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Reach for a Beach

Where to worship the sun with your significant oiler.

By

Beach and promenade, Nice, France

Nice is nice, but so are America's miles of coastline.

Image from the author's vintage postcard collection
Waikiki to Westhampton, Baja to the Boardwalk, when the surf's up and the sun's warm, hot-weather fans know it's time to hit the beach. As every self-respecting sun-worshiper knows, America's sandy shores display more than golden bodies; every great one also boasts a distinctive personality. So before you pull on that new bikini and head for the shore with your significant oiler, know where the beachcombing's best:

BEAUTIFUL-BOD BEACH: DEWEY BEACH, DE. A magnet for the 18-24 group, Dewey draws beach-goers with perfect pecs and parts of steel. (Shop for cover-ups at nearby Rehoboth Outlets.) Sunsets over the bay inspire romance, and since restaurants, clubs, and lodgings are clustered together, visitors can safely enjoy a few drinks and walk home.

CLASSIC BEACH: SPRING LAKE, NJ. Turn-of-the-century mansions, two miles of near-secluded beach, and a lovely boardwalk represent this jewel of the Jersey Shore.

DROP-YOUR-TOP BEACH: MUIR BEACH, CA. Play peekaboo along the north end of this beach, where the water stays warm through Labor Day.

GLITTER BEACH: MALIBU, CA. Here the stars come out day and night since they happen to live in the multi-million-dollar beach chateaux lining this golden stretch of Pacific coast. Rub shoulders with (and if you're lucky, suntan oil on) hunky stars of stage and screen.

LUCKY BEACH: ATLANTIC CITY, NJ. Jackpot! Even if you don't strike it rich in one of the towering casinos along the Boardwalk, there's no charge to enjoy the salt-water air, brisk ocean waves, and strong rays. Atlantic City Photo Tour

MODEL BEACH: SOUTH BEACH, FL. Models, celebrities, photographers, and other trendsetters stoke the buzz 24/7 in this historic Art Deco community. After working the runway or Collins Avenue, the long-limbed and pouty unwind in the restored Albion, the stylish Hotel Astor, and Todd Oldham's Tiffany Hotel.

RICH BEACH: THE HAMPTONS, NY. This series of coastal towns stretching from Westhampton to Montauk is where New York City's wealthy gather each summer to relax, shop, gallery-hop, and vie for restaurant reservations. Pristine beaches and quaint villages draw day-trippers and permanent residents (including Alec Baldwin, Billy Joel, and Steven Spielberg) alike.

SECLUDED BEACH: MADAKET, NANTUCKET, MA. You can only get here by ferry or small plane, but it's worth it. Ride your bike past cranberry bogs to reach this pristine beach.

SURFERS' BEACH: SANTA CRUZ, CA. The view's best from the mile-long boardwalk. Waves are big but safe, inspiring some dramatic surfing styles. Others ride the boardwalk's 1911 carousel and 1924 roller coaster.

ARTISTS' BEACH: PROVINCETOWN, MA. America's oldest art colony, Provincetown is home to emerging as well as established talents. Welcoming to same-sex couples, P-town's main drag is historic Commercial Street, where unusual boutiques, clubs, and galleries attract crowds in the sultry season. Provincetown Photo Tour

COLLEGE-CROWD BEACH: SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, TX. Spring breakers congregate at this breezy Gulf Coast spot. Year-round, wind surfing, birding, a new golf course, and an active club scene make for good times.

WINDY BEACH: LONG BEACH, WA. A steady breeze and low humidity are expected to attract 100,000+ spectators to August's annual International Kite Festival. The 28-mile-long beach is also known for its hard-packed sand, the perfect medium for building a dream sand castle.

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