Best Beach Vacations
Why do we head to the beach? To escape the city and everyday life? To get some sun and enjoy a day of fun splashing in the water with the kids? No matter the reason, you really don’t need a good excuse to head to the shore—just go! The South knows how to slow down and enjoy the things that matter most, like brunch, Sunday night football (albeit hockey and soccer are a close tie) and the beach.
Should you visit every one of these perfect beach destinations, keep in mind, the South is overflowing with more coastal escapes than you can shake a stick at! So grab a sun hat, ice chest, a few beach snacks, and experience the South’s best beach vacations.
First up on our list of the best beach destinations is a secret favorite of many Southerners, Orange Beach, and its neighbor Gulf Shores. Most people new to the South are always surprised that so many folks head down to the shores of Alabama for some sun and sand time; most don’t even realize Alabama even has a coast. In fact, Alabama has some of the best unspoiled sugar-white sand beaches in all of the South. The water is appropriately vibrant turquoise and clear for as the eye can see. The area is loaded with some of the highest-rated seafood restaurants, and one should always indulge in the local seafood. Voyagers Restaurant offers white tablecloths and fine service and Cosmo's Restaurant & Bar offers many seafood options in a more relaxed setting. Stay right on the shore at Hotel Indigo or Perdido Beach Resort with its great pools and many amenities. Wild Orange Charters can take you out fishing and they will supply all the tools you need to catch the “big one.”
For a different type of beach vacation, Fairhope is a warm and welcoming small town. Here, you won’t find the morning rush to snag an umbrella spot on the beach. Fairhope is where visitors can take their time enjoying brunch at Another Broken Egg Cafe, stroll through downtown, and visit the Fairhope Museum of History. Fairhope sits on the shores of Mobile Bay instead of the Gulf but offers a charming alternative to large beach cities. The Hampton Inn is right in the heart of downtown Fairhope and is only steps from all the galleries and restaurants. Nearby, downtown Foley is always a good idea for those who seek antiques. Look into the Jubilee when you are there; it isn’t a festival, but a mass migration of sea life to the shores - it sounds both fascinating and a bit creepy.
Daytona Beach is the ideal destination for friends, families and race fans looking for modern resorts, thrilling amusement rides, and breathtaking beaches.
At Daytona Beach you’ll discover family-friendly entertainment of all kinds. Check out the 15 hands-on exhibits at the Charles and Linda Williams Children’s Museum. If that doesn’t satisfy your arts craving, head over to the Daytona Beach Bandshell in the city’s Oceanfront Park. Overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, and seating up to 5,000 people, the bandshell is home to a summer concert series where you can hear live music and enjoy a firework show over the water. Spend from dawn to dusk sightseeing at some of Daytona Beach's most memorable landmarks.
A bit over to the west on Florida’s Panhandle is Panama City Beach. Panama City offers the same beautiful beaches, but with a bit more nightlife and fun. Bars, family amusement parks, restaurants, and lively boardwalks can all be enjoyed. Enjoy mini-golf at Barnacle Bay, or let the kids go crazy at Shipwreck Island Water Park featuring a lazy river, water slides galore, and a water playground that looks like an old sunken ship. There are arcades all around town and live music to be enjoyed in many great seafood restaurants almost every night. In Panama City, it is all about fun!
Protected by buffer island San Jose, Rockport-Fulton has become a refuge for sailors and boat owners. This bayside town loves to celebrate its seafood and history, especially with over 30 seafood restaurants. In March the city puts on its annual Fulton Oysterfest and has been doing so for over 40 years. Who doesn’t love a good bi-valve, right? The SeaFair is held in October and is all about loving food, wine, and music. The gumbo cookoff and the Seafair parade are the most attended events at the festival. The Rockport beach still allows for days of beach time and the free Fulton Trolley can take you anywhere in town and is the perfect way to see the local sights.
On the Gulf Coast, there is a 27 mile stretch of perfect beach in the community of Crystal Beach and Port Bolivar. Because they offer visitors so much to see and do, it will be a tough decision to stay on the beach with your toes in the sand or to go out and explore. The Bolivar Lighthouse and Fort Travis are great attractions for those who want to experience the local history. The Houston Audubon Society - one of the largest landowners on the peninsula - thinks the area is best for bird watching. Several hundred species of birds use this region during the mass migration every year. High Island, with no predators present, is a sanctuary for these birds and it attracts visitors from all over the world. bolivarpeninsulatexas.com
The locals’ pride in the historic downtown of Matagorda is very apparent when you visit. Be sure to take the Main Street self-guided walking tour with nearly 60 points of interest, and then hop over to the Matagorda County Museum Annex. Stand-up paddleboarding is the thing to do here for a bit of action. The bay, which is just off the beach, is calm and offers the perfect shallow waters for this easy activity that is great for first-timers. Visit the Matagorda Adventure Company for all your water-based adventures. They will get you suited up right. Want to fill up the ice chest and head out for a full day of fun in the sun? Head to Stanley’s Market for all your beach needs and a ten dollar permit that will allow you to drive on the beach to find the perfect secluded spot.
By taking just a tiny drive from Biloxi and over the Biloxi Bay Bridge, you can unwind in Ocean Springs away from the bright lights and casinos. Get yourself settled for a night at The Roost Ocean Springs or The Inn at Ocean Springs for the best experience in town. These two boutique hotels are a Southerner’s dream come true: comfortable, charming, and of course, so luxurious. In Ocean Springs, your experience should always focus on locally-owned operations, from restaurants like Martha’s Tea Room to bars like The Juke Joint. This town is filled with artists and everywhere you venture is unique, just like the locals you will meet.
The barrier island of Topsail is home to Surf City, which is considered by many to be the, the beating heart of the island. Once a small fishing village, it is now the main attraction for visitors searching for quiet and serene beaches. The whole island is separated from the mainland of North Carolina by the Intracoastal Waterway, and it’s a perfect place for kayaking, water skiing, and fishing. In Surf City, you can discover an abundant amount of restaurants serving locally caught seafood, boutique stores, surf shops, and plenty of outfitters for all your outdoor needs. Further south on the island you can enjoy Topsail Beach which is also super quaint and offers that same relaxed beachy town center - be sure to check out the Missiles and More Museum.
Voted by North Carolinians as the “Best Beach,” Wrightsville Beach certainly lives up to its fame. Not only are the beaches vast, but the town also offers the perfect setting for a beachy experience. Take to the water with a surfing camp, drop a line off of Johnnie Mercer’s Fishing Pier, or perhaps take a scuba expedition to one of 200 shipwrecks just offshore. Rent a beach cruiser and pedal around the island and check out some of the small shops. And since it is so close to nearby historic Wilmington - just over the drawbridge - you can find plenty of cultural attractions, historic tours, and more shopping and dining; and it is only minutes away.
You should be dreaming of your beach vacation just about now. We are, too! Start planning your getaway now, before it’s too late. Don’t we all deserve to spend some quality time with our toes in the sand? The answer should always be a resounding, “Yes!”
More Beachy Destinations
The Perfect Stay
Gulf Shores Rentals offers 150+ vacation rental properties. From 1-bedroom condominiums to 6-bedroom beach houses located in both Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama. Visitors will find comfort in the great accommodations close to all the action. Visitors will love the 32 miles of sugar white sand beaches, emerald green waters, and a wide range of area activities perfect for families. Water attractions, amusement parks, zip lines, bike trails, golfing, and charter fishing are right at your fingertips. Gulf Shores Rentals offers the Stay and Play package that includes complimentary tickets to these great local activities during your stay.
Discover Surf City, NC
Surf City opens its hearts and doors to you when you visit. Stop by the Welcome & Visitors Center and find just what you need to make your stay perfect with brochures and pamphlets on what there is to do and see, places to stay and where to eat. Bring the whole family and stay for a fabulous beach vacation or just make it a pit stop on your way through, either way you won’t regret your time spent in Surf City.
Trust the Pros
At Fred Holland Realty, they know the area, the laws, and the market. Let them help you find the property that fits your needs. They can offer property suitable for any situation: the second home you’ve always wanted, to fulfill a dream of living on the beach full time, or investment property for appreciation or rental income. The Folly Beach area continues to enjoy a yearly appreciation in value.
A day trip full of kite surfing, or a week full of taking it easy and the freedom to do as you please. A haven for water adventurers who have a bit of the pirate’s twinkle in their eyes. A plethora of restaurants, chartered fishing opportunities, and surfing and biking rentals to keep most vacationers blissfully occupied throughout the vacation season. Music, good cold drinks, just-caught seafood, and a lot of laughter — this is Ocracoke Island, North Carolina.
Visit Gulf County
Loyal visitors to Gulf County don’t throw in the beach towel! Despite changes to lives and landscapes after Hurricane Michael, this resilient community has been focused on the future to Re-Build and welcome you back. ReVisit to ReDiscover Gulf County, where the sun still shines bright and the beaches are still beautiful. Experience new views and scenery, fresh coats of paint, and the same friendly smiles. Join in the community’s powerful journey at Visitgulf.com.
Pinnacle Port Vacation Rentals offer homey coziness coupled with resort-style amenities in Panama City Beach. Pinnacle Port is a private, gated resort at the west end of Panama City Beach, offering lake and Gulf views. Choose from one to three bedroom condos that come fully furnished and equipped, and enjoy all of the resort’s amenities like the seasonally heated pool, men’s and women’s saunas, fishing at Lake Powell, and being close to PCB attractions!