Under-the-radar beaches for safe getaways

SHERYL NANCE-NASH | 6/11/2020, midnight
After months of lockdown, there’s never been a better time to think about a beach getaway later this summer or ...
Lincoln City, Oregon Sheryl Nance-Nash photo

After months of lockdown, there’s never been a better time to think about a beach getaway later this summer or fall. With social distancing still the order of the day though, the last thing you want is to wade through crowds of people during your vacay. You don’t have to, if you pick your seaside spot carefully. Forget the big-name beaches; seek sun and surf in places you don’t know but should.

Here are some under-the-radar beaches to enjoy and better still, no passport is required.

Lincoln City, Oregon

You know about Portland, but two hours away is Lincoln City with its seven miles of sandy, spacious beaches that stretch from Roads End to Siletz Bay. Go crabbing, clamming, kayak, paddle board or weather permitting, fly a kite. The area is also ideal for hikes and walks. For a small town there’s an eclectic food scene. Venture to the Wecoma District for a meal at the Wildflower Grill or the Blackfish Café. Spend time at the Little Antique Mall.

Asilomar State Beach, Pacific Grove, California

Scenery and history are a good combination. You get both in Pacific Grove. On the tip of the Monterey Peninsula you’ll find Asilomar State Beach, a treasure within 107 acres of protected California State Park beachfront. Enjoy coastal walking trails, bird watching tours, beach biking rails, the Asilomar Ramble Tour, swimming and more. Stay in a cottage or historic lodge. There’s a reason Asilomar is called a “refuge by the sea.”

Carova Beach, North Carolina

If you want to experience Carova Beach, you’ll need a 4x4. That’s the only way to get access. The area is home to more than 200 miles of coastline. There are no paved roads and wild Spanish Mustangs still roam freely on the beaches. Forget about mega resorts. There are no hotels, but you can rent one of the beautiful homes. Corolla, the town you’ll hit before you reach Carova Beach, will be your go-to for restaurants and shops.

Payette Lake, McCall, Idaho


The glacier-carved Payette Lake is more than 5,000 acres, has sandy beaches, and its crystal-clear waters are ideal for waterskiing, sailing, canoeing, standup paddle boarding, kayaking, and more. You can swim out to the water trampoline at Ponderosa State Park. Great swimming and sunbathing can be had on the north end of the lake, too, at North Beach State Park. If you’re thinking upscale digs, Shore Lodge is lux. They have private beaches on the lake and restaurants onsite. Brew lovers take note, there are three craft breweries in town. There are a variety of Airbnbs. In summer ski resorts offer activities like lift-service mountain biking. 


Bald Head Island, North Carolina

You know you’re in a different kind of place when there are no cars. Get around via a golf cart, bicycle or by foot. You have to take a boat or the ferry to get to this island off the coast of Southport (near Wilmington). No need to worry about social distancing. There are only about 200 people who live on the 3-mile island full time. Enjoy the 14 miles that wrap three sides of the island. Surf, boogie board, walk, hunt for shells, kayak, paddle board, hike, bike, or go birding. There are two small inns as well as rental homes. Jules Salty Grub and Island Pub is the spot for steam pots brimming with seafood, and there is Delfinas, Latin-inspired cuisine.

Ludington State Park, Ludington, Michigan

In the 5,300-acre Ludington State Park you’ll discover seven miles of Lake Michigan coastline bordered by grassy dunes. If you’re feeling adventurous, hike the two-mile, one-way trail within Ludington State Park to the iconic Big Sable Point Lighthouse. Climb the tower and tour the original Keeper’s Quarters. Other must-see spots in the park are the 24 miles of hiking trails, fishing and picnicking along the park’s inland lake and river. While you’re spending time in Ludington, explore the restaurants, shops, and museums. As for where to stay, go for rustic cabins, lodges, as well as campgrounds.

Hampton Beach, New Hampshire

Unless you’re a local living near the coast, you most likely don’t know Hampton Beach. When you’re finished with your beach fun, satisfy your hunger and thirst at food spots like The Goat which is legendary for its burgers and shakes. The Green Room just north of Hampton Beach is great for smoothies, healthy dishes, and acai bowls. The Boardwalk strip has many great shops. For families, there is a great waterslide park, indoor mini golf, camping, golf, an arcade, and more.