If you and your family are yearning for a seaside holiday, these national parks may fit the bill. Here are five to consider.
Lynn O'Rourke Hayes, FamilyTravel.com (TNS)
1 Olympic National Park Port Angeles, Wash.
Your family can contemplate thousands of years of human history and the complexity of the natural world amid lush rain forests, glacier-capped mountains and richly hued, seaside tide pools. There are wild animals to observe, trails to hike, rivers to fish and more than 70 miles of untamed coastline to explore. Rangers are in residence to provide input during interpretive walks and campfire programs and to help decode the starry sky. Stay in the park lodge, in cabins or pitch a tent in your own campsite. Built in 1953, Kalaloch Lodge is the only coastal lodging in the park. nps.gov/olym. thekalalochlodge.com.
2 Cumberland Island National Seashore St. Marys, Ga.
Bypass the crowds and head for Georgia's largest and southernmost barrier island. Pristine beaches, mud flats, dune fields and salt marshes provide respite for shore birds, sea turtles, wild turkeys and wild horses. Kayak, fish and hike by day. Enjoy the bounty of stars visible from your family's campsite. (No other lodging is available on the island.) A 30-minute, daily dockside program offers insight into the island's history, culture and ecosystem. Other lengthier tours are also possible. Check the website for times and availability. nps.gov/cuis.
3 Virgin Islands National Park U.S. Virgin Islands
The park covers roughly 60 percent of the island of St. John, according to the National Park Service. Forty percent of the park is under the water's surface. You can explore the underwater world at Trunk Bay via a 225-yard trail where snorkelers are treated to a signed introduction to the region's fish and marine life. There is plenty to do on land as well. Stroll the beaches, hike or tap into the region's history at the visitors center at Cruz Bay. Ranger-led programs include bird watching, hiking, yoga on the beach, lionfish safaris and sky watching. Inside the park, resort lodging and camping are available. An extensive array of possibilities is available outside park boundaries. nps.gov/viis.
4 Padre Island National Seashore Corpus Christi, Texas
This park protects the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world, a landscape that includes dunes, tidal flats, prairies and 70 miles of coastline. Home to more than 380 species of birds, the park also provides a safe haven for Kemp's ridley sea turtles. Hatchling releases, often open to the public, occur through August. Ranger-led interpretive programs broaden the experience with walks and talks and birding tours. nps.gov/pais.
5 Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore Porter, Ind.
Geocaching is a favorite activity of families who choose to explore this 15,000-acre Midwestern lakeshore. Be on the lookout for the rare Karner blue butterfly. Climb over dunes, along rivers and through wetlands as you choose from 50 miles of meandering trails. Take the Succession trail to the top of a dune for a view of the Chicago skyline. Kayak via the Lake Michigan Water Trail or claim your spot along the 15-mile stretch of sandy beach. nps.gov/indu.
Times staff writer Dawn Cate contributed to this report. Lynn O'Rourke Hayes is an author, family travel expert and enthusiastic explorer.