Cape Lookout Named Best National Park Beach

Johnson Beach, Assateague Beach, West Beach and Sand Beach also winners

For beach-goers who like their sandy stretches on the natural side, it's hard to beat the scenic beaches located within U.S. National Park land. For the past four weeks, 10Best readers have been voting daily for their favorite national park beaches, and the results are in!

  • Trunk Bay Beach
    Virgin Islands National Park

    The smooth white sand beach at Trunk Bay is considered by many experts to be one of the world’s best. Here visitors can enjoy a 225-yard-long snorkeling trail with underwater plaques and an assortment of colorful fish. Snorkeling equipment rentals are available and the normally calm waters make following the trail a fun experience for people of all ages. Walk the beach toward the west in order to avoid the crowds when cruise ships are in port.
    Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

  • Coast Guard Beach
    Cape Cod National Seashore

    Coast Guard Beach near the town of Eastham, Mass. boasts large dunes and golden sand that make for a picture perfect setting. Swimming is excellent during the warm summer months and the beach is sufficiently long to accommodate a large number of people without seeming crowded. The beach serves as a great spot for observing wildlife including dolphins, seals, a large variety of shorebirds, and for exploring the salt flats.
    Photo courtesy of Margo Tabb / Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism

  • Cape Hatteras Beaches
    Cape Hatteras National Seashore

    America’s first national seashore offers 70 miles of sandy beaches running between the Atlantic Ocean and Pamlico Sound. Visitors enjoy a variety of water-based activities including kayaking, surfing, crabbing, windsurfing, snorkeling, swimming and strolling this beautiful seashore. Lifeguards are stationed at Coquina Beach on Bodie Island, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse Beach on Hatteras Island, and Ocracoke Day Use Beach. Three historic lighthouses are located in the park.
    Photo courtesy of NPS Photo

  • Esch Road Beach
    Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

    This national lakeshore along the northwest corner of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula includes 65 miles of shoreline with a number of welcoming beaches flanked by bluffs that can soar over 400 feet above Lake Michigan. Although Lake Michigan water can be rather chilly, especially early in the summer, several areas including Esch Beach have entering streams with warmer waters.
    Photo courtesy of NPS Photo

  • Rialto Beach
    Olympic National Park

    Rialto Beach on Washington’s spectacular Olympic Peninsula offers a walk in the wild where hikers experience the crashing of waves and the wind-blown spray of the ocean. The pebble beach is littered with giant drift logs and scenery is simply amazing. A favorite beach walk to Hole-in-the-Wall offers views of Gunsight Rock and the many offshore islands known as “sea stacks.” Whales, sea lions and otters can often be seen offshore.
    Photo courtesy of NPS Photo

  • Sand Beach
    Acadia National Park

    The scenic location of Acadia’s Sand Beach more than makes up for its relatively short length - 290 yards long. Mostly comprised of small shell fragments, the beach is nestled in a small inlet between granite mountains and rocky shores on the east side of Mount Desert Island. Cool waters of the Atlantic make for a chilly swim and the waterline exhibits large variations between low and high tides. Lifeguards are on duty Memorial Day through Labor Day and changing rooms and restrooms are near the parking lot.
    Photo courtesy of NPS Photo

  • West Beach
    Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore

    Situated on the southern shore of Lake Michigan, West Beach with gentle waves and sand that is perfect for building sandcastles is an excellent choice for families with small children. Not only is the swimming excellent, restrooms, showers and picnic shelters are nearby. Lifeguards are on duty during summer months. Nearby Dune Succession Trail leads to an impressive lake overlook.
    Photo courtesy of NPS Photo

  • Assateague Beach
    Assateague Island National Seashore

    The 37-mile barrier island enjoys pristine beaches that span two states. The larger northern portion of the island is in Maryland while the southern portion is in Virginia. Wild horses roam these beaches allowing visitors an opportunity to view them in a natural habitat. The beaches are widely-known as an excellent location for swimming, shell collecting or just strolling or relaxing on the beautiful white sand. Vehicles can access the island from both Maryland and Virginia, but there is no through road along the island’s length.
    Photo courtesy of NPS Photo

  • Johnson Beach
    Gulf Islands National Seashore

    The beautiful Gulf islands stretch 160 miles from east of Fort Walton Beach, Florida, to Cat Island, Mississippi. The seashore is home to beautiful white beaches, coastal marshes and historic forts. Southwest of Pensacola, snowy white Rosamond Johnson Beach on the eastern end of Perdido Key offers picnic shelters, restrooms, showers and seasonal lifeguards. A .38-mile self-guided nature trail passes beside a salt marsh and through a maritime forest.

  • Cape Lookout
    Cape Lookout National Seashore

    Stretched along the outer banks of North Carolina, this national seashore includes a long narrow strip of beach that begins at Beaufort Inlet in the south to Ocracoke Inlet at its northernmost point. In between are a series of remote barrier islands highlighted by wide flat beaches bordered by protective dunes and grasslands. Ferries provide access to the seashore that is popular for swimming, birding, shelling and sunbathing.
    Photo courtesy of NPS Photo

The top 10 winners in the category Best National Park Beach are as follows:

  1. Cape Lookout - Cape Lookout National Seashore
  2. Johnson Beach - Gulf Islands National Seashore
  3. Assateague Beach - Assateague Island National Seashore
  4. West Beach - Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore
  5. Sand Beach - Acadia National Park
  6. Rialto Beach - Olympic National Park
  7. Esch Road Beach - Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
  8. Cape Hatteras Beaches - Cape Hatteras National Seashore
  9. Coast Guard Beach - Cape Cod National Seashore
  10. Trunk Bay Beach - Virgin Islands National Park

A panel of experts picked the initial 20 nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote. Experts Walter McLeod (Clean Beaches Coalition) and David and Kay Scott were chosen based on their extensive beach knowledge and experience.

Additional nominees in this category included Apollo Beach at Canaveral National Seashore, Baker Beach at Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Crescent Beach at Redwood National and State Parks, Cumberland Island at Cumberland Island National Seashore, Garden Key at Dry Tortugas National Park, Honokohau Beach at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park, Julian Bay Beach at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Limantour Beach at Point Reyes National Seashore, Malaquite Beach at Padre Island National Seashore and Sunken Forest at Fire Island National Seashore.

Congratulations to all our national park winners!

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Walter McLeod

David and Kay Scott

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