Wendy Francis is the author of The Summer Of Good Intentions, out now from sister company Simon & Schuster and available wherever books are sold.
Nothing says summer like the scent of sea air, a new pair of flip-flops, and sand at the bottom of your beach bag. Whether you're looking for a one-day excursion or a weekend jaunt, these sandy retreats are sure to restore your faith in the power of relaxation. . . and that wonderful season called summer.
Mount Desert Island
Acadia National Park, ME
If seclusion and stunning scenery are what you're coveting, then look no further than Sand Beach, a cozy slip of sand tucked in among the lush pines of Mount Desert Island. Located off Park Loop Road, the beach is surrounded by some of the best hiking trails in the Northeast.
Ogunquit, ME 03907
With its 3 miles of beachy goodness, this picturesque peninsula has something for everyone. Ogunquit Beach features beckoning waves and a flat stretch of coastline for leisurely walks. On the other side of the peninsula sits the Ogunquit River Estuary, ideal for tykes' exploring. A little further down, Footbridge Beach provides a quieter haven.
Bonus: The Ogunquit Playhouse, a mainstay of the area since the 1930s, has drawn Broadway actors for years.
On the island of Nantucket, you'll find some of the East Coast's most pristine beaches. Take the speedy ferry over from Hyannis and you'll be basking in island charm within the hour. A favorite spot is Surfside, a short bike ride from the center of this historic whaling town, where waves are made for body surfing and super-soft sand invites castle-building.
Tip: After a day at the beach, grab a book from Mitchell's Book Corner and head to the Straight Wharf Restaurant deck for a cool cocktail.
Florida Panhandle, FL
It's tough to top the sugary white beaches of Florida's Panhandle, perhaps better known as "the Emerald Coast" along the Gulf of Mexico. We're not sure if it's the intense sun, the Southern charm, or the aquamarine water, but somehow the sand seems to sparkle here. Whether it's Miramar or the more laid-back Grayton Beach, take your pick of more than a dozen beaches, where cozy fishing cottages coexist with larger resorts. The motto here might be: Unwind at your own pace.
1501 Michigan Blvd.
Racine, WI 53403
For landlocked Midwesterners, there is plenty of relief to be found along the lovely shores of Lake Michigan, and in particular, on Racine's North Beach. Only an hour and a half from Chicago, North Beach is home to inviting stretches of sand and the occasional (potted) palm tree. Families will enjoy the kids' pirate-themed playground and the Beachside Oasis, showcasing good eats and live music.
Tip: Be sure to stop by O&H Danish Bakeries for a slice of mouth-watering kringle, Racine's signature pastry.
Marin County, CA 94965
Shaped like a comma, Muir Beach is a peaceful lagoon that sits a mere sixteen miles northwest of San Francisco. The beach and surrounding hiking paths promise awe-inspiring outlooks, the kind that visitors say restore a sense of inner peace and calm. Dolphin and seal sightings are additional highlights.
Tip: The northern tip of the beach occasionally boasts "clothing-optional" sunbathers, either a plus or a minus, depending upon your, er, view.
Related: America's Top 5 Must-Visit Aquariums
for more features.