With the rising cost of gas and vacation time that seems to dwindle each year, more and more families are choosing to stay close to home during their summer break.  When people think of beach vacations, they usually imagine some far-off tropical resort that usually requires a passport and vaccinations to even get to.  There is a better alternative.  We happen to live in a country that has many great beaches right in our own backyard, it’s just a matter of choosing the one that’s right for you.

To help with the process, we did some research to see which beaches families enjoy visiting year after year.  After seeing many of the same locales repeated on several lists, we’ve come up with great places for you and your family to consider for your next staycation.

Cape May, New Jersey

The cast of the Jersey Shore may have portrayed one part of the state in a certain light, but there are more family-friendly spots that are worth exploring, namely Cape May which is located at the most southern point of the Shore.  The idyllic setting features quaint architecture including gingerbread Victorian homes, vibrantly colored bed and breakfasts and dolphins jumping beyond the beach.  The shoreline features boutique hotels, ice cream shops, horse-drawn carriages and fabulous seafood restaurants.  The North Wildwood boardwalk, offering amusement rides, is also just a short drive away.

Coast Guard Beach, Massachusetts

Looking for a classic Cape Cod getaway?  Coast Guard Beach is a great destination for families. The beach includes changing rooms and showers (and lifeguards) which is great for those who want to clean up and change before heading out to dinner at one of the many local eateries.  Enjoy the great outdoors by renting kayaks, bikes and surfboards, bond over family campfires, de-stress with beach yoga or embark on a ranger-guided nature walk.  One area restaurant, Arnold’s Lobster and Clam Bar, takes family dining to the next level by serving kids’ meals in Frisbees. There is also an 18-hole mini-golf course on the premises.

Coronado, California

Coronado Central Beach features some unique offerings.  The glamorous and historic Hotel Del Coronado is right on the beach where Navy SEALS often train. How cool is that?  Of course, it also offers all of the traditional activities that families look for in a good beach vacation including boogie boarding, surfing, swimming, sandcastle building, kite flying, volleyball, biking and rollerblading (along 15 miles of dedicated pathways).  Parking is free and families with pets can head to the extreme north to Dog Beach where pooches can enjoy a leash-free run through the sand!

Daytona Beach, Florida

Of all of the beaches mentioned on this list, Daytona Beach is probably the most recognizable. Sometimes, when a location is a well-known tourist spot, it can be a turnoff but the buzz surrounding this Florida hotspot may be well-deserved. In addition to the 23 miles of sand, the area offers wildlife excursions, eco-education at the Marine Science Center offer eco-education and, of course, the 90-minute speedway tour at the Daytona 500 Experience.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore, North Carolina

People from North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia already know about the magnificent Outer Banks.  The Cape Hatteras National Seashore stretches for 72 miles along the Atlantic coast from Nag’s Head to Ocracoke Island. Beachcomb, body-surf and swim in the surf surrounded by the area’s trademark sandy dunes.  Kids will also want to climb all 248 steps to the top of the nation’s tallest lighthouse.

Poipu Beach Park, Hawaii

Hawaii, of course, is outside of the continental United States but it is still part of our nation which means there are no special travel requirements for getting to our very own tropical destination!  The gorgeous Poipu Beach Park features uniquely crescent-shaped beaches where shallow coves offer safe water fun for little ones while older kids can enjoy bodyboarding and surfing lessons at the nearby reef.  As if that wasn’t enough, the area also includes two championship golf courses, snorkeling and the chance to swim with green sea turtles.

What’s your favorite local beach?