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By Samantha Chapnick

So, you’ve done the Miami vacation and the Caribbean all-inclusive. Now that the temps are heating up, ready to explore some shores closer to home on your beach vacation?

Nantucket

Wearing clothing adorned with a repeated animal pattern, preferably a whale in pink, green or blue, is not de rigeur for a Nantucket beach vacation. But if you really want to fit in with the preppy set, run to your closest Vineyard Vines before you buy your ferry ticket. This island, although off the radar of non-Northeasterners, is the summer refuge of Bostonites. Thankfully, a bit lower key than Cape Cod or the Hamptons, it still retains an atmosphere of sophisticated lounging.

For an upscale stay, base out of The Wauwinet with its white picket fences, Adirondack chairs, and lace curtains. For a much more affordable option, try The Beachside, a spiffed up motel with nice landscaping and a short walk directly to the beach. Most of the beaches are more for walking than swimming (unless you can handle cold water). My favorites include Brant Point for its great classic New England lighthouse and easy proximity to town; Surfside Beach — extra wide, making it great for picnics; and Children’s Beach for families with its lifeguards, restrooms and playground.

When you’re not at the beach, other activities include whale watching, fishing,sight seeing, golf and tennis — and shopping of course.

So you already know you just have to go to The Black Dog to get a t-shirt and make all your friends back home jealous. If you want to visit some more authentic local spots, I think Company of the Cauldron is a best bet if you don’t want to get too far off that beaten path. It is consistently one of the highest rated restaurants and has a nice twist on traditional dishes like Steak and Potatoes (their version: Pepper Crusted Chateaubriand with a Port Wine Au Poivre Sauce, Asparagus, and Rosemary Roasted Potatoes).

And a final note: you’ll be better off bringing your bike than your car on this beach vacation. Unless you plan to stay a while, it’s expensive, you need a permit for beach parking, and the island is so small that it’s much easier to negotiate human-powered.

beach vacations Coronado

A tall blue bridge is not all that separates Coronado from San Diego. It’s a mindset away, just as a trip to the Keys or Hawaii doesn’t feel anything like being on the mainland. It’s a trip back to when San Diego was better known for cruiser bicycles and surfers than cell phone companies and congestion. I like to stay at the Coronado Island Marriott Resort & Spa, with its great view of the San Diego skyline, huge pool and laid back feel. From there, it’s a short trip to Municipal Golf Course, Skate park, and my favorite Coronado beach: Coronado Central Beach. Running along Ocean Avenue, it’s lined with old-school mansions and homes, has plenty of room for a nice walk, offers the opportunity to explore tide pools, and flanks the classic Hotel Del Coronado: a great place to get a drink and check out the photos of the famous thathave been there before you. With kids, visit Glorietta Bay Beach with its playground, smaller beach and larger grass park.

Should you need to leave this laid-back paradise, the trip to downtown San Diego with all its accompanying attractions takes minutes and is rarely congested.

Beach vacation Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

Spared by developers, this gorgeous stretch of coastline near Carmel is virtually the only large, publicly accessible swath of coastline left between San Francisco and San Diego.

Just about the only thing you won’t do in this 1,250-acre area is sunbathe. Like the novel it inspired, Treasure Island, this is more for the visitor seeking recreation than relaxation — not the least bit because most days are overcast for at least part of the time. The most common beach vacation activities here include:

  • photographing the dramatic cliffs,
  • hiking the trails,
  • observing the sea lions and otters (and from Dec – May, the migrating gray whales),
  • scuba diving,
  • meditating in one of the last remaining Cypress groves,
  • absorbing history in the Whalers Cabin Museum.

Beach vacations Kiawah

We spend the entire month of August on Kiawah because we think it’s paradise on earth. A refuge for the overstimulated, choices are completely whittled down, so this New Yorker can turn off her brain. For starters, the island is about the size of Manhattan with 10 miles of Atlantic beach, but as it is private, it never has more than about 15,000 people on it. Once you get away from East Beach, the island’s center, it’s possible to walk for miles and see not another soul. Then there’s the 50+ miles of bike trails, all flat, all uncrowded. Finally, the plethora of poolsneatly camoflaged so you never know you’re not looking at a well-landscaped jungle.

The resort owners, the Kiawah Island Golf Resort, have done a good job of controlling growth. All the five-star amenities this judgmental writer needs to love her stay are present (a gourmet restaurant, impeccable pool with no chaise lounge competition, personalized service, plus an excellent kid’s program that emphasizes the outdoors, physical activity and nature). Then they placed it in a pristine environment (we have nearly biked into alligators twice) and provided city-standard quality accommodations. This year, the newly opened Maritime Villas are steps away from the beach, very spacious (some up to 4,000 square feet) and decorated with classic favorites like high ceilings, moldings, and marble kitchens. For smaller groups, or just couples looking for a luxury beach vacation, I would recommend a stay at The Sanctuary — a five star, five diamond property that deserves every accolade it receives.

On the other hand, like any good New Yorker, I live in fear of being too far from civilization. The resort’s location only 20 miles from Charleston, South Carolina, a sophisticated culinary and arts center, means I can pop back for a few hours to pick up gourmet cupcakes (Cupcake), pizza (Monza), cookies or health foods (Whole Foods); eat at an innovative bistro (Lanas, Fuel and Cru Cafe are favorites); see an exhibit (Gibbes Museum of Art); delve into history (Fort Sumter), or just let the kids play around (Aquarium, Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry).

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Samantha Chapnick is a New York writer who scours international destinations looking for what hasn’t been found.

Tagged: California, Family time

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