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Hold your horses, err, horseshoe crabs. Every year from May 10 to June 15, Delaware is the landing spot for millions of Atlantic horseshoe crabs on a mission. These prehistoric-looking creatures come ashore to spawn and leave in their wake a mantel of helmet-shaped shells and green eggs. Kitts Hummock, located just south of Dover, is ground zero for this impressive sight and is a recognized sanctuary for the Diamond State's official marine animal.
You don’t typically associate beaches with green space, which is what makes this Hawaiian spot so unique. Olvines, a form of green crystal, give the colorful sand its signature hue, and it’s one of only four such spots in the world. (The other green beaches are located in Guam, Norway, and the Galapagos Islands.) An honorable mention goes to Hawaii Island’s Punalu'u Beach, which is famous for its black sand.
This protected area on the Oregon coast is home to several scenic sites, including Thor’s Well, a sinkhole that’s been called “the drainpipe of the Pacific” and even “the gate to hell.” Located three miles south of Yachats, the natural wonder “likely started out as a sea cave dug out by the waves before the roof eventually collapsed, leaving openings at the top and bottom through which the ocean surges and sprays,” according to The Oregonian.
A single 60-foot tall turret, known as the ‘pirate tower,’ stands sentry at the edge of this Southern California beach. It was built in the 1920s to house a staircase down to the beach from California Senator William E. Brown’s home, which was later purchased by a retired naval captain and pirate aficionado who entertained local children on the beach with swashbuckling-themed gatherings. Today the tower still stands, but it can only be accessed at low tide.
There are plenty of kitschy beach bars out there, but this one may take the cake. The Flora-Bama, a rambling road house that sits astride the Florida/Alabama state line, is home to a host of quirky traditions both inside its walls and on the beach, including bra slinging, throwing fish from one side of the state line to the other at the annual Mullet Toss, and getting “bushwacked” (wherein you drink too many bushwackers, a delicious, milkshake-like frozen cocktail).
On the shores of Bird Island, a protected coastal reserve, you’ll find an anomaly of the most good-natured kind. Since the 1970s, folks have been making a pilgrimage to the uninhabited outpost (the inlet between Bird Island and neighboring Sunset Beach has been filled in by sand, so it’s easy to access with a walk—or bike ride—south from Sunset Beach) to leave letters containing their innermost thoughts and wishes in the Kindred Spirit Mailbox.
This so-called post-apocalyptic wasteland might not top your beach bucket list (it’s not even on the coast), but inland Bombay Beach boasts plenty of intrigue. In the 1930s, this stretch of the Salton Sea (the lowest point in the U.S.) was promoted as a stateside French Riviera. But eventually geology took over, and the high salinity and rising waters gave way to flooding and mud. Today, it’s a veritable ghost town with relics of its hey-day—retro tvs, billboards, campers, and the like—scattered around the all-but deserted town.
A secret (read unmarked and very hard to find) trail leads to this impossibly secluded beach on the Oregon coast. It takes its name from the odd and almost ethereal creations often found at the shore. Rock gardens, sand sculptures, rune-like constructions, and artful drawings on the cliffs; they all feel as though they might have been created in the night by gnomes or fairies.
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On Boon Island, a shoal six miles from the beach town of York, the idea of “weird” takes a creepy turn. In 1710, sailors who washed up from the Nottingham Galley shipwreck resorted to the practice of cannibalism for survival after being unable to swim the six miles to safety ashore. Today the Boon Island Lighthouse, the tallest in the state at 133 feet, keeps watch.
In what is possibly the world’s best example of trash to treasure, Glass Beach originally served as a dumping ground for glass, appliances, and even cars. After years of tumbling among the ocean waves (volunteer clean-ups removed the big stuff), the materials became smooth sea glass.
Horses at the beach aren’t necessarily an oddity. Hello, sunset trots in the surf. But the rarity of these grand creatures roaming wild puts Assateague Island on our list. These feral equines (thought to be the descendants of a band of horses who landed on the island via a shipwreck) defy the odds to survive the coast’s scorching heat, abundant mosquitoes, and stormy weather. What’s more, they look down-right majestic doing it.
Yes, it's another California entry on our list. In fact, you might say the Golden State is on a roll with this one. At Schooner Gulch State Beach, three miles south of Point Arena, there's a stretch of waterfront known as Bowling Ball Beach due to its outcroppings of perfectly round, rather large rocks. While they may appear to be some sort of dinosaur relic or extraterrestrial offering, they're actually the result of "concretion," a geological term for mineral concrete binding sand into large formations.