Water, Sand and Plenty of Elbow Room on 8 Wild, Protected Coastlines


The grandmother of American conservation, Mardy Murie, once called the national parks our “best idea.” And this year, with foreign travel all but canceled, some of these celebrated domestic destinations have reached new heights of jam-packed popularity — and that, of course, presents challenges during a pandemic.

Despite the breathing room offered by the Great Outdoors, many of the 419 National Park Service areas have sites that are not conducive to social distancing. Many parks concentrate the public along narrow trails leading to crowded geysers, waterfalls, wildlife-viewing stands or other scenic vistas.

Yet there are notable exceptions. In particular, 13 national seashores and lakeshores offer a completely different experience. While these federally protected coastlines collectively attract millions of visitors each year, the primary attraction is water and uncrowded stretches of sand that invite picnics, water activities and social distancing.

During the pandemic, many of the visitor centers, museums, historic buildings and signature lighthouses have remained closed to the public.

As one of the most popular seashores, with over four million visitors last year, this seashore has still plenty of room along 15 different beaches to spread out and fish, body surf, swim, go for interpretive walks, take four-wheel drives along the beach and hike a dozen different trails that lead to forested wetlands and picnic areas. Beaches are essential ecosystems that support a wide variety of often overlooked plants and animals, from small nematodes (simple worms) to tiny crustaceans and other clam-like invertebrates living between the lower surf and the higher grasses. You can also observe ospreys, foxes, coyotes and wildflowers amid the rolling dunes. For the summer of 2020, the two visitor centers, half a dozen lighthouses and historic buildings are closed.

Otherwise, surf-casting is popular, along with hunting, shell collecting, windsurfing, kayaking, motor boating (like most national seashores, areas for personal watercraft and Jet Skis are limited), long beach strolls and four-wheel driving on the two Core islands (scheduled ferries transport motor vehicles).



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