7 Fantastic East Coast National Parks to visit with kids for a perfect family getaway

shallow waters and historical building in Dry Tortuga National Park

East Coast National Parks for kids perfect for an East Coast family vacation in some of the USA’s most beautiful spots.

National Parks on the East Coast of the US are a treasure trove of natural wonders.

Beautiful forests, pristine mountains, stunning coastline and unique ecosystem make up a wonderful network of parks perfect for a family vacation with the kids.

The beautiful East Coast locations do the heavy lifting here however, the excellent National Park Service, the junior ranger program and family activities all contribute to making East Coast parks a wonderful family vacation destination.

These are our favorite East Coast National Parks to visit with kids.

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List of East Coast National Parks + Map

East Coast National Parks include:

  • Acadia National Park (ME),
  • Shenandoah National Park (VA),
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park (NC, TN),
  • Mammoth Caves National Park (KY),
  • Cuyahoga Valley¬†National¬†Park (OH),
  • New River Gorge National Park (WV),
  • Everglades National Park (FL),
  • Dry Tortuga National Park (FL),
  • Biscay National Park (FL)

The best East Coast National parks for kids

East Coast National Parks offer families a huge variety of experiences ranging from hikes and scenic drives among northern forests to the change of snorkeling in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

These are some great US National Parks on the East Coast for families with kids of all ages

Acadia National Park, Maine

Great for: coastal beauty, scenic drive, lighthouses

Acadia National Park is a wonderful and unique National Park perched on the northernmost Atlantic Coast in the state of Maine.

It is located where the highest rocky headland in the United States meets the Atlantic Ocean and it is made of several islands as well as a peninsula area on the US East Coast mainland.

This position makes the park unique: the presence of the mountains and the sea make it one of the most spectacular coastal sceneries in the country. Here you have a beautiful coastline, pretty coves, amazing lighthouses and fantastic mountain views, all in the same place!

When it comes to things to do in Acadia with kids, there is quite a selection.

If you love hiking, you will be spoilt for choice with the many family-friendly trails in the park.

If you want to spend time on the beach, you can do that in places like Sand Beach, perfect for playing in the sand and put your feet in the ocean (careful though, it is way too cold to swim!) or you can go to Echo Lake Beach.

If you want rugged coastline and lighthouses, Acadia is generous of them and for the days when you are tired, you can just take the park scenic drive, a good way for kids to rest they]ir legs if one day they don’t feel like hiking!

The park offers a cool Junior Ranger Program, which you can find >>> here <<<

Great Smoky National Park, North Carolina / Tennessee

Great for: forest walks with the kids

Great Smoky National Park is a wonderful east Coast national park for families located across the states of North Carolina and Tennessee.

The park has wonderful forests and mountains and it is a wonderful vacation spot for families who love to hike, camp and are looking for an active family vacation.

There is plenty to do in Great Smoky with kids. In Great Smoky, kids can go hiking on many family-friendly trails, see waterfalls, go biking, fishing (license for adults required), see historical buildings and of course spot wildlife – elks and black bears live here, bring their binoculars!

The park also has an excellent junior ranger program with events for kids, which you can find >>> here <<<

This is one of the best places to see foliage in the US, perfect for a fall getaway with the family!

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Best for: scenic drive, foliage, family walks

Shenandoah National Park is a stunning national park for families in Virginia Located just a short car drive from Washington DC, it is a fantastic East Coast park to visit when you want a break from the city or if you are looking for seeing beautiful foliage and woods.

Scenic drive in Shenandoah National Park

The forest hikes in Shenandoah are wonderful!

The park is the perfect getaway for outdoorsy families: here you have several family-friendly trails to beautiful meadows, waterfalls and mountain vistas, go biking, fishing and go earth caching, with is super fun for kids and adults.

When you don’t feel like hiking, you can still enjoy the park driving the beautiful Skyline Drive or take part in a ranger talk, which is a good way to get some rest while listening to incredible facts about the park (and earn your junior ranger badge!)

Shenandoah is one of the best National Parks on the East Coast for families who want to enjoy foliage and hikes and want easy access from the city.

Everglades National Park, Florida

Best for: air boat tours, alligator sightings, mangrove forests

The everglade national park in Florida is a wonderful national park for kids on the East Coast and a unique one in terms of type of landscape, visit and animal sighting!

Waterway in Everglades National Park Florida

Unlike the East Coast parks mentioned so far, where you don’t have forests and mountains but rather, you find yourself in wetlands, mangrove forests and marshes where you can see alligators, turtles and manatees!

The Everglades is great fun for kids. The first thing and maybe the most iconic family activity in Everglade is the mangrove forest tour on an airboat, but this is just the beginning.

Here you can also go biking, hiking (several family-friendly hikes on boardwalks are great for spotting wildlife and easy for kids to tackle), see flamingoes, take a boat tour to 10000 islands park of the park, take a tram tour of the park.

A visit to the park is a must-do if you are on a family vacation in Florida and it is easy to add to a stay in Naples or even Miami, where you also have some of the best family beaches on the East Coast.

Dry Tortuga National Park, Florida

Dry Tortuga is another fantastic national Park for families in the east of the US with something unique: this park is not on the mainland but is made of several small islands offshore Florida!

The park is more remote than others and the fact that you cannot simply drive into it means it takes a bit of planning however if you are in Florida for a family vacation, it can be worth it as the place is spectacular – you can actually get a sense of what it is like from their virtual tour.

There are several cool things to do in Dry Tortuga with kids. the ferry trip to the island can itself be fun and, once you are there, you have the time to swim, snorkel and visit historic Fort Jefferson.

The park is special as it is home to a coral reef and the kids can spot cool marine life close to the coast, so you don’t need experienced snorkelers to enjoy a day here.

The park has a cool junior ranger program for kids and it is a great place to mix nature explorations, national park badge earning and ocean fun!

Make sure you pack all you need for a day at the beach as you will need all your swimming and snorkeling gear!

Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky

Great for: family caving adventures

Mammoth Cave is a large National park in South Carolina with something special: the longest cave system in the country (possibly the world)!

Ramp leading into a cave at Mammoth Caves National Park

The cave system meanders for over 400 miles and the park has been inhabited for over 4000 yeast, which means you have not just incredible, extraordinary nature here but also interesting and unique history.

If you are looking for an educational vacation with kids, this is a great place!

The park is well equipped for kids.

To visit the caves, you can join a family-friendly tour and this is a wonderful way to learn about the park from a ranger and experience some of the most incredible rock formations in the caves.

The tours are best suited to children who can walk on their own as they are not necessarily accessible to strollers.

Child carriers are allowed but only front ones so I recommend you check the official info on the tours >>> here <<< when planning.

As well as caving, in Mammoth Caves with kids, you can go on family-friendly hikes and learn about the park and the area at the excellent Park Visitors’ center.

The park is near Nashville, a great US city to visit with kids, so you can easily plan a full family vacation in this area mixing time in the city and nature exploration!

Congaree National Park, South Carolina

Great for: easy family walks, forest walks

Congaree is a beautiful and family-friendly national Pal in South Carolina, only about 18 miles out of Columbia.

The park has wonderful woodlands and it protects the ‘largest intact expanse of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest in the southeastern United States’ – indeed, what you find in the par are wonderful boardwalks hikes among stunning trees!

To best way to visit Congaree with kids is by starting at the visitors, center, where you can get your booklet of activities for the junior ranger badge, and also learn about the park by watching a cool film about it.

Once you know your basics about the park, you can go on one of the family trails and spot wildlife (deer, coyotes, bobcats, skunks, hawks and more call this park home!) and you can also explore the park canoeing or kayaking.

The park is close to Columbia and less than 3 hours from the coast, therefore is a wonderful East Coast National Park to visit with kids as part of a South Carolina vacation that touches on cities, nature and one of the best beach vacation destinations in the US for families: Myrtle Beach!

Best East Coast National Parks for kids: pin this!

Images of Shenandoah, Great Smoky and Dry Tortuga national Parks with text: 7 US East Coast National parks perfect for families with kids

I hope you enjoyed this selection of the top National Parks on the East Coast for families with kids and it inspired you to plan a trip!

Looking for more National Park travel inspiration? Check out our selection of the best West Coast National Parks for kids too!

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