The Best Beach Towns In The South To Visit This Winter

There's no better time for a weekend away with less crowds, cooler weather, and even more charm.

Folly Beach, South Carolina
Photo: Facebook/Visit Folly

When the winter blues start to hit and we long for relaxing summer days spent strolling along the beach, there's only one antidote: a weekend away. Luckily, living in the South lends itself to year-round coastal getaways thanks to our temperate climate. A winter beach getaway is enticing not only because it's less crowded, but also because it's not as sweltering hot outside. For those looking for a more quiet beach vacation, this is perhaps the best time of year. These Southern beach towns hit the sweet spot of having a laidback atmosphere, gorgeous scenery, and plenty of charm—which makes them as perfect during the winter as summer vacation season.

So, grab that book you've been meaning to read and pack light—these 15 beach towns are the best spots for your next winter getaway.

01 of 15

St. Simons Island, Georgia

Christ Church, Frederica on St. Simons Island
Peter Frank Edwards

Head to St. Simons Island for ancient oaks and breezy marshes on the Atlantic. This historic island is like taking a trip back in time. Book your stay at the King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort for access to the quiet beach, and then venture into town for quaint shops and no-fuss restaurants. (Try out Southern Soul Barbeque or a local favorite, Gnat's Landing.) Drive the winding roads to visit beautiful Christ Church, Frederica, and its historic cemetery.

02 of 15

Hilton Head, South Carolina

Hilton Head Island SC
Peter Frank Edwards

Hilton Head is a Lowcountry, low-key island that has something for everyone. The classic cuisine (like shrimp and grits with hush puppies) is enough to bring us in; but Harbour Town, known for its red-and-white striped lighthouse, charms with its beachy shops, abundant activities, and food with a westward-view (you have to catch the sunset here). Your getaway wouldn't be complete without a visit to the popular Salty Dog Café for a laidback atmosphere, as well as plenty of long bike rides along the shaded pathways.

03 of 15

Bald Head Island, North Carolina

Bald Head Island
Laurey W. Glenn

Life on Bald Head moves at a much slower pace, so get ready to trade your SUV for a golf cart—because no cars are allowed on the isle. You'll take a ferry from the mainland and quickly settle into the lazy, relaxed vibe of this town, getting to experience a truly unplugged lifestyle in a conserved oasis. You can stay at the Marsh Harbour Inn, or find a cozy porch-wrapped cottage to settle into. Bring some books you've been waiting to read and relax. We love it here so much, it was home to our 2017 Idea House.

04 of 15

Seaside, Florida

Seaside, Florida
Robbie Caponetto

It's no secret that this is a popular spot pretty much year-round. Visiting during Christmas time is a no-brainer for its adorably festive decor, but don't miss the annual 30A Songwriters Festival, a late-January weekend full of music up and down 30A. The event transforms amphitheaters, town halls, restaurants, theaters, bars, and covered patios into music venues that offer great food and atmosphere to boot. Your best bet is to rent a condo or house in the area, but you can stay at the Watercolor Resort in Santa Rosa Beach or The Pearl Hotel in Rosemary Beach.

05 of 15

Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

Lobster Roll at Thorny Oyster in Bay St. Louis, MS
Cedric Angeles

If you like old architecture and quirky beach town charm, you will love Bay St. Louis and its mix of Southern grace, mystery, and funk. Located just 90 miles east of New Orleans, this town is a merging of marsh, river, and Gulf of Mexico beach. Check out the charming Old Town for shops and art galleries. Venture just minutes away from Main Street to the Depot District for some of the town's best eateries (such as the Thorny Oyster), boutiques, and the local Bay St. Louis Little Theatre. You'll want to go to The Mockingbird Café—a coffee house by day and music venue at night—at least once.

06 of 15

Cape San Blas, Florida

Cape San Blas, Florida
Facebook/Indian Pass Raw Bar

Cape San Blas is the place to go for pure rest and relaxation. Located near Port St. Joe along the Florida Panhandle, Cape San Blas gives you access to miles of uncrowded, white sand beaches. Around these parts, there's some of the best fresh seafood you can get. (Take a visit to the Indian Pass Raw Bar for that, and make sure to pick up a t-shirt as a souvenir. It's a rite of passage.) If you want to move around a little, discover the historic Cape San Blas lighthouse, visit nearby Pensacola for shopping, and take plenty of long walks on the beach. Careful, though, it gets windy.

07 of 15

South Padre Island, Texas

South Padre Island, Texas
Southern Living

South Padre Island is the closest thing you'll get to a tropical island in the great state of Texas. It's home to 34 miles of beautiful white sand and stunning clear emerald water. Soak it all in during the winter when the crowds are lighter. You can take a dolphin-watching tour with The Original Dolphin Watch or Breakaway Cruises, scope for the more than 300 species of birds at the South Padre Island Birding, Nature Center & Alligator Sanctuary, and get your fill of fresh Texas Gulf seafood.

08 of 15

Folly Beach, South Carolina

Surf Bar in Folly Beach, SC
Peter Frank Edwards

Less than 15 miles from downtown Charleston, laid-back Folly Beach is the perfect escape. The surf town draws in visitors who fall in love with the wide beaches, eclectic atmosphere, and community of charming locally-owned restaurants and shops. If you love wildlife, Folly Beach is also home to loggerhead turtles, dolphins, bald eagles, sea birds, and several endangered species. The waterfront Tides Folly Beach hotel is a great place to book your stay. Just be sure you don't leave without first spending some time at the Surf Bar.

09 of 15

Chincoteague, Virginia

Chincoteague, Virginia
Chris M. Rogers

Perhaps known most for the herds of wild ponies that call the barrier island home, Chincoteague also offers relaxing beaches and plenty of wildlife along the windswept dunes of the Assateague National Seashore. Located on the northern part of the Eastern Shore, the quiet town will give you the winter getaway you need. Stay at Miss Molly's Inn, a Victorian-era house turned seven-room B&B that offers high tea in the afternoons. You can't go wrong with any of the many seafood restaurants in Chincoteague, but try out Don's Seafood Restaurant for a casual environment and delicious crab cakes and oysters.

10 of 15

Nags Head, North Carolina

Aerial View of Nags Head looking south during the golden hour
Kyle Little / Getty Images

With its classic Outer Banks feel, Nags Head is a great destination for any beach-lover. There's a mix of on-the-beach relaxation (which is also pet-friendly) and off-the-beach amusements, such as go-kart tracks, a handful of mini-golf courses, a number of ice cream shops, and good restaurants. While you're there, visit Jeannette's Pier, Jockey's Ridge State Park, or the Bodie Island Lighthouse. Most people prefer to book one of the many rental properties in the area.

11 of 15

Fairhope, Alabama

Fairhope, Alabama
Photo: Benjamin Callahan

One of the best times to visit Fairhope, Alabama, is during the off-season when there are even fewer people in the charming town. If you love the Gulf Coast, you won't find a more enjoyable place to spend a weekend, with historic homes, streets lined with live oaks, and a walkable downtown. Head to Panini Pete's for melt-in-your-mouth beignets and a courtyard table located right in downtown Fairhope. For the book-lovers, take a visit to Page & Palette. Here you'll find signed copies of books by local authors like Rick Bragg, Winston Groom, Howell Raines, and Fannie Flagg; and a knowledgeable staff that loves to make recommendations. We recommend staying in nearby Point Clear at the Grand Hotel Marriot Resort, a full-service resort that's dripping with Southern charm.

12 of 15

Cape Charles, Virginia

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

Robbie Caponetto

Quieter than better-known Virginia Beach on the Atlantic, this beach town showcases the beauty of Chesapeake Bay. Spend the afternoon fishing from the Cape Charles Fishing Pier, or fancy a stroll along Bay Avenue. Swing by family-owned The Bakery on Mason for warm pastries and picnic-perfect sandwiches. Rental company SouthEast Expeditions offers stand-up paddleboards, kayaks, and guided excursions. 

13 of 15

Wilmington, North Carolina

Why You Should Plan a Trip to Wilmington, North Carolina

Over the last few years, this beach community has been transforming old buildings and warehouses into cool restaurants and breweries, injecting new life into Wilmington's dining scene. You'll find plenty of coastal fare and classic Southern dishes at here—but there's also a lot more. Chef Vivian Howard's brought wood-fired pizza and Italian cuisine to the up-and-coming South Front District with Benny's Big Time Pizzeria, and a trendy new wine bar called The Second Glass is just around the corner. 

14 of 15

Anna Maria Island, Florida

Bean Point Beach in Anna Maria
Jessica Sample

This island's quiet delights attract new visitors while locals cherish its pristine scenery. With dozens of short public pathways to get to the Anna Maria beaches, the choices are all fantastic for views and fun. A breakfast, or any time of day, treat is the wild original topping combinations at The Donut Experiment. Some featured donuts include Key Lime and Sriracha made with peanut butter, peanuts, and a sriracha drizzle. 

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Jekyll Island, Georgia

Jekyll Island: Georgia Sea Turtle Center
Peter Frank Edwards

Jekyll Island is beautifully bounded by water, with the East River to the north, Jekyll Sound to the south, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Learn a little about sensitive area wildlife at the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, located near the Jekyll Island Club Resort. This facility is known for its interactive exhibits and turtle-rehabilitation programs.

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