5 U.S. Beaches You Can Get to Without a Car

Beaches with a car - Chicago's Oak Street Beach
Flickr, Tom Gill

Summer may be winding down, but there are still a few weekends left to spend at the beach. Rather than sit in traffic or rent an expensive car, you can ride public transportation to many beaches in the U.S. Seasonal routes are especially likely to be popular, so go early and pack light.

Boston – CapeFLYER train to Cape Cod
Reintroduced this summer, the CapeFLYER train goes every weekend from Boston out to Hyannis, connecting to ferries for Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard and buses up and down Cape Cod. Fares are from $18 from South Station, with a few bucks’ savings if you buy round trip. You can bring a bike, get concessions onboard and get free Wi-Fi. The train will run through Columbus Day, October 14.

Chicago – El train to Oak Street Beach
Not everyone thinks of this city smack in the midwest as a beach town, but thanks to Lake Michigan, there are more beaches around Chicago than Bermuda. There are many to choose from, but Oak Street Beach is the most central with the most spectacular skyline view. It’s a few blocks from the El train at Clark and Division, though a bus up Lake Shore Drive will get you there closer. Beaches are free and open until Labor Day, but you can enjoy the water views year round. CTA fares are $2.25, with deductions for transit cards.Los Angeles – Big Blue Bus to Santa Monica
While it’s a major car city, there are ways to get to Santa Monica and Venice Beach from downtown Los Angeles without wheels. The Big Blue Bus serves all of Santa Monica and connects to Venice Beach as well. Fares are just $1, with day passes available. LA Metro has rapid buses to Venice Beach, with fares from $1.50. A new light rail line will connect Santa Monica to downtown LA, getting you on the beach even faster.

New York – A train to Far Rockaway
New Yorkers are lucky to have lots of options for sand and swimming, from Brooklyn‘s Brighton Beach to Long Island‘s Jones Beach, and Rockaway Beach in Queens has long been an urban favorite. While it suffered a lot from last year’s superstorm Sandy, it’s back in a big way, with many boardwalk concessions reopened and a new boutique hotel. A $2.50 subway fare gets you there on the A train, and there’s also a weekend-only ferry from downtown Manhattan if you’d like a more scenic (and spendy, at $20 one way) ride.

Washington, D.C. – DC2NY bus to Delaware beaches
While a bit much for a day trip, budget bus company DC2NY offers seasonal shuttles to Delaware‘s Rehoboth (one of Dr. Beach‘s favorites in the country) and Dewey beaches from Washington, as well as Wilmington and New York. The trip takes about 2½ hours, leaving Friday night and weekend mornings through Labor Day. Fares are $39 each way, but you do get Wi-Fi, a power outlet and a bottle of water.

What are your favorite beaches to visit without a car?

Photo Gallery: Flowers From Michigan’s Upper Peninsula


Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is lined with beaches along Lake Superior to the north and Lake Michigan to the south. The Keweenaw Peninsula in the greater U.P. is also lined with Lake Superior beaches to the east and west. Views from each side vary, but are beautiful across the board. I spent the afternoon at a small beach on Lake Superior called Betsy Beach. Aside from a kayaking pair, we had the sandstone beach to ourselves and I did what anyone with a camera in the summer on a beautiful beach would do: took photos of pretty flowers. Enjoy.

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Wildfires in Michigan's Upper Peninsula Cause Record-Setting Damage
[Photo Credit: Elizabeth Seward]

#OnTheRoad: Gadling Instagram From Lake Michigan

Adia WellsMichigan’s Grand Haven State Park

Come on in, the water’s well, it’s freezing. (Seriously, the girl in this photo is nuts.) But that isn’t keeping me away from my first trip to the breathtaking shores of Lake Michigan, also known as the country’s Third Coast. Though I’ve lived in Indiana most of my life, I have always passed over Lake Michigan for the spun-sugar shores of Florida’s Gulf Coast and Mexico’s Caribbean for my beach fix. I’m just not a lake person; I’m a beach snob. But the first time I laid eyes on Lake Michigan’s stunning panorama this week, I changed my tune. The sand is fine and soft, the beaches long and unbroken, the water deep blue and stretched to the horizon. There’s even a crashing surf, like the ocean. Charming beach towns and state parks galore run up and down this unsung, uncommercialized coastline, and the sunsets are spectacular. Follow along on Gadling’s Instagram account, @GadlingTravel and #ontheroad, as I discover the best of Lake Michigan’s beach culture this week. By the time you can plan a trip for later this summer, the water will be warm. Well, warmer, at least.

Roadside America: St. Joseph, Michigan

Growing up in Boston and later Tucson, I grew up going on beach vacations in New England and California. It wasn’t until I started dating my husband a decade ago that I discovered America’s “Third Coast” (the Great Lakes, for our purposes, though some call the Gulf states the Third Coast) in the Midwest. Visiting my in-laws in St. Joseph, Michigan, I was amazed to see that you don’t need to go to the edges of the country to experience sand between your toes, eat an ice cream on the boardwalk, and swim out further than your parents can see you. The Lake Michigan town of St. Joseph is a resort town from way back in the midst of a comeback, striking the rare balance between charming and twee.

Each year that I’ve visited St. Joseph, the town has evolved and improved into a destination worth visiting beyond a quick side trip from Chicago. The waterfront parks have been revitalized in recent years, and the beaches are so wide and sandy, you could forget you aren’t on an ocean. St. Joe and its sister city Benton Harbor are under two hours from Chicago, as well as an easy drive from other Midwestern cities such as Milwaukee and Detroit, in what has been called the “Riviera of the Midwest.”Just across Lake Michigan from Chicago, residents recently had hoped to revive the old Chicago-St. Joseph ferry that carried thousands to the beach in the 1920s heyday, but the venture proved too costly. Land remains the only approach, although there is a trans-Lake Michigan ferry between Milwaukee and Muskegon in the summer season, about 90 miles north of St. Joe. Amtrak makes the trip an hour and forty minutes from Chicago daily if you’d prefer not to get caught in traffic.

This area of Michigan is also famed for its produce, owing to the “lake effect” on the climate, helping to produce what is arguably the world’s best fruit. From June to November, you can taste many varieties at the Benton Harbor Fruit Market, one of the oldest and largest seller-to-buyer produce markets in America. Excellent fruit means excellent wine as well, and you can visit over a dozen wineries within a dozen miles of St. Joseph. You can also sample Michigan flavors at the annual Harvest Festival and regular farmers markets in the summer season.

In addition to the cute shops and a good selection of restaurants, St. Joseph has a budding arts scene anchored by the Krasl Art Center, which holds a major art fair each summer. The new pride of St. Joe is the Silver Beach area just below downtown. The historic Silver Beach Carousel was first opened in 1910 and re-opened 100 years later after the park had deteriorated and closed in the early ’70s. You can ride the carousel year-round, but go in the summer for the optimum effect, when you can finish out a day at the beach with one of Michigan’s famed sunsets and think about how soon you can return.

[flickr image via Molechaser]

19-Year-Old Is First To Cross Lake Michigan … By Windsurfing

Sure, this happened almost two months ago, but the video footage for it just came out, which makes the overall experience that much more exciting.

In case you aren’t:

1. A Lake Michigan local surfer

or

2. An avid Kai Lenny fan,

there’s a good chance you never heard about the fact that earlier this year, 19-year-old Maui phenom Kai Lenny became the first person to ever successfully windsurf across Lake Michigan.

Before you ho-hum this accomplishment by passing it off as a casual lake crossing, let me drop some statistics on you that might make you reconsider how ridiculously difficult of an accomplishment this was.

On his crossing, Lenny traveled a distance of 56 miles at speeds of up to 25 knots, which for those of you who aren’t nautically inclined is 30 mph. The crossing took him 2 hours and 50 minutes in water temperatures that only hovered in the low 50s. Do you have any idea the stamina required to windsurf for nearly three straight hours over choppy seas while being pelted with frigid sprays of water on your hands, feet and head?

It’s more than you or I have, I can assure you.

Just to put things in perspective one more time, out of curiosity I wanted to see how long it takes the ferries to zip across the waters of Lake Michigan. The result?

SS Badger: 4 hours
Lake Express High Speed Catamaran: 2.5-3 hours
Kai Lenny: 2.8 hours

Despite a failed attempt two years ago to accomplish the same feat, Lenny has, once again, firmly planted his name in the record books where few have dared to venture.