With four distinct coastlines (the Atlantic, the Pacific, the Gulf of Mexico and the Great Lakes) that span 30 states, the USA is home to an enormous variety of seaside spots waiting to be explored. Here, we round up nine of the most beautiful beaches to be found in North America.
Driftwood Beach, Georgia
Driftwood Beach, Georgia
On the northern end of Georgia’s Jekyll Island, Driftwood Beach is an eerie but beautiful place. Constant erosion has created a landscape of gnarled dead pine and water oak trees, bleached by the sun and scattered across the smooth sand. Unsurprisingly – thanks to this backdrop of twisted natural sculptures – sunsets here are a real draw. Walk right to the end of the beach and you’ll find it gets emptier and more otherworldly the further you go. The tiny tidal pools forming around each old oak tree’s remains are also worth exploring at low tide, their clear waters being home to several species of crab, fish and other sea creatures. Stay at the 19th-century Jekyll Island Club Resort, just a 10-minute drive from the beach.
Pfeiffer Beach, California
Pfeiffer Beach, California, USA
At first glance, Pfeiffer Beach looks almost extraterrestrial but will likely be one of the prettiest beaches you’ll ever visit. The metallic, purple sheen of the sand here at Pfeiffer was caused by the erosion of nearby hillsides, leading to manganese mineral deposits on the beach. And an incredible vista. Stay tucked within the trees on a secluded hillside overlooking the stupendous coastline at Ventana Inn & Spa.
Miami’s South Beach, Florida
Miami’s South Beach, Florida, USA
At the southern tip of Florida, Miami’s South Beach (‘SoBe’) is one of the USA’s most famous strips of sand for good reason; the sand is just as white, the sea just as turquoise and the mood just as glamorous as you might expect. Rollerbladers glide through beachfront parks backed by art deco architecture and neon signage, while bronzed sunbathers lie on the sand beside lifeguard towers painted lilac, yellow or red with white stripes. You can surf and parasail here, or sunbathe and sample some of SoBe’s’s Latin cocktails – this sultry neighbourhood’s Hispanic heritage means that visitors are spoilt for choice when it comes to Cuban cuisine and drinks. Try ropa vieja (shredded beef in a spicy tomato sauce served with tortillas) and yuca (a garlicky vegetable dish marinated in lime and olive oil); eateries like Havana 1957 won’t disappoint. Head home to 1 Hotel South Beach to enjoy the sunset from the sleek beachfront pool area.
Folly Beach, South Carolina
Folly Beach, South Carolina
With its wooden pier extending 1000 feet into the Atlantic and culminating in a grand, diamond-shaped pavilion, Folly Beach encapsulates the classic charisma of South Carolina. It’s located on an island south of Charleston and fills up with sunseekers and surfers escaping the city once the weather warms up in April. Watch lilac sunsets over the golden sand or take a boat tour around the island, to spot leaping dolphins and the Morris Island Lighthouse standing in shallow waters (the building is slowly surrendering itself to the sea as a result of erosion). For dinner, Bowens Island Restaurant can be found a little further back from the beach towards Charleston. It dates back to the mid-1940s, and serves up some of the finest fresh oysters and shrimp in the area. Return to the seafront for live music and drinks at patio bar Loggerhead’s Beach Grill or the Surf Bar, with its cheerful, beach shack-style decor. Book a suite overlooking the pier at Tides Folly Beach.
Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina
Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, USA
Kill Devil Hills is a town on North Carolina’s Outer Banks that’s flanked by numerous impressive beaches. It’s also heaven for surfers, with a variety of wave heights and intensities, promising solid swells for riders of all skill levels. These days, the Atlantic winds attract windsurfers, but over 100 years ago they also brought in the Wright Brothers to conduct the first controlled, powered aeroplane flight in 1903. With private beach access, the Colonial Inn has a cosy terrace where you can end the day watching an ocean sunset.
Siesta Key Beach, Florida
Siesta Key Beach, Florida, USA
Frequently described as the best beach in Florida, Siesta Key can be found on a small barrier island off the Sunshine State’s west coast, not far from the city of Sarasota. The sand here is powder-fine, 99% quartz (meaning it doesn’t get too hot to the touch in the sunshine) and a gleaming white colour that’s enhanced in contrast with the mint green sea. The beach is long and wide enough to promise plenty of space to spread out. Spend the day playing volleyball on the sand and jumping through the waves. In the evening, drive to downtown Sarasota to try out its restaurant scene – from Southern fare like pecan-crusted trout with crawfish butter and jambalaya with shrimp at Owen’s Fish Camp, to ceviche at Selva. Guests at Siesta Key Bungalows get to enjoy the property’s outdoor swimming pool, while also being just seven minute’s drive from the beach.
Gulf Shores, Alabama
Gulf Shores, Alabama, USA
With 32 miles of bright white sandy beaches lapped by turquoise waves, Gulf Shores is one of Alabama’s most popular coastal beauty spots. Spend your days basking in the sun or swimming in the balmy waters. Or head to Gulf State Park to go fishing or on a dolphin-spotting boat cruise. There are pelicans aplenty that flock around the public pier when the fishermen return with their catch; the seafood is especially good here and oysters are the local speciality. Gulf Shores also prides itself on its accessibility and sustainable approach, with schemes and campaigns to ensure the beach is kept clean. Stay right on the sand at The Beach Club Resort and Spa II.
Waikiki Beach, Hawaii
Waikiki Beach, Hawaii, USA
Waikiki is one of Hawaii’s biggest and most beautiful beaches. Activities here include greeting the idyllic island sunrises with yoga classes on the beach, surfing lessons in world-class waves, and surreally special moonlit dinners at one of the many beachside bars and restaurants. Stay facing the beach at the luxurious and famous The Royal Hawaiian, A Luxury Collection Resort, established in 1927.
Oxnard Beach Park, California
Oxnard Beach Park, California, USA
Just an hour up the coast from LA, Oxnard Beach Park often serves as a gateway to the Channel Islands (a National Park archipelago rich in wildlife and natural beauty). Embark on a dolphin-spotting boat trip to these islands but don’t forget to explore Oxnard’s own Downtown, with heritage houses, churches and turn-of-the-century streets. Stay at the highest-rated accommodation in Oxnard, Homewood Suites.