Beaches That Play Hard to Get
Whether through nature's whims or human effort, some of the best U.S. beaches hide in plain sight, and they're still hard to reach. Here's a rundown of some of our favorites.
An aerial view of Cayo Costa State Park (©James Randklev/Getty Images)
Some of the most beautiful and secluded beaches in the United States aren't necessarily secret; they're just hard to reach in one way or another. An island beach that requires a ferry ride; a long strand accessible only by four-wheel drive; a sandbar that disappears at high tide; a remote swath of sand and sea that lies at the end of a substantial hike over perilous terrain.
"People don't understand what's happening with the ocean, how we could impact something so vast."
Stephanie Wear, The Nature Conservancy
And then there are the human-made obstacles. "We're seeing more and more locked gates" on roads and trails that had provided public access to beaches, says Angela Howe, legal director of the Surfrider Foundation. The foundation is fighting to reopen access to Martin's Beach in Half Moon Bay, Calif., where a private landowner has blocked a footpath long used by the public. "We're scoping out litigation, raising public awareness and getting the story out in the media."
It may seem counterintuitive at first, but many conservationists do want us--at least just a few of us--to visit hard-to-reach beaches where the public is allowed, to know and value them. "People don't understand what's happening with the ocean, how we could impact something so vast. I want people to go to the beach and be inspired," says Stephanie Wear, coral reef director for The Nature Conservancy.
So without further ado, and in (subjective) order of difficulty starting with the easiest, here's a rundown of some of our favorite beaches that play hard to get.
Cayo Costa State Park, Florida
Next time you're in Bokeelia, Fla. (on the north shore of Pine Island, west of Fort Myers), stroll to the Jug Creek Marina and take a boat to Cayo Costa State Park, accessible only by small ferry or private boat. There you'll find nine miles of beaches, snorkeling, fishing and, if you're lucky, a manatee or three. Stay over if you'd like. "There's rustic camping, primitive cabins and that heritage feel of Florida," says Julie Brashears Wraithmell, director of wildlife conservation for Audubon Florida. "Sea turtles nest on the beach by starlight. You'll have your getaway experience without causing harm." Is Cayo Costa too easy to call "hard to get"? Maybe, but we're just getting started.
Currituck National Wildlife Refuge, Outer Banks, North Carolina (©Ocean/Corbis)
Currituck National Wildlife Refuge,
Outer Banks, North Carolina
Where in the world is there a species of mammal less welcomed on the beach by conservationists than Homo sapiens? Just north of Corolla, N.C., where the managers of the Currituck National Wildlife Refuge would rather not see so many feral horses, which, as a nonnative species, trample the vegetation and upset the ecosystem. To get to Currituck, you either need a four-wheel-drive vehicle or you must do as the horses do and hoof it for three-quarters of a mile from the end of the road north of Corolla to the refuge boundary. Your reward will be miles of pristine barrier-island beach, woodlands, wetlands and brush, together with the birds, reptiles and those controversial horses (they do draw tourist money). Visit between late fall and early spring and you'll likely have the place to yourself.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Do you think sunrises or sunsets are more romantic?
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