The East Coast of the United States offers many diverse beach destinations. Stretching from Florida to Maine, the Atlantic Ocean beaches of the East Coast offer something for everyone.
From the white sand beaches and clear blue waters of South Florida to the quaint towns and boardwalks of the Mid-Atlantic to the rocky shores and lighthouses of New England, there are so many places for a great family beach vacation on the East Coast.
These are the best cheap beach vacations on the East Coast that are both budget-friendly and family-friendly.
1. Key Largo, Florida
Key Largo is a great place to visit in the Florida Keys if you are looking for an active, family-friendly vacation. The Florida Keys are an archipelago of tropical islands south of Florida, connected by bridges. Key Largo is the first and largest island off mainland Florida, and it can be more affordable than other islands, making it the perfect base.
This beach destination is known for its natural beauty, like John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. It’s known for being the top snorkelling and scuba diving destination in Florida, and you can experience other activities like kayaking and paddle boarding.
On a trip to Key Largo, you can also explore the other Keys — the furthest island, Key West, is about two and a half hours from Key Largo by car.
2. Key Biscayne, Florida
Key Biscayne is another one of the best beaches for a family vacation on the East Coast. Located just south of Miami, this relaxed little island is just a short drive from the hustle and bustle of South Beach, but it feels a world away.
This is a great place to go if you’re looking for beautiful beaches. Key Biscayne is home to Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, which was named one of the best beaches in the United States. Crandon Park is another great beach in Key Biscayne.
The island is also an excellent place for swimming and snorkelling. Key Biscayne is even home to the only “underwater archaeological trail” in the United States.
3. Delray Beach, Florida
Delray Beach is one of the best East Coast beaches for families. This quaint beach town located on Florida’s Atlantic Coast is known for its charming streets filled with restaurants, boutiques, and art galleries.
The colourful Pineapple Grove Arts District is a great place to explore, and there are many museums in the area with kid-friendly exhibits and activities, including the Cornell Art Museum and the Morikami Museum and the Japanese Gardens.
If you’re looking for great beaches, you’ll find them in Delray Beach. Families will enjoy the white sand beaches and clear blue waters along the coast. There are many family-friendly places to stay in Delray Beach, making this the perfect beach vacation.
4. Cocoa Beach, Florida
Cocoa Beach is one of the best places on the East Coast for a vacation that is fun for the whole family. Located on the central coast of Florida, this beach town is ideally located near many of the top attractions in the state.
It’s the closest beach to the theme parks, with both Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando being less than 1 hour and fifteen minutes away by car. This makes Cocoa Beach the perfect place to stay before or after a trip to Orlando if you want to have some beach time.
Cocoa Beach is also just half an hour away from the Kennedy Space Center, one of the top family attractions in Florida. It’s also conveniently positioned next to Port Canaveral, which is one of the main cruise ports in the United States.
One of the best things about Cocoa Beach is its affordability. You’ll find many great hotels in the area for a good price, making this one of the most budget-friendly beaches in Florida.
5. Amelia Island, Florida
Another fantastic beach destination in Florida is Amelia Island. Part of the East Coast barrier islands, Amelia Island is a great spot for families. It’s located in the far northeastern corner of Florida, just below the border with Georgia.
Main Beach Park is one of the best places on the island for beach access and also has a large playground, sand volleyball courts, and multipurpose courts. The beaches on Amelia Island are very scenic, with dunes and white sandy shores.
Amelia Island is a great destination for nature lovers, and families can enjoy outdoor activities like horseback riding and paddle boarding.
Historic Fernandina Beach is a quaint town on Amelia Island with restaurants and shopping and a history that dates back hundreds of years.
6. St. Simons Island, Georgia
For one of the best family beach vacations on the East Coast, look no further than St. Simons Island, Georgia. This barrier island is part of the Golden Isles along the southeastern coast of Georgia.
The island is known for its diverse natural beauty, including salt marshes, sandy beaches, and Spanish moss-draped live oak trees. Tranquil East Beach is one of the best beaches on the island where you can relax or enjoy activities like windsurfing and paddle boarding.
Another popular thing to do on the island is rent a golf cart. It’s a common way to get around town and explore St. Simons.
7. Tybee Island, Georgia
Tybee Island, Georgia is one of the best places on the East Coast for a cheap family vacation. This budget-friendly beach town has lots to do for the whole family.
Located on the Georgia coast just below the border with South Carolina, Tybee Island has great beaches like South Beach, known for its long pier extending into the ocean. You might even spot wild bottlenose dolphins off the shore.
There are many affordable places to stay on the island, making it great for a family vacation. The beautiful, historic city of Savannah is also less than half an hour away from Tybee Island by car, and should not be missed, along with other nearby historic sites like the Fort Pulaski National Monument.
8. Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Hilton Head Island is one of the best beach destinations for a family trip. This island is known for being very family-friendly and is the favourite annual vacation spot of many. Part of South Carolina’s Lowcountry, Hilton Head has a friendly, laid-back atmosphere.
This popular tourist destination is home to great sandy beaches, while Harbour Town is a popular destination for dining and shopping. Hilton Head is also an excellent destination for active families, with miles of incredible bike trails and water activities like kayaking and paddle boarding.
The Coastal Discovery Museum is a great place to visit with kids to learn about the nature and wildlife of the island and see it firsthand. Just off the island, Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge is a salt marsh that is home to deer, alligators, birds, and other wildlife.
9. North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
North Myrtle Beach, South Caroline is one of the best family beaches on the East Coast. Located half an hour north of bustling Myrtle Beach, this beach town is a quieter, more laidback destination that is perfect for families.
There are many great beaches to enjoy, including Cherry Grove Beach and Ocean Drive Beach. When it comes to shopping, dining, and entertainment, Barefoot Landing and Main Street offer no shortage of great options.
Kids will love the ocean-front amusement park in North Myrtle Beach, which features a Ferris Wheel, other rides, and classic arcade and boardwalk games. North Myrtle Beach is also one of the cheapest family beach destinations on the East Coast, making it a top choice for a budget-friendly vacation.
10. Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina
Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina is another one of the best cheap family beach vacations on the East Coast. Located near Wilmington, this Atlantic Coast beach offers a relaxed getaway for families.
Some of the best things to do in Wrightsville Beach include fishing on the pier, trying your hand at paddle boarding, kayaking, or even surfing, and relaxing on the beach. There are many wide sandy beaches in the area where you can set up your umbrella and beach chairs and spend an afternoon relaxing.
Another one of the top things to do in Wrightsville Beach is visit Masonboro Island Reserve. This large undeveloped barrier island can only be reached by boat and features many walking trails where you can admire the unspoiled nature around you.
11. Nags Head, North Carolina
Nags Head, North Carolina is one of the best beach towns on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. The Outer Banks are a secluded chain of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina and connected to the mainland via a bridge.
The secluded, isolated nature of the Outer Banks makes it a popular vacation destination for families who are looking to unplug and relax. Nags Head is a great place to stay on your trip to the Outer Banks if you’re looking for a laid-back vacation.
You can enjoy great beaches lined with sand dunes, and get back to nature at Jockey’s Ridge State Park or the Nags Head Woods Preserve. The iconic Bodie Island Lighthouse offers sweeping views of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Nearby, the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kitty Hawk honours the first flight of the Wright Brothers in 1903.
12. Virginia Beach, Virginia
Virginia Beach, Virginia is another great destination for families on the East Coast. This beach is located in southern Virginia, where the Chesapeake Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean. Being a larger city, there are tons of things to do in Virginia Beach.
The Virginia Beach Boardwalk is excellent, with several miles of beaches, oceanfront walking and biking paths, and shopping and dining. On a trip to Virginia Beach, this is definitely the best area to stay in to be close to all the actions.
Aside from the beach, there are many other kid-friendly things to do in Virginia Beach. The Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center is the perfect place to go on a rainy day, while Cape Henry Lighthouse and Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge are great outdoor activities.
First Landing State Park is another unique place to visit, as it’s the location where the first English settlers landed in America in 1607.
13. Ocean City, Maryland
Ocean City, Maryland is a popular destination in the Mid-Atlantic region for a family beach vacation. The Ocean City Boardwalk is one of the highlights of this destination, featuring miles of beaches and a wooden boardwalk lined with hotels, shops, and restaurants.
Kids will enjoy the amusement park on the Ocean City Boardwalk, which has been delighting visitors with rides, games, and attractions for well over 100 years. Jolly Roger Amusement Park is another kid-friendly destination in Ocean City featuring water rides.
There are tons of water activities to enjoy in Ocean City, including kayaking, jet skiing, and paddle boarding. Assateague Island is a great day trip from Ocean City if you want to see pristine, unspoiled nature and great wildlife, including wild horses.
It’s also possible to go canoeing or kayaking in the salt marshes of the island, which is a very unique and memorable experience.
14. Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
Rehoboth Beach is the most popular destination in Delaware for a family vacation. During the summer months, this beach town comes alive with live music and other events.
This is another classic mid-Atlantic beach town featuring an extensive wooden boardwalk lined with endless shops, restaurants, and hotels. There’s also an amusement park that kids of all ages will enjoy featuring rides, arcade games, and other attractions.
To the north of Rehoboth Beach, there are several wildlife areas to explore, including Cape Henlopen State Park and Gordons Pond State Park. Both of these parks offer miles of trails leading through diverse landscapes like dunes, forests, and wetlands, as well as pristine beaches where you can relax and enjoy the sun, sand, and ocean.
15. Cape May, New Jersey
Cape May is a popular spot on the Jersey Shore for families. Located at the southernmost end of the shore, Cape May is a quaint beach town that the whole family will enjoy.
The town is known for its grand Victorian houses and historic charm, and it’s worth a stroll through the well-preserved Cape May Historic District. The Washington Street Mall is another place not to miss in Cape May for shopping and dining.
There are also many great outdoor activities to try in Cape May, like watching the sunset from Sunset Beach, taking a boat ride through the salt marshes, or having a picnic at Cape May State Park.
16. Wildwood, New Jersey
Wildwood, New Jersey is one of the best family-friendly beach destinations on the East Coast. Whether you have older children or little kids, this is a great spot along the Jersey Shore for the ultimate summer vacation.
There are multiple amusement parks in Wildwood, including Morey’s Piers & Beachfront Water Parks, one of the best water parks in the area. There’s also a classic amusement park along the Wildwood Boardwalk with rides and attractions for the whole family.
Wildwood is known for its wide, sandy beaches where you can relax for the afternoon. There’s also the Sightseer tram, which runs along the boardwalk and is the perfect way to take in all the sights.
17. Long Branch, New Jersey
Located less than an hour and a half away from New York City, Long Branch is one of the most accessible Jersey Shore beach towns for a family vacation.
This is a popular place to rent a beach house and take the time to unwind. The main hotspot in Long Branch is Pier Village, a Victorian-inspired area with plenty of shopping and dining options. It’s located along Long Branch’s oceanfront boardwalk, which is perfect for an evening stroll.
Long Branch has great beaches where you can simply relax or try your hand at water sports if you prefer to stay active while on vacation.
18. Coney Island, New York
Coney Island is an affordable family vacation spot in New York City. Located in the borough of Brooklyn, Coney Island is just an hour away from Midtown Manhattan.
This beach hotspot has been a popular getaway for well over a century, attracting visitors to its sandy beaches, boardwalk, and amusement park. The amusement park at Coney Island features a Ferris Wheel and many other rides and is sure to be a hit with kids. There are also classic arcades and boardwalk games to enjoy.
Coney Island is the birthplace of Nathan’s Famous hot dog chain, and every summer, it hosts the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest. Another popular summer event that is fun to watch is the Coney Island Mermaid Parade.
Although New York City is typically a pricey vacation destination, Coney Island is much more affordable than Manhattan.
19. Sag Harbor, New York
Located on the furthest end of Long Island, Sag Harbor is one of the best spots in New York for a family vacation. Sag Harbor is part of the Hamptons, an upscale area of seaside communities popular with New Yorkers looking to escape the city.
Unlike some of the other Hamptons towns, Sag Harbor has a more relaxed and laidback vibe. It’s also one of the more family-friendly towns in the Hamptons. Located about two and a half hours away from New York City, Sag Harbor feels a world away.
This quaint town has a charming downtown area with many great shops and restaurants. Haven Beach, located on Sag Harbor Bay, is one of the best beaches to visit. It has a children’s playground and is a great spot for swimming.
20. Madison, Connecticut
Madison, Connecticut has some of the best family resorts on the East Coast beach vacation. Located on the Long Island Sound, Madison is a quaint beach town with a charming downtown area. There are plenty of great shops and restaurants in town, and the beaches of Madison are also excellent.
The best beaches can be found at Hammonasset Beach State Park. Along with beaches, there are miles of walking and bike trails, as well as a nature centre. If you’re looking for a laidback and budget-friendly family beach vacation, Madison is a great destination to consider.
21. Westport, Connecticut
Another one of the best beach destinations in Connecticut is Westport. Just forty minutes from New Haven and less than two hours from New York City, Westport is located on Connecticut’s Gold Coast on the Long Island Sound.
One of the highlights of Westport is Sherwood Island State Park, where you’ll discover beautiful beaches and diverse landscapes of wetlands and woodlands. In town, don’t miss catching a show at Westport Country Playhouse (they have many kid-friendly events and performances) or visiting the Westport Farmers Market.
22. Narragansett, Rhode Island
If you’re looking for a great place for an affordable family beach vacation on the East Coast, look no further than Narragansett, Rhode Island. This small beach town is the perfect destination for a summer trip.
Narragansett Town Beach is one of the best beaches to visit in town, along with Scarborough State Beach to the south. For a fun day trip, you can take the Point Judith Ferry over to Block Island, a small island with pristine beaches.
You can also visit Newport, Rhode Island, which is just half an hour away and known for its opulent historic mansions like The Breakers.
23. Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts
Martha’s Vineyard is the perfect place to go if you are looking for a classic family vacation. This island is located off the coast of Cape Cod in Massachusetts. It’s a quintessential summer destination that comes alive from June until September.
All of the towns on Martha’s Vineyard are family-friendly, but Oak Bluffs is one of the best places to stay with kids. Many of the homes in Oak Bluffs look like colourful gingerbread houses, and there are many kid-friendly things to do, including a historic carousel.
Menemsha Beach is one of the best places on the island to watch the sunset, while Oak Bluffs Town Beach is a great spot for swimming and relaxing in the sun.
24. Nantucket, Massachusetts
Nantucket is another family-friendly beach destination in Massachusetts that is extremely popular during the summer months. This is another island located off the coast of Cape Cod. It’s smaller and quieter than Martha’s Vineyard, making it a good alternative destination.
Children’s Beach is a popular place for kids on Nantucket. It has a small beach with calm waters that are perfect for swimming, along with a children’s playground.
Downtown Nantucket is a great place to explore, with many shops and restaurants. There are several kid-friendly attractions like the Maria Mitchell Aquarium where children can get up close and personal with marine life.
25. Brewster, Massachusetts
Brewster, Massachusetts is one of the best beach destinations in Cape Cod for families. Located on the northern side of the Cape, this small beach town is less than two hours from Boston by car.
Families will enjoy this destination because of its great beaches and laidback atmosphere. One of the best places in Brewster to visit is Nickerson State Park, which has several ponds and lakes perfect for kayaking.
Crosby Landing Beach is one of the best beaches in Brewster where you can enjoy the sun, sand, and ocean waves. On a rainy day, pay a visit to the interesting Cape Cod Museum of Natural History.
26. Hampton Beach, New Hampshire
Hampton Beach is one of the most popular beach destinations in New England. This resort town is situated along the Atlantic Ocean and is great for a cheap family beach vacation.
You can enjoy a stroll along the oceanfront boardwalk, which is lined with shops and restaurants. Or head to Hampton Beach State Park, one of the best sandy beaches in the area where you can set up your umbrella and beach chairs.
For kids, the Explore the Ocean World Oceanarium is a must-visit in Hampton Beach. Here, kids can learn about local marine life from a marine biologist.
27. Ogunquit, Maine
Ogunquit, Maine is one of the best family beaches in the Northeastern United States. This small town has a quaint and charming atmosphere with colourful houses and fishing boats. It’s also known for being the most walkable town in Maine so you don’t need a car here.
There are great sandy beaches in Ogunquit surrounded by grassy dunes. You can also enjoy walking around the many coastal paths in town, including scenic cliffside Marginal Way, which is approximately 1.25 miles long.
The town of Ogunquit has plenty of restaurants and shops to explore, and you shouldn’t miss the historic fishing village of Perkins Cove which is less than half an hour away on foot. Here, you’ll find more dining and shopping in a beautiful setting.
28. Old Orchard Beach, Maine
Old Orchard Beach is a beloved family vacation destination in Maine. This summer resort town has something to offer for the whole family.
Kids will love the amusement parks in Old Orchard Beach. Palace Playland, which has been in operation for over 100 years, is located right on the oceanfront and has many rides, games, and attractions. Funtown Splashtown USA is a nearby water park that is also popular with families.
There are many other things to do in Old Orchard Beach, including parasailing, kayaking, taking a boat tour, strolling down the pier, or simply relaxing on the beach.