The Sands of Time and Tide
It was the spring of 1963 when those famous words were sung by the group of surfers’ rights activists we know as The Beach Boys. Their youthful spirit and political momentum captured the hearts of a generation; they were viewed as heroes by the landlocked states that were plagued with severe surf shortages.
But think about it. An ocean for everyone? Did they know there are only four? That isn’t even enough oceans for all of The Beach Boys— it’s no wonder they split up.
Beaches, on the other hand…well, everybody’s got a beach.
Bethany Beach, DE
Bethany Beach is a favorite destination of Kristen Hertzog, innkeeper at Hertzog Homestead B&B in Ephrata.
“It has that small town feeling; families pushing strollers down the boardwalk, young people gathering at dusk to sit on the benches and watch the world go by with a Coke and boardwalk fries…there is a feeling of peace and connection there, unlike larger beach communities.”
And it is small—the year-round population just barely tops 1,000 denizens. Summer sees that count swell to about fifteen times as many people, which is still relatively uncrowded for a resort town. This quiet seaside escape is just what your inner agoraphobe needs.
Assateague Island, MD/VA
Thirty-seven miles of pristine shoreline wrap neatly around Assateague Island like delicious bacon around a sea scallop, but that isn’t the reason for the island’s fame. Assateague and its sister island, Chincoteague, are among the few places where wild horses and ponies roam free. Nature lovers and equine enthusiasts adore this preservation paradise, where the raw beauty and power of undomesticated animals are on display daily.
Every year, some 40,000 spectators turn out for the traditional Pony Swim, Carnival, and auction that have occurred annually since 1925. About half of the island’s three hundred ponies and a number of Saltwater Cowboys make the swim from Assateague to Chincoteague, where around 70 of them are auctioned off to keep the island’s delicate ecosystem in balance. Ladies, it’s only fair to warn you, the Saltwater Cowboys are not up for auction.
Raystown Lake, Huntingdon County, PA
Closer to home is the beach at Raystown Lake, near Altoona. “It’s just a nice, quiet place to relax and enjoy water and people! That is where I would rather be than any other beach,” says Laverne of Landisville. The 8,000-acre lake is the largest in the state and began as a project of the United States Army Corps of Engineers. Because they still own the lake and most of the land around it, there isn’t the usual clutter of lakefront properties. Instead, visitors are treated to spectacular views of unblemished nature and foliage that extends right to the water’s edge.
If the traditional sand-and-surf beach isn’t your style, then Raystown Lake might be for you. It’s a prime spot for boating, hunting, fishing, camping, and earning Boy Scout badges, plus it’s within close range of state parks like the Whipple Dam and Warriors Path. While you’re there, visit the physics-defying Gravity Hill, where you can put your car in neutral and watch it roll uphill!
Some people really aim to get away when they go to the beach, and our photographer friend Ben Reeder is one of them. His pick is Naples, Florida, where “the water is always warm, with hardly any waves… it’s a nice, sleepy little town where you can sit on the beach and read.” There’s another reason that Naples is significant to him, though—this June, he’ll be married there!
Naples is known for attracting the rich and famous; with properties that cost upwards of $20 million, they might be the only ones who can afford to live there! Rock and roll’s Bob Seger, small claims court’s Judge Judy, space’s Buzz Aldrin, and Space Jam’s Larry Bird (some may know him for his NBA career) are among Naples’ notable residents.
Worth a visit is the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, where endangered Cypress trees still grow. A two-and-a-half mile boardwalk winds through the wetlands, affording a unique view for those long walks on the beach. Elsewhere in the marshes of Naples, the triannual swamp buggy races! They’re like go-kart races with a higher probability of alligators.
Ocean Grove, NJ
“The Jewel of the Jersey Shore” does not refer to Snooki (thank goodness!), but rather to the quaint Victorian town of Ocean Grove. Situated right next to Asbury Park, it’s also where Bruce Springsteen filmed the music video for “Girls in Their Summer Clothes,” so there’s no telling what you might see. Though small, the town features a rich history and the highest concentration of genuine Victorian architecture in America.
Several Mount Joy residents make an annual trek to Ocean Grove to sing in the Mass Choir Festival that is hosted in the Great Auditorium. “They have one of the largest organs in the country and instrumentalists to accompany the choir, which usually numbers somewhere around a thousand people,” says Sherrie Gilbert. Between rehearsals, the group combs the shore from Asbury Park to Avon-by-the-Sea, taking in the fresh ocean breeze. “Overall a time of relaxation, fellowship and reading,” adds Rob Stoner, former mayor of Mount Joy.
This could hardly be called a complete list without an entry from the Outer Banks. Just south of the Virginia state line, Corolla is the northernmost of the Banks’ resort towns. It is often the victim of mispronunciation, thanks to the mischievous Toyota Corolla; the second syllable should be pronounced as “rah” instead of “roe.” Like Assateague Island, Corolla has a population of wild horses—feral Banker horses to be exact. For the protection of the horses, visitors are advised not to feed, pet, or arrange monetary transactions with the Banker horses.
The primary tourist attraction is the Corolla Light Resort Village, which features a sports complex and a community trolley, for starters. Other local attractions include the Currituck Beach Lighthouse and the Whalehead Club Historic House Museum, which is not as gruesome as it sounds. Pam of Manheim says, “I prefer to stay Sound-side—it’s quieter, much like being in the woods—we’ve even seen deer! All while we’re at the beach!”
Cape Henlopen, DE
A peninsula of sand—more or less a three-sided beach—lies north of Rehoboth Beach and across the Delaware Bay from Cape May, NJ. Named Cape Henlopen, it was one of the first public lands in the thirteen colonies, declared so by none other than William Penn in 1682. Since then, it has been established as a state park.
Besides offering an amazing panoramic view, the Cape is popular for having a standard per-vehicle rate (free during the off season). Those with fishing licenses can drive right onto the sand and will appreciate the year-round 24-hour fishing pier. Horseback riding is also permitted on the beach, so you can recreate some of your favorite commercials. Of course, the best reason to go to Cape Henlopen is for the 18-hole Frisbee Golf (“Frolf”) course.
New Smyrna Beach, FL
A mere 20-hour drive from Lancaster, New Smyrna Beach is 13-miles of Florida-white sand containing nearly every beach activity you can think of. The town, whose playful motto is “a swan among ducks,” lies on the Fun Coast and is regularly selected as one of the “Best Beaches” in Florida.
Janessa of Landisville tells of her experiences: “An early walk in the rosy-tinted sunlight…discovers hatchling sea turtle tracks, the graceful fishing of egrets, and the scurry of sandpipers along the shoreline. It is the definition of serenity and oneness with the art of creation.”
It’s also the beach where a shark was filmed jumping over a surfer—an act widely considered to be the official shark response to Fonzie “jumping the shark” on Happy Days.
Myrtle Beach, SC
There are plenty of reasons to visit Myrtle Beach, which draws nearly 15 million tourists every summer, but video guru and FLL friend Derek Lau has only one reason: “They have firework stores everywhere!” We’ll be hiding the matches.
Cape May, NJ
For this one, I’ll pass the proverbial microphone to our multi-talented multi-media man (that’s a mouthful), Chris Ruch.
“I grew up going to Cape May, NJ, with my parents and grandparents, and hearing stories about it being their go-to destination for decades. It’s very relaxed and quaint… not a lot of activities, but that suits me just fine. Vacation is a time to wind down, after all! It’s tranquil, rejuvenating. I especially like the beach area near the lighthouse with all its rocks and shells (plus sunset over the harbor!), the bird sanctuary, and looking at all the cute old Victorian architecture and other vintage decor. The food selections are outstanding, particularly if you like fresh seafood and rustic ambience. And seeing couples happily riding together on a two-person surrey … ah, so romantic! My wife and I had our honeymoon there and have gone back several times since.”
The first and only Pacific contribution to our poll is Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. Founded in 1903 as a Spanish Mission settlement, it has since been transformed into a thriving arts colony. The town places a high priority on preserving the pine forest that grows in and around it, lending Carmel a unique personality and appearance.
Be warned: it’s not without its peculiarities. You must carry a license to wear heels higher than 2 inches or with a base smaller than 1 square inch. Houses and businesses are unnumbered, which puts them on the Postal Service’s “naughty list.” And in 1986, Clint Eastwood was elected mayor of Carmel with the campaign promise (which he fulfilled) of overturning a law against the selling and eating of ice cream on the street.
Weird laws aside, Producer Rob Stillman of Lititz says, “Carmel just seems like a little bit of heaven here on earth.”
Rehoboth Beach, DE
Rehoboth Beach is a local favorite, well worth the half-a-day drive down. The Biblically-inspired name means “place for all,” which seems appropriate given the variety of people you’ll see there. Its boardwalk was voted the “Best of America” in 2006 by Reader’s Digest.
Travis of Manheim describes his very first beach experience: “We didn’t arrive until well after dusk, so walking up to the beach for my first time, all I could make out was the breaking waves gently fading in from the black void, lapping the flawless waterfront…”
Another fan, Frank, has a little more experience with Rehoboth. “I’ve been going there for 40 years and still find lots of new things (and some old, too) that make me enjoy this seaside town more than anywhere on the east coast.”
North Beach, Miami, FL
When the locals go to a beach, you know it’s good. When only the locals go to that beach, you know there’s probably a secret order devoted to keeping it that way. North Beach in Miami seems to be one of those beaches, but Stephanie Samuel (of Sugar Whipped) and husband Mathew seem to have been let into the club, and might be convinced to reveal the password.
Ocean City, NJ
The most popular destination in our survey was family-friendly Ocean City, NJ—the OC of the East Coast. From Tammy, who was just married there, to Pastor David Woolverton, who grew up a Jersey boy, Ocean City seems to truly resonate with people. Stroll the renowned boardwalk, go for a ride at Gillian’s Wonderland Pier, or take kiteboarding lessons— your OC experience is going to be memorable. “Every time I visit, I am immediately taken back to my childhood,” says David.
Magician Erick Hershey also weighs in: “The crisp, windy nights were a magical time, between the crashing sounds of the black ocean waters, the frenzy of the arcades, and the swirling lights of playing catch-thebrass- ring on an old carousel.”