11 Beautiful Coastal National Parks in the United States
Charity De Souza is a Florida native and travel enthusiast. Traveling to over 50 countries abroad and residing in 6, she has a passion for exploring new cultures. While Central Florida is where she calls home, her favorite travel memories include skydiving in Switzerland and watching the sunset in Morocco.
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Full of beautiful natural scenery, diverse wildlife and outdoor adventures, the United States has some of the most beautiful coastal national parks in the world. From the golden shorelines of Hawaii to the redwood trees in California and rugged landscapes of Alaska, these national parks and seashores offer you a chance to go swimming, hiking, biking and horseback riding. For a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, visit one of these top beautiful coastal national parks in the United States.
Encompassing 40 miles of beaches, marshes, ponds and wild cranberry bogs, Cape Cod National Seashore in Massachusetts offers plenty of opportunities to explore. Here you’ll discover lighthouses, cultural landscapes and a glimpse of Cape Cod’s history, while outdoor enthusiasts will be delighted to hike its nature trails, canoe from the Salt Pond to the marsh or take a ranger-guided tour of the 19th-century home of a whaling captain. Take a dip in the refreshing waters or cruise the landscapes on two wheels.
America’s largest national park, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve in Alaska is equal to the size of Yellowstone National Park, Yosemite National Park and Switzerland combined. Rising from the ocean up to 18,000 feet is Mount St. Elias, which makes this park a particularly special place to explore. Hire an expert guide to go fishing and paddling in the rivers, then trek on a glacier or view the park from a flight above. For a cozy overnight experience, stay in one of the cabins on-site.
Channel Islands National Park in California boasts five isolated islands, which is home to 145 plant and animal species that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Located only 36 miles from mainland California, you can easily spend a day here on a whale watching boat trip or hiking around the island. If you’re looking for more of a challenge, sign up for a three-day excursion aboard a dive boat or pack supplies for an overnight adventure with primitive camping available.
Nestled off the coast of South Texas, Padre Island National Seashore boasts 70 miles of shoreline where you can spot around 380 different species. The national seashore separates the Gulf of Mexico from the Laguna Madre, which is a rare hypersaline lagoon that is saltier than the ocean. It’s a great place to try your hand at windsurfing, while watching sea turtle hatchlings is a memorable wildlife experience, seen between mid-June and August. Visit the beach on a day trip, reel in big fish or explore the Spanish shipwrecks of 1554.
The third largest coral reef in the world, Biscayne National Park offers visitors a unique exploration of Florida’s underwater marine life. Just an hour’s drive from the glittering skyline of Miami, you’ll feel like you’ve entered a whole new world with the park’s tropical landscape and magnificent mangrove shorelines. Marvel in the colorful displays of fish found underwater on a snorkeling excursion, where it’s possible to spot parrot fish, striped sergeant majors and schools of shimmery grunts.
Covering around three million acres of rugged mountains, glaciers, rainforest, coastline and fjords, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in Alaska is a part of a 25-million acre World Heritage Site. There are endless options for adventure in the world’s largest international protected area, from kayaking to strolling the shore. Thrill-seekers can camp overnight in a snow cave, while salmon streams offer the perfect setting for a tranquil day surrounded by nature.
Located on the island of Maui, Haleakala National Park in Hawaii is blessed with bamboo forests, cascading waterfalls and beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean. Hike through the tropical Kipahulu area, stroll along the coastline or trek down to the shoreline for a swim. Wildlife watchers should visit between the months of December and April to spot sea turtles, seals, dolphins and humpbacks frolicking in the waters from the shore. Make sure to catch a sunset atop the volcanic Summit area of the park in the middle of the ocean.
Take a ferry ride to the historic city of St. Marys, then make your way to Cumberland Island National Seashore, Georgia’s largest and southernmost barrier island. Known for its 175 wild horses that you can spot roaming in the island’s maritime forests, beaches and wild marshes, it’s also home to notable landmarks for history buffs. Take a behind the scenes tour of the 22,000-square-foot mansion built by the Carnegie family at the turn of the 20th century.
Home to the tallest trees on the planet, Redwood National Park in California sits in the northernmost coastal region of the state. It protects a variety of beautiful landscapes, which include rolling prairies, oak woodlands, river ways and around 40 miles of coastline. Take a cruise along the eight-mile-long Coastal Drive to soak up the beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean or go whale watching at the overlooks at Enderts and Crescent Beach. You can also go horseback riding, cycling, kayaking and camping on the beach.
Home to the highest rocky headlands along the Atlantic coastline of the United States, Acadia National Park in Maine boasts unique habitats and a rich cultural heritage. Make your way to the top of the peaks that reach 1,000 feet, then explore its 158 miles of hiking trails and 45 miles of carriage roads with 16 stone bridges.
Olympic National Park in Washington covers around one million acres dotted with glacier-capped mountains, lush rainforests and sandy beaches. You’ll find plenty of places to explore in this park, where you can admire it’s starry skies, visit colorful tidepools and sign up for ranger-led programs to come face-to-face with the local wildlife. If you want to wake up to its pristine landscapes, stay overnight in the park’s lodge and resort accommodations that include rustic campsites, cabins and modern cottages.