- SUZANNE ROWAN KELLEHER
12 Fabulous Family Beach Vacations in the Southeast
There's nothing like a relaxing day at beach with the family in the summer. Heading to the sunny Southeast for a family vacation? Check out these top picks for the best family beach vacations from Virginia to Florida and up the Gulf Coast. Some are laid-back, with little else to do than enjoy the sound of the water, and other are filled with enough activities to entertain the whole family.
Sanibel & Captiva Islands, Florida
The famous shell-strewn beaches on the islands of Sanibel and Captiva are among the most beautiful in all of Florida. There are no amusement parks, no traffic lights, no billboard-lined highways, no glaring neon, and no tracts of high-rise condos. Instead, you'll find a laid-back vibe, terrific restaurants, chic shops, and 15 miles of drop-dead-gorgeous beaches. Beach conditions can be monitored online via a variety of resources as you plan your trip.
Outer Banks, North Carolina
Steeped in history and natural beauty, the 200-mile string of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina known as the Outer Banks—and commonly known the OBX—is a popular family destination renowned for its temperate climate and wide expanse of open beachfront.
There are planned activities for children, the opportunity to climb up in a traditional lighthouse and plenty of fishing.
Daytona Beach, Florida
"The world's most famous beach" offers 23 miles of beach and is known for its sandcastle-building, surfing, and sunrises. Planning a getaway to family-friendly Daytona Beach is a snap when you know where to play and eat with the kids.
There's plenty to do in addition to hanging out at the beach. Visit the Daytona International Speedway and take a tour or even drive the course. There are amusement park rides on the boardwalk and free summer concerts in the bandshell.
Hilton Head, South Carolina
Just 20 miles north of Savannah, Hilton Head Island is a popular resort destination in South Carolina and a more upscale alternative to Myrtle Beach. Drawn by miles of Atlantic beachfront, a host of world-class golf and tennis facilities, and a wide choice of hotel and vacation rental options, families have long found the island to be an alluring vacation destination.
With sand like powdered sugar and the brilliant turquoise Gulf of Mexico, Destin is a gem on the Emerald Coast. Put these kid-friendly attractions on the top of your to-do list. You can enjoy the beautiful beach or splash around at the Big Kahuna water park. Take a sandcastle building class to hone your skills. Get wild and feed a gator or take a dolphin cruise.
Tybee Island, Georgia
Just 18 miles from Savannah, Tybee Island is a popular family getaway destination. Rich in both history and natural beauty, the barrier island is famous for its seafood and spectacular uninterrupted three-mile beach. Families can explore salt marshes that teem with birds and wildlife unique to Georgia’s coast.
Visit the historic Tybee Island Light Station and tour Fort Pulaski, a key battlement in the Civil War. After a busy day, enjoy old fashioned ice cream.
Fort Myers Beach, Florida
Looking for a super laid-back Florida beach with white-sugar sands and a vibe that's as kid-friendly as can be? In southwest Florida, you'll find down-to-earth Fort Myers Beach on a skinny barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico. Learn about seashells at the museum before you go shelling on the beach. Learn about dolphins, manatees, and sharks at the Ostego Bay Marine Science Center.
Carolina & Kure Beaches, North Carolina
On the southern coast of North Carolina, Carolina Beach and nearby Kure Beach are less commercially developed than many other beach towns in the Southeast and offer a relaxed, family-friendly vibe. Both towns deliver a classic beach town experience, with lovely stretches of sand, fishing piers, and boardwalks.
St. George Island, Florida
Tucked into the crook of Florida's Panhandle, the 28-mile St. George Island is renowned for its unspoiled beaches. Located just off the coast, the barrier island is part of the long stretch of beaches known as Gulf Islands National Seashore. Enjoy an old fashioned beach vacation at a place where you can rent a bike, go for an ice cream, and watch birds and sea turtles in a natural setting.
Gulf Shores & Orange Beach, Alabama
With 32 miles of spectacular, sugar-white beaches and a raft load of outdoor activities and family attractions, the neighboring towns of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are premier family beach vacation destinations.
There are beach homes to rent, high rise condos and hotels and a great selection of seafood restaurants to enjoy.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Looking for a quintessential affordable family getaway in the Southeast? Myrtle Beach is a value-oriented family-friendly beach destination with a slew of kid-friendly hotels, including a handful with indoor waterpark features such as pools, lazy rivers, and waterslides to lure families all year long.
Siesta Key, Florida
A stone's throw from Sarasota on Florida's Gulf Coast, Siesta Key is a laid-back gem that boasts TripAdvisor's number 1 beach in America, among many other family-friendly attractions. Siesta Beach is indeed wonderful, but so are the island's other sugary beaches, so we encourage exploration.
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