Planning a vacation with the whole family means you have one primary consideration: keeping the kids happy. If planning a beach vacation, it seems you already have taken care of that main consideration, but not completely. You want to be sure you choose a kid-friendly beach that will also keep the adults happy.
Dr. Beach, otherwise known as scientist Dr. Stephen Leatherman, chooses the top beaches each year, always with an eye toward the kids as well. All of the following selections are made with the family in mind. These were Dr. Beach’s selections for 2006.
1. Fleming Beach, Maui. This beach, of which part is the Ritz Carlton beach, is a popular destination for families. Here, you can surf, swim and picnic. Since the kids are with you, you’ll appreciate that there are restrooms, showers and picnic facilities. If you’re visiting in the winter, stay out of the water, as the surf is dangerously high then. Families also like the location – it’s on the west side of Maui and is backed by a forest of trees which provide abundant shade.
2. Caladesi Island State Park, Florida. This beach makes a wonderful complement to a Florida vacation with kids. Head to Florida’s west coast (this beach is near the St. Petersburg/Clearwater area) and visit this park, which offers a marina, picnic pavilions, shelling and fishing, as well as nature studies. There are also three miles of nature trail here. The beach is a family favorite due to the myriad of activities that complement your visit, as well as the beautiful sand beaches perfect for sandcastle making.
3. Ocracoke Island, North Carolina. Located on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, Ocracoke Island is a popular destination for families. There’s something here for everyone: the kids enjoy watching the “banker ponies”, the wild ponies that live there, and parents enjoy the quaint shops, historic lighthouse, and darling homes. The village of Ocracoke is on the National Register of Historic Places. There’s a free ferry service from Hatteras Island to Ocracoke Island. It’s a 40-minute ferry ride that can end up taking a lot longer in the summertime, as the wait for the ferry can be a long one.
4. Cooper’s Beach, Southampton, New York. Southampton was the first settlement in New York State, in 1640, and this beach is the main beach in the Southampton area. Of course, Southampton is known as the playground of the rich during the summer months, so be sure to prepare yourself for that if you’re not normally part of that moneyed crowd. But don’t let that scare you off – the beach is also a favorite playground of kids everywhere. You should carry some cash: non-residents pay $25 for weekday parking and $30 for weekend.
5. Hanalei Bay, Kauai, Hawaii. This beach, located on the north coast of Hawaii, is a quiet oasis of fun beach activities. There are many vacation home rentals in the area, so you can head from your condo or house rental right to this beautiful beach. Kids love it because the white sand beaches are prime for sand play, there are restrooms, picnic facilities and a lifeguard on duty. Kids can play in the water most times of the year and surfing and boogie boarding are also popular here.