With the vaccine being rolled out, a lot of people are looking to get back to the beach again. While this should be done with caution, it should be noted that the sea has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety in people, and therefore spending time near it is pretty important. There is no need to go without it this summer, if you feel comfortable with driving a little, because there are plenty of beaches that are easy to social distance on—either because they’re remote or because they’re large and virtually undiscovered. Wherever you are in the United States, there is a perfect beach for your COVID-is-nearly-over-summer, and plenty of vegan options to boot. Here are a few:
1. Double Bluff Beach: Langley, WA
Located at the southern tip of Whidbey Island, this beach is remote and scenic. It also happens to be one of the truly sandy and warm beaches of the San Juan Island region, so it’s quite the local secret. True to its name, the sand runs alongside steep, coastal bluffs that warm the beach with the sun. It’s strewn with thousands of dried sand dollars, purple starfish, huge shells, and even a bit of sea glass! The water is warmed by the sand, and there are a lot of shallow inlets that are almost bath temperature, and perfect for sunning. The entire beach offers stunning views of huge mountains on mainland Washington across the water, making this spot absolutely surreal. Thanks to its size, remote nature, and lack of anyone but locals knowing where it is, it’s ideal for a summer when we’re all trying to be careful still.
Feeling hungry?- While the beach is remote, there are plenty of vegan options all around it that offer take away or limited seating options. If you’re wanting something international, Ultra House offers vegan ramen bowls, Asian salads, miso soup, and vegan mochi! The Braeburn has Mediterranean wraps stuffed with veggies (vegan without the feta) on garlic tortillas, local mixed greens with blueberry balsamic dressing, and a big baba ghanoush platter. If you’re wanting something more breakfasty, they also have build your own breakfast hash bowls! Whidbey Doughnuts has homemade vegan granola, roasted tomato basil soup, and really flavorful bistro salads for a taste of local fare. Also a local classic, Rocket Tacos features sweet potato and black bean tacos, flavorful guacamole and pico de gallo, and refreshing drinks like pineapple Jarritos! It’s a favorite for beach goers. If veggie bowls are more your thing, Island Nosh has a fantastic one. This area of the country is idyllic for foodies.
2. Kohler-Andrae State Park: Sheboygan, WI
So this isn’t the ocean, but it’s still a beach, and sitting on one of the huge Great Lakes makes it very comparable to the coast. This place specifically is home to wondrous sand dunes, pines, wildlife (it’s one of the few natural preserves along Lake Michigan), and of course—sparkling blue water and golden sand. Camp or just visit for the day, but either way this is worth the trip. There is so much hiking, swimming, biking, and earthing to be done here. It’s such a fantastic place for reconnecting with nature and taking things slow. For those who live in the middle of the country and don’t have access to the sea, this is perfect and a great way to get the feelings of tranquility that come with being at sea. With it being remote, and located in a small town (just outside of it), it’s great for those travelers who are still feeling cautious. Visit the beloved farmers market, learn a new water sport, or just float in the lake on your back. You’re sure to find peace here.
Feeling hungry?- Paradigm is a great stop for coffee, vegan burgers, lemonade, vegan shakes and smoothies, burritos, vegan and breakfast bagel sandwiches! Field to Fork Cafe offers delicious dishes such as avocado toast, vegan chorizo, rice and beans, and big salads- all made with locally grown ingredients! For something sweet grab vegan cupcakes and coffee at Whisk, or vegan strawberry cupcakes and smoothies at Weather Center Cafe!
3. Topsail Beach: Surf City, NC
This magical beach is on Topsail Island—an isolated and tropical island right off the coast of North Carolina. It’s the best beach in the country for beach scavenging, as the sandy shores are filled with colorful, delicate, mermaid-quality seashells. The island is safe thanks to its remote location, and there are plenty of beach huts and houses to rent for one’s stay for those who want to be as distanced as possible. The beach is huge, and runs along the entirety of the island, uninterrupted by urbanization. Because of this, it’s a haven for sea turtles, crabs, and dolphins so keep your eyes out. For locally made souvenirs and iced coffee, head over to Quarter moon Books—a coffee and wine bar that also carries regional clothing, beautiful jewelry, and art. It’s a great spot for when you want a break from the sun. Offering the best sunrise views on the coast, this beach is perfect for wildlife lovers, early risers, and those who really want a slow vacation filled with walks and morning swims. Because this beach is so large, even at its busiest times there is plenty of sand to be very well distanced from everyone else. It’s honestly just ideal in every way.
Feeling hungry?- For some of the best tacos of your life, hit up Shaka Taco in town! Their veggie tacos are sublime, their salsa and pineapple guac are beyond flavorful, and their rice and beans are cooked with toasted coconut making this place perfect for tropical vibes. This is also a good spot to grab souvenirs if you want to support a local business while at the same time snagging Topsail attire to remember your trip with. Splash by the Sea has a really fresh “Splash Salad” filled with so many different kinds of veggies, and it can be served with a few different fruity vinaigrettes. Order some roasted red potatoes and sautéed broccoli on the side, and it’s a filling and healthy meal! Burrito Shak is a little outside of town, and has a few locations around the state, but has lots of options for vegans, including tropical tofu bowls, spicy pineapple tofu tacos, and big refreshing salads. For juices, pitaya and açai bowls, coffee, and smoothies, North Shore Juice is great! Their “Sea Spray” juice is to die for, with watermelon, lime, and mint making it the most refreshing beach drink. Since this is a remote spot, if you have a kitchen it might be better to cook for a few of the days you’re here. There’s a Publix just off the island, and it has a huge produce section!
4. Carmel Beach: Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA
California is filled with beautiful beaches, many of which are large enough to make it easy to practice social distancing. It can be hard to narrow down which beach to head to in a state where perfect beaches are so plentiful, but Carmel is the way to go. Take the Scenic Bluff Path down to it, as it winds through picturesque cypress trees and gardens, and offers views of neighboring beaches as well. The riptides can be strong here, and the waves large, making this a good spot for surfers and experienced body boarders, and a lesser visited spot of tourists and passerby’s. Enjoy views of the stretching, cerulean ocean, the songs of sea birds, and sea breezes. It’s absolutely dreamy to say the least. Bring some watermelon or sparkling water to stay hydrated and have a picnic with the best views around. Bring a book and stay for a while. It’s the perfect balance between being ideal for adventurous surfers and ideal for those who just want to enjoy the presence of the sea. You won’t want to leave.
Feeling hungry?- When you do need to leave and grab a bite, there are some great options in this artsy town. For locally grown, fresh cuisine, head over to Basil. Their heirloom tomato salad is tangy and flavorful, the rigatoni pomodoro is vibrant, and their seasonal vegetable plate entree is pure art. Treehouse Cafe is another beautiful spot, with dishes like their olive and basil pasta, lentil soup, hummus, and extensive locally sourced wine list. For a taste of local history, grab some avocado toast or a vegan burger at Village Corner– a local institution that’s been in business since the 1940’s. Dametra Cafe has great Mediterranean food by the sea, including their Bruschetta de Napoli, house salad with raisins and walnuts, dolmas, and falafel wraps! For something fancier, The Forge is a favorite among locals. Roasted artichokes and a “Vegan Tray” (spread with roasted veggies, spinach stew, tofu, and rice on it) makes this high class dining experience a delicious one for vegans too. If you’re wanting something more casual and beachy, grab a bite at Cultura. Some highlights of their menu include roasted salsa, plantain tacos with cashew crema, butter lettuce salad with watermelon radish and a handful of other colorful vegetables, a burrito bowl (complete with yams), and house made tortillas.
5. Pensacola Dog Beach: Pensacola, FL
As the name implies, this is a great beach for those with animal companions. It’s ideal for many reasons, including the size of the beach (perfect for distancing), the fact that it’s the lesser known beach among tourists, the tranquility of the warm water, and the plethora of tropical fish that swim in the shallows. This might be the best beach for swimming in the country, thanks to the sparkling and calm turquoise water and fluffy sand. It’s surreal in person, and is a great place to have some bonding time with your pup. Keep your eye out for dolphins, as they are thriving in the area. Bring a snorkel as well, because as mentioned, there are whole schools of colorfully tropical fish swimming just under the surface even right along the shore. There are two locations to go to (east and west), so drive by both to see which one is the least busy. The western one will most likely be your best bet, but as mentioned—this beach is mainly used by locals and isn’t prone to the typical partiers and crowds of the area. Bring snacks, enjoy the sea, and stay safe.
Feeling hungry?- There’s really no beating End of the Line Cafe—an all-vegan eatery with an expansive menu. Come hungry, because their options range from dolma to reuben sandwiches to mezze platters to bahn mi to cuban sandwiches to endless salads. You’ll want to try it all. Taste of India is great for adventurous eaters who want to be hit with flavor and love authentic Indian food! Not everything is vegan but they have plenty of options that are accidentally vegan. Taste of Jerusalem is also great for international fare, offering plenty of accidentally vegan dishes that are all authentic Middle Eastern food. For something true to the tropical air of this place, check out Cafe Single Fin. They have fruit bowls, vegan oatmeal, vegan breakfast burritos and omelets, tacos (seitan chicken, impossible burger crumbles, or black beans), guac, vegan quesadillas, açai, and much more! If you’re looking for a good place to grab drinks, look no further than Red Fish Blue Fish. There is outdoor seating, views of busy dolphin areas, and an incredible drink selection (including spicy pineapple margaritas).
There are so many options for those who miss the sea, but still want to play it safe in the days of COVID. These are only a few of the thousands of beautiful beaches to choose from, but it’s a start for those who want to go somewhere new, remote, and gorgeous. Happy swimming!
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Photo: Emily Iris Degn