With waves crashing and heat blazing, nothing quite beats a day at the beach. 

And in a number of coastline cities across the U.S., tour groups can soak in history, local culture, and a mix of entertainment before and after a day in the sand. 

From East Coast to “Fresh Coast,” there’s more than meets the eye in these four, unique beach towns.

beach towns
Ocean City, Md.
Credit: Rachel Smith

Ocean City, Maryland

Vibrant colors soar high above Ocean City Beach where animal-shaped kites and sails of every color flap in the wind. Ocean City’s unique atmosphere offers entertainment for everyone: Artists can marvel at the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art, visitors can build sandcastles on the 10 miles of shoreline, and thrill-seekers can scream at the Jolly Roger Amusement Park.

“Groups visiting Ocean City can expect an exciting mix of historical and cultural sites, as well as rural and city life,” said Norma Dobrowolski, destination sales and marketing manager at the Ocean City Dept. of Tourism. “Most of all, visitors will enjoy a very relaxing time here — especially those who aren’t used to spending quality time on the ocean.”

• Explore together: Walk with wild ponies on Assateague Island National Seashore – legend has it a Spanish galleon shipwreck in 1750 led the horses to swim to safety from the sinking ship.

• Feed your hunger: Ocean City’s 3-mile boardwalk is one of the nation’s best places to find boardwalk fare: from pizza and pit beef to world-renowned Chesapeake Bay crab cakes.

• Locals recommend: Re-live history at the Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum to see what life was like for the Surfmen of the U.S. Life-Saving Service (aka Coast Guard). 

• For all seasons: Learn about Harriet Tubman’s important work as a freedom fighter, liberator and humanitarian at the newly-built Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center.

Ocean City Dept. of Tourism Convention & Visitor Bureau

lighthouse and sailboat
Holland, Mich.
Credit: Holland Area Visitors Bureau

Holland, Michigan

Welcome to the “Fresh Coast,” where visitors can soak in the sun — without the salt — at five different beaches (Holland State Park, Tunnel Park, Kouw Park, Kirk Park and Laketown Beach) along Lake Michigan. Settled by the Dutch in 1847, the quaint beach town of Holland boasts cobblestone sidewalks, Victorian street lamps and independent retailers that line the downtown area.

“My favorite thing about Holland is our people,” said Sally Laukitis, executive director of the Holland Area Visitors Bureau. “They’re incredibly friendly and the pride that our local townspeople have in this community is truly special. Groups are always fascinated by our beaches, as most visitors have never seen a body of water as big as a Great Lake. On a clear day, you can see more than 14 miles into the distance.”

 Explore together: At Windmill Island Gardens, experience “living history” at De Zwaan, an original Dutch windmill that was imported from the Netherlands in 1964.

• Feed your hunger: Alpenrose serves authentic Dutch and European dishes alongside American favorites.

• Locals recommend: View “Big Red,” Michigan’s most photographed lighthouse.

• For all seasons: Tour the Holland Bowl Mill to learn how millers hand craft wooden bowls from blocks of hardwood.

Holland Area Visitors Bureau

beach towns
Atlantic City, N.J.
Credit: Meet AC

Atlantic City, New Jersey

Atlantic City is an entertainment hot spot. Casinos steps away from the beach, the historical and iconic Steel Pier, and its claim to fame as the first boardwalk ever built make Atlantic City truly one-of-a-kind. Atlantic City Beach provides visitors 10 miles of sandy shore to soak in the sunshine, and the boardwalk stretches 5 miles long and 60 feet across at its widest points.

“You won’t find luxury casinos, a world-famous boardwalk, dining options from celebrity chefs and tax-free shopping like this anywhere else on the Atlantic Ocean shoreline,” said Heather Colache, tourism account director at Meet AC. “We have ample motorcoach parking throughout the city, and tour operators will also enjoy that we do not require parking permits.”

• Explore together: Ride “The Wheel,” which stands 220 feet tall at the base of Steel Pier. 

• Feed your hunger: Indulge in fresh seafood and local brews at Gardner’s Basin, a maritime park and historic rumrunner landmark.

• Locals recommend: Take a peek inside a six-story wooden elephant named Lucy at the “Lucy The Elephant” monument, an official National Historic Landmark.

• For all seasons: Climb 228 steps to the top of 150-year-old Absecon Lighthouse, or marvel at local aquatic life at the Atlantic City Aquarium.

Meet AC – Atlantic City Convention & Group Sales

beach towns
Easton’s Beach, Newport, R.I.
Credit: Discover Newport

Newport, Rhode Island

Newport’s variety of beaches have attracted summertime visitors for more than a century. Easton’s Beach, or First Beach, features a vintage carousel and the popular Easton Beach Snack Bar — home to one of Newport’s best-kept secrets: the twin lobster rolls. At Sachuest Beach, or Second Beach, visitors can catch a wave or relax and watch surfers from the shore. At Third Beach, calm waters make the perfect spot for small children or coasting out on a stand-up paddleboard.

“People love Newport because of our beautiful ocean breezes, the city’s walkability as a very family-friendly pedestrian town and for being able to dine in the oldest tavern in America,” said Andrea McHugh, senior communications manager at Discover Newport. “They also love it for things that are more informal, like grabbing a lobster roll to eat with your toes in the sand.”

Explore together: Hike the Cliff Walk for an up-close view of the famous Newport Mansions, including The Breakers (home of The Vanderbilts) and Rosecliff (known for its filming location in the 1974 movie The Great Gatsby).

• Feed your hunger: Grab a frozen Dell’s Lemonade at Easton’s Beach.

• Locals recommend: Tour the Newport Library, built in 1747, which holds its place in history as the oldest community library in the U.S.

• For all seasons: Take the scenic route on Ocean Drive, which traces the Atlantic coastline along the southern tip of Newport island.

Discover Newport

Article by Erica Zazo