Things You Didn't Know About U.S. Beaches

Surfers riding waves in Hawaii
••• Warren Bolster/Getty Images

There are approximately 95,471 miles of shoreline in the United States and its territories (according to NOAA). Translation: There is ample and varied surf and sand in this big, beautiful country for you to explore. To learn more, check out this roundup of the most unique and interesting bits of US beach trivia. Then start planning your trip!

  • 01 of 11

    Black Sand Beaches are Found in Hawaii

    ••• Hawaii's black sand beaches.

    Not all the beaches in Hawaii have black sand, but the ones that do are of high interest to curious travelers. Wainapanapa Beach in Hana, Maui and Punalu'u Beach on the Big Island are two of the best places to see black volcanic sand in the Hawaiian Islands. Because these grains of sand are so rare, it is illegal to remove any from the beach. Also note that you'll need beach shoes on black sand as it's often too hot to walk on (a consequence of it absorbing sunlight as opposed to white sand, which reflects sunlight). Read more about Hawaii's beaches.

  • 02 of 11

    The Nation's Longest Coastline is in Alaska

    It is not surprising that the USA's largest state also has its longest shoreline, which extends for 33,904 miles. Note that the shoreline "refers to land/water boundaries of ANY sort i.e. rivers, lakes, seas, oceans where land gives way to water of some sort." In terms of coastline ("the boundary of the continent" or land mass), Alaska extends for 6,640 miles, which is also the longest in the country.

  • 03 of 11

    Florida is a State Full of Beaches

    Florida is a peninsula that's touched by both the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, resulting in beaches ringing the length of the state. Florida also has the second longest coastline after Alaska, with 1,260 white-sand miles of coast. Florida is the closest state to the Equator, a fact that gives it the warmest average year-round temperature (71 degrees F) of any state in the country. Read more about the ​beaches of Florida.​

  • 04 of 11

    Even the Midwest Has Beaches

    ••• Beach goers relax at Lake Michigan Beach. Tim Boyle / Staff of Getty Images

    When most travelers think of U.S. beaches, they think of the coasts. But the Great Lakes provide shores for many in the Midwest. Chicago is particularly renowned for its beaches on Lake Michigan.

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  • 05 of 11

    Landlocked Indiana Is Known for Its Sand Dunes

    You can see the skyline of Chicago from the Indiana Dunes National Seashore, located in the north of the state. Indiana enjoys 15 miles of coastline along Lake Michigan. The Dunes are one of the top places to go in Indiana.

  • 06 of 11

    Surfing Was Invented in Hawaii

    ••• Surfing was invented in Hawaii. Joe Scarnici / Contributor of Getty

    Surfing and the beach go together in many travelers' minds, but that was not always the case. Although surfing dates back to the late 18th century as an activity enjoyed by Hawaiian royalty, the sport did not gain its — er — footing until the 20th century. Pioneers of the sport include Hawaiian native Duke Kahanamoku, who popularized surfing in the 1920s and 1930s, and Tom Blake, inventor of the hollow surfboard. Beyond the beach, you can learn about the history of surfing at the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum in Honolulu.

  • 07 of 11

    Nude Beaches May Be Common

    More than 22 states in the USA offer clothing optional beaches. These are the top nude beaches in the U.S.

  • 08 of 11

    Best Beaches for Shells

    ••• Shipwreck Beach in Poipu on the island of Kauai. Paul Mounce / Contributor of Getty Images

    The top beaches in the United States for finding the widest selection of intact shells are:

    • Calvert Cliffs State Park, Maryland
    • Ocracoke Island, North Carolina
    • Sanibel Island, Florida
    • Point No Point Beach, Washington
    • Gulf Islands National Seashore, Florida
    • Shipwreck Beach, Hawaii
    • Cumberland Island, Georgia
    • Point Reyes National Seashore, California
    • San Jose Island, Texas
    • Silver Strand State Beach, California

    For details about each of these beaches and helpful information on looking for and collecting shells, see Travel + Leisure.

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  • 09 of 11

    The Most Popular Beach on the East Coast

    Along the South Shore of Long Island, and less than an hour from the USA's most populated City — New York City —is Jones Beach. It is the most visited beach on the East Coast, with approximately six to eight million visitors annually.

  • 10 of 11

    The Oldest Public Beach in the United States

    Massachusetts lays claim to the oldest public beach in the U.S. Revere Beach, five miles north of Boston was established in 1896.

  • 11 of 11

    Best Beaches for Surfing and People Watching in California

    ••• Surf City Surf Dog Competition in Huntington Beach, California. Axelle/Bauer-Griffin / Contributor for Getty Images

    Hawaii may have invented surfing, but California helped popularize it thanks to the Beach Boys and Jan and Dean during the 1960s. Some of the most popular beaches for surfing in California are Huntington Beach, which hosts the annual U.S. Open of Surfing, and Half Moon Bay, where the Mavericks surfing competition takes place in the winter. For those who wish to sunbathe, stroll, or people-watch, California has those beaches, too. Read more about the best California beaches for all types of activities.