Unusual Beaches in America to Visit in Your Lifetime

the travler standing on a rock at Secret Beach, Oregon, USA


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the travler standing on a rock at Secret Beach, Oregon, USA

All Ashore

Beaches offer a relaxing escape when temperatures warm, but besides a chance to swim in the ocean, many beaches in America also offer visitors rare natural spectacles, breathtaking views, and unique experiences. Here are a range of locations across the states where you’ll have an unforgettable beach excursion, from hidden beaches to those with vivid colored sands and remarkable natural phenomena on their shores. 

Related: 50 of the Most Beautiful Beaches in America

Papakolea Beach
Jacqueline T./Yelp

Papakolea Beach

Papakolea is one of only four green-sand beaches in the world. Its colorful sand results from olivine, a mineral formed through lava flows in the area dating back thousands of years. Reaching Papakolea requires a moderate to strenuous downhill hike, but those who are able to make the journey will be treated to mesmerizing sands and views.

Related: The Best of Hawaii on a Budget

Singing Beach

Singing Beach

Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts
This small beach, about half-a-mile wide, includes a 1920s bathhouse and a privately run snack stand, but its main feature is its “singing” sands. Here, the sands create a squeaking sound when walked on, which most attribute to a combination of the sand grains’ size and quality, humidity levels in the area, and friction that occurs between the grains to produce the unique sound.

Related: 20 Things You Never Knew About New England

Bowling Ball Beach

Bowling Ball Beach

Point Arena, California
Located in Schooner Gulch State Beach, this beach is known for its large round rocks resembling bowling balls that are seen during low tide. The spherical formations result from a phenomenon called concretion, with sand, stones, and minerals binding together to cause sedimentary rocks to form.

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Wild Horses

Beaches of Cumberland Island

Instead of just one beach, Georgia’s Cumberland Island National Seashore offers visitors more than 17 miles of undeveloped beach to explore. The most noted features of its beaches are the wild horses that can be seen roaming its shores. The island also includes dunes, pristine oak and palmetto forests, and a variety of wildlife to admire.

Related: 35 Surprising Facts About America's National Parks

Schoolhouse Beach, Washington Island, Wisconsin
Douglas Rissing/istockphoto

Schoolhouse Beach

Washington Island, Wisconsin
You won’t find any sand at Schoolhouse Beach, which is instead made up of smooth limestone rocks that coat its floors. The beach, located on the isolated Washington Island in Lake Michigan, is one of only five like it in the world and includes crystal-clear waters for swimming. 

Secret Beach, Oregon

Secret Beach

Brookings, Oregon
This tiny Pacific Ocean beach, only accessible during low tides, gets its name from its tricky location. The beach can be accessed via a trail located about one-third of a mile south of milepost 345 on U.S. 101 in the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor, where you will find a parking area that leads to the trail. On arrival, you’ll be treated to views of magnificent rock formations and cliffs hugging the ocean.

Glass Beach Fort Bragg California
Estelle Mitchum/istockphoto

Glass Beach

Fort Bragg, California
During the 1900s, several locations were used for dumping refuse that today have transformed the shores of Glass Beach into a kaleidoscopic treasure. The beach gets its name from the colorful items that collided with the ocean to smoothen out into a range of jewel-like glass over the years, with colors ranging from pinks and lavenders to ruby reds, blues, greens, and more.  

Related: The 20 Best Beaches on the West Coast

Beach at Roque Bluffs State Park

Beach at Roque Bluffs State Park

Roque Bluffs, Maine
This state park is home to both a freshwater pond and to a small saltwater beach, which often provides a secluded paradise for visitors to enjoy. The beach is noted for its fantastic views and glacial striations — grooves created on bedrock resulting from glacial movements—that can be seen at its eastern end.

XXXL: People enjoying a day on the beach

Cannon Beach

Cannon Beach, Oregon
Cannon Beach offers several miles of sand and beach dotted with dramatic rock formations that include the towering Haystack Rocks and its surrounding stones dubbed "needles." Tidepools that surround the rock formations are filled with marine life to explore, while puffins can be seen nesting on Haystack rock between April and July.

Related: 15 Iconic Movie and TV Beaches You Need to Visit

Iona's Beach

Iona’s Beach

Two Harbors, Minnesota
This pink-colored crescent beach also has singing sands that occur when the many flattened stones in the area move and resettle as the waves roll over them, creating a chiming sound. The pink color comes from a stone called pink rhyolite that has been smoothed out, creating a serene space where visitors can also see dragonflies dance across the water.

Sunrise at Washington Oaks Gardens State Park
Joshua Moore/istockphoto

Beach at Washington Oaks Gardens State Park

Palm Coast, Florida 
Washington Oaks Gardens State Park offers a beach where visitors can admire a large outcropping of coquina rocks — rock formations created from pink, lavender, yellow or white clam shells that now provide a haven for marine life that reside in natural pools formed in the rocks. Coquina can only be found in a few places in the world, making this stop on Florida's Atlantic side a beautiful location to admire them in. Those hiking in the trails in the gardens will want to take precautions against ticks that can sometimes be found in the area.

Pony Challenge on Assateague Beach

Assateague Island National Seashore

Virginia and Maryland
Wild horses roam the beaches and woods of Assateague Island National Seashore, located on the coasts of Maryland and Virginia. The island is one of few places in America where visitors can view wild horses in a natural habitat, while designated beach areas are lifeguard-protected to allow for safe recreational swimming experiences.  

Related: 21 Places to Safely See Wild Animals Up Close

Black Sand Beach Alaska

Black Sand Beach

Prince William Sound, Alaska
One of several black sand beaches in Alaska, this beach is a popular spot for kayakers who can see views of large glaciers and cascading mountains in addition to the dark sands. The bits of glacial ice that can be seen dotted along the black sands add all the more to the dramatic scenery.

Related: The Best Remote Vacation Spot in Every State

Black Rock Beach Sunrise
John Hancock Photography/istockphoto

Blackrock Beach

Cannon Beach, Oregon
Located in Big Talbot Island State Park, this beach offers a beautifully eerie setting thanks to its combination of whitened driftwood trees and black rocks that appear most vividly during the low ride, resembling volcanic lava thanks to their dark hue but which remain soft underneath your feet.

Coconut trees in Punaluu black sand beach
Philippe FLEURY/istockphoto

Punaluʻu Black Sand Beach

Punaluʻu Black Sand Beach is one of the most famed black-sand beaches in Hawaii, with its black sands resulting from volcanic activity in the area. While swimming conditions are not optimal here, the beach is one of the easier black-sand beaches to reach without requiring a strenuous hike, and is also known for its turtle-spotting opportunities. Coconut trees line the beach, creating a tranquil scene to enjoy the black sands in.

Related: The Best Hidden Gem in Every State

Purple Sand at Pfeiffer Beach

Pfeiffer Beach

Big Sur, California
Pfeiffer Beach is located on California’s Highway 1, about a mile south of the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park entrance. In the northern portion of the beach, visitors can find purple sands resulting from manganese garnet. The purple hues are best seen after winter storms. Its dramatic rock-arch formations are also known as a magnificent location for sunset viewing, when the sun’s rays pass through to make for a stunning view.

Related: 50 Most Beautiful Highway Drives in America

Seaplane, Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida
Lindsey Martin Webb/istockphoto

Beaches of Dry Tortugas National Park

Located 70 miles from Key West, the remote Dry Tortugas National Park can only be accessed via seaplane or boat, but with a park that’s 99% underwater, the area offers beaches known for their pristine clear waters, soft sands, and top-notch marine viewing in the Florida Keys.