10 Best East Coast Beaches for Families from Maine to Florida

From wild ponies and whale watching to boardwalk carousels and pirate museums, these East Coast beaches for families are what vacation dreams are made of.

Our mouths drop open in awe as we watch the wild Chincoteague ponies of Assateague Island canter along the beach, leaving hoof prints in the sand. We respectfully keep our distance as they snort and gallop, flinging ocean spray from their tails. For me, family beach vacations conjure sunny visions of sandcastles, boardwalks, and kids happily splashing in the surf, and yes, wild ponies. It’s no wonder they’re the getaways we remember most fondly.

The East Coast is loaded with beaches and hotels primed to help families make the most of their getaways. From the bustling boardwalks and beaches of Ocean City, Maryland, to the quiet sandy stretches and gentle waters of Montauk’s Gin Beach, these East Coast beaches and hotels have something special for everyone.

Ogunquit Beach, Maine

For decades, the soft, clean sands of Maine’s Ogunquit Beach have drawn families to its three-mile-long expanse on a peninsula flanked by the Atlantic Ocean and the Ogunquit River. Book a tour on a sightseeing ship to take it all in, or if you’d rather stay on land, take a walk along the seaside on Marginal Way or visit one of the area’s fishing villages.

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A Traditional New England-style Inn Close to the Beach

With its cheery yellow traditional New England-style clapboard façade and bright modern interiors, the Admiral’s Inn is within easy walking distance to town and the beach. Book the cottage, a tree-shaded three-bedroom home and settle in for your stay. Stretch out on a lounger at one of the inn’s two pools or soak in the hot tub while the kids splash and play.

Admiral's Inn Resort

Top rated
8.8 Excellent (1752 reviews)

Cape Cod, Massachusetts

The storied beaches of Cape Cod have been the subject of popular songs, movies, and books, and it’s easy to see why they’re a big favorite with families. From exciting activities like whale watching to attractions like the Whydah Pirate Museum, Cape Cod is loaded with choices for family fun.

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A Classic, Wood-shingled Cape Cod Getaway

On the West Yarmouth River and Lewis Bay, Green Harbor Resort in West Yarmouth, Massachusetts is a quiet, classic wood-shingled Cape Cod getaway. With a heated oceanfront pool, a private beach, mini golf and a Kids Club with activities like sand-castle contests, there’s plenty to do on the resort’s 7.5 acres. Book one of the resort’s traditional Nantucket-style cottages or a suite with views of Nantucket Sound and feel like lucky locals.

Green Harbor Resort

West Yarmouth
9.6 Excellent (565 reviews)

Montauk, New York

The beaches of Montauk stretch north along Long Island, away from the bustle of the Hamptons. Despite its name, Gin Beach is a small, quiet Montauk beach on Block Island Sound, complete with clean sand, small waves and a roped-off swimming area that attracts families in the know.

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A Montauk Resort with a Private Beach and a Seawater Indoor Pool

About eight miles from Gin Beach, Gurney’s Montauk Resort & Seawater Spa is a year-round resort on the Atlantic that’s been a popular getaway since it opened in 1926. Rent king-sized daybeds at The Beach Club on Gurney’s 2,000-foot private beach and order fish tacos to nosh on. Or take in the ocean views from the warm waters of the seawater indoor pool. Unwind with a massage and in the steam room and the Finnish rock sauna.

When fine dining calls and you want the gang to wash off the sand and get gussied up, Gurney’s Scarpetta Beach restaurant serves Italian cuisine including fresh seafood. Delight to dishes like lavender glazed duck with confit shallot, celery root and porcini conserva. In a bright, casual setting Tillie’s dishes up American fare like lobster rolls, burgers, baked mac and cheese, and fried chicken sandwiches.

Gurney's Montauk Resort & Seawater Spa

8.2 Very good (1106 reviews)

Cape May, New Jersey

The beaches of Cape May City, New Jersey, are set against the charming backdrop of the town’s colorful historic Victorian houses. Cape May’s paved promenade is a two-mile stretch along the beach, with arcades, and vendors selling ice cream and candy.

Nearby attractions include the Cape May Fireman’s Museum and the busier Wildwoods Boardwalk, with five piers with rides, including three rollercoasters, three waterparks, games, stores, restaurants and food stands.

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Live Music and Beach Tents at the First Seaside Resort in the U.S.

Although Congress Hall opened in 1816 as the first seaside resort in the U.S., its updated décor skillfully blends modern and traditional style with a rich color palette of greens, reds, browns and blues. Its stately yellow façade with white columns rising three stories high and lush lawns cuts an impressive figure just beyond the sand.

Book a spacious, airy yellow-and-white striped beach tent with loungers so you can kick back while the kids play on the beach and in the surf. Catch live music at the Boiler Room and dig into dishes like brick-oven pizza and pasta. Sip craft cocktails like Old Man Winter, made with spiced rum, orange juice, coconut, and pineapple juice nutmeg.

Congress Hall

Cape May
8.0 Very good (209 reviews)

Ocean City, Maryland

The action-packed beaches of Ocean City, Maryland, are home to a busy three-mile-long boardwalk selling all things sweet and sticky like frozen custard and candy. The kids can play arcade games and hop onto the painted animals of Trimper’s vintage carousel to take a spin back in time to 1912, when the carousel first opened.

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An Oceanfront Hotel with Mermaids

Smack dab in all the middle of the Ocean City Action, Princess Royal Oceanfront Resort welcomes families with its lush, palm-lined lawns and modern blue-and-white facade. Swing by the food court on the beach for quick eats like burgers, pretzels and hot dogs.

No worries if the weather’s stormy— take the fun to the hotel’s indoor heated pool housed in a four-story tropical atrium with ocean views through a floor-to-ceiling glass wall. The kids can even swim with mermaids in the indoor pool Monday and Thursday evenings and hear their stories.

Princess Royale Oceanfront Resort

Ocean City
7.9 Good (574 reviews)

Chincoteague, Virginia

Chincoteague Island, Virginia, is a barrier island known for the white sand beaches of Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and for the wild ponies of Assateague Island, less than three miles away. On Chincoteague, your gang can rent boogie boards and hit the surf, take a boat tour, and check out the model boats at the Museum of Chincoteague Island. Assateague Island offers 15 miles of trails for hiking, biking or communing with nature.

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A Modern Chincoteague Hotel Near Main Street

Close to Chincoteague’s Main Street, Marina Bay Hotel & Suites features an upbeat modern décor with splashes of aquamarine and orange complemented by nautical accents and geometric wooden accents. Book a two-bedroom king suite with views of the bay. Rent a bike and pedal to the beach, or stroll the marina and check out the boats, then venture out to see if you can spy the wild ponies on Assateague Island.

Marina Bay Hotel & Suites, Ascend Hotel Collection

Top rated
9.0 Excellent (1569 reviews)

Outer Banks, North Carolina

Rich in history, the beaches of North Carolina’s Outer Banks are where pirates like Blackbeard and Captain Kidd once roamed. Today, with more than 100 miles of beaches to explore and home to Cape Hatteras National Seashore, the Outer Banks attract families, surfers, skim-boarders, campers, nature lovers, and 4X4 aficionados. The Outer Banks are dotted with intriguing family attractions including historic lighthouses, the Blackbeard Museum, the Wright Brothers Memorial, the Freedman’s Colony, and The Lost Colony.

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An Oceanfront Hotel with Saltwater Pools

Just 200 feet from the beach, the oceanfront Shutters on the Banks has indoor and outdoor saltwater pools. Book the Sunrise Suite and wake up to ocean views. After you’ve fueled your gang with the free breakfast, hit the beach or one of the pools, or head out to one of the Outer Banks’ fascinating family attractions.

Shutters on the Banks

Kill Devil Hills
9.0 Excellent (2655 reviews)

Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

The white sand beaches of Hilton Head Island, South Carolina have morphed from being a best-kept secret among residents of the Southeast to a vacation destination that draws visitors from all over the world. Hilton Head’s 12 miles of beaches offer designated swimming areas and chances to spot wildlife like sea turtles and deer. Families can also fish, boat, take dolphin tours, visit The Coastal Discovery Museum and much more.

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A Beachfront Resort and Spa Where Kids Can Build Their Own Sundaes

Make the tropical landscape of the beachfront Sonesta Resort & Spa Hilton Head Island your base for Hilton Head family fun. Ready for a dip? Choose from the beach, the zero-entry lagoon swimming pool or the heated shade pool, or rent bikes and explore.

Let the kids build their own sundaes with unlimited toppings at Sonesta Scoops Ice Cream Shoppe. Immerse yourself in the calm of Arum Spa’s treatments that use local sea salt and jasmine. When stomachs growl, dig into Lowcountry cuisine like fried green tomatoes, crab bake, and shrimp and grits at Heyward’s Restaurant.

Sonesta Resort Hilton Head Island

Hilton Head Island
8.2 Very good (2354 reviews)

Fernandina Beach, Florida

Fernandina Beach on Florida’s Amelia Island, a barrier island with 13 miles of beaches, is tailor made for families. Fernandina’s Main Beach Park offers mini golf, volleyball courts, a playground and much more. Get the gang saddled up and go horseback riding on the beach at Amelia Island State Park, or stroll the streets of the town of Fernandina Beach, packed with cute cafes, shops and galleries housed in historic brick buildings.

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A Beachfront Hotel with a Rooftop Sundeck

A beachfront hotel that’s close to Historic Downtown Fernandina Beach and Fort Clinch State Park, Seaside Amelia Inn is handily located on Amelia Island. Book a suite with a balcony and a view of the ocean at this boutique hotel where art by local artists decks the walls.

Grab some of the beach chairs and umbrellas that are complimentary for guests to rent and make a beeline for the beach or the outdoor pool. (That is, if you can pull the kids away from the freshly baked chocolate chip cookies and lemonade at the front desk.) And when the sun goes down, relax and enjoy the view from Seaside Amelia Inn’s rooftop sundeck.

Seaside Amelia Inn - Amelia Island

Top rated
Fernandina Beach
8.6 Excellent (2374 reviews)

Palm Coast, Florida

The beaches of Palm Coast, Florida offer 19 miles of soft sand and warm waters. Popular attractions include the country’s oldest city, St. Augustine, the classic beach town of Flagler Beach, and Daytona Beach’s Daytona International Speedway.

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A Resort With Two Golf Courses Designed by Golf Legends

Hammock Beach Golf Resort and Spa is a luxury hotel on Florida’s Palm Coast with a private white sand beach that stretches for two miles. The resort also boasts 91,000 square feet of family fun at its Fantasy Pool Complex. Here you can float down the lazy river and swoosh down the water flume or just splash happily in the water. Golfing buffs can tee off at Hammock Beach’s Ocean Course designed by Jack Nicklaus and Conservatory Course designed by Tom Watson.

Six restaurants mean there’s something to please even the pickiest palates. At Ocean Bar & Grille, a kid’s menu with items like chicken tenders keeps the little ones happy.

Hammock Beach Golf Resort & Spa

Palm Coast
8.2 Very good (367 reviews)