Looking for a seaside escape that takes you far away from the crowds? These seven secluded beaches require hiking through trails and driving on unpaved paths to reach the coastline. But the payoff is worth it to stroll on empty stretches of sand, observe wildlife and feel like you’re on your own private island.
St. Joseph Peninsula State Park
An hour south of Panama City, Florida, enjoy fishing, birdwatching and swimming at this 10-mile beach that is consistently ranked among the best in the United States. Aqua waters, towering dunes and sugar-like sands comprise the peninsula that stretches into the Gulf of Mexico and is the perfect setting for a stunning Gulf Coast sunset.
Jekyll Island, Georgia
In the middle of Jekyll Island, this secret beach offers a sense of serenity and adventure about one hour north of Jacksonville. The coastline is strewn with petrified trees that perished from erosion over the past 200 years but still rise from the sand. Ancient driftwood lines the waterfront, providing picture-perfect backdrops. A unique way to explore this pet-friendly beach is by horse, and Three Oaks Farm, a local agritourism farm, offers private, guided treks.
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Located about 25 miles east of Norfolk, this tiny community sits at the northern tip of the famed Outer Banks. The small town boasts a few restaurants, a kayak shop, plenty of condos and homes for rent, and nearly five miles of uninterrupted coastline, unobstructed by resort towers.
Washington Oaks Gardens State Park
Palm Coast, Florida
Just over 30 miles north of Daytona Beach, this state park's beach is known for its cinnamon-colored "sand" that is actually made up of crushed shells, or coquina. The coquina rock formations, some as high as four feet, almost appear to be sculpted by hand. While it's not known for swimming, this spot is ideal for calming strolls along the coastline, surf fishing, snapping selfies and watching the egrets and sandpipers chase the waves.
Tucked away inside Redwoods National Park is a beach so secluded you must first fly to Medford, Oregon, drive to the park and then hike just under a mile on an abandoned stretch of highway to reach it. Once there, discover a 37-mile coastline with soft sand, evergreen trees, bluffs covered with wildflowers, and tide pools where you can cool off after making the trek.
Take to the sands of the Outer Banks with a jeep or four-wheel-drive vehicle to access this isolated beach, 82 miles south of Norfolk, Virginia. There’s a scattering of rental homes along the 11-mile shoreline, where you can occasionally see wild horses gallop. Pass the time collecting seashells, taking photos, surf fishing or doing nothing at all.
This nature sanctuary, about 140 miles from Washington, D.C., is known for its many wild horses that freely roam the sands and even the campgrounds. Don't be surprised if they help themselves to a misplaced snack outside your tent. In addition to the horses, you'll find a beach zone for vehicles, nearby salt marshes for kayaking and maritime forests with boarded hiking trails.