Kiawah Island, South Carolina (306 miles southeast of Atlanta) is home to the 2021 PGA Championship and is known for its golf game. But it’s also an ideal romantic beach destination for couples who want to pamper themselves and relax in luxurious, uncrowded comfort by the sea. The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort (from $ 545, Sanctuary Beach Drive, 800-654-2924, kiawahresort.com) offers the Kiawah Spa Romance Package, a couple-oriented coastal getaway that includes other romantic perks, including a turndown service for rose petals, a couples massage at the spa, dinner at The Ocean Room, and breakfast each morning. For couples who love to play golf together, this is it His and her package Contains many of the same features as well as game rounds. Come round The market in the city center (5480 Sea Forest Drive, 843-768-2775) to pick up supplies for a picnic on the beach.
A historic lighthouse rises above the trees of the marine forest in Hunting Island State Park, offering panoramic views of this pristine coastline. Courtesy of DiscoverSouthCarolina.com
Wild at heart
Natural beauty is abundant on Hunting Island, South Carolina (282 miles southeast of Atlanta). Hunting Island State Park (Entry $ 8, 2555 Sea Island Parkway, 843-838-2011, southcarolinaparks.com/hunting-island) has nearly five miles of pristine beach, ocean forest, saltwater lagoon, 3,000 acres of salt marshes, and 10 miles of hiking trails. Climb the steps of the historic lighthouse for panoramic views of the coast from above. Stay in a tent or RV at the campsite (from $ 30) on the north end of the island. Closest restaurant is Johnson Creek Tavern (from $ 9, 2141 Sea Island Parkway, Harbor Island, South Carolina, 843-838-4166). www.johnsoncreektavern.com), a classic beach bar that serves burgers and seafood. It is a tradition to write a note on a dollar bill and stick it on the wall with thousands of other banknotes. Hunting Island is also the ferry embarkation point to nearby St. Phillips Island, the former private retreat of Ted Turner now under the control of the state park.
The Alys Beach Digital Graffiti Festival features artwork that is projected onto the sides of buildings after dark. This year it will be a drive through event. Courtesy Visit South Walton
Booze and drink
Stylish Alys Beach, Florida (300 miles south of Atlanta) is a luxurious, Mediterranean-inspired master-planned community along Panhandle’s Scenic Highway 30A. Everything about Alys (pronounced Alice) is finely curated, from the exquisite poolside cabana dining experience at Caliza Restaurant (from $ 32, 3 Nonesuch Way, 850-213-5700) alysbeach.com/caliza-restaurant) to designer brands and high-end beachwear at Alys Shoppe (30 Mark Twain Lane, 850-213-5550, www.alysshoppe.com). There are no hotels in the village, but The Pearl ($ 638 and up, 63 Main St., 850-588-2881, www.thepearlrb.com) is a chic boutique hotel on the beach a mile away. The white brickwork of the village of Alys becomes a canvas for artists from all over the world every spring Digital graffiti festival (May 12-15). This unique “Art Meets Architecture After Dark” event uses the latest digital technology to project moving, changing works of art onto the sides of buildings across the city. It’s a breathtaking spectacle of works of art and light that will be a drive-through festival experience this year due to the pandemic. (Alys Beach Guest Services, 9581 FL 30A E, 850-213-5555, alysbeach.com)
The beaches on St. Simons Island are this rare breed that allows you to keep your dog on a leash at certain times. Courtesy Explore Georgia
Most beaches that allow dogs have strict leash policies, but St. Simons Island (311 miles southeast of Atlanta) has a rare off-leash policy, with one restriction in the summer. Here your dog can enjoy the beach and surf without being on a leash, as long as your fur baby is under your immediate control. But between Memorial Day and Labor Day, dogs are only allowed on the beach from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 a.m. Beach Resort The King and Prince (from $ 197, 201 Arnold Road, 912-638-3631, www.kingandprince.com) offers dog-friendly accommodations. Many restaurants have dog-friendly outdoor dining areas, including Southern Soul Barbeque (from $ 11, 2020 Demere Road, 912-638-7685). www.southernsoulbbq.com). Massengale Park (1350 Ocean Blvd., 912-554-7780) is an oceanfront picnic spot shaded by live oak trees with beach access. (Golden Isles Welcome Center, 529 Beachview Drive, 912-638-9014, www.goldenisles.com)
The Interstate Mullet Toss is a huge annual spring party / competition on the beach at the Flora-Bama Lounge to see who can throw a fish farthest across the state line. Courtesy Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism
Perdido Key (365 miles southwest of Atlanta), which stretches across the Florida-Alabama state line, is notorious for the Flora-Bama Lounge, Package & Oyster Bar (from $ 5, 17401 Perdido Key Drive, Pensacola, Florida, 251- 980-5118), www.florabama.com), one of the world’s top bars sung by Jimmy Buffet and Kenny Chesney. A contemporary patchwork quilt of sprawling bars and stages in the sand overlooking the ocean. Millionaires and bikers hang out here and bras hang on the rafters. The signature drink is the Bushwhacker, a frozen and creamy, chocolaty-juicy preparation, and a popular annual event is the Interstate Mullet Toss (April 23-25), a competition to see who can throw a mullet – the common local fish, not the bad hairstyle – that goes the furthest beyond the state line. Book an apartment next door on Phoenix X ($ 225 and up, 29576 Perdido Beach Blvd., Orange Beach, 800-211-7892, www.brett-robinson.com/beach-condo/phoenix-x) so you can walk in and out of the action without getting into a car.
Some of the best surfing spots in the southeast are in Sebastian Inlet State Park. Courtesy Visit Indian River County for VISIT FLORIDA
Some of the best surfing in the southeast can be found in Melbourne Beach, Florida (526 miles south of Atlanta) at Sebastian Inlet State Park ($ 8 entry fee, 9700 S. FL A1A, 321-984-4852). www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/sebastian-inlet-state-park) along Florida’s Treasure Coast. Due to a rise in the ocean floor just offshore from the state park’s three-mile stretch of beach, surfers from all over the country come here to catch the waves. A popular spot is the bay’s north walkway, a ride called “First Peak,” known for its constant breaks and long descents. South of the inlet is another hot surf spot further offshore called “Monster Hole” that offers similar breaks. The closest hotel to the park is the Seashell Suites Resort (from $ 245, 8795 S FL A1A, 321-409-0500, www.seashellsuites.com) on the beach one mile north of the park entrance. The jetties in front of the bay are just as good saltwater fishing spots as the catwalks under the A1A bridge. Other activities include swimming and snorkeling in a dedicated swimming bay, kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding on the Indian River Lagoon across from the beach. Rentals and equipment are available in the park at Surfside Grill and Adventures ($ 20 and more per hour, 321-724-5424, surfsidegrillandadventures.com), which also has a casual eatery, the only eatery in the state park.
The Kindred Spirit Mailbox is a secluded haven for writing and reading notes others have left in the dunes of remote North Carolina’s Bird Island Coastal Reserve. “Courtesy of the Brunswick Islands, North Carolina
rest and peace
Sunset Beach, North Carolina (386 miles east of Atlanta) is like Mayberry by the ocean with a coast blissfully free from commercialization and overdevelopment – no resorts, no chains, no high-rises, no amusement parks – just beach houses, a fishing pier, and resorts like the Sunset Inn ($ 159 and up, 9 North Shore Drive E., 888-575-1001, www.thesunsetinn.net). The guest house with 14 rooms offers a view of a salt marsh, a five-minute walk from the beach. The city is bordered by the 1,481-acre Bird Island Coastal Reserve (8468 Bay St., 877-623-6748, deq.nc.gov) with 1.5 miles of undeveloped beach so seclusion is easy to find. Walk a mile south of the pier to leave a note for fellow hikers in one of the notebooks Kindred Spirit Mailbox, a remote mailbox in the dunes with notes from those who made their way to this secluded spot on the reserve. (Brunswick County Tourism Development Agency, 800-795-7263, www.ncbrunswick.com)