While the cities remain hot and sticky, many East Coasters are dreaming of surfing, sand castles, and salty air. If you’re looking to take a break from the million-degree weather, grab some flip-flops and a towel and head to one of these underrated gems.
Jekyll Island, Georgia
This state park, on a barrier island off the southern coast of Georgia, is a great place to spot sea turtles, read a book in a hammock, and ride 20 miles of bike paths. For an ideal day, head to Driftwood Beach, on the island’s north shore, which is covered with massive hunks of driftwood and mangled preserved trees. Score a wooded campsite at the Jekyll Island Campground, where you can walk to the beach from your tent.
Southampton, New York
Cooper’s Beach, on the east end of Long Island, is only about 500 feet long, but it makes up for its small size with perfect white-sand solitude. You’ll have to pay $40 to park (free if you show up on bike), but it’s the only public beach in Southampton, a town filled with multimillion-dollar summer homes. Grab picnic supplies from the Village Gourmet Cheese Shoppe, and stay at A Butler’s Manor (from $340), a five-room inn with two-course breakfasts.
Cape Charles Beach
Cape Charles, Virginia
Cape Charles is the kind of place where old-timey locals sit in rocking chairs in front of the hardware store and toddlers wade in the shallow waters of Chesapeake Bay. Go for a kayak tour that ends at a winery, and don’t miss the live music and clam chowder at Shanty Seafood. Stay at Hotel Cape Charles (from $165) for outdoor showers, cruiser bikes for rent, and sunset views from your loft.
Reid State Park Beach
You don’t often find golden sandy beaches in Maine, except at places like Reid State Park. At this state-owned beach, located on Georgetown, an island accessed via bridge from the town of Bath, you’ll find grassy dunes, buried sand dollars, cold-water surfing, and views of the lighthouses on Seguin Island. After the beach, grab a lobster roll at the end of the road at Five Islands Lobster Co., and spend the night at Gray Havens Inn (from $150), a 13-room bed and breakfast with ocean views.
Folly Beach County Park
Folly Beach, South Carolina
You can surf, kayak, and paddleboard at Folly Beach, a quaint beach town ten miles from Charleston, set between the Atlantic Ocean and Folly River. When conditions are good, you can surf waist-high waves at the Washout. Ocean Surf Shop has everything you need, including reliable surf reports. Afterward, fill up on mahi tacos at Chico Feo, and pitch a tent at the 643-acre James Island County Park, or get an oceanfront room at Tides Folly Beach Hotel (from $255), just steps from the pier.
In this seaport town an hour from Boston, you can romp around in tide pools, climb boulders, and swim in calm, clear water. At low tide, you can walk on a sandbar a half-mile into Ipswich Bay. When in Gloucester, wait in line for brunch at Sugar Magnolia’s, dig into a lobster at a cove-side picnic table at the Lobster Pool in nearby Rockport, and spend the night in a nautical-themed room at the Beauport Hotel (from $279).