Outside Magazine has listed its 2006 Top 10 picks for beach getaways. Here's a look:
1. California: San Diego, Pacific Beach/Surfing
The miles of white sand beaches, swelling waves, and an eclectic dining and shopping district make San Diego's Pacific Beach one of the most popular stretches of sand in the Golden State -- 26 million people visited last year. The beach itself is wedged between the Pacific Ocean and Mission Bay Park, a 4,235-acre man-made aquatic fun-hub perfect for row-boats and beach volleyball. In one day, visitors can play with dolphins at nearby Sea World, catch a wave at Pacific Beach and dine on fresh seafood at one of 150 restaurants. To find out more, go to www.pacificbeach.org.
Sign up for a family-friendly surf lesson at the Paskowitz Surf School. Kids aged four and older are welcome. You'll learn water safety tips before you practice your surf techniques on land and in water. For more information go to www.paskowitz.com, or call (949) 728-1000.
Where to Eat: Flip-flops and bathing suits are welcome at Nick's at the Beach, a family-owned, California-style eatery where the menu ranges from seafood to savory apple brandy pork chops. As one loyal patron put it, it has "a little bit of everything -- just like San Diego." Go to www.nicksatthebeach.com or call 858-270-1730 to learn more.
Where to Eat: The Catamaran Resort Hotel has access to both beach and bay. When the tide is high, take the family to the calmer waters in Mission Bay where you can rent paddle boats and bicycles. Children ages 5 to 12 can learn about earthquakes, volcanoes, and sea urchins at the on-site Kid's Camp, while parents enjoy an 80-minute couples massage at the Catamaran Spa. Prices for doubles range from $185-$315. Go to www.catamaranresort.com to learn more.
With the San Diego Zoo and Sea World just minutes from the Pacific Terrace hotel is another popular spot for families. Suite prices range from $499. Call 858-581-3500 or go to www.pacificterrace.com to learn more.
There aren't many beachside wilderness camping options in San Diego, but just 10 miles southeast of downtown (and Sea World), you'll find Sweetwater Regional Park, with views of the Pacific and Sweetwater Reservoir, equestrian, hiking, and mountain biking trails, and more than 50 sites that accommodate everything from a 45-foot RV to a pup tent. Partial hookups cost $16 per night. Call 858-565-3600 or go to www.co.san-diego.ca.us/parks/camping/ for more information. Construction on nearby Route 125 will act as an automatic morning alarm.
2. North Carolina Cape Hatteras National Seashore/Kiteboarding
You'll find 70 miles of beautiful white sand beaches, green dune grass, blue ocean water, and not a lot of humanity -- the perfect place for your kids to practice their new kiteboarding obsession. Take a lesson with REAL Kiteboarding -- ranked by Outside magazine as one of the "Top Ten Adventure Camps in the World" -- which offers both daily lessons and weekly kiteboarding camps. Lessons start at $100; call 866-REAL-KITE or go to www.realkiteboarding.com.
Where to Eat: For overflowing plates of crab legs, shrimp and other delectables served on outdoor picnic tables, check out the local's favorite surf-and-turf hang out, The Mad Crabber (252-995-5959).