All Articles Easy-to-reach beaches near major U.S. cities—and how to get there

Easy-to-reach beaches near major U.S. cities—and how to get there

Get out of the city and onto the sand at these top beaches.

Rosie Bell
By Rosie BellJul 18, 2022 4 minutes read
Beach-goers enjoy the waves in Asbury Park, New Jersey
Asbury Park, New Jersey
Image: Getty Images

Between the heat, lack of outdoor spaces, and day-to-day hustle, summer in the city can be tough. Thankfully, there are great beaches near many urban areas where you can escape for toes-in-the-sand relaxation. Whether you want to get away from Washington, D.C.; Houston; or Portland, Oregon; we’ve rounded up some of the best beaches within an easy drive or public transportation ride from major U.S. cities, so grab your swimsuit, towel, and sunscreen and go soak up some salty ocean air.

People on beach at Rockaway Beach in Queens, New York
Rockaway Beach in Queens, New York
Image: Getty Images

City: New York City

Best nearby beach: Rockaway Beach

In New York City, you don’t even have to leave the five boroughs to find a great stretch of sand. Rockaway Beach in Queens is one of the best beaches in the city, with opportunities for swimming, surfing (rent your gear from Surfboard Tribe NYC), dining (don’t miss the fish tacos at Tacoway Beach), drinking (hit Rockaway Beach Surf Club for happy hour), and pleasant strolls down the long boardwalk.

How to get there: One of the best things about Rockaway Beach is that it’s accessible by public transportation. Take the Far Rockaway–bound A train; the Far Rockaway branch of the Long Island Railroad from Atlantic Terminal or Jamaica station to the Far Rockaway station; or the NYC Ferry’s Rockaway route.

Aerial view of pier at Cocoa Beach, Florida
Cocoa Beach Pier, Cocoa Beach, Florida
Image: Management/Tripadvisor

City: Orlando, FL

Best nearby beach: Cocoa Beach

Leave the theme parks behind for Cocoa Beach, known for its surfing, shelling, and pristine white sand. The closest beach to Orlando, it’s just 60 miles from downtown (or about an hour away by car). After boogie boarding in the Atlantic, settle in for some tropical drinks and live entertainment at Riki Tiki Tavern, located at the end of the famous 800-foot-long Cocoa Beach Pier.

How to get there: You’ll need a car to get to Cocoa Beach. Take FL-528 East, then Florida A1A South for the most direct route.

Walton Beach on Sauvie Island, Oregon
Walton Beach on Sauvie Island, Oregon
Image: Management/Tripadvisor

City: Portland, OR

Best nearby beach: Walton Beach

Portlanders can find peace and quiet just 40 minutes outside the city at Walton Beach on Sauvie Island. At this peaceful spot on the Columbia River, families come to build sand castles, fly kites, and let their dogs run free. The shore is long and sandy, and the shallow water is ideal for wading.

How to get there: Drive from Portland to Sauvie Island via US-30 East. Buy a parking permit at the Reeder Beach County Store, then park on the left side of Reeder Road and climb one of the staircases on the right over the dunes to the beach.

People playing beach ball on Acworth Beach
Acworth Beach, Georgia
Image: Courtesy of Visit Acworth

City: Atlanta

Best nearby beach: Acworth Beach

Swim from the end of April through Labor Day at Acworth Beach, just 40 minutes north of Atlanta. The white-sand beach lies within Cauble Park on Lake Acworth’s northern shore, surrounded by playgrounds, picnic areas, and more. Rent a pavilion or gazebo if you’re in the mood to grill, or simply find a quiet spot to fish.

How to get there: The fastest way to get to Cauble Park is to drive from Atlanta via I-75 N, then take exit 278 toward Acworth.

AIA Sandcastle Competition at East Beach, Houston
AIA Sandcastle Competition at East Beach, Houston
Image: Courtesy of Visit Galveston

City: Houston

Best nearby beach: East Beach

Just over an hour from Houston along the sun-kissed Gulf of Mexico, East Beach is the largest beach in Texas. It’s also the only beach on Galveston Island where alcohol is permitted and sold, practically guaranteeing a good time. For even more fun, time your visit to the annual AIA Sandcastle Competition, which takes place each August and draws spectators from across the state.

How to get there: Make the 50-mile drive via I-45 S from Houston to Galveston, or take a rideshare service. Shuttle companies like Galveston Express, Galveston Limo, and Island Breeze Shuttle also run from the city to the beach.

View from Sandy Point State Park
View from Sandy Point State Park
Image: Maryland Courtesy of Sandy Point State Park

City: Washington, D.C.

Best nearby beach: Sandy Point, MD

A mere hour from Washington, D.C. in Annapolis, MD, Sandy Point State Park has long been a popular escape for Washingtonians. Beyond wildlife sightings and two hiking trails, the 786-acre park offers a mile-long sandy beach, where visitors can fish, kayak, or paddleboard (rent gear from the Marina Store near the boat ramps). Of course, you could also just go for a swim or lounge on the sand, enjoying the picturesque views of the Chesapeake Bay.

How to get there: Drive from D.C. via US 1-50 E, or take a rideshare service.

Umbrellas and seats at Biloxi Beach, Mississippi
Biloxi Beach, Mississippi
Image: Getty Images

City: New Orleans

Best nearby beach: Biloxi Beach, MS

With calm waters and soft white sand, Biloxi Beach is widely considered one of the best beaches in Mississippi. About a 90-minute drive from New Orleans, it makes for a fun day trip, full of swimming, sunbathing, and seafood at beachfront restaurants like The Reef and Shaggy’s. If you’re feeling lucky, hit one of the town’s popular casinos, like the Beau Rivage, after a day in the sun.

How to get there: Drive from New Orleans via I-10 W. You can also take the Greyhound bus direct from New Orleans to Biloxi.

Beach at Asbury Park, New Jersey
Beach at Asbury Park, New Jersey
Image: Getty Images

City: Philadelphia

Best nearby beach: Asbury Park Beach, NJ

Asbury Park Beach is a Jersey Shore institution less than a 90-minute drive from Philadelphia. The mile-long stretch of sand has an artsy, rock-n-roll vibe, but also offers family-friendly amenities like mini golf, playgrounds, and a splash park. When you’ve had enough sun, play pinball at the Silverball Retro Arcade, catch some live music at The Stone Pony (where Bruce Springsteen got his start), or stroll the 151-year-old boardwalk, frozen custard in hand.

How to get there: From Philadelphia, drive via I-95 North and I-195 East. Carry on to Route 18 North, then Route 66/Asbury Avenue East.

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Rosie Bell
Rosie Bell is a freelance travel journalist, author, and lifestyle entrepreneur. You can read more of her work at DiscoverySessions.io and follow her travels on Instagram @TheBeachBell.