Best for Shell Hunting
Credit: Nicholas Reuss / Getty Images

Sanibel Island, Florida

Linked by a causeway to Fort Myers, this sedate, scimitar-shaped barrier island is anchored on the east by Lighthouse Beach, a long stretch of creamy sand backed by a park and its historic 1884 beacon. The water here is warm, calm, and shallow, making it ideal for kids; the beach is perfect for sandcastles and is loaded with shells, especially when low tide exposes its offshore sandbars. A national wildlife refuge protects a substantial share of Sanibel, guaranteeing a constant air show by squadrons of brown pelicans; the daily aquacade by pods of bottlenose dolphins is an unexpected bonus.