By Stacy Tornio - Fodor's

Bordering lakes and oceans, these protected areas showcase the beauty of America's coasts.

The national seashores and lakeshores across North America are some of the best-kept secrets on public lands. Since the first one was designated in the 1950s, the National Park Service has preserved thousands of acres of coast along the Great Lakes, Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, and Gulf of Mexico. They’re the perfect mix of wildlife, nature, and beach. A National Park pass will get you free entry into all of these, making a great excuse to one up and add a few of these to your vacation list.

Gulf Islands National Seashore
WHERE: Florida and Mississippi
As the home to old forts that were used in the Civil War, this seashore is a definite destination for war and history buffs. You can learn more about the history here. As the largest national seashore, it’s spread out over two states. Learn what you can experience on the Mississippi side compared to the Florida side. You can’t go wrong with either one, though. Both are great places to camp, hike, and look for marine life from the Gulf of Mexico. Best of all, the weather is great, making it a good location to visit year-round.

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