East Coast Family Vacation Ideas

Building sand castles, wading in the ocean and searching for seashells; for kids, summer doesn’t get any better than a beach vacation


If you’re looking for a family getaway along the East Coast, there are a variety of scenic seaside destinations to choose from. Whether you want to explore a quaint beach town or enjoy the excitement of amusement park rides and attractions, you can get your trip started with these family favorites.

The Island Wild Ponies Made Famous

Chincoteague Island will win your heart with its simplicity. You won’t find shopping arcades or bustling boardwalks here—experience a serene setting with long, clean beaches and beautiful sunsets. Look for the wild Chincoteague ponies made famous by children’s-book author Marguerite Henry. Chincoteague, a Virginia barrier island, is part of the National Wildlife Refuge. The famous wild pony roundups are held in July, but families visit all year for old-fashioned, get-out-in-nature fun. Think beach, biking, boating and wildlife eco-tours.

Beaches, Bowling and Zoos—Oh my!

York Beach, Maine, has a small-town feel, perfect for an East Coast family vacation. The town offers a trio of beautiful beaches—Long Sands Beach, Short Sands Beach, and York Harbor Beach —plus everything kids love: bowling, mini-golf, an arcade, craft shops and ice cream parlors. All three York beaches have charm, but youngsters adore Short Sands Beach thanks to nearby Wild Kingdom —Maine's largest zoo and amusement park—with its roller coasters, go-carts, bumper cars, bounce castles and a Ferris wheel offering unforgettable ocean views.


Leave Your Car Behind

Near NYC, but a world away, Fire Island is nestled between the Atlantic Ocean on one side and Great South Bay on the other. This 32-mile barrier island off Long Beach is one long, pristine stretch of coastline. Ferry over to this car-free paradise and watch the kids get excited over wildlife¬—white-tailed deer roam freely, and migrating geese nest in the marshes. Lively Ocean Beach hums with eateries, mom-and-pop markets and boutiques. But it’s Fire Island's tall sand dunes and ancient maritime forests that your family will talk about for years to come.


Seashells at the Seashore

Sanibel Island lies east-west off the coast of Florida, not north-south like most islands. This orientation washes seashells by the thousands onto its sandy shores, making Sanibel one of the best shelling beaches in the nation. Kids love doing the "Sanibel stoop"—a shell collecting game—where they can gather a variety of shell types. And everyone enjoys the island's hard-packed white sand, 22 miles of bike paths, abundant pelicans and spoonbills, tropical foliage and crystal blue water. Local laws forbid high-rises and limit the use of concrete—that's why you'll see gopher tortoises grazing on the upper dunes.

Ready to plan your family vacation? Find hotels in Chincoteague Island, York Beach, Fire Island, Sanibel Island.



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