and nudists at the far northern end beyond the small tidepools. Muir Beach is managed by the National Parks Service and also offers hiking, fishing, and bird-watching around the lagoon and Redwood Creek. A welcome surprise is an English Tudor-style pub with a cozy fireplace, Pelican Inn, less than a mile away.
San Clemente State Beach
Southern California at its best. This gorgeous beach is big enough to find privacy, the weather is divine, and the old wooden picturesque pier is charming. The beach at San Clemente covers a mile between Los Angeles and San Diego. Surfers hang ten to the left of the pier, bathers to the right, and fishermen hang their rods at the pier’s end. Pesky pelicans perch wherever they like. There are a dozen access points along the beach; the one called Parque Del Mar has a metered parking lot right in town, so plenty of options for food, a playground, and picnic tables under palm sunbrellas. It may be one of Southern California’s most popular beaches; however, you can literally walk a mile and find solitude.