The South's Best Beach Towns For Girlfriend Getaways

Pack your bags for sun, sand, and freewheeling fun.

Castillo and Matanzas Bay
Photo: Kenneth_Keifer/Getty Images

The beauty of close friends is that you can have a good time with them just about anywhere, but there’s no denying that a sun-soaked location with pristine beaches, festive restaurants, and plenty of personality doubles the fun. Lucky for those of us who call the South home, we don’t have to travel far to find a destination that’s home to the winning combination. Here, we’ve rounded up the South’s best beach towns for girlfriend getaways. 

01 of 10

St. Augustine, Florida

Castillo and Matanzas Bay
Kenneth_Keifer/Getty Images

Turn back the clock with a trip to the Ancient City. This place may be the oldest continuously inhabited European settlement in the United States, but it’s also famously home to Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth Archeological Park, where you can sip from a fountain that folklore promises will restore your youth. But if the legendary water doesn’t do the trick, you’re sure to at least feel younger here, where you can savor strolls on the unspoiled beaches of Anastasia State Park, sample fresh seafood at family-owned Aunt Kate’s restaurant, and climb to the top of historic fort Castillo de San Marcos for a spectacular view of the coastline. 

02 of 10

Tybee Island, Georgia

Tybee Island
DansPhotoArt on flickr/Getty Images

For a beach weekend with a dress code that leans more casual, less resort, head to this barrier island just 18 miles from downtown Savannah. This is a flip-flop kind of town, where the best itinerary is the one that requires getting outside and enjoying the scenery. Climb the state’s oldest and tallest lighthouse; take bikes for a spin down the shore; or head out on a sunset boat cruise, where you may even spot wild bottlenose dolphins. Plus, the proximity to Savannah means your crew is just a short drive away from the city’s many lauded restaurants and shops.

03 of 10

Sanibel, Florida

Walking to the beach at the Sundial

Cedric Angeles; Styling: Celine Russell/Zenobia; Dress: Boho Me; Hat: Mar Y Sol

Score white sand beaches and sparkling cerulean waters without the hassle of updating your passport with a trip to this Florida island, whose unique east-west orientation makes it a prime spot for shelling. When you’re not treasure hunting on the shoreline, explore 25 miles of bike trails and scout more than 230 species of birds at J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge.

(Editor's note: Ding Darling is currently closed to the public due to damage sustained during Hurricane Ian September; stay up-to-date on the area's recovery here.)

04 of 10

Gulf Shores/Orange Beach, Alabama

Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama
Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama.

Courtesy of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism

Mention this part of the world, and someone will immediately bring up the iconic Flora-Bama Lounge, Package, and Oyster Bar, the sprawling beachfront dive famous for live music, wild people-watching, and the Bushwacker—a frozen rum drink with coffee and chocolate flavors that’ll knock you off your feet. But there’s so much more to the area than the famed honky tonk. Soak up the sun on 32 miles of sugar-sand beaches, take kayaks for a paddle along the Coastal Alabama Back Bay Blueway, and cap off the day at Fisher’s Upstairs at Orange Beach Marina, where the chef has been named a James Beard Award semi-finalist multiple times.

05 of 10

Folly Beach, South Carolina

Folly Beach, South Carolina
Riddhish Chakraborty

If you’re looking for a California-cool, surf-town atmosphere without the cross-country flight, this salty island hamlet just 12 miles outside of Charleston delivers. There are six miles of beachfront to stretch out on if that’s your main pursuit for the weekend, but when you’re ready to shake off just a little bit of the sand, the town’s main drag will keep you busy. It’s lined with surf shops (including McKevlin’s, South Caroline’s oldest surf outfitter) and colorful local eateries, like Chico Feo, where Vietnamese and Mexican flavors seamlessly mingle, and Rita’s Seaside Grille, where the boozy Signature Crushes invite you to linger over a long, leisurely lunch or dinner. 

06 of 10

Ocean Springs, Mississippi

Walter Anderson Museum of Art Ocean Springs Mississippi
Tate Nations

If you’re unfamiliar with this stretch of the Gulf, it may seem unexpected that this Mississippi town plays host to one of the region’s coolest stays, The Beatnik, a boutique hotel featuring four floating cabins perched along a sleek pool. But for those familiar with Ocean Springs’ creative heritage and nationally accredited Walter Anderson Museum of Art, it’s hardly surprising that such a unique hotel would pop up here. Layer in quiet Front Beach and sunset picnics orchestrated by Coastal Picnic and Company, downtown’s boutiques, and a catfish restaurant with a downstairs cocktail lounge once frequented by Elvis, and you’ve got all the makings of a girls’ getaway to remember.

07 of 10

Fernandina Beach, Florida

Stores on Centre Street in downtown Fernandina Beach City, Florida
csfotoimages/Getty Images

The art-loving set will love this historic, charming town on Amelia Island, where galleries like Blue Door Artists featuring the works of local creatives make souvenir shopping a breeze. But if the art scene doesn’t win you over, the 13 miles of spectacular beaches and the “World Famous Pirates Punch” at the state’s oldest bar, The Palace Saloon, will surely do the trick. For a magical day trip, make the short drive to St. Marys, Georgia, to catch a ferry to Cumberland Island, where you can explore maritime forest and potentially spot wild horses.

08 of 10

Port Aransas, Texas

Cinnamon Shore in Port Aransas, TX
Cedric Angeles

The once-sleepy fishing village is wide-awake in the summer months, and when it comes to a vacation that allows your group to explore their adventurous side and indulge in a little luxury, there’s no better destination than this one. Experience the spot’s angling legacy with a deep-sea fishing charter, where you may reel in tuna or sailfish (hello, dinner!); or visit Mustang Island State Park 20 minutes away to witness the area’s diverse wildlife. For a luxurious stay, book a rental property in nearby Cinnamon Shore, where paddleboard yoga in the pool, evening beach bonfires, and fine dining make for a very comfortable weekend away.

09 of 10

Dunedin, Florida

Dunedin Sunset
Getty/Matt English

When it comes to the Sunshine State’s countless beaches, you’ll likely hear about 30A’s powdery stretches of shore or Miami’s coast, with its pastel-hued lifeguard stands, long before anyone mentions this Gulf coast town about 25 miles from Tampa. But that’s just the beauty of Dunedin. Here, you’ll skip the crowds and instead enjoy its many riches in relative peace, from its colorful downtown storefronts to its ample breweries to nearby Honeymoon Island State Park, with its four miles of pristine beaches and A+ birdwatching. 

10 of 10

Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

Reasons to Visit Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

Let’s hear it for the comeback kid. Decimated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Bay St. Louis has officially got its groove back. Just 51 miles from New Orleans, this easygoing spot can claim some of the Big Easy’s winning attributes (like ironwork and colorful buildings in charming Old Town Bay St. Louis, and fluffy shaved ice treats, compliments of Ms. Mary’s Old Town Snoballs), but it can also do it one better, with pet-friendly beaches that make it easy for your crowd’s four-legged friends to tag along.

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