The Best Southern Beach Towns For Every Type Of Traveler

What kind of traveler are you?

This beloved family beach town on Mustang Island known affectionately and proudly as Port “A” has done a remarkable job of recovering in the wake of the devastation of Hurricane Harvey in 2017, and its 6.3 miles of broad, flat sands remain a great place t
Photo: Olga Melhiser / Getty Images

No matter who you are or what you’ve been up to, we speak for everyone when we say that you deserve a trip to the beach. Now is as good a time as ever to plan your next much-needed beach getaway. Of course, we have a few recommendations to guide you along.

There are many kinds of travelers and depending on your vacation crew, your destination and itinerary will look a bit different. Those looking to settle on the beach with a good book or relax and get some color under the sun shouldn’t plan the same as a group looking for big waves and larger than life wildlife or families with both young kids and grandparents in tow. As it turns out, the trick to a successful trip is a bit of self-reflection. What kind of travelers are you and your group? Take care to answer before you start to book anything.

No matter your answer, we have you covered. From girls trips to history buffs, foodies, and everyone in between, we’ve got the perfect destination for your next beach getaway. These are our best recommendations for every type of beach-bound traveler.

01 of 20

Girlfriend Getaways: Hilton Head, South Carolina

The South’s Best Beach Town: Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Peter Frank Edwards

Gather up the ladies for some fun in the sun because you’re shipping out to Hilton Head. There, you’ll hang at the beach, grab a tropical drink (or two), and nibble on local delicacies like croissants and oysters. You can even take an excursion to spot dolphins. It’s the perfect beach girlfriend getaway.

02 of 20

Guys Weekends: Orange Beach, Alabama

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

Courtesy of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism

A trip to Alabama’s Gulf Shores with the boys is exactly what the doctor ordered. Golfing, fishing, and water sports are all in store, along with a pickup game of beach volleyball. In the evenings, hit up a “cook your catch” joint and don’t skip out on The Wharf, either. There's plenty of good shopping too, even if the women aren't tagging along.

03 of 20

Mother-Daughter Duos: Anna Maria Island, Florida

Anna Maria Island, FL
Melanie Wynarski / EyeEm / Getty

A mother-daughter weekend in Anna Maria is time well-spent. Spend your days soaking up that old Florida charm and sun on the beach and around the island’s cute coastal town. Delight in local eateries, adorable boutiques, and scenic views throughout, without a chain store, fast-food drive-thru, or high rise hotel in sight.

04 of 20

Book Worms: Cocoa, Florida

Cocoa Riverfront Park
Tina Sargeant

If your idea of a perfect vacation is discovering a unique local bookstore then taking your purchases to read on the beach, Cocoa Beach is the place for you. Spend the morning perusing Hello Again Books, then soak in the afternoon sun on the sand, burying your nose in a beach read. In charmingly quirky Cocoa, you’ll also find delicious cafes, creative shops, and enrapturing galleries.

05 of 20

Church Groups: Cape Charles, Virginia

Sunset view of Cape Charles, VA
Take in the sunset over Cape Charles Harbor from Shanty seafood restaurant.

Robbie Caponetto

This heavenly getaway on Virginia's Eastern Shore is the place to be with your church crew to rejoice in small town pleasures and gorgeous beach views. Stay in a boutique hotel and find lots to eat and drink near the shoreline. Shop the town’s bookstores and markets, rent a kayak, and treat yourself to a wine tasting before settling in early for the night.

06 of 20

Families With Young Kids: Jekyll Island, Georgia

Jekyll Island, GA
Peter Frank Edwards

The kids will love Jekyll Island, and so will you. There’s the right balance of family activities and scenic escapes. One of Georgia's Golden Isles, Jekyll Island is home to The 4-H Tidelands Nature Center, where the whole family can rent a canoe and learn about the island’s wildlife like sea turtles.

07 of 20

Pet Parents: Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

Rehoboth Beach, delaware
Getty Images

If you can’t imagine a getaway without your favorite furry friend, set your sights on Delaware’s Rehoboth Beach. You’ll want to stay at the Canalside Inn where Fido’s welcome and dog amenities are plentiful. Hit the beach and when you come back, Canalside Inn has outdoor doggie showers to rinse off those sandy paws.

08 of 20

Active Travelers: Key West, Florida

Bike on Higgs Beach Key West, Florida
Hector Manuel Sanchez

For those who would go stir crazy lying by the beach all day, Key West should be your next destination. While beautiful sandy beaches are still plentiful, you won’t be at a loss for things to keep you up and at ‘em. Spend your trip exploring the island by bike (you’ll definitely want to bring or rent one!), from climbing the Key West Lighthouse to weaving through its mangroves on a kayak or paddle-board. When you need a break, funky and fun Duval Street beckons. Key West is also great for the can't-sit-still sort because it offers an incredible day trip opportunity to Dry Tortugas National Park to visit a 19th century fort and snorkel through crystal clear waters.

09 of 20

Relaxing Retreaters: Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina

Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina
Courtesy of Wilmington and Beaches Convention & Visitors Bureau

Take advantage of serene Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, while you can. Once everyone finds out about this little slice of heaven on Earth, the crowds are sure to pour in. Until then, delight in Wrightsville Beach’s calm white sands, laid-back surfer culture, and relaxed seafood eateries.

10 of 20

History Buffs: Tybee Island, Georgia

Tybee Island

Courtesy of Visit Savannah.

The pristine beaches of Tybee Island, Georgia, are just minutes away from the hustle and bustle of Savannah’s historic district. Spend your morning relaxing by the beach then explore Savannah’s old roads and homes, and at night, take a haunted tour of the city’s spookiest spots steeped in history. On Tybee, the history abounds too. There, you'll find Georgia's oldest and tallest lighthouse.

11 of 20

Lake Lubbers: Lake Martin, Alabama

Lake Martin, Alabama
Photo: Michael Hanson

Lake-lovers are loyal folks and will always choose a fresh-water retreat. Lake Martin is one of the country's largest man-made lakes and a popular travel destination. The wooded shoreline makes for great birdwatching and the local restaurants, from casual to fine dining, will have you planning your next visit.

12 of 20

Romance Seekers: Nags Head, North Carolina

Getty Images

A romantic getaway to Nags Head is sure to send sparks flying. Rent a charming cottage this barrier island town with your honey and spend your days exploring the small town. A couple of bike rentals to get around this breezy town and you might just feel like you're in a rom-com.

13 of 20

Train Travelers: Clearwater, Florida

Clearwater: Pier 60, Clearwater Beach
Courtesy of Visit St. Pete/Clearwater

If trains are your travel mode of choice, Amtrak's Silver Service will take you right to your destination: Clearwater, Florida. This Gulf Coast hotspot is bursting with family-friendly ways to have fun in the sun. Miles upon miles of stunning beaches are accompanied by fresh, locally-caught seafood, hotels for any budget, and your choice of spots to grab a cold beer.

14 of 20

Patrons Of The Arts: Delray Beach, Florida

Seagate Hotel & Spa

You won't have to look very hard to find artistry in Delray Beach. Colorful murals transform the beach town's streets into a lively gallery and tasteful galleries sweeten the deal. You just might be able to spot some dolphins in the distance too.

15 of 20

Foodies: Tarpon Springs, Florida

Tarpon Springs Man on Boat
Chris Rogers

For those traveling to explore new cuisines and treat their pallet, Tarpon Springs should be at the top of your list. There, you'll find all the Greek food you can possibly eat. It's authentic and among the best in the country. The beaches are blissful, but the gyro might just be better.

16 of 20

The Crowd-Averse: Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

Bay St. Louis Mississippi
Robbe Caponetto

If you're on the hunt for a getaway off the beaten path to escape the crowds, then we are pleased to introduce you to Bay St. Louis. This Gulf Coast destination is among the South's most underrated beach destinations, so be sure to take advantage of it before word gets out. Spend your days tranquilly by the beach, fishing, or exploring the quiet but plentiful Old Town.

17 of 20

Wildlife Lovers: Edisto Beach, South Carolina

Edisto Beach, South Carolina


This Lowcountry getaway is prime for wildlife spotting. You'll want to rent a beach house since hotels are sparse to keep the land gently developed. Stay the weekend, and you might be lucky enough to catch sight of creatures from dolphin to osprey—plus, some of the most beautiful sunsets you've ever seen.

18 of 20

Budget Travelers: New Smyrna Beach, Florida

New Smyrna Beach, Florida
Robbie Caponetto

Take Florida's State Road A1A to this breezy beach town where you'll find lots of color and even brighter beaches. New Smyrna Beach is a surfer's paradise and will get you a bang for your buck if you plan ahead. There, beachfront views and coastal comforts don't have to break the bank.

19 of 20

Those Dreaming About European Travel: Rosemary Beach, Florida

Rosemary Beach
Robbie Caponetto

This quaint seaside village may as well be in the south of France, but lucky for you, it's actually just off Florida's Highway 30A. In picturesque Rosemary Beach, stop to smell the saltwater and marvel at the architecture reminiscent of New Orleans or Charleston. Grab an espresso before hitting the beach to complete the effect.

20 of 20

Multi-Generational Families: Port Aransas, Texas

This beloved family beach town on Mustang Island known affectionately and proudly as Port “A” has done a remarkable job of recovering in the wake of the devastation of Hurricane Harvey in 2017, and its 6.3 miles of broad, flat sands remain a great place t
Olga Melhiser / Getty Images

A tiny town with a wonderful coastline, Port Aransas welcomes families of all shapes, sizes, and ages. Outdoor fun abounds like deep-sea fishing, dolphin-watching, and state park exploring. Your family can spend hours canvassing the sandy beach and boardwalks, or plop yourselves down in the sand to relax and soak up the Texas sun.

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