Words by Kevin Grey.
Right now, we hope you’re someplace warm and indoors, protected from the elements. But soon? Soon we hope you’re someplace warm and outdoors—enjoying a much-deserved beach vacation.
With spring break approaching, your kids will have a week off, and you’ll have a great excuse to get out of town. The only problem: college kids everywhere will also have a week off, and they’ll begin descending upon our nation’s fine collection of beaches like moths to a flame, if that flame were actually a keg.
So below: seven beaches to visit this spring. Each steers clear of the most popular destinations among spring breaking hordes and offers plenty of fun for the whole family.
Captiva Island and Sanibel Island, Florida
Captiva Island, and neighboring Sanibel Island, are located near Fort Myers just off Florida’s Gulf Coast, and both are a calm choice for families traveling this spring. Rent jet skis or a pontoon boat, or just spend an afternoon lazing around the sand. But keep your eyes peeled for shells—the islands host more than 250 different kinds of shells along the 15 miles of beaches. That’ll keep the kids occupied for a few hours. If you want something with an abundance of entertainment options, try staying at the South Seas Island Resort. The 330-acre nature reserve is teeming with activities, from waterslides and interactive games for the kids to golf and a relaxing spa for the adults.
Hilton Head, South Carolina
Hilton Head is known best as a summer destination, but don’t overlook Hilton Head as a spring break option. Mild temperatures keep things comfortable along the 12 miles of public beachfront, and outdoor activities abound, from fishing and watersports to world-class golf. Numerous rental bike companies provide a means of exploring the island on two wheels, a fun mode of transit when darting between shops and restaurants. And at night, you can rest your head at one of the many lodging options, which include traditional hotels, vacation rentals and luxury resorts.
La Jolla, California
The La Jolla coastline is a photographer’s dream, varying between breathtaking cliffs, rocky coves and sandy beaches. And located just about 20 minutes north of downtown San Diego, it’s one of the more accessible beach towns worth frequenting during your spring break travels. Once you arrive, stroll through the quaint community to acquaint yourself with the boutique shops and local restaurants dotting the streets. Take a surfing lesson, go snorkeling or visit the Birch Aquarium. And don’t forget to swing by the cove for a look at the famous seals and sea lions basking on the sun-drenched rocks.
St. George Island, Florida
For miles of unspoiled Florida beachfront, it doesn’t get much better than St. George. Mega hotels are conspicuously absent, rental cottages are extra charming, and the sandy beaches are relatively uncrowded—all good things when you’re in the market for a tranquil getaway. But despite its low-key sensibilities, St. George has all the surf, sand and water-based activities you want—including sailing and fishing—and the town is stocked with inviting shops, restaurants and ice cream parlors. There’s even a 79-foot lighthouse dating back to 1852. Everybody loves a good lighthouse.
Gulf Shores, Alabama
Though it’s often overshadowed by neighboring Florida, Alabama’s beaches are worth a visit. With 32 miles of white sand coastlines, there’s plenty of room to frolic in the surf. Hotels are available, but more spacious condos line the beach and offer multi-room options to house the entire brood. Book a dolphin cruise or deep-sea fishing expedition to enjoy some time on the water. Then check out the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park before adjourning for dinner at one of the many celebrated seafood restaurants. There’s plenty to do and, thanks to new laws restricting alcohol consumption on beaches during spring break, the Gulf Shores is no longer a draw for the rowdy spring break set.
Mexico Beach, Florida
Spread across five miles of pristine Gulf beaches, this little seaside town is located just an hour down the coast from Panama City Beach. So keep on going past the spring breakers, and you’ll find a relaxing respite full of white sand beaches, clear water, family-owned restaurants and quaint shops. If the kids want some excitement—and to spot a few indigenous animals—try an eco-tourism adventure, like guided kayak tours through the nearby rivers and canals. One tip: hotels are scarce in Mexico Beach, so try a vacation rental instead, and you’ll uncover plenty of options with room for the whole family.
Coronado Beach (California)
Off the coast of San Diego, you’ll find Coronado, home to a naval air station and one very fine beach. Its iconic landmark—the Hotel del Coronado—was built in 1888 and featured in the Marilyn Monroe film, Some Like It Hot. Stay there for the full experience, or just tour the property. Then spend an hour strolling along the dog-friendly beach before breaking for a picnic lunch. Or step into one of the many restaurants, which range from casual seaside spots to buttoned up hotel options. Rent a bike to cruise past shops, galleries and theaters, and then charter a catamaran (or rent a paddle board) for some on-the-water fun. There’s lots to do throughout the small island community, but should you ever get bored, San Diego’s a short six miles away.