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Things You Didn't Know About U.S. Beaches


By Melanie Renzulli

There are approximately 95,471 miles of shoreline in the United States and its territories (according to NOAA), which means that the country is not short on great beaches and interesting beach trivia. Below are some of the cool things you always wanted to know about U.S. beaches but didn't know where to look.

Hawaii's Black Sand Beaches

Not all the beaches in Hawaii have black sand, but the ones that do have black sand are of high interest to curious travelers. Wainapanapa Beach in Hana, Maui and Punalu'u Beach on the Big Island are two of the best places to see black volcanic sand in the Hawaiian Islands. Because these sands are so rare, it is illegal to remove it from the beach. Also note that you'll need beach shoes on black sand as it's often too hot to walk on (a function of it absorbing sunlight).

Surfing Was Invented in Hawaii

Surfing and the beach go together in the minds of many travelers, but that wasn't always the case. Although surfing dates back to the late 18th century as an activity enjoyed by Hawaiian royalty, the sport didn't gain its, er, footing until the 20th century. Pioneers of the sport include Hawaiian native Duke Kahanamoku, who popularized surfing in the 1920s and 30s, and Tom Blake, who invented the hollow surfboard. Beyond the beach, you can learn about the history of surfing at the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum in Honolulu.

The Nation's Longest Coastline is in Alaska

It's not surprising that the USA's largest state also has its longest shoreline, which extends for 33,904 miles. Note that the shoreline "refers to land/water boundaries of ANY sort i.e. rivers, lakes, seas, oceans where land gives way to water of some sort." In terms of coastline ("the boundary of the continent" or land mass), Alaska extends for 6,640 miles, also the longest in the USA.

Florida Beach Facts

Florida, a peninsula, is touched by both the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, resulting in beaches ringing the length of the state. Florida also has the second longest coastline after Alaska, with 1,260 white sand miles of coast. Florida is the closest state to the equator, a fact that gives it the warmest average year-round temperature (71 degrees F) of any state in the country. Red more about the beaches of Florida.

Chicago Has Beaches!

When most travelers think of U.S. beaches, they think of the coasts. But the Great Lakes provide shores for many in the Midwest. Chicago is particularly renowned for its beaches on Lake Michigan.

Landlocked Indiana Has a Beach, Too

You can see the skyline of Chicago from the Indiana Dunes National Seashore, located in the north of the state. Indiana enjoys 15 miles of coastline along Lake Michigan and the Dunes are one of the top places to go in Indiana.

Nude Beaches: We Have Them Here, Too

More than 22 states in the USA offer clothing optional beaches. These are the top nude beaches in the U.S.

Best Beaches for Shells

The top beaches in the United States for finding the widest selection of intact shells are: 
  • Calvert Cliffs State Park, Marland 
  • Ocracoke Island, North Carolina 
  • Sanibel Island, Florida 
  • Point No Point Beach, Washington 
  • Gulf Islands National Seashore, Florida 
  • Shipwreck Beach, Hawaii 
  • Cumberland Island, Georgia 
  • Point Reyes National Seashore, California 
  • San Jose Island, Texas 
  • Silver Strand State Beach, California
For details about each of these beaches and helpful information on looking for and collecting shells.

California Beaches: Surfing and People Watching

Hawaii may have invented surfing, but California helped popularize it thanks to the songs of the Beach Boys and Jan and Dean during the 1960s. Some of the most popular beaches for surfing in California are Huntington Beach, which hosts the annual U.S. Open of Surfing, and Half Moon Bay, where the Mavericks surfing competition takes place in the winter. For those who wish to sunbathe, stroll, or people-watch, California has those beaches, too. Read more about the best California beaches for all types of activities.

The Most Popular Beach on the East Coast

Along the South Shore of Long Island, and less than an hour from New York City, the USA's most populated city, Jones Beach is the most visited beach on the East Coast, with approximately six to eight million visitors annually.

The Oldest Public Beach in the United States

Massachusetts lays claim to the oldest public beach in the U.S. Revere Beach, five miles north of Boston was established in 1896.

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