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This past year I’ve visited a bunch of excellent beaches from California to Florida to the Caribbean. And although the prettiest beach I visited was Cannon Beach on the Oregon Coast, my favorite beaches from 2015 are a bit more unconventional than the typical sunny and sandy affairs. They offer a little bit of an adventure. Here they are:

1. Arverne by the Sea — New York City’s surprisngly awesome beach

Arverne by the Sea has a populous blue-collar feel. It’s in Queens on the Far Rockaway Peninsula, has an awesome boardwalk (albeit in various stages of repair from hurricane Sandy), and is an excellent spot for beach combing. I’ve found countless conch shells, driftwoods, and even a couple of washed up stingrays during low tide. Read more about Arverne by the Sea.

2. Bombay Beach — apocalyptic ruins along an inland sea in the California desert

Bombay beach is not a conventional beach destination by any means. It’s in the middle of California’s desert wasteland along the Salton Sea. It was originally created as a resort town nearly a century ago, but is now a ghost town with more than half of the original buildings in various states of ruin, and the remainder only 30% occupied. Exploring this now defunct beach is an adventure that feels a little Mad-Max-esque. Read more about the ruins, abandoned buildings, graffiti murals, and  stuff we found when we explored it in April.

3. Sunken City — LA’s neighborhood that nearly slipped into the ocean

This is perhaps the most difficult, and most rewarding beach to get to. It involves ignoring “no trespassing” signs, hopping fences, and climbing down a steep mountainside to the rocky beaches below. Along the way you’ll see the remnants of a early 20th century housing development that partially collapsed in a giant mudslide before it was relocated. The rough and tumble terrain is covered in giant slabs of concrete and topsy turvy palms, and of course lots of cool graffiti. Read more about how to get there and how to prepare for the adventure.

4. Vernazza — a tiny rugged and remote beach along the Italian Riviera

Vernazza is the least Riviera-like beach on the Riviera. First off it’s not a resort: there are no umbrella rentals, lawn chairs, or expensive drinks. Instead it is in a tiny pocket harbor at the base of a medieval cliffside town. The teeny tiny beach can hold maybe 30 people at most, and the harbor makes a great swimming pool. I love taking a dip, then air drying on one of the giant slab rocks at the base of the village church. I feel transported through time listening to its gentle bells and enjoying the serene seascape. Read all about Vernazza including its awesome hiking, and tips to avoid crowds.

5. Fort Stevens — a cold and windy beach filled with sand dunes and shipwreck

This Oregon shipwreck is only a 30 minute drive from Cannon Beach, and feels like a ghost from the past. It sits mired in the sand along a stretch of Coastline in Fort Stevens State Park. It’s free to visit, and involves climbing sand dunes and getting whipped around by the wind. With the sea salt on my lips and in my hair, I felt like a marooned pirate as I explored the old ruins. Read all you need to know about Fort Stevens and its shipwreck.

— Laura Rowley

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Written by Laura Rowley

I am an artist, flight attendant, and travel blogger.

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