You don't have to love long walks along the beach to appreciate a good boardwalk. Sometimes you only need a sense of adventure or an appetite for thrills. Other times, you might feel like disappearing into the landscape or surrendering yourself to a gorgeous sunset. Some of the best boardwalks in America aren't what people expect, but a surprising blend of local history, homegrown culture, and astonishing natural beauty.
When it comes to iconic and historic boardwalks, Coney Island is the granddaddy of them all. This 2.7-mile walkway, established in the late 1800s, connects New York's most famous playground with the relaxing swathes of warm sand. Brave the Cyclone roller coaster, snack on a Nathan's hot dog, and witness the unique brand of entertainment you'll only find in Coney Island. Then enjoy spectacular views of the sprawling amusement park and beach from the iconic Wonder Wheel Ferris wheel.
Santa Cruz Beach is a classic seaside amusement park and has graced California's Monterey Bay coastline since 1907. Dubbed the Coney Island of the West, the California Historic Landmark is the oldest amusement park in the state. Two of the rides are National Historic Landmarks: the 1911 Looff Carousel and the 1924 Giant Dipper wooden roller coaster. If the boardwalk looks familiar, you've probably seen the films Us, The Lost Boys, or the cult classic Killer Klowns from Outer Space. The boardwalk and adjoining pier feature heavily in these spooky thrillers. Admission is free of charge year-round.
The Atlantic City Boardwalk isn't just a playground for adults — think Las Vegas on a beach. It's also a piece of American history: it's the first and longest boardwalk in America. Glitzy hotels, colorful casinos, and souvenir shops line the 5.5 mile-long wooded way. Early birds can rent a bike or head for the beach to watch the sunrise over a glistening ocean. Fun lovers and night owls will take to the boardwalk to cruise the casinos, bars, and clubs and enjoy the free concert series in the summer.
This boardwalk, first laid in 1888, is another historic promenade worth visiting. The three-mile boardwalk in the Oceanfront district features a 28-foot wide concrete path with a separate biking trail and several nautical sculptures. Most notable is the 24-foot tall King Neptune statue, the obligatory Instagram photo opportunity. Just north of the boardwalk is First Landing State Park, commemorating the beaches where the first settlers from England landed in 1607. You'll also want to see Cape Henry Lighthouse, the first federally funded public works project in the country.
The Nisqually Estuary Trail isn't your typical waterside boardwalk. The 1.5 mile-long path is a part of the Nisqually Estuary, a pristine wildlife preserve that sees hundreds of species of birds and a diversity of marine life year-round. The hike begins with a historic find: twin, 100-year-old barns. Then, the trail opens onto an elevated boardwalk that winds through the freshwater wetlands and salt marshes. Enjoy stunning, panoramic views from the viewing tower and viewing platforms.
Venice Beach's boho vibe and eccentric cast of characters are a breath of life for some and an acquired taste for others. Either way, the iconic Venice Beach Ocean Front Walk is one California experience you don't want to miss. The boardwalk is home to hundreds of street performers and vendors, with access to a ton of eateries for all budgets. Only ten minutes away, you'll find the breathtaking Venice Beach Canals. These charming waterways form a quiet, upscale neighborhood with some of the most beautiful and unique homes in Los Angeles.
Maui is one of Hawai'i's most relaxing islands, where visitors come for peace and solitude. The boardwalk at Ka'anapali Beach is no different. The Ka'anapali Beachwalk serves up lush tropical vegetation with unbeatable views of the turquoise waters and beautiful resorts — all without touching the sand. Take the 1.5-mile-long beach walk to Black Rock Beach, where you'll witness one of the best sunsets of your life.
The best aspect of the boardwalk at Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, is its quaint small-town vibe. Eclectic shops, amusements, and a diverse selection of restaurants flank the mile-long walkway, but you'll find even more shops and eateries off the boulevard. Navigate the picturesque side streets to snack on ice cream, fried goodies, and the infamous Dolle's saltwater taffy. When you've had your fill, head back to the beach for outdoor concerts and festivals in any season.
The boardwalk at Ocean City is the quintessential classic experience, virtually unchanged for 50 years. Mom and pop shops and restaurants line the three-mile-long walkway along the beautiful golden shoreline. Trumper's, a landmark amusement park in operation since 1887, is home to antique rides and a carousel that dates back to 1902. For the older crowd, there's the Haunted House, a classic dark ride designed in the 1960s. Take a stroll or ride the tram down to Thrasher's for their famous french fries.
When visiting Texas, you can expect the biggest and the best. The folks at Kemah Boardwalk on Texas' Galveston Bay know something about that, as this sprawling entertainment complex is a premier coastal destination. The 60-acre theme park is open to the public, with lots of shopping and attractions for the whole family. If the amusements are the life of the boardwalk, then the food is its heart. A diversity of cuisines and flavors await, especially in April, when the annual Kemah Crawfish comes to town.