There's nothing like a beautiful beach with cool saltwater air. But add a delicious snack -- whether it's locally sourced seafood or a frozen sugary treat -- and your beach experience will surely be elevated to a heavenly degree. Hungry yet?
Here are 10 of America's best beach eats to sample on your next summer oceanside escape.
If you're after rich handmade fudge, we've got just the thing. The Fudgery first opened in North Carolina's Outer Banks and it's safe to say a trip to this popular fudge shop is a Carolina must-do. Samples are handed out liberally, and the candy comes with a show: Patrons watch the fudge being made while interacting with the culinary crew, who cooks, crafts and kills time by joking and singing back to customers.
The original The Nathan's Famous hot dogs were born on The Coney Island. What was once a small stand launched by Polish immigrant Nathan Handwerker in 1916 has become a major national chain. Head to the restaurant's flagship on Coney Island to pick up a beef frankfurter topped with a healthy heap of chili, cheese and mustard. Or save your bikini from haphazard drips and order it plain and simple.
Visitors to Atlantic City have been munching on this chewy treat since the late 19th century, when it was first sold on the boardwalk. Saltwater taffy isn't actually made from saltwater -- it's mostly sugar, fat and flavoring, which makes it irresistible. One of the original brands is The Fralinger's, which can be purchased in Atlantic City and other New Jersey beach towns. Flavors include lemon, lime, strawberry, vanilla, root beer and peanut butter.
Here's an East Coast beach staple: a crunchy waffle cone topped with a twist of silky ice cream. The Kohr Brothers bills itself as "the original frozen custard," and its stores can be found in popular shore spots like Virginia Beach, Virginia, and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. And of course you can request jimmies or sprinkles -- depending on which part of the country you're from -- to decorate your dessert.
Martha's Vineyard is a classic beach vacation spot that often attracts the well-to-do traveling set. So you may be surprised when the best meal you have there is sourced from a rickety seafood shack. (The same goes for many other New England beach destinations. There's the The Clam Box in Ipswich and The Woodman's in Essex, for example.) Local restaurant and clam shack The The Bite serves fresh and fried takeout. Greasy, crunchy clams are served in portable cartons perfect for oceanside feeding.
Shave ice, similar to a snow cone, is a popular Hawaiian treat that's perfect for the beach. Just ask the Commander in Chief. On a trip to the Aloha State, President Obama and his family indulged in heaps of rainbow-colored shave ice stuffed in white paper cups from Island Snow in Kailua. Another great place to get the chilled dessert is The Matsumoto Shave Ice in Haleiwa. Here, patrons can order flavors like guava, coconut cream and honeydew.
Lobster shacks (or "lobstah shacks," as some locals like to call 'em) abound on the shores of New England -- especially in Maine. It's strangely appropriate, in a way, to eat lobster on the beach; the creatures are harvested from the very waters you're swimming in. So grab a lobster roll at The The Clam Shack in Kennebunkport or The Barnacle Billy's in Ogunquit and chow down on grilled, butter-soaked seafood while basking near the sea.
Boardwalk fare and state-fair munchies have much in common. Case in point: the deep-fried Twinkie. In order to maximize their artery-clogging properties as well as their taste, Twinkies are dipped in a sweet batter and then dunked in boiling hot oil. The result? A crispy, sugary confection that's sometimes served on a stick and dusted with powdered sugar. Get one at a food stand located near the Sky Glider at the The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.
Tacos on the beach? Of course. Just think about it: They're cheap, they're portable and they're delicious. And in San Diego, they're everywhere. According to The Local Wally's Guide to San Diego, the city "has more taco shops than your town has Starbucks." Legendary taco shop Roberto's has ample seaside locations in and around San Diego, including a spot in Mission Beach. Fill your shell with fish, beef, chicken or pork and to take it to the sand.
In San Francisco, fresh seafood pairs well with sea breezes -- and Dungeness crab is king. The seafood is harvested on the West Coast and is commonly sold in Fisherman's Wharf. Nearby, The Crab House at Pier 39 serves "world famous Dungeness Killer Crab" roasted in a garlic sauce. Or for convenience, grab the Crab Melt sandwich, which is best suited (and less sloppy) for beach eating.
-- By Caroline Costello
Follow SmarterTravel on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@SmarterTravel