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Top 10 East Coast beaches

From sunrise to sunset, East Coast beaches rank among the best in the world
From sunrise to sunset, East Coast beaches rank among the best in the world
Sandy Wallace

Moms and dads, listen up. Labor Day will be here on September 3. This holiday is always observed on the first Monday in September. Originally celebrated as a worker's holiday, the day is also the unofficial end of summer.

The beach is one of the best family destinations for East Coast families
Sandy Wallace

For families across the U.S., Labor Day weekend is often an opportunity for a late season getaway. For many East Coast families, the getaway destination of choice is the beach.

Whether you're looking for a busy, action-filled beach like Virginia Beach or Atlantic City or a slower paced destination like the Outer Banks of North Carolina, there's a beach out there with your family's name on it.

It seems that every travel company issues a top 10 beach list. Of course, there's also the "Dr. Beach" list, created each year by Dr. Stephen Leatherman, America's leading beach expert. So if everyone else can put together a list, why not me.

Here are my top 10 East Coast beaches to check out, arranged more or less north to south. All have been named on one or more of the top 10 beach listings this year and many have been on Dr. Beach's lists in previous years.

Cap Cod, Massachusetts has a variety of beaches from quiet bay side beaches to busy beaches with giant waves. Cape Cod is made of up of the beaches of the lower Cape, mid Cape, upper Cape and the island beaches of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. Many of the beaches on Nantucket are very well suited for families, including Jetties Beach and Children's Beach. West Dennis Beach is a favorite of the mid Cape beaches for families. Cape Cod beaches are included in Dr. Beach's 2011 and 2012 lists as well as being in the National Geographic top 10 boardwalks list.

East Hampton, New York is home to five beaches, all owned and operated by the Village of East Hampton. The beaches of East Hampton are very well kept and considered among the most beautiful in the world. These beaches consistently make top 10 lists including this year's and last year's Dr. Beach lists and Travel Channel's top 10 beach list.

The Wildwoods, New Jersey was named top beach in the New Jersey top 10 beaches, is named among National Geographic's top 10 boardwalks, and on various other top 10 lists. Five miles of award-winning beaches await you in this New Jersey beach paradise. The sands are white and clean and there's plenty of activities and events.

Atlantic City, New Jersey is home to the most famous boardwalk in the U.S. as well as beaches for swimming, sunbathing, surfing, kayaking and windsurfing, boogie boarding and more. The beaches are free and so are many of the musical events on the boardwalk all summer long. Atlantic City's boardwalk was named at the top of National Geographic's list of boardwalks.

Rehoboth Beach, Delaware is listed among the top 10 boardwalks and the top 10 kid-friendly beaches. The boardwalk and beach offer free fun in the sun within the city limits of Rehoboth Beach and there are a bunch of state parks located nearby for those looking for a quieter place to visit.

Virginia Beach is listed among the top 10 boardwalks and is my personal favorite. It's the first beach I visited on the East Coast and has enough happening to suit everyone in the family. Visit the south end of the beach to watch great surfing, walk or ride on the boardwalk, build sand castles on the beach, or body surf in the water. The north end of the beach is quieter for those who are looking for a slower pace.

Take a day trip to Virginia Beach

The Outer Banks of North Carolina are made up by many beaches and barrier islands including Cape Hatteras, Duck, Corolla, Nags Head, Kitty Hawk and more. The string of beaches is 200 miles long and includes some beaches only accessible with 4WD vehicles or by ferry. Beaches of the Outer Banks consistently make top 10 lists including Dr. Beach's lists for 2011 and 2012, Travel Channel's top 10, and National Geographic's top 10 family beaches.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, also called The Grand Strand, includes 60 miles of beaches from North Myrtle Beach south to the quiet upscale beach communities of Pawley's Island and Litchfield. Myrtle Beach is one of the most popular of East Coast beaches and is always ranked high on every list including number two on the Travel Channel's top 10, number three on the Travelers' Choice top 10, and the top 10 boardwalks with the new boardwalk just added in the summer of 2012.

St. Pete Beach is located near Saint Petersburg, Florida. White sand beaches mark this favorite beach community with a year-round population of just over 10,000 that expands during tourist season. There are over 3,000 rental accommodations, a trolley to get around town easier and plenty to do all year round. St. Pete was named first on the Travelers' Choice top 10 list this year.

Cape Florida State Park in Key Biscayne, Florida was on Dr. Beach's top 10 beaches for 2012 after hitting the number one spot in 2011. Although I've not been to this beach, like most of the beaches in Florida, Cape Florida features white sand. Cape Florida is also home to a llighthouse built in 1825. Whether fishing, swimming or hanging out on the beach, you will enjoy the quiet atmosphere at Cape Florida.

If one of these beaches doesn't fit your plans, don't despair. The East Coast is lined with great beaches. Roughly half of the top 10 U.S. beaches on any list are located on the East Coast so you really can't go wrong with any of them.

There are specials all over the internet, including on Travelzoo, one of the top travel websites. You can also check Orbitz, AAA or your favorite travel site. Make plans now for an East Coast beach trip. There's only a few weeks of summer left.


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