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Off-the-map beaches to hit for spring break

Spring break has historical ties to beach vacations, but it also has some negative connotations. By this point in the year, there’s a good chance want to be somewhere warm and sunny, but maybe you don't want to deal with obnoxious crowds or too-drunk fraternity brothers. In that case, here are some alternative options.

The empty Outer Banks, a spring break escape for East Coasters; photo by Phyllis Magnolia/Flickr
The empty Outer Banks, a spring break escape for East Coasters; photo by Phyllis Magnolia/Flickr

Outer Banks, North Carolina
The East Coast's most interesting stretch is arguably the Outer Banks, the barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina that run from Duck at the northern tip to Ocracoke in the south. The Outer Banks have a ton of interesting history, and there's lots to do to there. For surfers, the beaches tend to pick up north swell in the spring, and for fishermen, this time of year is prime for surf casting. You can hang glide down some of the biggest sand dunes in the country at Jockey's Ridge. Hatteras has beach camping, including three National Park Service campgrounds.

Beverly Beach, Oregon, offers a PNW escape for spring break. Photo courtesy Oregon State Parks
Beverly Beach, Oregon, offers a PNW escape for spring break. Photo courtesy Oregon State Parks

Beverly Beach, Oregon
Oregon's coast, with its rocky shoreline and steep bluffs, holds some of the most beautiful beaches in the country. You've probably seen a million pictures of the rocks at Cannon Beach, and, if you're a child of the '80s, you know Astoria from the Goonies. A little bit farther south, lesser-known Beverly Beach has the same dramatic views, plus you can surf the northern part of the beach and stay in one of 21 state-run yurts instead of camping. It won't be tropical this time of year (or ever), but it's beautiful and crowd free.

San Diego's a perennial spring-break favorite for hordes of college students, but Jalama's got the charm of Santa Barbara County and is far less crowded. Photo by Damian Gadal
San Diego's a perennial spring-break favorite for hordes of college students, but Jalama's got the charm of Santa Barbara County and is far less crowded. Photo by Damian Gadal

Jalama Beach, California
Just north of Santa Barbara, Jalama Beach, which is a county park, has surf that goes off all year round. The currents are strong and the surf can be heavy, so it's not a beginner break, but there's a left reef break, and a beach break, and the whole area is beautiful. You can camp right along the beach and get anything you need—including much-hyped Jalama Burgers—at the Jalama Beach Store. Plus, if you want some spring break in your spring break, UCSB isn't too far, so if you're jonesing for some partying you can get that too.

Shi Shi Beach offers a spring break experience that just screams Pacific Northwest. Photo by Heather Hansman
Shi Shi Beach offers a spring break experience that just screams Pacific Northwest. Photo by Heather Hansman

Shi Shi Beach, Washington
Shi Shi, on the northwestern tip of the Olympic Peninsula, can be slammed in the summer, and it's not hard to see why. An easy, flat, 2-mile walk from the trailhead gets you access to a beautiful, miles-long beach. There are tide pools full of starfish, rock towers to climb and scramble on, driftwood to collect for beach bonfires, and good swell for surfing. In the spring, before the crowds and families hit, you can have the place to yourself. You access the beach from the Makah Indian Reservation, so you need a recreation pass from the tribe, which you can get at gas stations in Neah Bay, the last town you hit before you make it to the beach.

The Florida side of Gulf Islands National Seashore is a drivable spring break option for those who want to avoid the Daytona Beach set. Photo courtesy National Parks Service
The Florida side of Gulf Islands National Seashore is a drivable spring break option for those who want to avoid the Daytona Beach set. Photo courtesy National Parks Service

Gulf Islands National Seashore
The very best way to beach camp is to get yourself out to an island and post up for a while. On the Gulf Island National Seashore, which spans Florida and Mississippi in the Gulf of Mexico, you can do just that. You can camp on seven of the 12 islands in the park, and they're all good bases for hiking, boating, snorkeling, and fishing. Most of the Mississippi side is accessible only by boat, but you can drive to the sandy beaches on the Florida side.

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