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Familyman Friendly Beach Directory

I was just thinking about how nice it would be to have a Familyman Beach directory. After all, for a Midwesterner to drive 500-1000 miles only to find a beach filled with homosapiens, jellyfish, or oil sludge, it can be mighty disappointing.

So let’s start a list right now of beaches with the best…waves, shells, sand, wildlife, RV parking, and family goodness. So if you’ve been to a beach that you just love, post it here. You just might help a fellow Familyman avoid the awkwardness of finding two Speedo-wearing guys holding hands.

PS – Like Florida? Check out the amazing and numerous Florida State Parks. Many of the parks offer on the beach parking.

This Post Has 71 Comments

  1. We went to Henderson Beach SP in Destin, FL last September (2009) and absolutely loved it. We got there about a week after the big sea turtles gave birth so there was still a lot of excitement from the park rangers. They were very helpful in giving us things to do in the park when we weren’t at the beach having fun as a family. It was a great time and I definitely recommend it to all Family Men!!!!

  2. We pulled into Carpinteria State Beach south of Santa Barbara California late one evening while RVing it for our first time and had the sound of surf and sand and think its a pretty family safe place:>)

  3. Panama City Beach (or the western end thereof, e.g., Sunnyside) is usually quiet and very family friendly—about to head that way on 6/5…

  4. Panama City Beach, FL(or the western end thereof, e.g., Sunnyside) is usually quiet and very family friendly—about to head that way on 6/5…

  5. In Pensacola we really enjoy going to FT. Pickens campground out on Santa Rosa Island. It’s not free but at $20.00 per night you are in a great location and the beaches have been family friendly every time we were there. Touring the Fort during the day was nice also since it is mostly underground and cool.

  6. As a matter of fact we are currently at Kiawah Island, SC. This has been one of the most relaxing serene beaches my family of 7 has ever experienced…Live Conch, Starfish, Sand Dollars, Horseshoe Crabs, Shells….
    The best part about it is that we traveled less than an hour to get there. We usually drive 8-10 hours to the central coast of Fla. from Charleston, SC. Kiawah has RV storage on the island but I believe the camp ground is a few miles away

  7. We are in Sanibel Island, Florida right now and enjoying every minute of it. It’s a quaint island community with fun restaurants, good shopping, and excellent beaches for shelling and laying in the sand. We drive by the campground/RV park every day on Periwinkle Way (the main drag on the island). Check it out!

  8. The sebatian Inlet in Melbourne, Florida. It was a great experience for the whole family. There were dolphins swimming visibly all day , and some manatee also. It is about an hour drive from Orlando. Well worth the drive.

  9. Grayton Beach State Park, near Destin, FL and St. Andrews SP, in Panama City, FL are beautiful…similar to Henderson Beach SP mentioned above. Well-maintained..family friendly…white beaches and emerald green waters.

  10. Sorry…I’am biased….the best beaches are in puerto Rico!!! If someday you want to vacation there, you will find a lot of great beaches! Just dreaming about my Island…recently moved to NY!

  11. Honeymoon Island SP in Clearwater, FL is family friendly with wide beaches. The water tends to be calm and very shallow so you can go out quite a ways and still not reach chest deep water. If you want to pay you can take a ferry out to Caledesi Island from Honeymoon Island. Only so many people are allowed on this island in any one day, so it is sparsely populated. It is the best place to go shelling. You will find various shells and sea life depending on when you visit.

  12. Hi Todd, well we don’t have an RV but we are going camping at a RV Campground next week in Delaware. Haven’t been there in over 20 years but it was great then…maybe I should wait to give my updated review after we return next week.

    Anyway, they have 2 parks near the ocean. The closest is Delaware Seashore St. Park and there is also Cape Henlopen:
    http://www.destateparks.com/camping/delaware-seashore/index.asp

  13. How about Beverly Beach or Cape Lookout on the oregon coast. Both are state parks right on the beach and wonderful!

  14. How about Beverly Beach or Cape Lookout on the oregon coast. Both are state parks right on the beach and wonderful! Wanted to add that the water is sooooo cold at the oregon coast that you definately won’t see speedos!!!!!!

  15. Fort DeSoto County Park, Tampa, Fl. area. Beautiful beach and they have RV spots! Make reservations early tho! Also Ormond Beach, Fl. – “The birthplace of Speed” (as in car racing)this is in Volusia County Fl where you can drive on the beach!

  16. I should add one more thing about Delaware. I totally forgot that the Rehoboth area has the same “homosapien” issue. So, might want to steer away from Cape Henlopen. Rehoboth use to be a family beach many years ago but I heard it has changed.

  17. Pensacola Beach is normally very family friendly…every weekend except for Memorial Day weekend. That is the time this group has decided to congregate at this beach. We invite families to come any other time. They would enjoy their visit.

  18. Cape San Blas, Florida…wonderful quiet family beach……we stay at the Sea Cliffs condos, but it’s right next to St. Joseph’s State Park which has campers. Great area for wildlife, fishing, and beautiful beaches!

  19. Daytona Beach Shores, south of Daytona Beach, FL. We have stayed at Sun Viking Lodge several times and loved it! They even have houses/cottages to rent for the bigger families. It takes about 20 seconds to get to the sand and it is clean and family-friendly. Close to Kennedy Space Center, a few lighthouses and some of the best ice cream and seafood around.

  20. Todd, Roy Jenkins is exactly right!! Fort DeSoto (on the southern tip of Pinellas County, FL) was voted the best beach in America a few years ago!! You can reserve a campsite just a couple of miles from the beach on the Pinellas County Parks & Rec website up to 6 months in advance, but they go quickly. My family camps on the first weekend of November every year with other families from our home church, and it’s a blast!!

    http://www.pinellascounty.org/park/05_ft_desoto.htm

  21. New Smyrna Beach, Fl. Flat and alot of white hard sand to play baseball, football or build sandcastles. Clean, quiet and family friendly. Also great place to watch space shuttle launches from. They have a drive and no-drive sections.

  22. Ft. DeSoto Beach on the west coast of Florida near St Petersburg. We just came back form camping there – It was great – camp right on the water, there are gulf and bay beaches, two piers, lots of bike paths and fishing. We saw lots of different kinds of sea life and the family had great fun. Reservations for weekends are almost a must – but during the week you can normally find a spot. They also have a few walk-in sites. We live on the east coast of Florida but go to the west coast to camp. We also love Stump Pass State Park – you will find lots of fossilized sharks and horse teeth there. The park can be a little hard to find, and no camping. We stay at Oscar Scherer State Park and then drive to Stump Pass. If you go – be sure to plan a stop at YumYum’s donuts – the BEST family owned donut shop in the world!

  23. One more note – we live within 30 minutes of Sebastian Inlet State Park – we don’t camp there – but if you go – be sure to snorkel in the tidal pool on the North side of the inlet. When it is high tide, you can’t beat the snorkeling and it is VERY family friendly. Snorkel near the rocks that divide the tidal pool from the inlet – there are always a ton of fish and sometimes manatees come in.

  24. We really loved Kai’a beach on Kauai. It is beautiful and family friendly. Also loved the beaches on Sanabel Island, Fl. Captiva Island has a really cool cemetary. Both are really close to the Edison and Ford homes too.

  25. Emerald Isle, NC (just south of the Outer Banks), has a great, quiet, family-friendly beach. We are not RVers, but there are several campgrounds in the area. In the town of Emerald Isle, there are no buildings taller than 3 stories, and there are lots of good shops and restaurants. There is also a nice aquarium with lots of children activities in nearby Pine Knoll Shores. The beaches are nesting areas for loggerhead turtles. Lots of things for parents and children to do. Duke University has its marine lab facilities in the nearby historical harbor town of Beaufort, which has a number of fun museums, shops, and activities.

  26. Our family has found the St Joseph Peninsula State Park in the panhandle of Florida to have the best beaches and the campgrounds are great. We have driven there 4 times (all the way from Iowa) because of the park and beaches.

  27. Another vote for Sanibel Island – usually gentle water, no problems with riptides, and some of the best shelling in the Gulf. Dolphins are common, manatees, and lots of places to stay….

  28. When you guys are in Jacksonville, Florida, Hannah Park at the beach is a great place with camping, RV spots, a big lake, bike and hike trails, and of course beautiful beaches.

  29. Todd,
    We don’t have an RV, but we have a time share in Myrtle Beach. MB is still family friendly. We have spent the last 15 years making family memories the first week of Aug in MB at our time share. Just south of MB in Surfside Beach are a couple of Christian RV parks —for the RV crowd.

  30. Sorry you might not make it out of the midwest for this one… Holland State Park, Michigan… great lighthouse ‘Big Red’, camping is about as close to the beach as it gets, Holland has great downtown area and first week of May is Tulip Time and millions upon millions of tulips.

  31. Michigan has some of the best beaches in the world and most are family friendly. We visited many Lighthouses and found ALL of those wonderful family places (towers, beaches, shipwrecks, museums, and more). Not your traditional ‘beach’ destination but we didn’t see ANY Wierdos, Speedos, or Condos!

  32. Ocean Isle, NC is a nice, quiet, family friendly beach. The island is mostly houses with only a few 2 story hotels. There is a nice pier to fish from. Not sure about camping.

  33. Here in Virginia Beach, on the south side of town near the NC border, there’s a great beach called Sandbridge. Excellent sand and surf, bath houses, parking, nice playground. Very family friendly.

  34. St. George Island on the FL panhandle is the best! We’ll never go anywhere else. No commercialism…not even a stoplight. A couple of gas stations, restaurants and beachwear stores. Other than that…just beachouses and a beautiful state park on the far east end. Dogs are very welcome everywhere too!!

  35. Edisto Beach in SC is really nice for camping and shell hunting. They have a state park with a campground right on the beach and then one a mile or so down the road in the woods. We have also enjoyed Huntington Beach State Park near Myrtle Beach and Myrtle Beach State Park is nice also (both in SC). We preferred the beach at Huntington but Myrtle Beach has laundry facilities and playgrounds. We are going to Anastasia State Park in Florida this year. Would love to hear how it is as we’ve never been.

  36. Ottawa Beach, Holland MI
    Powder Sugar beach in the “2nd Happiest City” in the US. Fresh water, no oil, no salt, no sharks and no jellyfish. Bring your boogie board.

  37. For 14 years, we have enjoyed the beautiful and pristine Seaside beach on Florida’s panhandle. RVs can stay at Grayton Beach State Park.

  38. Oh you were so close to my favorite beach! Rosemary Beach (in Rosemary Beach, FL)! If you want a fun-for-all-ages family vacation…this is it! It is a quaint, family friendly beach town with gorgeous beach homes, movies on the lawn, night crab hunting, lawn parties (for kids), a spray ground…and it is located right next to Alice Beach, Seaside (where Truman Show was filmed), and WaterColor. So if you ever want a break from the RV, you’ve got to check this place out! : )

  39. Another vote for Emerald Isle, NC (our favorite…completely non-commercialized) and Sanibel, FL! Also the southern end of nearby Ft Myers Beach toward Naples is excellent for shelling, watching dolphin, and finding sand dollars. Gorgeous area!

  40. I spent a great afternoon parked in our RV on the Corpus Cristi beach overlooking the USS Lexington (we’re from Lexington, KY). I don’t know that you could park overnight, but the city-wide free wireless was great. I could park parallel to the beach and watch the kids from the comfort of the shade after they wore me out in the surf.

    http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=&ie=UTF8&q=beaches&fb=1&gl=us&view=text&ei=NhMJTIDJI8L98AbhkZV0&ved=0CC4QtQMwAA&sll=27.817709,-97.384679&sspn=0.004412,0.010504&split=1&rq=1&ev=zi&radius=0.39&hq=beaches&hnear=&ll=27.816703,-97.388145&spn=0.004412,0.010504&t=h&z=17

  41. Padre Island National Seashore is a Texas State Park with RV and primative camping. Cost $10 per vehicle but you get clean beaches, small museum, restrooms & showers, small grocery store and park rangers keep the rif-raf far away. The park is all natural, no development, great fishing, beach combining and wildlife everywhere. Our family really enjoyed it. Straight through Corpus Christi over JFK Causeway to N. Padre Island, stay on Park Rd 1 straight to the National Seashore.

  42. If you find your way to OREGON there isn’t a bad beach around. Up and down the whole Oregon coast is beautiful, scenic, family friendly and most of them are free. Some of our favorites are Cannon Beach/Seaside area (although might be tough to maneuver the RV around), Beverly Beach and South Beach. BUT the water is cold!!

  43. I would recommend Wallis Sands State Beach in Rye, NH….lots of parking, low cost, great (and inexpensive) snack bar. My family loves it!

  44. You came during the WRONG holiday!! That week the homosapiens take over parts of the beach. We also used to have the whitest beaches in the world until two days ago when the oil started making landfall. Maybe one day when it’s clean again you guys can come through on a DIFFERENT weekend and enjoy it.

  45. We recommend Holden Beach, NC. It is completely non-commercial and is a family beach. There is one small campground for tents and RVs. It is 99.9% homes and my wife’s family has been going there for years and years. Love it!

  46. Sherman Park (mentioned by Paul Stackhouse) is a beautiful park, but if you’re in the area, come on over to the Canadian side! We have miles of beautiful beaches along the Lake Superior shoreline – Pointe Des Chenes, Harmony, Old Mill Bay, Batchewana, and Pancake Bay to name but a few. Batchewana & Harmony are the warmest & sandiest of the lot, Pancake Bay & Pointe Des Chenes have beautiful campgrounds, and there is much exploring to do along the Lake Superior shoreline! Come & Enjoy!

  47. Sebastian Inlet in Melbourne, Florida. It has something for everyone. You can relax at the beach while others enjoy the fishing experience. It has bike trails and also a shallow water area for the smaller children. We saw jack rabbits, manatees and turtles. It has a beautiful view and very nice sunsets. Book in advance!

  48. We love Ocracoke Island, NC. You go down the Outer Banks until you hit the very tip in Hatteras, then take a ferry to Ocracoke. It was the #1 beach per Dr. Beach in 2007 (beachs are retired from the list once they hit the #1 mark.) There is a wonderful NPS campground right on the beach. Very quiet little village with incredible history. Ocracoke was Blackbeard the Pirate’s hideout. You can also take a boat to Portsmouth Island which has some of the best shelling anywhere. Ocracoke is just absolutely amazing.

  49. Okay, it’s not really a beach, but the Fairplay Beach, in the Town of Fairplay, Colorado is a small fishing lake at nearly 10,000 feet above sea level. You can also get a daily permit from the Town to pan gold…good family fun! Lots of camgrounds in the area, or camp for free in the National Forest, within minutes.

    Punch in 39.222078N 106.003875W in Google Maps.

  50. We love Myrtle Beach State Park in SC. The sand isn’t sugar white, but clean. The water isn’t clear blue either, but since it is a state park there are rules so the wild ones tend to stay away. The campground is wonderful. All the employees were very friendly. We camped in heavy shade just a short walk from the beach, close enough that we walked carrying our load. There is a pier for crabbing and fishing as well as a nature center that gives free classes to children on varied subjects throughout the week. Did I mention the shade? Shade at the beach!!! This state park also has plenty of sites with sewer! It was wonderful! The park is out away from the commercial stuff, but close enough if you want to visit some of the neat shopping areas. We enjoyed Alligator Adventure, a zoo full of gaters, crocs, snakes, lizards, turtles, frogs and the like. We found lots of shells on this trip though most were clam shells. We got tired of picking them up and stopped with two buckets full.

  51. My familiy of 9 has stayed a couple of times at Topsail Hill Preserve State Park in Florida near Destin. It costs 42.50 per night so not cheap but worth it. There is a paved bike path/walking trail 7/10 of a mile long that leads you to 3 miles of white beaches. You can get alone on this beach. A trolley runs every hour taking groups down to the beach at no charge. There is a small pool that our kids enjoy. The spots are level and paved with sewer and cable (which we chose not to use this time around). Very nicely kept park, the only one I have seen with this degree of landscaping. Just be careful leaving items out at night as there is a irrigation system that will leave your towels wet.

  52. We LOVE Garden City and Surfside Beach, SC. It is just south of Myrtle Beach. Our favorite activity aside from the surf and sand is miniature golf. There are dozens of courses.

  53. I would have to say ditto to the Virginia Beach comments. Great family friendly beach. I also like Ocean Isle, NC and Topsail Beach NC as well as Wrightsville Beach in NC. NC beaches rule in my opinion.

  54. Chincoteague Island, VA on the ocean side of the DEMARVA peninsula – have you heard of the book Misty of Chincoteague? The place is real – non commercial and a fishing town! Last year my famliy of 10 stayed in a two bedroom furnished cottage. $450 per week off season before June 4, after September 7. Rode bikes on paved trails, observed wildlife in the US Park service wildlife refuge with visitor centers and programs on southern end of Assateague Island, swam & played at the miles of undeveloped ocean side beach, caught and ate dozens and dozens of crabs, swam in the pool, walked the streets, purchased fresh seafood caught that day from scollops, oysters, flounder, monk, shrimp, clams….., fished, visted Wallops Island NASA visitor center. Only negative – be prepared for the mosquitoes… We used to camp, but was easier, and not too much more money to do the cabin thing – no crowds like at campgrounds. Three nice campgrounds on the island, one not so nice. Nice church on the island.

  55. Just about any beach on Lake Michigan, “Michigan’s West Coast”, from South Haven up to Mackinaw. There are state parks, US National Lakeshore (Sleeping Bear Dunes), county parks, and city park beaches.
    Fresh water (no salt), huge sand dunes, and oil.
    Come to Michigan and help out our economy!
    (oops, I guess the secret is out now.)

  56. Ft. Meyers Beach- Wide as a football field in the south end, Baby powder sand, lots of shells, plenty of room to avoid any “modesty faux-paus”

  57. Don’t forget the Great Lakes. We’re nowhere near an ocean, but we love time at Presque Isle State Park at Lake Erie. Beautiful beaches.

  58. For you west coasters, Doheny Beach Campground is the very best, cleanest, family fun you can have – and for a great price!!!!

  59. Jetty Park in Cape Canaveral, FL…right next to the beach, and they even have a campground for your RV.

    There is also the Patrick AFB beaches. The northernmost one (known as “Picnic Tables” by the locals) is the best one for families…no rocks, but the “Officer’s Club” or “O Club” just south of it is good too…as long as you don’t mind using your RV potty. (BTW, the officer’s club burned down a few years ago, but it’s still called “Officer’s Club” or “1st Light” by the locals…it’s at the first light south of Cocoa Beach when driving from the north..and the one that looks like something SHOULD be there, but it’s not…at least there’s plenty of parking. Hope that’s clear as mud…or clearer. 🙂

  60. I would strongly recommend Huntington Beach State Park on the south end of the Myrtle Beach, SC area. As a resident, we have youth events out there; and the beach is never crowded. Plus the beach is mostly used by campers or local families. No Touron’s Here!

  61. Craig B wrote about a spot with a beach in Fairplay, CO… I have to comment. I don’t know how they got there, but I know how I got there out of Breckinridge, CO… the roads around Fairplay are nothing but curves and rolling hills. Try it with an 18 wheeler!! it’s beautiful… from an airplane or helicopter. or if somebody else is driving. Otherwise… I’d recommend a beach off the beaten path… St. Pete Beach, FL… Not St. Pete- St. Pete Beach. They are 2 separate and completely different towns. Not many campgrounds, and the hotels can get busy at times… so do your homework when planning a trip here – but very little traffic here and a great wide white sandy beach. Visit Pass-a-Grille? Beach.. it’s just below St. Pete Beach at the tip. Map it- you’ll see it’s a hidden gem. The closer you get to Clearwater, the more touristy and busier it gets. also there’s a lot more condo’s up towards Clearwater Beach. For a side trip, visit Sarasota to the Ringling Museum.

  62. After my husband saw people online commenting that their favorite beaches were in Michigan of all places, my family decided to try out southwest Michigan’s beaches four years ago rather than travel almost 2 days to Florida. Only 4.5 hours away from us, and boy, were we surprised! Beautiful, clean water, fun waves, and no sharks. Our favorite beaches are Silver Beach in St. Joseph and the beach by Little Sable Point Lighthouse not too far from Ludington. You can walk to Silver Beach Pizza from the beach for an awesome pizza treat. We’ve also climbed lighhouses, & once biked 2 beautiful, sand-duned miles to a remote lighthouse (Big Sable Point in Ludington)and were practically the only ones there besides the lighthouse tour guides – so peaceful & the water was crystal clear. There is a great campground, there. We love the ocean, and did splurge and take our four kids to Florida last year after studying sea life, but we’ve been returning every year since to enjoy the slower pace of these little Michigan towns. Would NOT recommend the KOA near Stevensville, however – awful experience for us!

  63. I did want to also mention that Silver Beach in St. Joseph, MI also has lots of grills you can use right there on the beach, a wonderful playground, volleyball nets, and a pier that makes a wonderful evening stroll. (The pier next to it has the lighthouse at the end and is accessed from neighboring Tiscornia Park.) Also down by the beach is a new compass rose fountain – it’s huge and the kids (& adults!) really enjoy the big sprays of water every 15 minutes as well as continuous smaller fountain sprays- and it’s completely FREE. Right across the road from that is a pretty cheap, but absolutely GORGEOUS, new carousol that runs till 10 pm each night. So many “family-friendly” things to do in this area, you really can’t go wrong. As far as nearby camping, there is Weko Beach campground in Bridgman (about 15-20 minutes away.) Weko Beach is beautiful, too, and they play Taps with two trumpets at sunset every night in the summer. Two other things we did in nearby South Haven was to take a thrilling sail on a restored War of 1812 tallship at the South Haven Maritime Museum- very authentic, and also bike rode on the absolutely beautiful Kal Haven Trail. You can tell I’m pining for a summer vacation already, can’t you???

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