Best Family Beach Vacation Ideas

Empty table on restaurant balcony overlooking beach

Mint Images / Getty Images

Take your brood on a beach vacation and enjoy the sand, surf, and sun. From great kids' clubs to family-friendly dining to great swimming pools to engaging entertainment to rooms large enough to accommodate your entire family, here are some of the best sandy locales to visit with your littles in tow. In addition to a couple of international destinations, we've got the scoop on where to go on each American coast, as well as a couple of fantastic midwestern delights.

01 of 10

Dream in California: La Jolla Cove

La Jolla Cove

TripSavvy / Sharyn Umaña-Angers 

Snorkel at La Jolla Underwater Park, learn about the delicate ecosystem by touring the Seven Caves in a kayak, practice stand-up paddle boarding, and get up close to barking seals that are basking in the sunshine. No matter what you do, plan on spending time near or in the water. If you have really young kids in tow and are nervous about the waves, spend time exploring the varied marine life in the tide pools. Don't miss a visit to The Cave Store, which looks like an unassuming tchotchke haven, but in reality, it's home to a secret bootlegger's stairwell that leads to the ocean. Plenty of seaside restaurants and accommodations are available as well so you can make the most of your time in the Californian sunshine.

02 of 10

Explore a Midwestern Beach on Mackinac Island, Michigan

Mackinac Island

 Wendy Altschuler 

There are no cars on Mackinac Island. The only traffic, if you can call it that, is created by bicycles, horses, or pedestrians. You can explore the entire island, and take in the Lake Huron views, by riding bikes 8.2 miles around the entire island. Rest your head at Mission Point, a waterfront property with a grand lawn, where kids eat free and can romp around in the kids' club at their leisure. If you have a family pet, you can bring her along too. You'll have easy access to a sandy strip that's perfect for skipping rocks and you can easily hop on the path and circumnavigate the island, stopping at beaches along the way.

03 of 10

Get Happy on Palm Beach in Aruba

Exploring the island of Aruba

 Wendy Altschuler 

Aruba is known for being one of the happiest islands in the Caribbean. Families will find much to do here, from jeep tours through Arikok National Park to tours of the Ostrich Farm to a visit at the Donkey Sanctuary to snorkeling at Baby Beach. You'll want to stay at a family-friendly resort like Barceló Aruba, located on one of the best sandy beaches on the island: Palm Beach. The resort will take care of your family from start to finish, with it's culinary offerings, regular entertainment, large swimming pool, and direct beach access.

04 of 10

Plunge Your Toes Into Sugary Sand: South Walton, Florida

South Walton, Florida

 Wendy Altschuler 

South Walton is home to 16 diverse beach neighborhoods, each with a different flair. Travel to each one via bicycle and let your kids decide which is their favorite. Explore 26 miles of shoreline, along the Gulf of Mexico, on a family vacation that will be one for the memory books. Charter a boat and go fishing, learn how to standup paddle board, kayak on top of the turquoise waters, and build sand castles at the beach.

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05 of 10

Experience the Best of Door County, Wisconsin

Door County, Wisconsin

 Wendy Altschuler 

Wisconsin might not be the first state you think of when considering a beach vacation but Door County should definitely make your short list for exciting places to bring your family. Washington Island, for example, is home to Schoolhouse Beach where instead of sand, there are perfectly circular white limestone rocks. This beach is ideal for swimming, picnicking, and lounging in a hammock. While in Door County, you can also visit Fragrant Isle Lavender Farm, shop in the boutiques, go hiking, and rent a boat to pull a raft.

06 of 10

Journey to the Land Down Under: Victoria, Australia's Coast

Kids can explore Victoria's rock pools any time of year.

 Visit Victoria

The best part about a family-friendly vacation to Australia's south eastern state, Victoria, is the diversity of landscapes that you'll encounter, from craggy cliffs to sandy shores to wetlands. National and state parks manage most of the coastline so you'll have a rich nature experience like no other. Romp around the shallow waters, perfect for little kids, at Gippsland; swim along the beaches set by the Great Ocean Road, like Apollo Bay, Torquay, and Warrnambool; relax at Phillip Island and explore rock pools; or venture to Mornington Peninsula, where your children will play around in the gentle waters, picnic, and swing at the playgrounds. While Victoria, Australia is lovely year-round, keep in mind that the weather is quite opposite to that of the United States. December—February is the hottest time of year and June—August is the coolest.

07 of 10

Find Serenity in Bimini, Bahamas

Resorts World Bimini

 Resorts World Bimini

If you head out early, you'll be able to find little shells that have washed up on Paradise Beach at Resorts World Bimini. Relax at the beach, letting your kids dig around in the sand, and stop in the Bimini Undersea water sports center to check out paddle boards, kayaks, or jet skis. Of course, the resort has fabulous dining options and the accommodations will draw you in for a mid-day siesta. Be sure to catch the sun as it sets on the horizon and snap a bunch of family photos.

08 of 10

Enjoy Southern Hospitality at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

 SkyWheel Myrtle Beach

Myrtle Beach has something for everyone: 60 miles of coastline, accommodations for every budget, loads of entertainment and activity options, and dining choices for even the pickiest of eaters. Wonder at the Atlantic Ocean while high in sky on the Myrtle Beach SkyWheel, wander along the 1.2 mile boardwalk, and enjoy some retail therapy along the beach. No matter what your age, or how large your family, you'll find plenty to do at Myrtle Beach.

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09 of 10

Have a Beach Foam Party in the Dominican Republic

Foam Party in the Dominican Republic

 Wendy Altschuler 

Of course you'll want to spend copious amounts of time lounging around on the beach, swimming in a fresh-water pool, and taking part in resort activities while on a beach vacation. But, if you haven't seen your small ones dance around at a foam party, with other kids and teens, then you should definitely add the beach adventure to your must-do list. Occidental Punta Cana, on El Cortecito Beach in the Dominican Republic, is the perfect place for your ultimate family-friendly beach vacation.

10 of 10

Travel to New England: Cape Cod

Cape Cod National Seashore

 National Park Service

Cape Cod, the east coast peninsula that's shaped like a flexed arm, is one of the best family-friendly places to visit in the state of Massachusetts. If seafood shacks, charming beachside villages, and lighthouses are your thing—and, how can they not be?—then a trip to Cape Cod will be magical for your family. Spend time at Cape Cod National Seashore, managed by the National Park Service (NPS), where your kids can splash around in the tide pools and spend lazy days in the sun. If your kids are between the ages of 13—17, they can train with the NPS to become Junior Lifeguards, gaining valuable skills and knowledge that will translate into ocean safety for your family.