When we think of beaches in the U.S., our minds are often drawn towards sun-drenched spots in California, Hawaii and Florida. Thoughts of Alaska tend to conjure up images of a hostile wilderness made up of fjords, forests, mountains, and volcanoes. That said, Alaska’s coastline is longer than the combined total of the nation’s other 49 states. It covers 6,640 miles and extends to a mind-boggling 33,904 miles when including all of the islands. This is great news for beach lovers because there’s hundreds to explore. Best of all, many are often deserted.

Battery Point, Haines

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A short walk amid a flourishing pine forest brings you to the pebble beach of Battery Point, on the eastern shore of the Chilkat Peninsula. This is a great spot to watch seals and sea lions all year round. Drop by from May to June and you’ll have a high probability of seeing pods of humpback whales. Across the Chilkoot Inlet, mountains rise up on Alaska’s border with British Columbia. Besides soaking up the view, you might want to take a polar bear dip in the icy waters. An extension of the trail continues over Mount Riley to the Chilkat Inlet side of the peninsula.

Bishop’s Beach, Homer

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On the waterfront of the city of Homer is a huge sweep of sand dotted with rocks and debris blown ashore from the Cook Inlet. When the tide is low, locals of all ages come out to search for aquatic plants and sea creatures in the tidal pools. Chances are that you’ll be joined by shorebirds and eagles. Views reach over the inlet to the snow-capped mountains and tundra of Lake Clark National Park. Bring food and set up a picnic at the benches located in the parkland behind the beach. There’s walking trails in the area, too. Follow Diamond Creek Trail through a forest and wild meadows. Beluga Slough Trail leads around a salt marsh and freshwater lake and has exceptional views of Kachemak Bay.

Eagle Beach, Juneau

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This beach inside the Glacier Bay National Park gets its name from the bald eagles found here. Observe them perched in the trees and on rocks, waiting patiently to prey on the salmon that gets washed up on the shore from Eagle River. The soft sand is perfect for beach combing, and the pine growths of Tongass National Forest, coupled with dramatic mountain peaks, make for a picture-perfect setting. If you fancy stretching your legs, the 7-mile-long Eagle Glacier Foot Trail to Eagle Glacier will be right up your alley. The beach is on Alaska Route 7, a highway that links several towns and communities in the Alaska Panhandle.

Nome Beach, Nome

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In the early 1900s prospectors flocked to Nome in the hope of striking it rich via one of Alaska’s biggest gold discoveries. They set up tented villages on the beach and used pans and sluices to extract the gold that lay in the sand. Fragments of the gold are still present and gold panning is a popular summertime activity for the townsfolk. Nome Beach faces the Bering Sea and the sunsets are magnificent, especially when you are sitting around a bonfire made from driftwood. If you can brave the winter then you can experience a once-in-a-lifetime chance to walk on a frozen sea.