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?

“I Vacationed With Obama” On Martha’s Vineyard

Obama Martha's Vineyard golf cart
Steven Senne, AP

President Obama is on a week-long vacation on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts — a favorite vacation spot for the Obamas long before they became the presidential family. This marks the fourth time the family has visited Martha’s Vineyard since Obama became Commander in Chief, and some locals are cashing in on the Obama tourism craze. Shops have created T-shirts, bumper stickers and other items emblazoned with phrases like “I vacationed with Obama,” and a restaurant called Flatbread Company changed the name of their weekly “Dance-O-Rama” event to “Dance-O-Bama.”

The Obamas were welcomed to Martha’s Vineyard with handmade signs, and when the first couple dined at the Sweet Life Café on Saturday night, a crowd formed outside the restaurant. The Obamas are reportedly staying in Chilmark, an exclusive area where actor Ted Danson, singer Carly Simon and Washington power broker Vernon Jordan have homes.

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Megabus branches out to Cape Cod

If you’re still planning a summer escape and want to save some gas money, here’s some good news: Megabus will now send some of its blue, double-decker buses to Cape Cod. Known for offering fares as low as $1 and having free Wi-Fi onboard, Megabus will now make two daily round trips from New York to the Ocean Street Docks in Hyannis, Massachusetts (with a stop in Providence along the way). From the docks, travelers can hit a nearby beach, find sailing and fishing charters, or connect to island ferries for trips to places such as Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard.

Fares are still up for grabs as low as $5 in July, but the cheap seats probably won’t last long. Travelers who don’t live in New York can connect to the hub from locations all along the East Coast and in some Midwestern and Southern states – just be prepared for a potentially long road trip (the route from New York to Providence alone takes over five hours).

If taking to the skies is a better option, JetBlue also began seasonal service between New York and Martha’s Vineyard last week. The airline will send up to five weekly roundtrip flights on the route throughout the summer, with roundtrip fares being offered for as low as $147.

[Photo by Laura Padgett / Flickr]

Summer Travel: Seven great luxury beach getaways


summer travel

The weather is warming and we’re itching to hit the sand (after a few more weeks in the gym, naturally). Summer travel stories are often full of suggestions for budget and family-friendly getaways … but what if you just want to splurge? Economy be damned. Play up the “luxe” factor at these great summer beach destinations for those seeking to see and be seen, enjoy world-class restaurants and nightlife and enjoy five-star service along the way.

The Hamptons
Long Island’s stretch of beach towns is sleepy from Labor Day to Memorial Day, but once the warm weather hits, the crowds descend. The truly wealthy helicopter in, while the rest of us will fly to Islip airport and drive or take the Long Island Railroad and Hamptons Jitney in from New York City. By day, relax on the white sand beaches, stroll the tony shops in East Hampton or South Hampton. By night, relax at a private estate rental or the posh lodging at The 1770 House or the Mill House Inn.

Martha’s Vineyard
Hie thee to the Vineyard and you just might have a famous neighbor – or four. Members of the Kennedy clan, Oprah, and even President Obama have spent vacations on this famous New England paradise. Much less flashy than The Hamptons, beach-seekers arrive via ferries from locations like New Bedford and Hyannis. A ferry boat from Manhattan operates seasonally, and select regional carriers offer flights from cities like Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Providence and Washington. Rest your head at the island’s Relais & Chateaux property, The Charlotte Inn.

Newport
Relax in the sunshine amidst the shadows of America’s Castles – the summer homes of the country’s robber barons and wealthy elite, most of which are now museums open to the public for tours. Not sure you “know” Newport? Picture The Great Gatsby. In summer months, the harbor fills with yacht and sailboats and the well-heeled stroll the town. Fly to Providence (40) or Boston (70 miles) and enjoy the drive. Stay at Relais & Chateaux property Castle Hill inn & Resort, offering beautiful ocean views. Newly re-branded Grace hotel, Vanderbilt Grace, offers another option.

Bermuda
Just a short direct flight from many East Coast cities, Bermuda draws rave reviews from travelers seeking Caribbean-like beaches and a relaxed atmosphere without the long travel time. Lounge on pink sand beaches, sip a Dark n’ Stormy and frolic in the turquoise waters. By night, party in Hamilton, the island’s main city and popular cruise port. Rest your head at new Rosewood resort Tucker’s Point, Mandarin-managed Elbow Beach or intimate boutique property The Reefs. Bermuda’s closest land mass is North Carolina, meaning it enjoys a similarly temperate climate.

The French Riviera
Really need to get away? Try the French Riviera. Crowds descend as early as May for the Cannes Film Festival and then spend the summer flocking to the ritzy beach town of St. Tropez, where as many as 80,000 tourists visit each day. Marvel at the massive yachts docked in the harbor, sample a traditional Tarte Tropezienne, or browse the luxury goods at Louis Vuitton or Hermes. Then get out – even the three-star hotels are overrun this time of year.

Mackinac Island
Midwesterners spend summers on this grande dame of luxury island getaways. The car-free island transports visitors back to a more genteel time, where the island’s Grand Hotel is king and the pace is slower and more refined.

Los Cabos
Texans and Californians know that their home states are hot all summer long, so they often flee the confines of the United States for our friendly neighbor to the south, Mexico. Untouched by swine flu or drug wars, Los Cabos remains a paradise of the rich and famous, who come for the beaches, party life, and ultra-luxury hotels. Our favorites? Stay at Capella Pedregal, an intimate property with the country’s only private tunnel, the always-on-top Las Ventanas, a Rosewood property, celeb favorite One & Only Palmilla, or the ritzy Esperanza.

[Flickr via slgckgc]

Freedom to relax: A luxury not afforded Obama

Nothing a president does goes unnoticed. Even the slightest decisions are parsed carefully in the hopes of gaining some insight into to the man, the office or the policy that comes from both. His recent trip to Panama City, Florida, 27 hours to show that you can chill in the Gulf Coast area following the oil spill, may have been a decent move, but Obama‘s other trips, not to mention those taken by his family, have caused him some agita.

Michelle Obama‘s vacation in Marbella, Spain brought some heat, as did the family’s vacations in Maine’s Acadia National Park and Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. There are always people to laud and criticize, regardless of which party is in power. There’s always on group that seems to come out on top, however: the locals.

The Bar Harbor Chamber of Commerce said visits to it website surged 50 percent following Obama’s trip to Maine, though other factors may have contributed. Of course, the opportunity comes with a few risks. According to USA Today:

As for Panama City Beach, the Bay Point Marriott (where the First Family ate lunch and spent Saturday night) doesn’t highlight this weekend’s getaway on its website, and the convention and visitors bureau took down its Facebook post about Michelle Obama’s visit last month after a series of “personal attacks,” says CEO Dan Rowe.

[photo by transplanted mountaineer via Flickr]