Think beaches and you think seaside resorts in quaint towns.
But did you know that there are plenty of beaches part of the National Park system --both on along the ocean and lakeshores --that are perfect for cooling off in the scalding summer months?
There's something for everyone, from the natural wildlife fans to the bathing beauties, making it perfect spot for the whole family.
Still looking for the perfect park? Check out National Park Service's Find Your Park to discover some hidden natural gems from coast to coast.
1. Cumberland Island, Georgia
Cumberland Island is Georgia's largest and southernmost barrier island. Hiking, biking and camping are all popular activities for the adventurous set. Just don't forget to load up on the insect repellent and sunscreen.
2. Assateague Island, Maryland & Virginia
Assateague and Chincoteague Islands have been made famous by the beloved childhood story "Misty of Chincoteague" --a children's book about the wild horse that live on the island. Seeing wild horses is pretty spectacular, but there is plenty to do in this natural sanctuary. Go fishing or kayaking in the local waters or earn more about the marshland ecosystem on a guided tour.
3. Cape Cod National Seashore
Cape Cod is one of the East Coast's premier beach destinations during warm weather months. But at the every tip is wild terrain that feels far away from all the traffic and ice cream shops. Cape Code National Seashore is 43,500 pristine acres of beaches, ponds, and woods, stretching from Chatham to Provincetown, Massachusetts. Stop for a photo-op at Nauset Lighthouse or swim at Coast Guard Beach, rated one of America’s top ten beaches in 2007.
4. Cape Hatteras National Seashore, North Carolina
Nestled amid the hustle and bustle of the Outer Banks in North Carolina is Cape Hatteras National Seashore. These beautiful sandy beaches are loved by families for their wide shores and-- generally-- gentle waves. The area is an important feeding area for migrating birds and filled with dolphins other wildlife. Explore historic lighthouses, build a giant sand castle on the beach, go stargazing at night, and even fish for your dinner.
5. Fire Island, New York
Fire Island is gaining traction as a popular alternative to the Hamptons for beach-loving New Yorkers. With a more laid back vibe, this car-free (don't forget to rent a bike!) enclave is a favorite of musicians and artists from the city. For nature lovers, there is plenty of sand to whip up a temporary castle masterpiece and aquatic activities like boating, swimming and fishing.
6. Padre Island National Seashore, Texas
No, this is not the wild party isle of South Padre. The National Seashore begins just south of Corpus Christi, some two hours north of the island of South Padre, and is known for rolling dunes and deserted beaches. As the "longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world," this pristine stretch of beach is for those craving a real getaway. This is one of the best places in the country to see baby sea turtles hatch.
7. Point Reyes, California
San Francisco and Los Angeles can be expensive coastal getaways. Get back to nature with a visit to this natural treasure in Northern California. Horseback riding is a great way to take in miles of coastline without wearing yourself out.
8. Apostle Islands, Wisconsin
On the shores of Lake Superior, visitors can find 21 different islands to explore with 12 miles of mainland. Whether you prefer to sail, paddle, kayak or cruise, you can do it all in one of the country's largest lakes.
9. Indiana Dunes, Indiana
The Indiana Dunes lie on the southern shore of Lake Michigan. There are plenty of opportunities for bird watching, hiking the over 45 miles of rugged dune trails, kayaking through wetlands, flying kites or just relaxing on the sandy beach.
10. Sleeping Bear Dunes, Michigan
Sleep Bear Dunes, located along the northwest coast of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, was named after a legend by the native Chippewa tribe about a mother bear who waited on top of a dune for her two cubs who drowned. Today, its natural beauty attracts thousands each year. Take a drive on the 7-mile drive Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive loop or catch a ferry to South Manitou Island, located off the coast of the Leelanau Peninsula, to explore the famous dunes without the crowds.