Free to Be You
When most people think of beaches, they envision swimsuit-clad sunbathers catching some rays, children building sand castles and surfers riding the waves. They picture sand volleyball players and seashells along the shore. But for some, the word "beach" calls to mind a sense of freedom. It represents a place where they can be their authentic selves — right down to their literal skin and bones.
Yep. We're talking about clothing-optional beaches. Places where you can let it all hang out with no judgment. Where you can strut around in your birthday suit even when it isn't your birthday. And if you only want to take some of your clothes off, that's fine too. At these beaches, you’re free to express yourself through your natural physique in whatever ways you want to.
So whether you're a curious newbie who wants to see what all the hype is about, or you're a seasoned naturalist who wants to add more destinations to your resume, these are the places to check out for the best clothing-optional experience.
On clear days, Baker Beach in San Francisco offers a glorious view of the Golden Gate Bridge. The north part of the beach is the clothing-optional area. Found under the Presidio and surrounded by rocky crags, the north end is below a steep bluff and includes a hidden area over some rocks. However, it is important to watch for rising tides — and because of unsafe rip currents, swimming in the northern part of the beach is not recommended.
That said, Baker Beach is well worth a visit, clothed or not; the atmosphere is very laid back and you might even encounter people playing Frisbee or enjoying a drum circle. And if you just want to bask in the sun on the sand, go for it.
Found near the eastern tip of Hawaii's Big Island, Kehena Beach is one of the world’s only nude-friendly black-sand beaches. The strip of sand is no more than 75 yards long, and the whole beach is enclosed by a 30-foot high rock cliff. On both sides are rocky peninsulas that create a cove.
Most people who visit Kehena Beach take advantage of the clothing-optional status and have no qualms about stripping down because the area is so secluded. Some can be found playing instruments, while others partake in tai chi. The waves are strong and unpredictable, but wildlife-lovers will appreciate watching the dolphins that frequently make an appearance
Hippie Hollow, located in Austin on Lake Travis, is more than just a place to get naked. It's a clothing-optional park — the only one in Texas. Nudity is not allowed in the parking lot, but once you're past the tree line, you're free to strip down and have some fun along the shores of the lake. Wide, flat rocks make great spots for sunbathing, but watch out for slippery rocks that might be below the water's surface, and keep in mind that lifeguards are not on duty.
About 85,000 people visit Hippie Hollow each year, including those who come for the annual Big Nude Day event. Hill Country Nudists hosts the celebration, which mostly attracts visitors in the 50-plus age group. The park, however, is open to anyone 18 and older.
One note: While nudity is perfectly acceptable at Hippie Hollow, lewd behavior is not tolerated, and those who engage in it will be prosecuted.
One of the most interesting nude beaches in America is UFO Beach on South Padre Island in Texas, named after an emergency evacuation pod washed onto the shore that resembled a spaceship. The other-worldly looking pod is still at the beach, decorated in large letters with the words "Nude Beach" and "No Tan Lines.”
UFO beach, while popular among a variety of visitors, is especially popular during spring break, when college students are out of school. If you're hoping to have a quiet, relaxing stay at the beach, it's best not to go when partying college kids are around.
Keep in mind that to get to the beach, you'll need a four-wheel drive vehicle, as it is located 10 to 12 miles north of beach access #6 and requires driving on wet sand.
Officially named Kauapea Beach, locals in Kauai, Hawaii have unofficially given this north shore destination the more fanciful moniker of Secret Beach. At 3,000 feet long, it is accessed via a steep, unmarked trail, and the unofficial clothing-optional section is at the far east side.
While Secret Beach is Kauai's premier no-clothes beach, there is technically a nudity ban that’s occasionally enforced. Choosing to sunbathe in the nude is not necessarily going to get you in trouble, but you should be aware that it's best to be as discreet as possible. Most of the people who frequent the area choose to stay clothed, but you will often find visitors who are topless.
The waves at Secret Beach are strong and rough, so it's not an ideal place to go swimming. However, there is a waterfall off the rocky coastline that has a small pool at the base. This is sometimes used as a place to sit and rinse off the sand.
Located within the Sandy Hook Gateway National Recreation Area, Gunnison Beach — accessible via a SeaStreak ferry ride, about a 45-minute trip from New York City — is New Jersey's only legal nude beach. (Signs indicate that clothing is optional, though, so feel free to leave those bikini bottoms on if you choose.)
The beach has been popular since it first opened in the 1970s. Prior to it being a clothing-optional beach, it was a military base, and according to Friends of Gunnison president Dale Distasio, even military soldiers would go skinny dipping in the water.
Once you get to the beach, you can enjoy great views of the New York City skyline as you work on that full body tan.
At the north end of Canaveral National Seashore is Apollo Beach. About an hour east of Orlando, Fla., it has an unofficial nude sunbathing area near parking lot #5.
When the national seashore was created in 1975, Apollo Beach was already established and in use, and there have never been anti-nudity laws at the beach. Thanks to the Naturist Action Committee, an arrangement with park rangers was established in 2000: Visitors to Apollo Beach must keep their swimsuits on until they are 150 yards south of the parking area. This is to ensure that families and non-nude beachgoers will not encounter any uncomfortable moments.
The Cape Cod National Seashore in Massachusetts does have an anti-nudity regulation in effect. However, authorities often ignore it, and Ballston Beach has become a popular spot for au naturel sunning.
To access the clothing-optional area, you'll need to walk north from Longbook Beach for about 15 minutes. Hit the patch between the two beaches in the town of Truro and spread out on the secluded sand dunes. As long as you cover up when rangers approach, you should be able to enjoy your time.
Black's Beach — located next to Torrey Pines State Beach in the San Diego area, just outside La Jolla — is divided into two sections. Nudity bans are enforced on the south end of the beach, where nudity is illegal, but the northern end is owned by the state park, where clothing is optional. The nudity-friendly section has boundaries at the north end of Mussell Rocks and 100 yards south of the main access trail.
If you venture north from the main path for about 15 minutes, you'll reportedly reach the gay area of the beach. Just be careful, because stingrays can be found resting in this area just beneath the water's surface.
Haulover Beach Park
Attracting as many as 7,000 visitors a day, Haulover Beach Park in Miami is one of south Florida's most frequented clothing-optional destinations. With white sand, warm water and sunny climes, it's also a prime spot for surfing, swimming and catching some rays.
Though the clothing-optional area comprises only a small part of the park, it’s one of the most popular areas within it. The 0.4-mile stretch on the northern end invites people to bare it all, but some choose to remain clothed. Either way, Haulover Beach is an ideal place to lounge on the sand, stroll along the shoreline or skinny dip the afternoon away.
Found on Sauvie Island about 23 miles north of Portland, Oregon, Collins Beach has welcomed nude visitors since the 1970s. The clothing-optional area covers a one-mile stretch on the northeast side of the island, which is connected to the non-nude North Unit Beach. In addition to sunbathing, volleyball, Frisbee and football, the World Naked Bike Ride is a popular pursuit among visitors.
When the weekend weather is warm, Collins Beach attracts hundreds of visitors, many of whom choose to go nude.
Denny-Blaine Park in Seattle is an unofficial nude-friendly beach that has long been particularly popular among the LBGTQ community. It's a spot where you'll find women laying topless or men playing catch with their dogs. Hipsters also enjoy visiting the area, and you might come across a few who are meditating or doing yoga.
The grassy beach is secluded and quiet, and since there is no law in Seattle against being nude in public, many people in the buff spend time here...despite complaints from neighbors in the nearby Madrona neighborhood.
Secret Harbor Beach
Along dazzling Lake Tahoe in Nevada is a stretch of golden sand that leads to Paradise Cove, aka Secret Cove. Starting at Chimney Beach, walk south for about 15 minutes and you'll find a staircase leading to the peaceful cove, where Secret Harbor Beach is located.
The beach is one of Lake Tahoe's most frequented, and many of the visitors ditch their clothing. In addition to tanning, visitors to the beach also grill, hike and play volleyball in the nude.
Also known as Aquinnah Beach, Moshup Beach is located on the west side of Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts. It’s a half-mile stretch of remote coastline with the Gay Head Cliffs serving as scenic backdrop. The far end of the beach is frequented by nude sunbathers, but the other side typically caters to families, fully clothed — so it's important to cover up while walking between the two areas.
Moshup Beach is known for having very warm water, soft sand and striking sunsets. Because it’s too small to draw a large crowd, it offers a peaceful, serene setting attractive to those who want to sunbathe or swim in the nude without disruption. It's also not uncommon for sunbathers to give themselves mud baths using mud from the cliffs.
Named after the Fire Island Lighthouse, Lighthouse Beach off the coast of Long Island was once the most popular clothing-optional beach in New York. But after Hurricane Sandy, when part of Fire Island's dunes were destroyed, park officials banned its clothing-optional sections. The hurricane had essentially wiped out the curtain separating the lighthouse from the beach, exposing nudists to tourists just a few hundred feet away.
Today, going au natural on the sand will get you six months in prison and up to $5,000 in fines. However, and somewhat paradoxically, women can legally go topless at any beach in New York.
San Gregorio Beach
With two miles of soft sand, tide pools, caves and a lagoon, San Gregorio State Beach is a popular clothing-optional spot. And it’s historic to boot; it’s the country's oldest clothing-optional beach. You'll find it just west of the intersection of California State Route 1 and State Route 84, south of Half Moon Bay.
Since 1967, the narrow, clothing-optional beach has been privately owned, and it charges an admission fee to park on the land. Visitors to the beach are mostly gay men, but you'll also find couples and families, both clothed and unclothed. It's been said that the rule is "gay to the north and straight to the south."
Little Magens Bay
Despite a restriction on nude sunbathing on St. Thomas, many visitors to the beach still choose to strip down and lounge on Little Magens Bay. Because there's no stopping beachgoers from breaking the rules when it comes to improving their appearance — especially when it's somewhere like the Virgin Islands — this is a spot often frequented by those who want to get rid of unattractive tan lines. This beach is also popular among the gay community.
The waters at Little Magens Bay are incredibly clear, making it a prime spot to do some snorkeling. Or, if you'd rather just go skinny dipping, the water is great for that too. Just ask former U.S. President Bill Clinton — rumor has it that this beach is his favorite on St. Thomas. (Go figure, right?)
Geiger Key Beach
The only legally sanctioned nude beach in the Florida Keys is Geiger Key Beach. And interestingly enough, it's basically abandoned.
The beach starts where Boca Chica Road ends, allowing only foot traffic through the small sections of pavement that are found along the shore. After passing a large barricade, there's a sign that reads, "Clothing optional beyond this point."
Past the sign are the other interesting attractions as well. Take the shoe wall, for example; it's for "lost soles." Or the DIY stacked rock structures and driftwood lean-tos crafted by locals.
Whether you're interested in finding a place to relax in the nude, or somewhere to discover manmade natural-art creations, this remote beach remains a popular Florida Keys destination for both residents and out-of-towners.
Blind Creek Beach
The Treasure Coast Naturists established Blind Creek Beach in 2014 on Hutchinson Island in Florida. The group considers the beach a family-friendly "piece of paradise" — but while nudity is completely acceptable and lawful, don't even think about any sandy love-making. Public sexual activity is illegal and can lead to misdemeanor and felony charges for lewd behavior.
There are several objectives for the Treasure Coast Naturists. In a nutshell, the group wants to promote body acceptance via clothing-optional community programs, support the recreational nude use of public lands, and actively promote clothing-optional recreation for people of all ages. Learn more about the Treasure Coast Naturists by visiting the group's Facebook page.
Red Rock Beach
Popular and known to be welcoming and social, Red Rock Beach is located north of San Francisco between Stinson Beach and Muir Beach. It's often crowded with families and tourists, partly because the warm summer days are so pleasant.
It should go without saying that because the beach is nudity-friendly and frequented by families, standard nude beach etiquette should be practiced; no gawking, no sexual encounters and no inappropriate behavior.
As for activities, swimming at the beach is actually not recommended, but if you want to break out the frisbee or work on that full body tan, go for it.
Lands End Beach
Also called "Swim Suits End," this beach is found in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area of San Francisco. It's a small, yet memorable spot with stunning views. And no, not just views of the ocean — this is a nude beach tucked into a cove off of Geary Boulevard.
But be careful: If you wander too far from the beach, you'll reach Lincoln Park Golf Course. And clothing is most definitely required there.