From the craggy coast of New England to the sun-scoured beaches of California, America is loaded with coastal adventures. And with nearly 100,000 miles of shoreline, you have plenty to choose from, whether it’s a paddling trip on a serene bay or an adrenaline-charged surf safari. Here are just a few of the country’s most underrated coastal adventures to add to your travel list.
1. Go Snorkeling on Block Island
For those of us who aren’t ready to suit up for a scuba trip, Block Island is a snorkeling paradise glimmering with underwater sea life. Located about 12 miles off the coast of Rhode Island, cozy Block Island is blessed with an abundance of marine life, and the offshore location also provides better visibility for underwater explorers. The picturesque atoll offers 17 miles of beaches to savor, but one of the highlights for snorkelers is Crescent Beach, located on the eastern side of the island. This charming place is a coastal time capsule overlaid with rolling grasslands and weathered stone fences built during the 17th and 18th centuries. Block Island is only seven miles long, which means roaming on foot or bicycle is an ideal way to take in the sights.
2. SUP the Puget Sound
This region offers some of the premier spots for paddlers in the lower 48. Just west of Seattle, leafy and lush Bainbridge Island provides a picturesque launch point for exploring the Puget Sound by stand-up paddleboard. The hundred-mile long inland sea is renowned for its views of the Cascades and the Seattle Skyline as well as sustaining a diversity of marine life. Paddlers may encounter Harbor porpoises, Steller sea lions, and even orcas. Seasoned SUPers can also attempt the approximately three-mile paddle from Bainbridge Island to Blake Island State Park, and grab a campsite along the Cascadia Marine Trail for photogenic sunsets over the Olympic Mountains.
3. Go Deep Water Soloing in Maui
Taking advantage of unique rock formations over bodies of water, Deep Water Soloing (DWS) has caught on in places all over the world, from Vietnam to the Azores. The sport involves free climbing above the water–so it’s only natural that Hawaii has emerged as one of the top spots for the adrenaline-charged sport. While the Hawaiian archipelago is peppered with enticing crags, one of the most celebrated DWS spots is Pu’u Keka’a or Black Rock. Found on the northern end of Maui’s Kaanapali Beach, the hulking promontory is actually an ancient lava flow which has cooled and hardened. The turquoise waters surrounding the promontory also harbor a variety of sea life, including eagle rays, parrotfish, and sea turtles, making the spot popular with snorkelers, too.
4. Backpack the Lost Coast Trail
if you are all about getting lost on a beach then Northern California’s Lost Coast will not disappoint. The Lost Coast Trail threads a beautiful—and undeveloped—stretch of coastline that famously perplexed the state’s highway engineers. Along the roadless Lost Coast, the peaks of the hulking King Range seem to soar from the Pacific Ocean—the 4,088-foot King Peak is located just three miles from the water’s edge. The only way to experience this expanse of shoreline is along the Lost Coast Trail, actually a combination of two separate footpaths—a 24-mile stretch in the King Range National Conservation Area and a 22-mile segment in the Sinkyone Wilderness State Park. The northern section through the King Range NCA offers the most dramatic coastal scenery, as the trail clings to the Pacific Ocean, taking trekkers through meadows of lupine, along beaches frequented by lounging elephant seals, and past tidal pools harboring starfish and purple sea urchins
5. Paddle to the Alligator River
From the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean to sheltered Kitty Hawk Bay, North Carolina’s Outer Banks are teeming with enticing places to paddle. But one of the region’s most captivating waterways is the Alligator River, accessible from the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, located on the Albemarle Peninsula. According to local lore, the river isn’t named for the resident alligators, but instead for its shape. However, the reptiles do inhabit the waterway, which is located near the northernmost limit of their range. For paddlers, the protected area features 13 miles of color-coded paddling trails on Milltail Creek, and from the boat launch, it’s a picturesque four-mile haul to the Alligator River.
6. Surf at Yakutat Bay
Surprise everyone you know with a surf trip to Alaska! Even with 47,000 miles of coastline, Alaska hardly comes to mind as a top surf spot. But for hardy souls, the Land of the Midnight Sun serves up plenty of rideable waves. Surfing Alaska is much more than a standard trip to the shore. It’s often an extended adventure, involving multiple modes of non-traditional transportation, from bush planes and fishing boats to old-fashioned legwork. One of the state’s best spots is the Yakutat Bay, offering reliable swells and the towering Saint Elias Mountains as a backdrop. The town of Yakutat has been dubbed Alaska’s Surf City, and there’s even a local surf shop—Icy Waves.
7. Camp on Cumberland Island
The largest and most biodiverse of Georgia’s barrier islands, Cumberland Island National Seashore is an enchanting place to spend a few nights under the stars. The 36,000-acre island features a hodgepodge of salt marshes, maritime forests, and pristine beaches, including 9,800 acres of congressionally designated wilderness. The island was declared a national seashore back in 1972, and today it is among the most important nesting areas for loggerhead sea turtles. Visitors can tap into both the area’s history and natural assets along 50 miles of trails and roadways. For campers, Cumberland Island offers a variety of options, from semi-developed campsites with creature comforts like restrooms and fire rings to hike-in wilderness campsites without amenities.
8. Cycle Acadia’s Carriage Roads
Exploring Acadia National Park on two wheels is one of the best ways to see this coastal gem. In this park where the mountains meet the sea, cyclists can take advantage of the unique carriage roads—45 miles of crushed-gravel trails that are free of cars and open only to cyclists, walkers, and equestrians. Constructed by philanthropist John D. Rockefeller Jr between 1913 and 1945—and donated to the park—the carriage roads exemplify the broken-stone thoroughfares typically built in the early 1900s. Rockefeller, a skilled equestrian, aimed to create a scenic place to ride, free of motorized vehicles, and generations of visitors have enjoyed his gift.
Written by Malee Baker Oot for Matcha in partnership with Gregory Mountain Products.
Featured image provided by Will Saunders / Gregory Mountain Products