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Ready to Mentally Escape the Winter Chill? Plan a Trip to One of These National Seashore Gems

The National Park Service (NPS) has many more sites than just parks. While the list of 63 parks is the crown jewel of the NPS, there are also amazing national historical sites, monuments, preserves, and even scenic trails. However, planning a trip to a national seashore may be your best bet if you want to get out of a winter funk.

The National Park Service protects 10 seashores, which can be found up and down the East and West coasts of the United States.

Here’s a look at each from most popular to least popular:

Gulf Islands National Seashore

fishing in the gulf
(Source: Simon Ray)

Located on the Gulf of Mexico in Florida and Mississippi, Gulf Islands National Seashore comprises a dozen islands. Some of the destinations are an easy drive, while some require a ferry or boat. While you may want to skip the prime winter months to visit, you’ll find warmer temperatures most of the year. Besides hanging out on the beach, you can snorkel and check out a variety of historic military bases.

Cape Cod National Seashore

visiting cape cod
(Source: AT)

Cape Cod is known as a picturesque getaway for presidents and others on the Massachusetts coast. It’s also a great summer destination with beautiful New England beaches. The area has miles of paved bike trails and great seabird watching. As the national seashore that’s the farthest north, you may want to wait until the summer to visit.

Cape Hatteras National Seashore

cape hatteras national seashore
(Source: Julie Canfield)

Located on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, Cape Hatteras is miles off the coast. The long islands are home to incredible surfing, sea turtle nests, and a history full of pirates. Getting there is similar to getting to the Gulf Islands, and you can drive or take a ferry. Avoid visiting during the dead of winter, but you can find fairly nice conditions from March through November.

Assateague Island National Seashore

Horses in Assateague
(Source: Sara Cottle)

North of the Outer Banks and past Virginia is Assateague Island on the border of Delaware and Maryland. The quiet coast here is known for feral horses that call the area home. The site is a 37-mile-long barrier island that is less than a mile across. The destination is accessible by car from the north and south. Some of the park is only accessible by hiking or off-roading.

Point Reyes National Seashore

California seashore
(Source: Jordan McQueen)

Point Reyes is the only national seashore on the U.S. West Coast. Don’t expect to be out sunning in a beach chair here. North of San Francisco, the destination comes with cooler weather but a beautiful rocky coast for exploring. The area is full of wildlife, with 1,500 different species of plants and animals calling this site home. Point Reyes is an easy 1.5-hour drive from San Francisco.

Canaveral National Seashore

florida seashore
(Source: Don Shetterly)

Canaveral National Seashore is one of your best bets to find warmer weather, no matter when you go. Located in Florida, this site is the longest stretch of undeveloped coastline in the Sunshine State. Like the Outer Banks, it also focuses heavily on protecting sea turtle nesting grounds. It’s a good destination for families, as Canaveral is not far from the famous NASA launch site in Cape Canaveral.

Cape Lookout National Seashore

Outer Banks lighthouses
(Source: Mark Pearson)

North Carolina is the only state with two national seashores. The second one (besides Cape Hatteras) is Cape Lookout. Also located as part of the Outer Banks, this site covers an island at the southern tip of the long chain of barrier islands. Visitors can check out a lighthouse and find plenty of prime swimming spots.

Padre Island National Seashore

Padres Island in Texas
(Source: Joshua J. Cotten)

Located in southern Texas, this is the next best bet for year-round great beach weather. Padre Island sits on the Gulf of Mexico, between Corpus Christi and the international border with Mexico. The island is famous for fishing and camping near the beach dunes. It’s also a massive destination. The park protects a total of 70 miles of coastline.

Fire Island National Seashore

fire island, new york
(Source: Patrick Tomasso)

Like Cape Cod, Fire Island National Seashore is a mostly summer destination. Located south of New York’s Long Island, Fire Island is not far from New York City. The protected seashore area is a small chunk of land, but visitors will find plenty of wildlife, sand dunes, and a decent amount of history here, similar to other seashores.

Cumberland Island National Seashore

historic coastline
(Source: NPS)

Cumberland Island is also full of history and is by far the quietest of national seashore. Located in Georgia, the area is large enough to have a protected oceanfront and freshwater lakes. 

Which national seashore do you plan to visit next?

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