The South’s Best Beaches 2018
Eleven Southern states—that’s most of them—are hemmed with beach sand and washed in saltwater. Fronting the Atlantic and the Gulf, Southern coasts from Virginia to Florida, from the Outer Banks to South Padre, have incredible beaches. Which one’s the best? Most likely, your favorite beach is the one you grew up with. Or maybe it’s the one you discovered during a special time in your life—or even a tough time. That’s the thing about waves and sand. They can soothe us or celebrate with us—whatever the occasion calls for. From Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to Tybee Island, Georgia, here are the Southern shores you named the South’s Best.
See The Winners
1. Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Best known for golf at classic resorts like Sea Pines and Palmetto Dunes, Hilton Head Island has been around for a while (incorporated in 1983) and has grown comfortable in its own skin. Explore flat, wide Atlantic beaches and waterways that are ideal for paddling.
2. Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama
These neighboring beaches manage to walk a happy line between kid friendly and happening. Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are very popular with families, who fill up those condos every summer, and with college students, who come to hang out with friends at local festivals and places such as Bahama Bob’s, The Gulf, and Brick & Spoon.
3. Destin, Florida
There’s probably a scientific reason why the water here is a slightly different shade of gorgeous than just about anywhere else along the Florida Panhandle. But we would rather take it in than figure it out. Still known as “The World’s Luckiest Fishing Village,” Destin has become much more than that, offering great variety in terms of lodging, dining, and nightlife.
4. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
You’re probably picturing the iconic boardwalk (still expanding), the SkyWheel (still lighting up the night), and—of course—The Bowery (still rocking after 70-plus years). Vacationers can enjoy these favorites along with new hotels and resorts as well as inventive restaurants and watering holes.
5. Isle of Palms, South Carolina
Located about a half hour from Charleston, Isle of Palms is home to Wild Dunes Resort, which is a favorite among golfers. More residential than it is touristy, this town and island of the same name have a great beachy vibe and a nice mix of rental properties available.
6. Tybee Island, Georgia
Known as “Savannah’s Beach”—and located just 18 miles from the historic city—bike-friendly, laid-back Tybee has a charming downtown and five public beaches. Uninhabited Little Tybee is just a boat ride away.
7. Ocean City, Maryland
With 10 miles of public beaches on the Atlantic and an iconic 3-mile-long wooden boardwalk, Ocean City promises a good time. Don’t miss the famous saltwater taffy and other beach treats at Dolle’s, family owned since 1910.
8. Virginia Beach, Virginia
You’ll find this happening beach burg at the intersection of two great waterways, the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. From its buzzing Oceanfront to secluded Sandbridge to the 8,000-acre Pungo agriculture district, Virginia Beach packs a lot of variety into one destination.
9. Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina
This low-key, uncrowded waterfront town, established in 1899, is a beach lover’s heaven—lots of sand and surf, outdoor adventure, bike-friendly byways, fresh seafood, and perfect spots to relax and watch the sunset. Bonus: It’s only 20-ish minutes from Wilmington, North Carolina, and halfway between New York and Florida.
10. South Padre Island, Texas
Maybe you associate South Padre with spring break in the Lone Star state, but the island has as much wildlife as nightlife. Besides year-round dwellers like white ibis and great blue herons, migratory birds enjoy South Padre layovers from October to January, while monarch butterflies also make a stop in October.