“The beach is a place where life and death can be separated by only a few feet.”
The beautiful coastline of the United States is visited by many people every year. There are countless beautiful beaches to explore, from the sunny shores of Florida to the rugged coastlines of California.
However, not all beaches are seemingly equal when it comes to safety. Some are known for their treacherous conditions, dangerous wildlife, or hidden hazards.
In this article, we will hover over the 11 most dangerous beaches to visit in the US. While these beaches can offer incredible natural beauty, it's crucial to be aware of the risks and take needed precautions to ensure a safe and sound yet enjoyable visit.
Ready? Get, set, go.
1. New Smyrna Beach, Florida
New Smyrna Beach, Florida, lies on the east coast of the Sunshine State, just south of Daytona Beach. It has 17 miles of white-sand beaches, turquoise waters, and the world's highest rate of shark attacks.
According to the International Shark Attack File (ISAF), there have been 337 recorded shark attacks in Volusia County between 1882 and 2020.
It is indeed a high amount compared to other parts of the world, but it's also worth noting that New Smyrna Beach is a major surfing destination in Florida so it could be a contributing factor.
The Atlantic Ocean and the Halifax River meet at Ponce de Leon Inlet, near New Smyrna Beach. A perfect feeding area for sharks and a reliable surf break for surfers are both benefits of the inlet's tidal solid flow into the ocean. In other words, it's the most common place for shark attacks worldwide.
2. Hanakapiai Beach, Hawaii
Hanakapiai Beach, located on the picturesque island of Kauai in Hawaii, is known for its breathtaking beauty and equally dangerous conditions. What makes this beach difficult is its powerful rip currents and unpredictable shore breaks.
The combination of these forces has led to numerous drownings over the years. In fact, the local authorities have posted warning signs advising visitors not to swim in the area.
Visitors who attempt to swim at Hanakapiai Beach often find themselves quickly caught in strong currents that pull them out to sea. The beach lacks a lifeguard; the nearest help is often miles away.
Hikers should also exercise caution when attempting the strenuous hike to reach the beach, as it can be challenging and slippery, especially after rain.
3. Panama City Beach, Florida
After foreign tourists drowned in the Gulf of Mexico this past weekend, Florida's Panama City Beach became America's deadliest beach.
It is unknown whether the three individuals drowned or suffered some other type of medical problem while in the water. Still, police have reported three distinct “fatal water incidents” off the shore of Panama City Beach.
Due to the deadly rip currents, seven individuals have drowned at the beach in the past nine days. Authorities have asked visitors to be extra cautious while visiting the beach and take all necessary precautions.
4. Cape Hatteras, North Carolina
Cape Hatteras, located on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, is notorious for its powerful and unpredictable surf. This beach is positioned where the Labrador Current's cold waters meet the Gulf Stream's warm waters, creating turbulent conditions that are perfect for surfers but perilous for swimmers.
The area is known for its shifting sandbars and strong rip currents, which can quickly pull swimmers away from the shore.
Due to these dangers, Cape Hatteras has earned the nickname “Graveyard of the Atlantic” because of the numerous shipwrecks off its coast. Visitors should heed warning flags to stay safe at Cape Hatteras, never swim alone, and be cautious of changing tides.
5. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Myrtle Beach, a popular tourist destination on the east coast of South Carolina, is known for its lively boardwalk, amusement parks, and golf courses. You will also be shocked to see that it is a deadly beach. Myrtle Beach has a high rate of rip currents, which can catch even experienced swimmers off guard.
While lifeguards patrol certain areas, paying attention to warning flags and swimming in designated areas is essential. Rip currents can be powerful after storms or during high tide.
Additionally, Myrtle Beach can become overcrowded during summer, increasing the risk of accidents and water-related incidents.
6. Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts
Cape Cod National Seashore, a stunning stretch of coastline in Massachusetts, may appear idyllic, but it hides some dangers beneath its tranquil surface. The strong currents and rapidly changing weather conditions can surprise swimmers and boaters.
One of the most significant threats at Cape Cod is the presence of sharks, particularly great white sharks.
In recent years, the population of these apex predators has increased, leading to an uptick in shark sightings and encounters. Swimmers and surfers should know the local shark advisory systems and adhere to safety guidelines.
7. Oak Island, NC
This island is the most deadly beach in North Carolina and is ranked seventh most dangerous in the United States. According to Travel Lens, the danger level is 5.54 out of 10, meaning swimmers should exercise caution.
Oak Island has had eight drowning deaths and two shark attacks. It's advisable to stay out of the ocean when sharks and jellyfish are abundant. When rip currents drag you under, the sea does not care how good of a swimmer you are.
8. Galveston Island, Texas
Galveston Island, located on the Gulf Coast of Texas, attracts beachgoers with its warm waters and family-friendly attractions. Beneath the inviting facade lies the danger of strong rip currents. Galveston is known for its sudden and powerful rip tides that can catch swimmers off guard.
The island also experiences hurricanes and tropical storms, leading to extreme weather conditions and high waves. Visitors should know the local beach warnings and refrain from swimming in areas with strong currents. Children and inexperienced swimmers should always have close adult supervision.
9. South Padre Island, Texas
South Padre Island, another popular Texas Gulf Coast destination, is known for its vibrant nightlife and beautiful beaches, but dangerous, too. In the event of a storm or strong winds, swimming in the ocean can be extremely dangerous due to turbulent waters and choppy waves.
While lifeguards are present in certain areas, visitors must stay within designated swimming zones and heed warning flags. Additionally, the island's spring break festivities can lead to overcrowded beaches, making it essential to exercise caution and maintain situational awareness.
10. Ocean City Beach, Maryland
Ocean City Beach in Maryland is a beloved summer destination for families and beach enthusiasts. Its long sandy shoreline and lively boardwalk make it easy to see why. However, this beach also presents potential dangers. Gangs are on the loose and attacking people at random. Avoid taking late-night buses unless necessary.
Lifeguards are stationed along the beach during summer, but visitors should still be cautious and adhere to safety guidelines. Rip currents can develop quickly, and staying within the designated swimming areas is crucial.
Additionally, Ocean City Beach can become crowded during peak season, increasing the risk of accidents and water-related incidents.
11. Daytona Beach, Florida
Daytona Beach, known for its iconic hard-packed sand that allows vehicles to drive along the shore, is a popular destination for racing enthusiasts and beachgoers. The unique beach setup also poses risks, particularly for pedestrians.
While driving on the beach can be convenient, it requires vigilance from both drivers and pedestrians. Accidents involving vehicles on the beach, especially during crowded times, have occurred.
Visitors should stay within designated pedestrian zones and exercise caution when crossing the driving lanes. Additionally, rip currents can be a concern, so swimmers should heed warning flags and listen to lifeguard instructions.
It is Essential To Pay Attention To Warnings
It's essential to pay attention to caution flags, stick to designated areas, and consult with lifeguards if you want to have a fun and safe day at the beach.
By keeping these things in mind, you can fully take in the breathtaking scenery without harming yourself.
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I’m Steve. I’m an English Teacher, traveler, and an avid outdoorsman. If you’d like to comment, ask a question, or simply say hi, leave me a message here, on Twitter (@thefrugalexpat1). Many of my posts have been written to help those in their journey to financial independence. I am on my journey, and as I learn more I hope to share more. And as always, thanks for reading The Frugal Expat.