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The Best Beaches You Can Get to by Bus or Train

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Summer is here, and so is the heat. This one promises to be a scorcher, and the beach beckons — especially to those in big cities without their own set of wheels. If you’re searching for accessible beach vacations without a car, you’re in luck. 

Wanderu is your go-to source for cheap bus and train tickets, and we’ve been searching far and wide for the best car-free vacations in the USA for this summer. Whether you want to skip the traffic jams out of the city, or you’d rather save your gas money for an oceanside ice cream cone, we’ve rounded up our favorite beaches that you can reach without a car. No matter which region you live in, you can reach the sea (or lake) with just a quick jaunt on the bus or train.

So, grab your bathing suit and sunscreen, and get ready for your hot girl summer on the beach.

1. Cape Cod, MA

Cape Cod Beach

Bostonians looking for a beach vacation without a car will find a friend in the iconic Cape Cod, located off the southern coast of Massachusetts. Fine white sand, warm waves, and lighthouses will make the perfect backdrops for your beach day Insta posts. Cape Cod is THE classic summer getaway in the Northeast, and there are plenty of ways to get from Boston to Cape Cod.

From Boston’s South Station, Peter Pan operates a variety of buses to the beach towns around the Cape, including Hyannis, Falmouth, and Provincetown. There are also trains to the beach on weekends from Memorial Day through Labor Day operated by the MBTA. The CapeFlyer departs from South Station and arrives in Hyannis, with various stops along the way. 

If you want to journey out to Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard, you can hop on the ferry from the Steamship Authority Pier in Falmouth. 

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2. Old Orchard Beach, ME

Old Orchard Beach in Maine

Wanderers living in Portland, Maine, would be hard-pressed to find a better summer getaway than Old Orchard Beach. You can hop on the Amtrak Downeaster train to the beach at the Portland Transportation Center and arrive in 15 minutes flat. You can also take the train to Old Orchard Beach from New England cities like Boston, Dover, and Providence.

This is one of the most walkable beach towns in the state. From the train station to the sand is just a one-block journey, so there’s no need to worry about lugging your beach gear too far. If you get bored of the classic beach day activities, the kitschy pier offers up a slew of entertainment, from carnival rides to bars and restaurants.

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3. Virginia Beach, VA

Virginia Beach is a popular summer destination for beach bums near and far. This is one of the best beaches close to DC, but you can grab a train or bus to Virginia Beach from several other major destinations, including nearby cities like Richmond and hubs further afield like NYC

Major bus carriers to Virginia Beach include PandaNY Bus, FlixBus, Greyhound and more. Amtrak also makes stops in the nearby Norfolk and Newport News, with Thruway bus service available to connect you from the train to Virginia Beach. 

Virginia Beach is hands-down one of our favorite Virginia destinations. It offers up some great swatches of sand, with favorites including Croatan Beach and Chesapeake Bay Beach. The Oceanfront is the main drag in Virginia Beach, and there’s more to do here than simply sunbathing. Take a stroll along the boardwalk, catch some live music or plan your beach day around one of the city’s many festivals. 

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4. Santa Barbara, CA

Santa Barbara Beach

As a midway point between San Francisco and Los Angeles, Santa Barbara is a great destination if you’re looking for a car-free vacation to the beach. The fastest way to sink your toes in the sand is by hopping on the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner. The train station in downtown Santa Barbara is just a 10-minute walk from the beach!

Located right on the Pacific Ocean, Santa Barbara’s beaches are perfect for water activities: join a kayak tour, learn to surf, or just bring along a good paddleboard! After a day at the beach, there are plenty of things to keep you busy in Santa Barbara. Filled with fun nightlife and great food, this coastal gem offers a relaxing retreat from the big city.

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5. Key West, FL

Key West Beach

If you want to experience the Southernmost point of the United States, as well as beautiful beaches and fun nightlife, then look no further than Key West, Florida. Even though the Florida Keys are a string of islands off the tip of Florida, they’re very easily accessible by bus. FlixBus and Greyhound both offer a variety of routes from Orlando and Miami, providing the perfect beach vacation without a car. 

Take the Key West Shuttle directly from the Greyhound Station to your hotel if you’re staying downtown, then stop by South Beach, Higgs Beach or Rest Beach to catch some rays. Watch dolphins play on this snorkeling tour, or enjoy sunset views from a cruise with booze. No matter what you’re looking for, there are plenty of things to do in Key West.

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6. Corpus Christi, TX

Everything is bigger in Texas, including the heat index! Beat the heat this summer with a car-free vacation to Corpus Christi. FlixBus offers direct routes from both San Antonio and Houston, giving you more time for lazing on the beach and less time spent sweating in traffic. 

Whether you’re looking for a secluded beach for sunbathing or a fun hangout with lots of water sports, Corpus Christi has options. Mcgee Beach is the closest to the bus stop in town, but the pristine sand along Padre Island is worth going out of your way for. Whitecap Beach is often touted as one of the best beaches in Texas, and local buses can take you directly there from the Corpus Christi FlixBus station.

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7. Myrtle Beach, SC

Sitting at the heart of the Grand Stand (a 60-mile string of beaches along the Atlantic), Myrtle Beach is a great pick for a car-free vacation this summer. You can hop on a bus to Myrtle Beach with either Greyhound or FlixBus, then walk a quick four blocks from the bus station to the beach and boardwalk. 

The lively boardwalk is the centerpiece of Myrtle Beach, with miles and miles of sandy shoreline stretching along either side. This is a place where southern charm meets coastal charm. You’ll be wowed by laid-back beach vibes mixed with upscale offerings like beach clubs and resorts up and down the coast.

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8. Presque Isle State Park in Erie, PA

Presque Isle State Park

Who says a beach vacay has to be on the ocean? Lake Erie boasts plenty of gorgeous beaches, and some of the most pristine sit inside Presque Isle State Park. This gorgeous park is one of our favorite Pennsylvania destinations thanks to a whopping 11 miles of beach, plus a historic lighthouse and a variety of scenic trails. 

Erie is a popular spot for a beach vacation without a car, thanks to its convenient location near major cities like Buffalo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and more. Barons Bus Lines and Jefferson Lines offer frequent service to Erie from nearby destinations, while FlixBus and Greyhound have services from further flung cities. Train service is also available from Chicago, Boston and NYC along Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited route.

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9. Indiana Dunes National Park in Michigan City, IN

Indiana Dunes

The Chicagoland area is blessed with one of the best car-free vacations: Indiana Dunes National Park. Situated along the lovely shores of Lake Michigan, you’ll feel worlds away from the Windy City, though it’s still within easy reach whenever you have to go back to reality. 

You can hop on a bus to Gary, then switch over to the South Shore Line commuter rail and take the train the remainder of the way to the park. Buses from Chicago are operated by Barons Bus Lines, Indian Trails, and Amtrak. Once you get to Gary, the train departs from the same station and has two stops within the National Park: Dune Park and Beverly Shores. If you plan on walking to the beach, Beverly Shores is the better option, as you can hike the one mile to Lake View Beach in about 20 minutes. 

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10. Santa Cruz, CA

Santa Cruz

Further north, the golden shores of Santa Cruz beckon the city slickers of San Francisco and San Jose to log off and enjoy a beach day. You can hop on an Amtrak bus from San Jose, or catch the Capitol Corridor train from Caltrain ACE station in Santa Clara. The train also serves the San Francisco area, with daily departures from Emeryville Station

Once you reach Santa Cruz, the beach is less than a mile from the station, and you get to walk along the scenic San Leon River until you reach the boardwalk. The Santa Cruz beach and boardwalk will have you living your vintage fantasy. The boardwalk is home to California’s oldest theme park, and the beach itself is full of soft sand and beautiful views of the ocean, theme park, and city.

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11. Cannon Beach, OR

Cannon Beach

With its towering Haystack Rock, seemingly endless coastline surrounded by lush mountains, and soft sandy shores, Cannon Beach is consistently voted as one of the nation’s top beaches. When in Oregon, you cannot miss this beach escape.

Oregon’s coast is littered with fantastic beaches, but if you’re looking to soak up the sun without a set of wheels, Cannon Beach is an easy choice. It’s only two hours from Portland, and Amtrak Thruway offers cheap bus trips for anyone looking to hit the beach. Once you arrive, the beach is a quick 3-minute walk from the station. On the way down, you can stock up on snacks or rent bikes from Theresa’s Market (located right in front of the parking lot where you’ll be dropped off). Planning a beach escape has never been this easy.

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We at Wanderu believe that a beach day is a summer MUST. And while you could load up a car and sit in traffic for hours, these destinations let you take it easy and leave the travel logistics to us. Head to or download the Wanderu app to find cheap tickets faster than you can say “SPF.”

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About the author
Abby Valinski

Abby Valinski

Abby is a traveler, writer, and lover of all things outdoors. When she's not traveling, you can find her devouring a fantasy novel, conquering a hiking trail, or researching her next destination.

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