4. Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach, Outer Banks of North Carolina

4. 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 come here expecting to play golf or stay at the Ritz; the main pursuits are swimming, shelling and enjoying a walk through the old cemetery on a foggy night. This island can still be reached by a free state ferry.