Now that winter is upon us and an end to the frenzy of the holidays in sight, visions of escape routes to warmer climates are starting to dance in our heads. Coastal escapes and beach towns along the southern Atlantic seaboard are offering off-season rates and special weekend packages making their charming destinations and temperate winter climate even more attractive. Below is a diverse list of coastal towns offering differing appeals to suit every taste in travel.
1. Virginia Beach, Virginia
Virginia Beach is the spot where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Chesapeake Bay. The area contains three beaches, each with a different appeal to families, surfing and eco-tours, or those seeking the iconic beach with a three-mile boardwalk, shops, and restaurants. The Virginia Aquarium has 800,000 gallons of aquariums and live animal habitats including Komodo dragons, crocodiles, cobras, and eagle rays. Next to the aquarium is the Adventure Park with the largest ropes and zip line course in Virginia. At Sandbridge Beach, explore the dunes or take a hike Back Bay Wildlife Refuge. Don’t miss the oyster farm boat tour with Pleasure House Oysters at the Chesapeake Bay where tourists can sample legendary raw and roasted Lynnhaven Oysters.
Click here to find hotels in Virginia Beach.
2. Outer Banks, North Carolina
The Outer Banks is a string of narrow barrier islands stretching across the coast of North Carolina. Weather on the islands is temperate year-round, and a long beachfront makes it a popular tourist destination, especially along the protected Cape Hatteras National Seashore. The Outer Banks has been called the “Graveyard of the Atlantic” due to the sometimes dangerous surf that caused many shipwrecks in the past. The claim to fame occurred in 1903 near the coastal town of Kitty Hawk where the Wright brothers launched their first flight. Adventurous tourists can experience hang gliding here by either taking lessons then jumping off the dunes, or get launched up to 5,000 feet in the air strapped to an experienced tandem pilot.
Stay: The Inn on Pamlico Sound
3. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Nestled along the Atlantic Ocean, Myrtle Beach is a fun-filled family destination with accommodations for every wallet, from ocean-front luxury high rises to campgrounds. There are two piers anchoring each end of a boardwalk. The pedestrian boardwalk is jam-packed with restaurants, shops, the Sky Wheel, and other amusements. You’ll also find a variety of live shows and kid-friendly activities like water parks, wax museum, miniature golf, and Ripley’s Aquarium.
Click here to find hotels in Myrtle Beach.
4. Charleston, South Carolina
While not a typical beach town, Charleston, located on the Charleston Harbor, is the oldest and second-largest city in the U.S. state of South Carolina. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more charming and picturesque city anywhere in the United States. The stunning architecture includes Rainbow Row – the much-photographed row of mid-18th century pastel houses. Charleston has a rich history including Fort Sumter where the Civil War was started. The city is a foodies’ delight with many acclaimed restaurants. There are beaches at Sullivan Island and Folly Beach are just a short drive away.
Click here to see hotels in Charleston.
5. Hilton Head, South Carolina
Hilton Head Island is a Lowcountry, boot-shaped island off the South Carolina coast. It’s an upscale resort with 12 miles of pristine beaches but is perhaps best known as a golfer’s paradise with world-class golf courses. The island has exceptional restaurants, and activities run the gamut from high-energy water sports, kayaking, myriad bicycle paths and parks, shopping and festivals.
Click here to see hotels in Hilton Head.
6. Simon’s Island, Georgia
St. Simons Island, off the coast of Georgia, is 18 miles long and just a mile and a half wide. The landmass rests amicably on the Atlantic seaboard, beckoning visitors through its moss-dripping oaks. The island offers myriad activities, many of which are best seen by a bike ride through paved pathways and beaches. Historic sites include the 1742 Battle of Bloody Marsh, Christ Church, and the St. Simons Lighthouse. Quaint locally-owned and operated shopping and eateries can be found Pier Village, just steps away from the beach and fishing pier.
7. Jacksonville Beach, Florida
Jacksonville Beach is a relatively small beach community on Florida’s northeast coast and a perfect destination for a “chill weekend.” Try a chilly thrashing in the surfer-friendly waves or catch a sunrise on the pier. Spend an afternoon at the Beaches Museum and History Park where you’ll find a restored 19th-century house used by the Florida East Coast Railroad Section Foreman, an old railroad depot, a 28-ton steam locomotive built in 1887, and the Beaches Chapel – one of the oldest historical structures in Jacksonville Beach. Don’t miss Zeta Brewery where you can sample IPA beers with names like “Blueberry Lager” and “Habanero Sculpin.”
Stay: Casa Marina Hotel
8. Augustine, Florida
Proudly laying claim as America’s oldest city, the historical and charming St. Augustine was founded in 1565 and is also considered by many to be America’s most romantic destination. The brick-lined streets are reminiscent of the old town districts of European cities. Horse-drawn carriages carry tourists past grand historic architecture. The pleasant winter subtropical climate and coastal location combine to create an alluring sunny environment. Step aboard the Old Town Trolley to wind around the historic downtown streets as well as see the historical sites such as the Old Jail, Flagler College, Castillo de San Marcos fort, the landing site of Ponce de Leon, and other landmarks.
Stay: The St. Francis Inn
9. Cocoa Beach, Florida
Just an hour’s drive from Orlando on Florida’s beautiful Space Coast, Cocoa Beach is a great location for an affordable family vacation. The beach is suitable for fishing, kayaking, and eco-tours. There’s the Kennedy Space Center as well as a myriad of amusement in Orlando like Disney theme parks, the Universal theme parks, and Sea World. It’s also close to Port Canaveral where you can jump aboard a cruise ship headed to the Caribbean.
Click here to find hotels in Cocoa Beach.
10. South Beach, Florida
SOBE, or South Beach, is a beach destination known worldwide for beautiful weather, beautiful beaches, and beautiful people. It’s located on a barrier island between Biscayne Bay and the Atlantic Ocean off Florida’s coast. High energy and sometimes raucous nightlife and topless sunbathing tend to make it more of an adult experience than a family vacation spot. End-to-end, the strip is teaming with Art Deco architecture, art galleries, boutique shops, and restaurants. South Beach has become known for the much-photographed colorful lifeguard huts constructed after Hurricane Andrew.
Click here to find hotels in South Beach.
11. Islamorada, Florida
Islamorada, called the “Village of Islands” and the “Sports Fishing Capital of the World,” consists of a series of small islands off the southern coast of Florida. Although not as well-known as its neighbors Key Largo to the north and Key West to the south, Islamorada is packed with a low-key charm that’s hard to resist. With sunshine galore, Islamorada offers visitors activities under the aqua-blue water such as snorkeling and scuba diving in its beaches and in nearby John Pennekamp Coral Reef State where visitors can view the multitude of vibrant tropical fish, colorful reef, and underwater Christ sculpture. There are also a good variety of activities above the water such as world-class fishing for bonefish and sailfish or kayaking in the mangroves. Miami or Key West, each less than a 2 hr. drive, are popular day trips.
Stay: The Cheeca Lodge
11 Coastal Escapes was first published by Huffington Post.
You may be interested in:
This article may contain affiliate/compensated links. For full information, please see our disclaimer.
About the Author
Patti Morrow is a freelance travel writer and founder of the award-winning international blog Luggage and Lipstick and southern travel blog Gone to Carolinas. TripAdvisor called her one of “20 Baby Boomer Travel Bloggers Having More Fun Than Millennials.” Patti is the author of the book “Girls Go Solo: Tips for Women Traveling Alone,” and has over 150 bylines in 40 print and online publications, including The Huffington Post, International Living Magazine, Washington Post Sunday Travel, Travel Girl, Travel Play Live Magazine, and Ladies Home Journal. She has traveled six continents looking for fabulous places and adventure activities for her Baby Boomer (and Gen X!) tribe.