With no cars allowed on the island (minus a few beach trucks with benches in the back), a vacation on Little St. Simons Island, a private island resort off the Georgia coast, is an escape that Mark Twain himself might have invented. Life here revolves around biking and beachcombing, hiking and fishing, boating and kayaking—guided by a khaki-clad team of naturalists. At day's end, the resort's 32 (maximum) guests gather at dinner served family-style in a rustic, circa-1917 lodge to compare adventures and indulge in the garden's fresh vegetables and fruit, then head off to sleep in blissfully tech-free cottages among the palms. Nightly rates include lodging; boat transfers to and from the island; three full meals daily; beverages including soft drinks, beer, and wine; and all island activities including use of recreation gear (and easy access to plenty of bug spray), naturalist-led expeditions and talks, plus a fantastic curation of books, historic photographs, and beachcombed collections in the cozy lodge.
A private, pristine shore located a few miles outside Saint Augustine, Crescent Beach is known for its soft, sugar-fine sand and tranquil atmosphere. Walk the beach early in the morning to spot natural treasures like whole seashells, sand dollars and starfish. Drive into Saint Augustine for a day of mini-golf and shopping before retreating to this quiet haven for another day of savoring the sun.
Maine’s Sebasco Harbor Resort is an old-school New England family vacation destination, but it’s not all croquet lawns and canoeing on the pond (though the resort does offer both of these, of course). A spa, morning yoga, and cooking classes are also in the mix, and guests of all ages can enjoy a guided fishing tour or hiking up gentle Merritt Mountain. Grown-ups can tee off on a resort golf course laid out along the shores of Casco Bay—the course finishes with a 510-yard, par 5 monster—but there’s also a three-hole family course where grandma and grandpa can teach the youngsters how to play. On a rainy day, there’s no better place for the whole family to gather than at the resort’s classic Quarterdeck recreation center for some candlepin bowling (shown here). Book it here: Sebasco Harbor Resort.
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The island’s Parque Nacional Marino Isla Bastimentos, which encompasses rainforest, beaches, and coral reefs, is an essential stop for all visitors. Most people come to snorkel the coral gardens and Cayos Zapatillas, two little shoe-shaped islets off the main island. On land, guides can take you on hikes through the forest to see animals like white-faced capuchin monkeys and poison dart frogs. For the best beaches, go to the northern part of the island. Big waves and strong currents make the beaches unfriendly to swimmers, but the sight of the waves and the lack of bathers make for postcard-worthy strolls.
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Uninterrupted ocean views, stunning scenery, minimal crowds, and good old peace and quiet. If that sounds like your idea of vacation heaven, then keep reading. We’ve found 17 places across America that offer all this and more. And not just cities or towns, but specific beaches that are known for total relaxation—and minimal crowds. Some of our picks have a low-key village feel, others are so remote you’ll probably be able to add human-spotting to your list of activities.