September Beach Travel Guide

Aruba's Palm Beach
A SOUTH BEACH STATE OF MIND: Miami's Ocean Drive (image courtesy, Miami Convention of Visitors Bureau)

Montauk, Long Island, NY
For the uninitiated it might be hard to picture an "end of the road" with a New York postal code, but Montauk has that feel—beyond the Hamptons, three hours outside of Manhattan, down off a bluff where the side roads terminate the surf really can crank. Look for low-pressure drifting by offshore, pack a wetsuit, and leave any notion of New Yawk attitude in the trunk: It's a peaceful scene here, with people who love the beach for its own sake. Ditch Plains Beach can get crowded on good days; experienced surfers seeking bigger sets dial in at Camp Hero, near the lighthouse. For après session refreshment and nourishment, head for the wood-shingled cafes of nearby Napeague Bay.

Ocracoke Island, NC
With no bridges tethering it to the mainland, Ocracoke is both the beginning and the end of the road. The 13 miles of two-lane highway between the small town and northern ferry dock parallels softly beautiful national seashore, dunes, grasses, sand, and sea. The locals are the ones who think sleepy Hatteras is too crowded, so you just might find yourself at one of the town's harbor-side bars, easing ever closer to an Ocracoma. Otherwise, this is the place to unwind, fish, surf, nap, rinse, and repeat.

South Beach, Miami, FL
Picture L.A. meets Manhattan meets Monte Carlo. Then picture it on a teeming expanse of beach packed with gawkers and gawkees of all stripes. Nobody is out of place in South Beach but if you really want to roll with the players in the ample clubs, fine restaurants, and other "in" joints, it helps to have some very flexible plastic in your wallet. You don't come here for peace and quiet (though you can find it in the clean ocean on many days); you come here to see just how weird it can get.

Cumberland Island, GA
Welcome to the slow side of mellow, framed by miles of softly sloping beaches, dunes, and maritime forest on Georgia's largest and southernmost barrier island, which is also a national seashore. Cumberland is beloved by beachcombers for the abundant and varied shells, and by wildlife lovers for the shorebirds and passing porpoises, and by artists for the quietude and serenity (note the Park Service limitations on motorized noise). For the full experience, pitch your tent in a scenic campground.

Aquinnah Beach, Martha's Vineyard, MA
The summer crowds are gone but the summer weather remains, and this raw beach, laid out below grass-toped red-dirt bluffs, is the place to gaze out to sea and contemplate the seasons. Accessed by a ten-minute walk along the Moshup Trail, Aquinnah crowns the west side of Martha's Vineyard and is perhaps the top beach for scenery on an island known for scenic beaches. The sub-beaches of Gay Head, Lobsterville, and Philbin are popular with surfers and fishermen.

Pink Sand Beach, Harbour Island, Bahamas
Time-worn red coral mixed with white sand explains the color beneath your toes here. The rest of the euphoric feeling comes from your location: Harbour Island sits off the northeast corner of Eleuthera along a pristine segment of shore line lapped by a shimmering window of indigo water, which contrasts strikingly with the rich blue sky, brightly colored houses, and deep green flora. This is the oldest settlement in the Bahamas but feeds modern needs. Witness the Current Cut dive, one of the most thrilling scuba experiences available, in which divers surrender to a current so fast it zips them a mile in about ten minutes.

Assateague Island, MD
This is the northern end of a two-state national seashore (Chincoteague lies in Virginia) and is a very rustic, almost development-free beach for lovers of nature they way it existed hundreds of years ago. Assateague is 48,000 acres of dunes, beach, and estuarine waters and is home to bands of wild horses that descended from colonist-owned equines that grazed here in the 1600s. September brings cooler nights, still-warm days, and pleasant ocean temps. Pitch a tent, cast a line, paddle a canoe, and connect with a coastal environ that is far more influenced by sea and storms than by man's folly.

Stinson Beach, CA
This is Exhibit A in the argument for relocating to California. A quaint little beach town—sidewalk cafes, cute little shops, old-style beach houses—on a cover-shot beach, with roomy sands and clean (though chilly) Pacific waters. Rising behind town are the slopes of Mount Tamalpais and its curvaceous road, which is popular with cyclists.

Fenwick Island, DE
This one won't earn too many magazine cover shots – its charms are more subtle than that – but when the summer crowds disperse it can be just what the beach doctor ordered to restore the soul. Located just north of the over-developed Ocean City, MD, Fenwick Island's development peters out quickly before ceding to the protected seashore (grass-tufted dunes and wind-sculpted shore) of an eponymous state park. This entire area is a barrier island, and kayakers, windsurfers, and anglers will appreciate the calmer waters of Assawoman Bay on days when the Atlantic wants to play rough.

Hilton Head, SC
Famous for its golf and tennis, Hilton Head is also home to 42 square miles of wide beaches, complete with the shells and flat expanses of low-tide sand that this region is known for. If you DO like golf or tennis, all the better: two dozen championship golf courses and enough tennis courts to tire out even the most diehard player—all of which shouldn't come as too big a surprise given that this is the largest sea island between New Jersey and Florida. And with four major resort areas, you have your choice of accommodations, though nothing that really falls into the "cheap" range.


Published: 24 May 2007 | Last Updated: 21 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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