The 15 Most Gorgeous, Secluded and Totally Hidden Beaches in the U.S.

editor@purewow.com (PureWow)
·9 min read

Summertime is synonymous with beach days. But what happens when your regular swath of sand starts to feel a bit, well, crowded with seasonal tourists? It might be time to start seeking out a more secluded spot to catch some rays. To help in that endeavor, we hunted down the quietest, most pristine and untouched slices of paradise right here in the U.S. From sheltered coves on serene inlets to prime lakefront real estate that isn’t known to the masses, these are the best hidden beaches across the country—plus places to stay on your vacay from Homes & Villas by Marriott International, Vrbo and more. (Just do us a solid and try to keep these beaches a secret.)

Editor’s note: Please follow all social distancing guidelines and local travel recommendations. You may also want to reach out to your host or hotel to ensure that they are using additional cleaning and sanitation practices.

RELATED: THE 25 BEST BEACH TOWNS IN AMERICA

1. CUMBERLAND ISLAND, GA

It’s no secret that we harbor a special fondness for the Peach State—especially its untrammeled barrier isles. While it’s hard to pick a favorite, there’s just something about Cumberland Island that really does it for us. Accessible by ferry from the coastal town of St. Mary’s, this 18-mile stretch of largely uninhabited wilderness serves up a combination of rolling sand dunes, relics of Spanish mission churches and wild roaming horses that will make you feel like the last living soul on earth.

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2. BOUND BROOK ISLAND BEACH, MA

Virtually untouched by the throngs of sun-seekers, isolated and immaculate Bound Brook Island Beach remains one of the last places on Cape Cod where it’s possible to live out those idyllic New England daydreams (aka pretend to be a Kennedy for the day). The 25-minute walk to Bound Brook Island Beach is definitely a deterrent for day-trippers with caravans of stuff. That’s good news if you value empty shoreline and glimmering waters over an *extra* seaside setup.

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3. CARMEL MEADOWS BEACH, CA

The dramatic, craggy coastline of Northern California entices millions of travelers each year. However, most road-trippers tend to stick to a pretty similar route and end up missing less-visited destinations. Bookended by rugged cliffs and lichen-covered rocks on either side of a crescent-shaped inlet, Carmel Meadows Beach delivers all the scenic Pacific Coast charisma you’d expect sans the hordes of camera-wielding tourists. The hike will test your fitness. But the best things in life don’t come easy.

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4. DRY TORTUGAS NATIONAL PARK, FL

Close your eyes. Picture a Florida beach. What springs to mind? Probably something akin to the packed shores of Panama City. We’re here to tell you that’s just a tiny sliver of what the Sunshine State has going for it in the surf and sand department. Ever heard of Dry Tortugas National Park? This protected paradise—which you can only get to via seaplane or ferry—allows just 60,000 visitors a year to marvel at its tropical birds, colorful reefs, sunken ships and legends of lost treasure.

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5. SECRET BEACH, OR

What’s in a name? Well, when it’s Secret Beach...just about everything. This storied spot on Oregon’s idyllic coast offers stunning scenery that’s beyond comparison. Sure, getting there takes some effort and planning. (You’ll need to consult the tide tables before striking out.) But the off-the-beaten-path nature of Secret Beach is a major part of the appeal. Not to mention, it keeps the crowds at bay. In case you still need convincing, the killer views and privacy make the trek totally worth it.

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6. EDISTO ISLAND, SC

Less than 50 miles outside charming Charleston lies a quiet seaside community that we’re betting hasn’t popped up in your cursory internet searches. Immaculately preserved since the beginning of the 20th century, Edisto Island blends solitude and unspoiled scenery. If you happen to tire of the unoccupied white-sand beaches (which we highly doubt), there are crumbling plantation ruins and winding intercostal estuaries to explore, plus a spate of nature-centric activities—from crabbing and shrimping to bird watching and visiting the local serpentarium.

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7. DUBOIS BEACH, CT

Remember when it felt like you were the only one to know about your favorite local sandy spot? DuBois Beach in the picturesque village of Stonington still very much has that vibe. Is it totally unknown? Of course not. But that same secluded, scenic and halcyon charm endures. Spend the day building sandcastles, soaking in some vitamin D, floating in the gentle waves, turning the pages of a good book and listening to chill tunes.

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8. ROQUE BLUFFS STATE PARK, ME

A phenomenally beautiful and infrequently visited idyll on the Downeast coast of Maine, the 274-acre Roque Bluffs State Park isn’t on the radar of most travelers. It blows our mind that a locale this unique and special has managed to stay on the DL for so long. Seriously, where else can you find both freshwater and saltwater beaches, plus cinematic cliffs, glacial striations dating back to the Ice Age and endless hiking trails? No, really, we’re genuinely curious.

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9. ASSATEAGUE, MD

Remember Marguerite Henry’s beloved children’s book Misty of Chincoteague? The touching tale takes place on Assateague, a 37-mile barrier island and protected nature sanctuary with an unbridled spirit where wild ponies roam free. A very serene destination for horse lovers and beachgoers alike, Assateague is also home to Wild Beach. Reachable only on foot or by boat and nearly completely empty (save for the rogue stallion, of course), it’s a sublime spot for introspection and snapping pics.

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10. SUNRISE BEACH, IL

It’s actually sort of mind-boggling that word still hasn’t gotten about Sunrise Beach, a hidden gem perched on the shores of Lake Michigan less than an hour outside of Chicago. But, hey, we’re certainly not complaining—especially because a lack of notoriety (along with a $15 entrance fee and 50-person maximum) translates to near-empty golden sands, clean freshwater and shaded areas that beckon UV-avoiding travelers to unwind under a canopy of trees.

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11. SANDBRIDGE BEACH, VA

Virginia Beach is a magnet for college coeds and party-centric holiday goers. Seeking a bit more solitude without leaving Old Dominion? Just 15 miles south sits a far quieter, less boozy and absolutely blissful treasure called Sandbridge Beach. A far cry from the 2-for-1 happy hour specials, ruckus nightclubs and rowdy resorts up the road, it’s the perfect place to explore the beauty of the Atlantic coastline—as well as enjoy some well-deserved R&R.

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12. FORT MORGAN, AL

Fort Morgan has flown under the radar for a long time. Instead of home rentals, giant resorts and bustling seaside businesses, this sandy expanse on the Gulf Coast features plenty of room to spread out your towel without elbowing a tourist as well as stellar views of the Sand Island Lighthouse and passing ships.

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13. PA’AKO COVE, HI

Tucked away just south of the ever-popular Big Beach on the island of Maui, Pa’ako Beach is often referred to Secret Cove due to its hard-to-find entrance through a lava-rock wall in a residential area that most tourists easily overlook. Although it’s completely secluded, this breathtaking and sheltered stretch of shoreline remains a beloved spot for weddings. Because what couple could possibly resist a frame-worthy backdrop of swaying palms, pristine white sand and turquoise tides?

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14. SOUTH MANITOU ISLAND, MI

One of two isles off Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore coast, South Manitou Island is a three-mile-long crescent of sandy beach that’s accessible only by ferry. It might not have name recognition outside of the Wolverine State, but we’d chalk that up to nothing more than a well-guarded secret. With lightly trafficked hiking trails, sprawling cedar forests, uncrowded campsites and nearly 50 shipwreck sites, there’s enough to do for a week-long vacay without ever seeing another person.

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15. SECOND BEACH, WA

Calling all Twilight fans! Ever dreamt of living out your Bella, Jacob and Edward Cullen fantasies? Second Beach is a rugged, deserted and eerily beautiful swath of Olympic Peninsula coastline, near the Quileute Native American reservation town of La Push, that you might recognize from the popular film franchise. The rolling fog, abyssal waters, tide pools, driftwood logs and towering sea stacks feel as far removed from reality as vampires and werewolves—and equally fantastical.

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RELATED: 7 CHARMING TOWNS WHERE ROMANTIC MOVIES WERE FILMED (& WHERE TO STAY WHILE YOU’RE THERE)

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