3. Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach, Outer Banks of North Carolina

Ocracoke, once the home of Blackbeard the pirate, is still a special place—it is my favorite getaway beach.  Here you will find some of the wildest beaches in the country.  Big surf dominates in late summer so families with children may want to come earlier in the year.  Don’t expect to play golf or stay at the Ritz; the main pursuits are swimming and beachcombing.