Southerners love the beach. But if you are looking for vacation ideas that can take you far away from the crowds, here is our list of the best secret beaches where you can stretch your toes in the sand. Part of the pleasure is the journey, like the hour-and-fifteen-minute boat trip to secluded spots like West Ship Island, 11 miles southeast of Gulfport, Mississippi. Traveling over water is also the only option if you want to see the secret beaches of Keewaydin Island. If you prefer vacation ideas with a sense of adventure, plan to ride horses along Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island, or take a four-wheel-drive excursion along a 55-mile-long stretch of Padre Island National Seashore. If your idea of the perfect secret beaches in the South are simply secluded places to unwind and relax, stroll along any of these wonderful shores and get your toes wet.
Set next to the blue waters of the Grand Traverse Bay is Traverse City, known for its Cherry Festival, scenic driving territory, and quiet cycle and hiking trails with unspoiled views. You’ll want to make a stop at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore to discover its beaches (North Bar Lake Beach is particularly stunning), sand dunes, and forests. If you’re more of a lakeside cabin person than sandy beach house, Spider Lake is the perfect spot for kayaking, canoeing, or lounging on the dock.
Or there's Punta Monterrey, just 20-minutes drive up the coast. Right on a private beach, this rustic resort has cabins and bungalows with rates starting at $80 per person per night. The rate includes all home-cooked meals (produce and ingredients come straight from the garden in their jungle, as well as free use of kayaks, and another hidden beach you can have all to yourself with a short hike through the jungle (the resort straddles jungle and beach).
Free iPad rentals, white-on-white leather furnishings, cute naming conventions (B Active gym, B Nourished restaurant)—sound familiar? If it weren’t for the rates, you could mistake this hotel for a pricer single-letter chain (cough, W, cough). But we love how the 240-room B Ocean does affordable without nickel-and-diming guests. Wi-Fi is free, ocean views are standard, and spa services are a bargain.
If the fictional Anne of Green Gables were to visit her hometown of Cavendish on Prince Edward Island today, she might turn her freckled nose up at the mini amusement parks, go-kart tracks, and other typical roadside attractions that have sprouted up since the area became a tourist magnet for Anne fans. She’d probably feel more at home on the underdeveloped eastern side of the island, Points East Coastal Drive, an area of rolling farmland, pine forests, tiny towns with white gabled country houses, and quiet red- and white-sand beaches.
The tiny surf town of Cayucos is refreshingly underdeveloped, with vintage shops, a 1,000-foot pier, and longtime institutions like the restored 1867 Cass House. Each room has standout features, whether cast-iron soaking tubs, canopy beds, fireplaces, or a private terrace. The farm-to-table restaurant serves four-course dinners infused with herbs, vegetables, and fruit from the garden.
Although it’s situated in a gated luxury community of golf courses and vacation homes, there’s an untouched beauty to the surrounding nature trails and mangrove forests. That means guests at Magdalena Grand Beach Resort enjoy the thrills of back-to-nature adventure combined with the perks of a large resort development. All 178 rooms have marble baths, high-def flat screens, and ocean-view balconies.
This is one for people who really want to switch off. In fact, there isn’t even a paved road to Carova. You won’t find any hotels here, just quiet, comfortable vacation rentals where you’ve got the whole home to yourself, and probably most of the beaches too. Spend long lazy days on the sands feeling more like yourself every minute, interrupted only by wild horses enjoying the surroundings just as much as you are.