5 Beaches That Are Better in the Fall

After Labor Day, people across the country pack up their towels, stash their unfinished beach reading, and stow their beach chairs for the winter ahead. But what they don't realize is that fall and winter are actually the best times of year to visit many beaches around the country. Smaller crowds, empty swaths of sand, and lower prices on lodging make beach vacations even more appealing in September and beyond. These 10 beaches are some of the best to visit in the off-season.

Cannon Beach, Oregon


The sea stacks at Cannon Beach distinguishing it as quintessential Oregon coastline (yes, you probably recognize it from The Goonies). In calm weather, you can walk right up to the famed Haystack Rock and explore its tide pools with colorful sea stars and green anemone. Bring blankets and a bottle of wine so you can cozy up into the evening and watch some of the year's most incredible sunsets.

It's a year-round bird-watching location, but the wildlife really comes out when the crowds disperse. Visit neighboring Ecola State Park and watch for elk and migrating gray whales off-shore. Plus, Dungeness Crab season begins in mid-December, so you'll reap the benefits at local eaters.

Ditch Plains Beach, New York



Wealthy New Yorkers and celebrities flock to the eastern end of Long Island, past the Hamptons, for a little R&R. But post-Labor Day in Montauk is when the real R&R begins. After all, the point is to get away from Manhattan's traffic jams, right?

Surfers come to Ditch Plains for its consistent reef break that's ideal for long-boarders. You'll need a wetsuit, but then again, many surfers here wear a wetsuit year-round. Nearby Montauk Point Lighthouse is a worthy photo-op, particularly at sunset. While many of the town's seasonal shops and restaurants may be closed, the ones that are still open won't have long lines or require a reservation.

Moshup Beach, Massachusetts


Anywhere on Cape Cod and the islands is quieter in the off-season (thank goodness for less Route 6 traffic). But the best part about going to Martha's Vineyard in the fall is you actually have a shot of getting your car on the ferry without reserving a year in advance. And with fewer cars congesting the island (and out-of-towners driving like maniacs around the narrow roads), it's a bicyclist's paradise.

Whether you're cycling or driving, Moshup Beach (also known as Aquinnah Public Beach) is the island's best. You won't have to fight for parking or pay fees in the off-season, and the empty beach is the perfect spot for strolling, picnicking, or (if you're lucky) spotting seals. Plus, the nudists that tend to stake claim to the beach along the dramatic, multi-colored cliffs are bundled up for the winter.

Sunset Beach, North Carolina


If you can't stand the thought of the cold, this is your beach. Just north of bustling Myrtle Beach and south of the Outer Banks sits Sunset Beach. The town and the adjoining Bird Island coastal reserve encompass a barrier island. Walking along Sunset Beach (it's made for long walks) you'll eventually hit signs notifying you that you've reached the reserve. Consisting of nearly 1,500 acres, the reserve protects towering dunes, salt marshes, and tidal creeks.

Walk far enough, and you may stumble across the “Kindred Spirit” mailbox. Inside is a notebook where people have shared their thoughts throughout the years. And of course, with a name like Sunset Beach, you can expect golden rays to put on a show at the end of the day.

Shi Shi Beach, Washington


Washington is known for its perfect weather in July and August. But what locals know is you just don't make your plans around the weather, especially in the winter. The off-season just intensifies the theatrics of Shi Shi (pronounced shy-shy) Beach, part of Olympic National Park. The hike to the beach, about two miles each way from the day-use Makah Shi Shi trailhead, almost inevitably involves a bit of slogging through mud (choose footwear wisely) and ends with a descent down a bluff (an anchored rope is there for guidance) to the sands below. Tide pools, caves, and ocean-battered logs make this beach otherworldly.

While you can camp on the beach at Shi Shi, warm beds and arguably just-as-beautiful scenery await at the oceanfront Kalaloch Lodge. Though it's a couple of hours south by car, the lodge's seclusion and direct beach access (and distance from the Twilight-inspired downtown Forks) make it a worthwhile stop.

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