Remember when you were the only one to know about your favorite local sandy spot? Well, word’s gotten out and now it can be hard to spread out your towel without elbowing a tourist. So we hunted down the quietest, most pristine and untouched slices of paradise right here in the U.S. (But shhh, keep them a secret.)
DRY TORTUGAS, FL
It’s no South Beach or Panama City, and that’s A-OK with us. One of Florida’s three national parks, this shoreline is known for its tropical birds, colorful reefs, sunken ships and legends of lost treasure. You may need to plan ahead though: Abandoned Fort Jefferson and the surrounding beach are accessible only by boat or seaplane.
EDISTO ISLAND, SOUTH CAROLINA
Less than 50 miles outside charming Charleston, this quiet sea island off South Carolina’s eastern coast has been immaculately preserved since the beginning of the 20th century. From crabbing and shrimping to bird watching and even a serpentarium (basically a zoo for reptiles), there’s no shortage of nature activities if you happen to tire of the unoccupied white-sand beaches, crumbling plantation ruins and winding intercostal estuaries.
CARMEL MEADOWS BEACH, CA
Bookended by rugged cliffs and lichen-covered rocks on either side of a crescent-shaped inlet, this Big Sur beach is much like the rest of the scenic Pacific Coast — that is, without the thousands of camera-wielding tourists (not to mention the Big Little Lies enthusiasts). Although the hike down has plenty of warning signs, it’s actually pretty accessible and worth the mile-long trek for a secluded slice of northern California heaven.
CUMBERLAND ISLAND, GA
Hop on a ferry from St. Mary’s to get to this 18-mile stretch of largely uninhabited wilderness, rolling sand dunes and wild roaming horses. There’s one inn located on the island that looks as though it’s stuck in the 19th century, as well as relics of Spanish mission churches and antebellum plantation homes that will truly make you feel like the last living soul on earth.
SECOND BEACH, WA
Looking for a little Edward Cullen action? This deserted stretch of Olympic Peninsula coastline is one of three La Push beaches that were part of the setting for the Twilight movies, and it’s no small wonder why: The rolling fog, dark empty waters and towering sea stacks feel as far removed from reality as vampires do (and as dazzlingly beautiful).
PA’AKO COVE, HI
Located on Maui just south of the popular Big Beach, Pa’ako is also known as “Secret Cove” due to its hard-to-find entrance through a lava-rock wall in a residential area of the island. Although it’s completely secluded, the breathtaking beach is a popular spot for weddings. Because what bride could resist swaying palms, scattered lava rocks and a selfie-stick-free stretch of pristine white sand?
Remember Misty of Chincoteague? While both islands have gotten exposure for Marguerite Henry’s children’s book (and movie), only Assateague contains wild ponies, since it’s a protected nature sanctuary. A very serene destination for beachgoers and horse lovers alike, your best bet is to check out Wild Beach, which is accessible only on foot or by boat and nearly completely empty (save for the rogue pony, of course).
ROQUE BLUFFS, ME
Why did the chicken cross the road? Because it was literally the only thing stopping her from this perfectly untouched stretch of sand on the Downeast coast. On one side is the Englishman Bay, with its lapping saltwater waves; on the other, the shallow warm freshwaters of Simpson Pond. You—er, the chicken—really can’t go wrong.
SOUTH MANITOU ISLAND, MI
One of two islands off Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Dunes Lakeshore coast, the three-mile-long stretch of sandy beach is accessible only by ferry. Known for its scenic hiking, nearly 50 shipwreck sites, cedar forests and picturesque lighthouse, there’s enough to do here for a lifetime without ever seeing another person.