For many, Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer and the season’s first trip to the beach. While you may have your heart set on a trip to the Caribbean, jet-setting to an exotic location isn’t economical or eco-friendly. Fortunately, there are plenty of destinations that are practically in your backyard where you can escape your everyday life. These fun little beach towns are within driving distance from major U.S. cities and only require one-tank of gas round-trip. How green is that?
Check out these beach-y locales, known for being clean, uncrowded and bicycle friendly!
115 miles from Boston
Located on the tip of Cape Cod, Provincetown is an ideal spot to escape the hustle and bustle of Boston. It’s known for eco-tourism with lots of protected wildlife, miles of beaches and plenty of whale watching opportunities. The city also has miles of biking and walking trails, so you can forget your carbon footprint and just relax with nature for the weekend. Venture just two miles from town, and you’ll hit one of the area’s most beautiful beaches: Race Point.
- Best place to eat: Tin Pan Alley
- Best place to stay: The Provincetown Hotel at Gabriel’s
- Must-see attraction: Race Point Beach
Fire Island, New York
60 miles from New York City
Situated off the south shore of Long Island, Fire Island is a summer vacation hot-spot. The barrier island consists of several small towns and runs 32 miles long, though most of the island is undeveloped. Whether you’re looking for a stretch of beach or would rather go on a nature walk you’re sure to find a little piece of paradise for yourself. Just don’t plan on taking your vehicle on the island—it’s not allowed. You’ll need to take a shuttle ferry from Long Island to get to the secluded locale. It may seem inconvenient, but once you get there, you’ll be pleased with the lack of traffic, noise and pollution. There are also no paved roads so plan on walking, biking or driving a golf cart while you’re there.
- Best place to eat: CJ’s Restaurant and Bar
- Best place to stay: The Palms Hotel Fire Island (Ocean Beach)
- Must-see attraction: The Sunken Forest
Bethany Beach, Delaware
132 miles from Philadelphia; 122 miles from Baltimore; 129 miles from D.C.
This laid-back beach town is a quiet little oasis from big city living. Escape to Bethany Beach for some surf, sand and an all-around good time. You’ll enjoy tax-free shopping at a number of shops and a variety of outdoor activities such as kayaking or windsurfing. The city has well-maintained bicycle lanes near the beach and along the countryside, so you’ll always have an eco-friendly mode of transportation. While you’re there don’t forget to visit the area’s historic lighthouse, built in 1858.
- Best place to eat: Off the Hook
- Best place to stay: Holiday Inn Express Bethany Beach
- Must-see attraction: Bethany Beach
Kiawah Island, South Carolina
233 miles from Charlotte; 139 miles from Columbia, S.C.; 118 miles from Savannah, Ga.
If you’re looking for a fun-filled vacation, look no further than Kiawah Island. The town is just 21 miles from historic downtown Charleston and features 10 miles of beaches with natural sand dunes and plenty of wildlife. If the beach isn’t your thing, practice your swing at one of Kiawah Island’s five championship golf courses. Other than golf resorts, you won’t find many hotels on the island. Instead there are plenty of vacation rentals available during the summer. No matter where you stay, you can leave the car parked and bike around the city on 30 miles of paved leisure trails.
- Best place to eat: Ocean Room at the Sanctuary
- Best place to stay: The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort
- Must-see attraction: Beachwalker County Park
Anna Maria Island, Florida
55 miles from Tampa; 126 miles from Orlando
Florida has its share of great beaches, but if you’re trying to get away from it all, Anna Maria Island is the place to go. No buildings on the island are higher than three stories and there are no fast-food restaurants. Instead you can enjoy white sand beaches, to-die-for ocean views and enough shops and boutiques to satisfy everyone in your family. The island is small—only 7 miles long and a few blocks wide—so you’ll be able to walk and bike just about anywhere. If you’re not up for that, there’s also a free trolley service available with stops near shops, restaurants and the beach.
- Best place to eat: Blue Marlin Grill
- Best place to stay: Tortuga Beach Resort
- Must-see attraction: Anna Maria Sailing Adventures
Port Aransas, Texas
178 miles from San Antonio; 207 miles from Houston; 252 miles from Austin.
South Padre Island tops the list for Spring Break locales, but Texas has some other great beaches too. For a truly relaxing beach vacation, head to the small town of Port Aransas. Port A, as it’s known, offers some of the state’s cleanest shorelines and minimal crowds. Instead of large resorts, you’ll find quaint hotels as well as a ton of beachfront home and condo rentals. Plus you can walk or bike almost anywhere in this small island community.
- Best place to eat: Moby Dicks
- Best place to stay: Vacation rental
- Must-see attraction: Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center
Santa Barbara, California
95 miles from Los Angeles; 148 miles from Riverside; 218 miles from San Diego
Art and history thrive in Santa Barbara, known for its numerous historic performing arts venues and art museums. The two come together nicely on Memorial Day weekend with the 28th annual I Madonnari Festival, a popular and free three-day street painting event at the Santa Barbara Mission. Of course, Santa Barbara is also known for its waterfront. Walk down State Street to the wharf to take in the view. Though there are expansive beaches on either side of the wharf, try Arroyo Burro Beach (locally known as Hendry’s Beach) for a quieter beach outing. It has dramatic towering cliffs that make a walk along the shore that much more beautiful.
- Best place to eat: Wine Cask
- Best place to stay: Lavendar Inn by the Sea
- Must-see attraction: Santa Barbara Zoo
Pacific Grove, California
187 miles from Sacramento
This small town on the Monterey Peninsula is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts. Asilomar State Beach has a wide-open expanse of sand that’s ideal for sunbathing, surfing or watching the golfers at the adjacent world-famous golf courses of Pebble Beach. At the more rocky beaches in Pacific Grove, explore the coves or launch a kayak to take a closer look at the wonders of the bay. The Monterey Peninsula is also home to the nonprofit Monterey Bay Aquarium, creator of Seafood Watch – the highly regarded guide to making the most ocean-friendly seafood choices.
- Best place to eat: Peppers Mexicali Café
- Best place to stay: Seven Gables Inn
- Must-see attraction: The seaside recreation trail from Lovers Point to Cannery Row.
Westport Beach, Washington
151 miles from Seattle; 165 miles from Portland, Ore.
Whether you’re vacationing to enjoy the surf or simply looking to spend some time with your family, Westport Beach is the perfect weekend getaway. There are miles of sandy public beaches for you to sink your toes into. While biking is popular in the area, especially past the acres of cranberry bogs, you can also drive your car right onto the beach on the southern end. Don’t miss the chance to see the tail end of the gray whale migration; many boating tours even guarantee sightings of one of these giants! When you return, check out the complete whale skeleton at the Westport Maritime Museum.
- Best place to eat: Bennett’s Fish Shack
- Best place to stay: Westport Inn
- Must-see attraction: Gray’s Harbour Lighthouse
South Haven, Michigan
183 miles from Chicago; 183 miles from Detroit; 200 miles from Indianapolis
With no shortage of water, South Haven is a quaint little beach town worth visiting during your long weekend. Not only is the town divided by the Black River, you’ll have your pick of seven city beaches. Carve out your own piece of paradise on South Haven’s sandy shores or walk out to the 100-year-old lighthouse at the end of South Beach Pier. Don’t forget to take in the lively farmer’s market on Saturday morning and catch the Memorial Day Parade on Monday at 9 a.m.
- Best place to eat: Sherman’s Dairy Bar
- Best place to stay: Old Harbor Inn
- Must-see attraction: Michigan Maritime Museum
*The threshold for a one-tank trip was based off of the best-selling car in the United States, the Honda Accord. The 4-cylinder automatic Honda Accord gets 30 miles per gallon (combined highway and city) and has a 17.2 gallon tank. That means the car can go up to 516 miles on one tank of gas.
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