Grab your friends, grab your suit, grab your car keys and go on the most epic beach road trip ever! (Photo: Colin Anderson/Blend Images/Corbis)
There is nothing better than a good road trip, unless it’s a road trip that ends at the beach. Or how about a road trip that covers several beaches? Yahoo Travel went in search of some of the hottest stretches of sand and the roads that get you there. Here are our top picks.
Cape Elizabeth Ma. to Kennebunkport — 50 miles
Start your road trip with the beautiful scenery at Portland Head Lighthouse in Cape Elizabeth (and be sure to grab a lobster roll as well!) (Photo: Raging Wire/Flickr)
In Maine, no beach trip would be complete without a lighthouse surrounded by perfect sand. Start with the Cape Elizabeth Light, then head southwest on Two Lights Road to Two Lights State Park. There’s no beach here, just rocky shoals, but the hiking trails supply stunning views of the open Atlantic. Now on to the beach!
Take Two Lights Road north out of the park to Highway 77. Then travel west to Crescent Beach State Park. Continuing south, try an overnight stop at the Black Point Inn, where you can enjoy both the beach and the cliff walk. From there, take a short jog inland on Highway 207 to Highway 9, which will take you on the scenic route all the way to Kennebunkport. Along the way, check out Ferry Beach State Park for its seemingly endless stretches of sand.
Carolina Beach, N.C. to Myrtle Beach, S.C. — 100 miles
North Myrtle Beach also has some truly dazzling sunrises, so you’ll want to plan accordingly! (Photo: Mr. Nixter/Flickr)
Beaches, beaches, and more beaches! Start with Carolina Beach State Park or Freeman Park before heading south on U.S. Highway 421 to the Fort Fisher Ferry to cross Cape Fear to Southport. Once there, try Caswell Beach or make a U-turn and ferry back across the cape to Bald Head Island for the lighthouse, the marina, or to stop for the night in one of the areas many vacation rentals. Continuing southward from Southport requires some inland travel, best accomplished on U.S. 17, which will eventually take you to the fabulous beaches of Myrtle Beach. Be sure to check out the sand in North Myrtle Beach by detouring onto Highway 65 for a stretch.
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Palm Beach Shores, Fla. to Lauderdale-by-the-Sea — 43 miles
Lifeguard tower and fishing pier on Florida’s Deerfield Beach. (Photo: RosaIreneBetancourt 6 / Alamy)
Start your trip on Singer Island, the affordable next-door neighbor to stoney West Palm Beach. The beaches are pristine and plentiful, and you can even camp overnight on the beaches of Peanut Island Park. If camping isn’t your thing,stop for the night at the Four Seasons Palm Beach. Cruise south on A1A through Ocean Ridge, Delray Beach, and Boca Raton. In Boca, take a break from beach sitting with a stop at the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, where you can arrange a guided turtle nesting tour. Continue your journey south through Deerfield Beach and Hillsboro Beach, stopping to see the lighthouse at Hillsboro Inlet. Once you reach Pompano Beach, most of the beaches are accessed via hotels and resorts, but you will find an occasional public access point. Wrap up your trip in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, which still has the feel of small town Florida. There are several boutique hotels here to choose from; we like High Noon Beach Resort for proximity to shopping and dining. If you can’t stay the night, beach access is free at Datura Avenue, a popular entry point for scuba divers.
Gulf Shores, Ala. to Panama City Beach, Fla. — 116 miles
Relax under an umbrella on the white sandy beaches of Destin before jumping in that beautiful turquoise water. (Photo: David Kosmos Smith/Flickr)
This stretch will take you through some of the Gulf Coast’s premier white-sand beaches. In Gulf Shores, start with the Gulf State Park before cruising Perdido Beach Blvd. east toward Perdido Key, where you can enjoy the Gulf Islands National Seashore. From there, head east on Highway 292 to U.S. Highway 98 in Pensacola. Cross Pensacola Bay and continue your exploration of the national seashore through the towns Pensacola Beach and into Navarre Beach. Continue east on U.S. 98 through Fort Walton Beach, Destin, and Miramar, with beach stops all along the way. We especially like for its combination of coastal dunes and sugary sands. The same is true for Grayton Beach State Park, which has outstanding camping facilities. Or spend the night in a condominium with an incredible view at Commodore’s Retreat in Seagrove Beach. From there it’s an easy coastal drive into Panama City Beach.
Port Lavaca, Tex. to North Padre Island — 100 miles
Camp right on the beach at Mustang Island State Park. Surf, fish, make smores, and then fall asleep listening to the waves crash. (Photo: Marcus Calderon/Flickr)
Texas has the sixth longest stretch of coastline in the country. Of course, not all of it beachy, but this stretch has some of the best. In Port Lavaca, start out at Lighthouse Beach, complete with camping facilities. From there, travel inland on Highway 35 through Lamar, with a possible detour into the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge for some birding. Cross the causeway to the Fulton-Rockport area, where you will find beaches and plenty of accommodations. From there, continue south to Aransas pass, before heading seaward on the Redfish Bay Causeway. The ferry will complete your crossing into Port Aransas. Try the beaches at I.B. Magee Beach Park before heading south along the island to Mustang Island State Park for surfing, fishing, and camping. From there, you can drive for miles along mostly deserted beach into the upper reaches of Padre Island National Seashore.
La Jolla, Calif. to Oceanside — 28 miles
The tide pools, sea lions, and crags at La Jolla prove that there’s so much more to a beach than just sand. (Photo: Joel Olives/Flickr)
If your idea of a beach trip includes more than just endless sand, this route may be the perfect one for you. There are craggy outcroppings that are home to sea lion communities, tide pools to explore, and plenty of places to stay along the way. Start with La Jolla Cove, La Jolla Underwater Park for snorkeling, and La Jolla Shores Park. From there, either make your way north on Route S21, or jump up to Interstate 5 to the beautiful Torrey Pines State Natural Area. After that, S21 will take you through Del Mar, Solana Beach, and on to San Elijo State Beach Park. Continue north on S21 for some of the most incredible scenery Southern California has to offer. For a wacky, beach-themed place to stay the night, try Cardiff by the Sea Lodge. Continuing north, stop in at Carlsbad State Beach before making the final stretch to the famed Oceanside Pier and the beaches that surround it.
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Santa Monica, Calif. to Santa Barbara — 85 miles
Cruise along the beautiful beachy Pacific Coast Highway. (Photo: David Zaitz / Alamy)
Leave the concrete jungle of Los Angeles behind as you wind your way northward on this scenic stretch of Highway 1. Start your trip at the Santa Monica Pier and the adjacent state park before heading north on the Pacific Coast Highway. Your next stop is Will Rogers Beach, and then you begin to leave the crowds behind just a bit. Stop at Topanga Beach and soak up some sun or join the surfing crowd in the waves before continuing north to the rocky Las Tunas Beach. Hit the beaches in Malibu, then northward to Point Mugu State Park. Cruise north through Oxnard and Ventura, which makes a nice place to stop for the night. Try the Crowne Plaza on the beach. Hit the Ventura Freeway headed north, stopping at Muscle Shoals, of course. Wrap up your trip with the usually quiet Carpinteria State Beach before heading into Santa Barbara, where the Four Seasons Biltmore awaits you.
Kailua Kona to Punaluu Beach Park — 64 miles
Make some cool new underwater friends at Kahaluu Beach Park. (Photo: Vlad Butsky/Flickr)
Start your trip north of the resort town of Kailua Kona. An interesting snorkel or dive spot is the Old Kona Airport State Park. It doesn’t look like much on arrival, but the marine life is spectacular. As you travel south on Ali'i Drive you’ll find Pahoehoe Beach Park, with plenty of shade and sand. Forget your snorkeling gear? It’s not a problem at Kahaluu Beach Park. You can rent gear for your peek under the waves at this sheltered snorkel and beach park. Continue heading south, merging into Highway 11 through the coffee plantations of the high country. Turn back to the sea at Miloli'i Road for an adventurous drive down to the secluded Miloli'i Beach Park, known mostly to scuba divers. Wind your way back to the highway for the final leg of the journey around the southern tip of the island to the amazing black sand beach of Punalu'u Beach Park. You can camp there before heading off on an adventure into Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park.
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