If you are a native of the South you have probably visited the Emerald Coast, if not, perhaps you have heard some amazing reviews. I personally grew up vacationing with my family at the Gulf each summer, and while the East Coast beaches have much to offer, they are quite different than what I expected when I first visited.
I am what my husband would call a “Beach Snob”. I suppose it’s true. I like my sand to be white, the water clear, calm and quite frankly, warm. I am not one to enjoy the rush of adrenaline that accompanies a dip in frigid water. Most men could not care less but at least some of us girls prefer the water temp above the 78 degree mark. The warmer the better for me.
We have some awesome beaches a mere 3 to 4 hours away. I must agree that the MUCH shorter car ride is a huge bene. Many of our South Carolina beaches have quite a bit of character. Hilton Head offers lots of family opportunities for fun. You not only have the beach, but wildlife, kayaking, biking, golf and a nice quiet place to spend some quality family time. Myrtle Beach has a different flair but still lots of energy. The beach itself is similar and if you are a seafood buffet fan then welcome to heaven. Holden Beach and Kiawah are also popular with locals, just to name a couple of the long list of options. Most people have a preference for their choice of beach but there is generally something for everyone.
So, what’s the big deal? Why drive 8 to 9 hours for just another beach? The answer is simply, these beaches are like no other. My poor children have been subjected to a long drive to the Gulf now every summer since their birth. Thank goodness for DVD players. We just let the kids take turn picking movies. My favorite beaches run from Gulf Shores, Alabama to Destin, Florida. Here are a few of the highlights:
Gulf Shores/Orange Beach – This Alabama beach is a well kept secret by those in the know. Many believe that the best beaches are in Florida but this area is spectacular. There are 32 miles of sugary white sand beaches set amid the dunes and wild sea oats. It is not overpopulated as some of the beaches are still owned by the state and will not be developed. Even the public beaches are incredibly clean with nice facilities in the event that you are staying near the beach but not beach front. Lots of family activities and they have been voted by USA as one of the cleanest beaches in the country. The annual shrimp festival is held every year in October. So much fun and this spot is a personal favorite of mine.
Scenic Highway 30A towards Destin, Florida boasts many fabulous resort communities.
Rosemary Beach is one of the most upscale beach communities around. It is peppered with beautiful architecture, gaslit street lamps and a small town boutique feel. It is six miles from the infamous Seaside and of course, the beautiful gulf beaches.
Seaside is the perfect setting for a peaceful, family vacation. The preferred method of transportation is riding your bike even for local shopping and dining. In addition to the incredible beaches, it has a small town square feel with an outdoor amphitheater. A must see experience.
Watercolor is 200 acres of one of the few coastal dune lakes in the world. It is rich with fully appointed luxury homes and condos and you shouldn’t be surprised to encounter many celebs vacationing with their families. The list of activities includes the beach, biking, kayaking, fine dining, shopping and paddle boarding. It is the perfect spot to spend a week or even two.
Then there is Destin. Lastly some of the best beaches and fishing in the world. Pictures do not do it justice. All of these beaches share the same water and sand, they each offer slight differences in personality. Like our South Carolina beaches, you couldn’t go wrong. Choosing only one beach for your vacation should be your only challenge.
There are numerous other options on both coasts and even a few I wish I had room to mention. If you have never considered the Gulf, give it some thought. If you family is smaller than mine, you could even fly. Six tickets for us doesn’t make sense but if we could fly we might even sneak in a few more visits per year.
Ok Smarty travelers. Let’s hear from you seasoned beach combers. What’s your favorite beach with the family?
Please feel free to contact me for any of your travel needs or questions!
Love Destin/Sandestin/30A area! Have visited the area for 25+ years. White powder sand and clear water! It surprises me that many people aren’t aware of this gem.
So true Taylor. My husband is a transplant from Pennsylvania and had never been past the beaches on the east coast. He could now work for the chamber of commerce. I have been equally surprised by the number of people I have met with no exposure to these lovely beaches.
I love Destine, the sand is powder soft and the water is beautiful. I have not traveled there since the oil spill but I am so happy that they are still as beautiful. Need to get back there soon.
We are from South Florida and never paid much attention to the panhandle area of Florida. Wow, what a mistake! We went to Watercolor two summers ago and it was seriously the best family destination we’ve ever been to with our kids. The homes are custom built, so they don’t feel like rentals at all. They were really thinking when they designed this community – the bike paths are amazing. The beach is as pretty as the Caribbean. There is yolo-boarding (paddleboarding), fishing, canoeing, and so much more. We will definitely be back!
Thanks for highlighting this hidden gem. We will definitely be planning a trip there next summer!