Miami Beach, Ocean City, Daytona Beach. These are some of the most famous beaches in America, but they’re also among the most crowded. What if you’re in search of a fun, secluded beach that not everyone knows about? We’ve rounded up a handful of great sunny places that are still under the radar. That means you can avoid the summer crowds and just enjoy the sounds of the waves crashing and the gulls circling.
When headed to off-the-beaten path beaches, be sure to follow the same Leave No Trace principles as when you’re hiking in nature. That means packing the essentials and ensuring you carry all of your gear and trash off of the beach. Many of these recommended beaches are secluded because they take a bit of work to get there. That may mean shouldering a day pack for a short hike, or even packing a larger backpack equipped with everything you need for beach camping. And using a waist pack is always a good idea on a day out—it provides you easy access to your wallet, camera, and sunscreen, while freeing your hands as you explore (or just relax!). If you can pull your car right up to the beach, pack a water-resistant duffel for your beach essentials so everything stays dry (and you can easily hose off your bag at the end of the day).
Secluded U.S. Beaches We Love
1. West Beach in Gulf Shores, Alabama
Alabama may not immediately come to mind when thinking about states with great beaches. That probably explains why the excellent beaches of Gulf Shores, Alabama haven’t quite caught on as a huge tourist destination and are less crowded than their nearby cousins in Florida. The lack of national attention is just fine with locals who enjoy the soft, white sand and warm water from the Gulf of Mexico. From the heart of Gulf Shores on State Route 182, head west a few miles to find West Beach, one of the least-crowded beaches in the area.
2. El Matador State Beach in Malibu, California
There aren’t many secret beaches left in Southern California, but El Matador State Beach qualifies as one of the most overlooked spots on the Pacific Coast Highway. Like many SoCal beaches, this one requires a hike from the road down to the beach, so those with mobility limitations won’t be able to visit. The beach gets a little busier on summer weekends, but even then you can find more isolated and secluded areas by walking along the shore.
3. Cumberland Island in St. Marys, Georgia
For a truly remote beach experience, take a ferry over to Cumberland Island National Seashore, a protected island tucked in the southeastern corner of Georgia (which also offers some of the best winter camping in the U.S.). Visitors often find shark teeth along the 18 miles of undeveloped beaches. While you won’t have to share the sand with many fellow travelers—reservations are limited to protect the ecosystem—you will be surrounded by loggerhead sea turtles, wood storks, and more than 100 feral horses. Be sure to pack efficiently since you’ll be far from the mainland. Find more information about how to make a reservation for this secluded beach here.
4. Padre Island National Seashore in Corpus Christi, Texas
Though its name is similar to that of the popular spring break destination South Padre Island, Padre Island National Seashore is the complete opposite of that party area. The 70-mile seashore is calm and remote, with white sands and clear water. Plus, according to the National Park Service, it’s the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world. The paved road ends as you drive south on the island, but visitors are welcome to continue driving along the shore for miles on pristine, secluded beaches that feature no crowds in sight
5. The Beaches of Corolla, North Carolina
The number of “OBX” stickers on cars nationwide proves the popularity of the Outer Banks of North Carolina as a popular summer vacation destination. Yet, because of the time and effort involved in driving to the Outer Banks, many beaches there are not extremely crowded, even during the busy summer months. That’s especially true of the beaches at Corolla, which are more off-the-beaten track than other Outer Banks destinations, such as Kitty Hawk or Southern Shores. The Corolla beaches are clean and wide-open, with beautiful windswept sand dunes and the entire area remains somewhat secret to outsiders, offered one of the best secluded beach experiences in the U.S. To reach Corolla, follow NC Route 12 north until it ends.
6. Boneyard Beach near Jacksonville, Florida
There’s a lot of coastline in Florida, so even in a state as well-developed as Florida, you can find less crowded beaches—particularly if you’re up for something far more interesting than white sandy beaches. For a secluded beach experience, look no further than the beautiful Boneyard Beach in Big Talbot Island State Park. Expect to see bleached driftwood “skeletons” from Oak trees, offering plenty of gorgeous picture-perfect photo spots.
7. Gold Beach in Southern Oregon
Head to one of the most under-rated regions of the U.S. for some truly beautiful and secluded beaches: the Pacific Northwest. Take in the sun from your kayak as you enjoy the beauty of the Pacific Ocean.
8. Dry Tortugas National Park Off the Coast of Key West, Florida
While this is far from an undiscovered spot, you’ll need a boat to get there, meaning it’s a lot less crowded than most of the beaches in the Florida Keys. This spot offers some truly secluded stretches of sand particularly once the day trippers from Key West leave for the evening. Pack your snorkeling gear and kayak if you’re camping here for a night and you’ll discover an underwater landscape to rival anywhere in the Caribbean.
Pack up your beach bag and make plans to travel soon, because these amazing beaches won’t be secret for long.