Spring Break

The 18 Best US Beaches Where You Can Drink (Legally)

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With the threat of a second polar vortex now safely behind us, we can wholly devote ourselves to enjoying the rest of the Summer -- namely, by gorging on sticky barbecue and drinking frosty beers. Or better yet, drinking frosty beers on the beach. Simple, right?

Not really. In this country, most public beaches have rules that prohibit the open consumption of alcohol, and while plenty of us are happy to subvert said rules, they can still keep us from enjoying the full glory of a boozy day in the sand. To that end, we've come up with this handy cheat sheet of 18 US beaches where it's totally legal to drink.

Cannon Beach, Oregon

This beach made a cameo appearance in The Goonies, so it's worth mentioning for that alone -- the fact that you can also enjoy some Hair of the Dog there just seals the deal. Its most prominent feature is the huge Haystack Rock pictured above, although there are no less than six other giant rocks with the same name throughout the state. Do with that information what you will.

FYI: If for some reason you're not welcome at Cannon, take comfort in the fact that every beach dotting the Oregon coastline permits responsible alcohol consumption. Provided you're 21 or older, obviously.

Assateague Island, Maryland

While this barrier island (where wild horses run free) is long enough that its southern section extends into Virginia, it's the Northern portion we really care about -- all 37 miles of beach on Assateague National Seashore are open to visitors looking to sip suds with their toes in the sand.

Except for the 2-mile stretch of beach that's part of Assateague State Park, because alcohol consumption's strictly prohibited there. So just, y'know, don't drink there.

Cocoa Beach, Florida

While Cocoa Beach doesn't allow animals, fireworks, glass bottles, or fires without a permit (geeez), it's still one of the few shorelines in Florida where open-container laws do not apply. On top of that, it's got some of the greatest spots for surfing in the country (Kelly Slater's from here!), and the average daytime temperature's 73 degrees -- take that, Oregon!

Outer Banks, North Carolina

Despite its reputation as a family-friendly vacation spot, you might be surprised to learn that the entire OBX is pretty tolerant of open containers on the beach. While glass isn't necessarily outlawed, fortified wine and "spirituous liquors" are, so you'll wanna stick with brews. Awful, we know.

If you're looking for solitude, Carova's 11 miles of pure white shoreline are some of the most secluded in the area -- there're no commercial businesses nearby, so you'll wanna stock up before heading out.

Panama City Beach, Florida

An infamous destination for SEC Spring breakers looking to forget everything they "learned" the previous semester, nobody should be surprised that Panama City Beach’s got a fairly liberal attitude when it comes to open containers.

You're probably better off waiting 'till after Spring Break before hauling your cooler to the Redneck Riviera, though, unless you wanna get mobbed by sweaty coeds with neon yards of booze. Then again, that doesn't sound like the worst thing in the world.

Cumberland Island, Georgia

Cumberland's the largest of the Sea Islands in the southeastern US, and can only be reached via ferry or private boat. This means that not only will you need to bring enough booze to last the whole day, but there's a very good chance the only ones on the beach'll be you, your friends, and the feral horses that roam the island.

Pro tip: Do not attempt to ride said feral horses.

Playalinda Beach, Florida

Playalinda's situated along the Canaveral National Seashore, just north of the Kennedy Space Center, and in addition to allowing booze, it's also popular among nudist types -- despite not technically being a nude beach.

If you're looking to bare your shame on the sand while sipping a topless beer (see what we did there?), it's probably better to arrive clothed and gauge the mood on the beach before dropping trou. Just common courtesy.

Tybee Island, Georgia

Tybee's city council voted in 2012 to repeal its ban on public alcohol consumption, both on the beach and on public streets; fantastic news for pretty much everybody. Keep in mind, though, that glass containers and kegs are still prohibited on the beach.

Fun Fact: Back in 1958, the USAF lost one of its nuclear bombs in the waters surrounding Tybee Island, and it's still out there!

Central Beach, Indiana

Sure, ocean coasts are great, but don't sleep on the Great Lakes: All three beaches to the east of Indiana Dunes State Park (Kemil, Central, and Dunbar) are cool with you boozing from non-glass containers. Also, unlike their salty coastal cousins, these beaches face the deliciously drinkable fresh waters of Lake Michigan.

While there aren't any lifeguards around (unlike nearby, teetotaling West Beach), relaxing in the sand with a beer in hand definitely outweighs the slim possibility of being dragged out into the water by a riptide.

Coast Guard Beach, Massachusetts

Alright, so all the beaches on the Cape Cod National Seashore are pretty awesome (and they all allow public drinking), but if you only get to visit one, you should probably make it Coast Guard Beach. Granted, you'll have to take a shuttle from the parking lot to get there (only residents can park nearby), and there're no onsite snack stands, but the beach itself is breathtaking.

And, again, you can drink on it. Which is what we're here to talk about.

Kehoe Beach, California

Located on the Point Reyes National Seashore, Kehoe's miles of sandy shoreline are all open season when it comes to tipping back some of Grandpa's cough medicine. Be warned, though: containers with a capacity greater than 5gal (i.e. kegs) are a strict no-go.

Dogs are allowed too, although they've got to be leashed -- pay no attention to the brazen rule-breaker pictured above.

Gunnison Beach, New Jersey

Not only is it one of the greatest nude beaches in America (and the only legal one in New Jersey), Gunnison's also one of the few shore spots in the state where you can legally get your drink on without a permit.

In case naked strangers aren't your thing (and that's cool, nobody's judging), you can still enjoy your libations by wandering up the shore to one of the two beaches adjacent to Gunnison (North and South Beach). They're all located on Sandy Hook, which's pretty much entirely federal land.

South Padre Island, Texas

Like Panama City Beach, SPI's reputation as Spring Break Central is due in large part to its lax regulations on oceanside keggers. It's also home to numerous beach bars, including the largest one in Texas, in case you'd rather not BYOB.

But it's not just South Padre Island: Padre Island National Seashore, on the Northern end of the island, is totally open to local boozers looking to escape the crowds on SPI.

Surfside Beach, Texas

Not a fan of Spring Break? Head up the coast to this stretch of sand just South of Galveston, where you're free to drink on the shore any time you please; provided, of course, it's not 2am to noon on a Sunday, when public drinking's strictly prohibited. 

Also, should you be so inclined, you're allowed to mosey onto the beach with your horse any time from November 1 through March 31, because you're in Texas and that's totally normal there.

Carmel Beach, California

This sandy spot is great for surfing, boogie boarding, and having a few drinks while you watch people surf and boogie board. Bonfires are also allowed, as are unleashed canines. If only the water was a little warmer.

The town of Carmel-by-the-Sea itself's pretty interesting too: founded as a Spanish Mission in the 1700s, Clint Eastwood was the mayor back in the '80s. Also, women have to get a permit to wear shoes with heels higher than two inches. Truth.

Sunset Beach, Florida

The aptly named Treasure Island is tolerant of imbibing alcohol along pretty much its entire shoreline,  and Sunset Beach's one of the finest stretches of white sand in the area. Regulations on alcohol consumption are in place in some areas, thanks in large part to (big surprise coming) unruly spring breakers, so you'll wanna pay attention to the signage on the beach before setting up your boozy base camp.

Fire Island, New York

Although it's been recently outlawed along a stretch of the Fire Island National Seashore (due to excessively messy partying), drinking on the sand remains very legal for the majority of the federally owned land on the island. The beaches at Ocean Bay Park, Kismet, and Fire Island Pines are all still open to would-be bridge and tunnel boozers, and it looks like the ones where it's been banned might get the privilege back, assuming they promise to keep the beach clean of empties in the future.

Puerto Rico

Alright, yes, this one's a bit of a cheat, but Puerto Rico's pretty much a US state anyway, no? You don't need a passport to go here, so we're counting it. Every single one of the island's staggeringly beautiful beaches can be imbibed upon, from Mar Chiquita to Navio Beach, and at the end of the day you're smack dab in the middle of the Caribbean.

No glass bottles, though; turns out, even paradise has some rules.


Gianni Jaccoma is an editorial assistant for Thrillist Travel, and he would like very much to befriend a feral beach horse. Follow him into the sea on Twitter @gjaccoma.