If you have a little imagination, you might be surprised the incredible places you can visit to ring in the New Year. Times Square in New York, First Night in Boston, and other tried and true options are fine for someone who prefers staying on the beaten path, but isn’t that what the holiday is all about? A celebration of turning a page, trying new things, setting challenging goals, and pushing your boundaries. We’ve compiled a list of our hidden gems that know how to party, and know how to treat visitors coming to celebrate a new year, and a new beginning.
Don’t be fooled by this typical family vacation spot – things turn up as the calendar turns over. There are numerous options for nightlife, from family entertainment to rocking roadhouses, enjoy your pick of plays, free concerts, dancing or just listening to any number of musical stylings at a local hot spot. Plus with an average temp of 55 degrees Fahrenheit in December, you won’t be braving a cold evening out. Hear live music throughout the night and participate in games and activities for the whole family at The Wharf. The signature “Marlin Drop” will be held with the countdown to midnight. Fireworks will top off the night. Take a four-hour riverboat cruise with dinner, live music, dancing and an open bar till midnight on the Gala New Year’s Eve Cruise. Tickets start at $100 per person.
On the eastern coast of Texas, Rockport is a relaxing town with plenty of visitor attractions. The Fulton Mansion, overlooking Aransas Bay, showcases Second Empire architecture and is included on the National Register of Historic Places. Also visit the Texas Maritime Museum, the Rockport Center for the Arts and Rockport Beach Park, a great place for swimming or fishing. On New Year’s Eve, embrace your country side at Oceanwave’s Country Square Dancing Night, with tickets at the door costing only $10. At GLOW (a top notch seafood eatery) you can have a celebration dinner starting at 930pm and drinking through to the ball drop. On New Year’s Day, in nearby Corpus Christi, you can take the Polar Bear Plunge by dunking into frigid Gulf waters. For the kiddos, visit the Port Aransas Wildlife Refuge from 11am-Noon on Dec 31 to celebrate the refuge’s birthday and whooping cranes at the Early Bird New Years Party. They will have a “State of the Whooping Cranes” address, “Whoop It Up” with a countdown to noon, and eat birthday cake. Go and get your picture taken with the Whooping Crane mascot. The Rialto Theater also hosts its annual Black Tie & Blue Jeans Fundraiser on NYE, complete with psychedelic, glow-in-the-dark cumbia party with Chicha Dust & DJ Dirty Verbs, party favors & champagne toast.
Historic, gorgeous Brunswick rises along the southern coastline of Georgia. With a bustling waterfront, Victorian-era homes, golden marshes, magnolia-lined streets and plenty of dining and shopping options – Brunswick on its own is a fantastic choice for a vacation. On New Year’s Day, revel in First Friday by visiting the shops, galleries, and restaurants of Historic Downtown Brunswick. Enjoy live music from local musicians, art openings, and food and beverage samples from 5:00pm – 8:00pm. Go ice skating under the lights in nearby Jekyll Island. Make it a longer tip when you take part in th 3 day Bluegrass Festival and hear some of the biggest names in bluegrass perform live at the Jekyll Island Convention Center.
The town of Red River first drew people in during the gold strikes of the mid-19th century, but the beautiful scenery and outdoor attractions have kept people coming back ever since. The charming small town atmosphere, delicious southwestern cuisine, and array of activities throughout town make this a great vacation destination. New Year’s Eve Celebrations for all ages begin with the annual New Year’s Eve Torchlight Parade and Fireworks Display at Red River Ski Area. At the Red River Community House enjoy an Old Fashioned New Year’s Eve Party to eat pizza, listen to music and play games. A countdown ball drops at midnight Eastern time (10 p.m. in New Mexico) allowing even the young children to ring in the new year before heading to bed. The annual New Year’s Eve Potluck at Enchanted Forest Cross Country Ski Area celebrates the night with lighted skiing and sledding at the base area.
With mountain and forest views right out your bedroom window, plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy, and friendly locals, Bryson City has it all! If you are looking for great shopping and fine dining, head to Everett Street or Main Street. The historical and cultural attractions are spread out across town, so be sure to explore the entire area. Enjoy the month-long series of performances and speakers celebrating the Spirit of Christmas in December. At the Cherokee Lights & Legends Christmas in nearby Cherokee stroll under the lights, enjoy interactive displays, the 40-ft Christmas tree, a carnival ride or the synthetic ice rink. Get your exercise in at the annual 5K Run/Walk in Bryson City on New Year’s Eve to raise money for youth softball/baseball. A short drive away in Fontana you can enjoy NYE at the Fontana Village Resort with a dinner buffet in the Mountview Restaurant, a party with live music featuring the Aaron Tracy Band, and a champagne toast to ring in the New Year at midnight.
Known for its natural beauty, art, and diverse culture, Monterey is an atmosphere for writers, artists, musicians, and vacationers alike. On New Year’s Eve, “First Night Monterey” celebrates the lively arts scene in Monterey County with its family-friendly celebration of the arts on New Years Eve. Over 30-venues hold concurrent performances and activities for both children and adults, culminating in a convergence on Custom House Plaza to ring in the New Year. The Twilight Procession will make its way down Alvarado Street and will include everything from stilt walkers, giant puppets, dancers to marching moms. The special “Seashore Sleepover” New Year’s Eve event at the Monterey Bay Aquarium will feature a sparkling cider toast at 9 p.m. to celebrate the countdown to the New Year on East Coast time. There will be fun family activities and programs for a night of celebration, including a sundae bar! Wake up with the fishes on New Year’s Day, enjoy a continental breakfast, and then join our naturalists in watching wildlife from the Great Tide Pool deck. For adults, dance the night away with a local favorite, the Joe Sharino Band. For another earlier family-friendly party, attend the “MY Museum Noon Year’s Eve Party”. This party will include crafts like making silly hats, noisemakers, face-painting, tasty goodies, a visit by the Noon Year’s Eve Fairy and, finally, the lowering of the MY Museum Noon Year’s Eve ball at noon.
Naples is home to great cosmopolitan shopping and dining opportunities, many that are located at The Waterside Shops. This shopping and dining haven has over 45 unique shops and a number of chic and delicious dining establishments. With beautiful architectural structures situated throughout the complex, The Waterside Shops are a must for shopping and dining enthusiasts alike. Looking for great golf? Head over to LaPlaya Golf Course, a brand new 18-hole course with a beautiful driving range. On NYE, options abound for a very fun night. Take a cruise on the Naples Princess for the gala celebration or climb aboard the Pure Naples Cruise. On the boats, you’ll have the best view of the fireworks from Naples Pier which also has plenty of activities on Third Street South (complete with a “snow” storm). The other best vantage point for the fireworks is on the beach, either north or south of the pier. The Naples Philharmonic’s “A Viennese New Year’s Eve” is a classy event featuring symphony performances, a bottomless flute of champagne, and a buffet.
Santa Fe unites three cultural and societal influences (Southwestern, Native American, and Spanish) into its arts, architecture, cuisine, entertainment, and atmosphere. The Plaza Santa Fe is a big draw for visitors, and Santa Fe spas are renowned for their serene environments and top-notch treatments. For culture lovers, Santa Fe museums definitely make the grade. There are number of renowned art museums located here, including the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, and plenty of historical sites, such as the Palace of Governors. Performance Santa Fe invites you to ring in a spectacular 2016 with their Fire and Ice New Year’s Eve Extravaganza – the party includes a toast, fortune tellers, magicians, violinists, and a five star dinner. The City Different rings in the new year with a family-friendly bash Downtown on the Plaza, with bonfires, cocoa, and live music, leading up to a countdown and New Year’s surprise at midnight. For those looking to take an icy swim, Storrie Lake near Las Vegas, N.M., hosts an annual polar plunge on New Year’s Day from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Ski Santa Fe will be open New Year’s Day to work off your hangover.
With an average yearly temperature of 81 degrees Fahrenheit, there’s never a bad time to visit the city of Mexico Beach, FL. The amazing beaches, abundance of recreational areas and outdoor activities, and great historical and cultural landmarks mean that there’s something for everyone in this charming getaway spot. Almost all of the main attractions and shopping options in the area will be found along Highway 98, while North 15th Street is home to some of the best restaurants in town. If you’re coming to Mexico Beach on NYE, you’re coming to celebrate twice. How is that possible? There’s a party in nearby St. Joe (Eastern Time), and once the ball drops everyone jumps on a shuttle to head back to Mexico Beach (Central Time) to celebrate all over again! The shuttle stops at bars and restaurants along the way, so it is a pub crawl party in essence. So if you’re looking for a night with two parties for the price of one, Mexico Beach is your spot.
In the “Land of the Waterfalls” (over 250!), Transylvania county in North Carolina, you’ll find charming Brevard. The downtown features over 50 shops including antique stores, art galleries, and a popular toy store. Brevard is located along Highway 64 and surrounded by the Pisgah National Forest. Culture abounds, the city is home to the world-renowned Brevard Music Center. Brevard is the adopted home of the White Squirrel and if you “sponsor” one of these critters you can get discounts at many area stores. They know how to throw a party, too. Brevard plays host to six fantastic festivals and three cycling events annually. On New Year’s, the big event takes place at Oskar Blues Brewery. The New Year’s Eve Hootenanny at the brewery is unlike anything else in Brevard as they transform the facility into a music venue. They serve awesome food, play killer tunes, and their famous craft beer is on tap. Tickets are $45 at the door and there will be local North Carolina bands playing all night long.
Known for its clean beaches and peaceful aura, Seaside Beach, FL is the ultimate relaxing getaway. If shopping is your vacation activity of choice, Seaside is home to great surf and clothing boutiques, located along Central Square and in the city’s downtown plaza. You will also find a number of great restaurants, from juice bars, to beachside grills and fine dining cuisine. Seaside is known for its distinct architectural beauty and set up. “New Urbanism,” a phrase that was coined when developer Richard Davis designed Seaside, boasts cozy narrow streets, unique fences, and tightly situated homes to encourage a walking and biking community. On NYE, the Yummy Wine Bar & Bistro is serving two dinner sittings, and the city typically hosts an art walk on New Year’s Day. Go on a whale watch for the last day of the season as the grey whales make their migration to Baja Mexico. Party the night away at the Gearhart Hotel, or head to nearby Cannon Beach and enjoy five course meals at both the Warren House Pub and the upscale Stephanie Inn.
The historic landmarks, scenic beauty and heavy German influence of Fredericksburg have made it stand out as a premier vacation destination in Texas. Throw in some of the biggest events in the state and several award-winning spas, and it’s easy to see why people keep returning here year after year. Most of the town is centered along Main Street and easily explored by foot. The Texas Hill Country Lighting Trail is a must-see as many towns band together to create incredible displays of illumination. In nearby Luckenbach, country artist Thomas Riley is hosting a concert and party, and there’s a shuttle service to take you there from Fredericksburg. Travel back in time at the USO-style Hangar Dance at the Hangar Hotel with big band, swing dance lessons, a photo booth and more. At Turner Hall you can dance in the new year to country western tunes and best part: it is BYOB. Join up with the Midnight Volkssport Walk 10K to stroll through Fredericksburg’s top sites and best light displays.
Discover an essential chapter of America’s history in the cobblestone streets, river walks and monuments of Richmond. Originally a colonial settlement, Virginia’s capital is now a thriving hub for culture, shopping and outdoor fun. Explore Civil War history at the Museum of the Confederacy, stroll along the canal downtown or test your nerve whitewater rafting on the James River. With lively neighborhoods and a vibrant restaurant scene, Richmond is perfect for a quick break or an extended getaway. Dozens of the areas fine dining establishments are hosting prix fix dinner menus, for example you could do 12 hours worth of partying and activities at Richmond Hotel & Spa. On the VCU campus there is a massive party in the Siegel Center which seats almost 6000 people. The Speakeasy at the Hippodrome is hosting a Harlem Renaissance event, get moving Latin style at Havana 59 where they’re playing the hottest beats all night.
This summer getaway on the Jersey Shore hosts over a million tourists each year and features a world-famous boardwalk, eight miles of pristine beaches, endless entertainment for all ages, and stellar vacation rentals. The Boardwalk is where you’ll also find the Music Pier, where concerts are performed throughout the year and is home to the Ocean City Pops. You’ll want to make a special trip to Ocean City on New Year’s Eve for the massive First Night extravaganza. There is music, games, food, and fun all along the Boardwalk on NYE. There’s a pianist, a ‘Grease’ style band, a Neil Diamond impersonator, a magician, a puppet show, stand up comedy, amusement rides, ice skating and so much more. The midnight celebration takes place at a handful of venues, and then you can step outside and watch the fireworks (weather permitting). A $20 button for admission is all you’ll need. There is also a 5K run on New Year’s Day to close out the festivities.
Known as “Butterfly Town, USA” Pacific Grove, CA is a destination for tens of thousands of monarch butterflies and beach seeking vacationers each year. With a casual, small town feeling and beautiful Victorian architecture, Pacific Grove is both charming and vibrant. Explore downtown Pacific Grove and enjoy its fine dining, boutique shopping, and blue Pacific backdrop.Those interested in Pacific Grove history will love the museums and charming preserved structures here. Fandango’s in Pacific Grove remains open for New Year’s Eve with lunch and dinner served until 10pm. Pacific Grove is remarkably close Monterey Bay, so please read the Monterey entry above for more NYE ideas in Pacific Grove.
Located on the west slopes of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Taos has become a popular destination in recent years for travelers wanting to visit the Southwest. With a rich art history, Native American influences and surprisingly good skiing, this town offers something for everyone. In addition, Taos Pueblo, an ancient Native American community, was recently named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Paseo Del Pueblo, full of galleries, great shops, and excellent restaurants, is the main road in the area and stretches all the way across the town. All of the local ski areas participate in the New Year’s Eve Torchlight Parade & Fireworks – an incredible sight to see. Watch the trails of light as skiers with torches in hand glide down the famous Taos Ski Valley mountain under the starry skies. Firework displays light the winter sky in celebration of the new year. Many local bars, restaurants and shops are hosting NYE dinners and parties as well: The Historic Taos Inn, The Alley Cantina, and KTAOS Solar Center, among others. On New Year’s Day, the Taos Pueblo holds its traditional Turtle Dance.
Winter ski vacations at popular destinations can provide more of a headache than relaxation with price gouging, commercialized resorts, and over-crowding. By staying in a FlipKey vacation rental, you’ll save money, gain privacy, and have much more space to lay out your snow pants to dry after a hard day on the slopes. Some rentals even come with special amenities like a jacuzzi (for sore muscles) and a fireplace (to stay warm the natural way). We looked at pricing for two bedrooms for a week’s stay (during winter 2015/2016) at 15 of the top ski destinations on the east coast, and ranked them by affordability. Here are the results, along with a bit about why each town & mountain is a must-visit according to their website:
About Windham, NY: This town has two apt nicknames “Gem of the Catskills” and “Land in the Sky”. Beautiful Windham serves as a city-slicker’s haven in all seasons as many New Yorkers leave their boroughs to enjoy country living here. Under 2000 residents call Windham home year-round though. Treat yourself at many of the town’s spas, play a round of golf at the Windham House, or ride 4-wheelers at the Adventure Park. Ride bikes on the Windham Path, visit the 200+ year old Hull Farm, or see the surrounding tri-state area from Point Look Out.
About Windham Mountain: “Windham Mountain Resort is the Northeast’s year-round outdoor lifestyle destination! We are known for our convenient location, family-friendly atmosphere, and impeccable customer service. Closer than Vermont and with more vertical than the Berkshires, Windham Mountain Resort offers big mountain skiing & riding so close to home. We are an easy drive from metro New York, New Jersey, Westchester, Long Island, and the Hudson Valley.”
About Carrabassett Valley: In Franklin County, Maine you’ll find the small town of Carrabassett Valley with a population of under 1000. That number swells of course as visitors swarm in to experience Sugarloaf Mountain in the winter. Fly fishing, hiking, and over 30 miles of back country trails are available for your outdoor adventures. The Ski Museum of Maine is in nearby Kingfield. Poplar Stream Falls has a swimming hole and over 50 foot drops to witness, while the town has an official park & pool that can be used in the summertime. Narrow Gauge Pathway is a 6 mile long ascending trail with plenty of picnic spots for use.
About Sugarloaf: “Sugarloaf Mountain Resort in Maine, USA is one of the top year-round destinations in New England. Sugarloaf is the largest ski area east of the Rockies. Our trails and glades spread across Sugarloaf Mountain, Brackett Basin and Burnt Mountain. Additionally, the resort offers many winter activities including skiing, snowboarding, tubing, nordic skiing, snowshoeing, concerts, slopeside lodging and terrain parks.”
About Ludlow: Ludlow, VT was named after its cousin of the same name in Ludlow, MA, less than 100 miles away. Located at the base of Okemo Mountain in Okemo Valley, Ludlow is a four-season getaway that seduces skiers with galleries, shopping, fine dining and more when they’re done on the slopes. This 150+ year-old village began life as a classic mill town powered by the rushing Black River. Sample treats at the Green Mountain Sugar House, take in the breathtaking Buttermilk Falls, and have fun by the lake at the Camp Plymouth State Park.
About Okemo Mountain: “With 96% snowmaking coverage and consistent top rankings for snow quality amongst the Vermont ski areas – it’s hard to argue Okemo doesn’t have the best snow in the East. The best part about our mountain is that we listen. Aside from providing our guests the best possible Vermont ski conditions, we’re here to serve you – and that is our top priority. Thirty years ago Tim and Diane Mueller designed Okemo Mountain with their two young children in tow – and it shows! Fast forward to today, and they still maintain one of the best Vermont skiing resorts with that same personal touch.”
Where To Ski: Saddleback Mountain. Update: Saddleback was purchased by a new owner and shut down temporarily. FlipKey has no connection to Saddleback or their re-opening plans. Please refer to their website for updates.
About Rangeley: This fisherman’s paradise is 99% forest & water. Enjoy the gorgeous views at Height of Land, swim the Small Falls, or hike the Cascade Stream to get your outdoor fix when you aren’t on the slopes. Bald Mountain, Coos Canyon, and Angel Falls are three more stops on your Rangeley tour. Not only is winter popular here, Rangeley’s year ’round population of approximately 1,500+ inhabitants swells to almost 10,000 during the popular summer tourist season, too. There are scenic highways and hiking trails, including the Appalachian Trail, and bountiful game including moose, deer and birds that welcome the advent of the hunting season. In the winter, snow blankets the region, signaling the start to alpine ski season. Groomed snowmobile trails are open by December, offering snowmobilers some of the best riding in the Northeast.
About Saddleback: “Saddleback provides an affordable and fun outdoor experience for guests of all ages and abilities. As one of only seven ski mountains in New England with a top elevation of over 4,000 ft, Saddleback is distinguished from other Maine mountains because of its one-of-a-kind high elevation alpine experience that includes a 2,000 ft. vertical drop overlooking the Rangeley Lakes. We invite you to come breathe the pure mountain air among snow-frosted evergreens. With five lifts to 66 diverse trails and glades, we make it easy to carve down our classic New England terrain. Come find your “sweet spot” on the gentle slopes: rugged double black diamond trails and glades, or our Freerider Terrain Park.”
About Bartlett: In the White Mountains, surrounded by the national forest of the same name, you’ll find Barlett, New Hampshire. Made up of 3 distinct villages (Glen, Bartlett Village, and Intervale) Bartlett has a few rivers running through it, the most known being the Saco River. You’ll have a blast with the kids at Storyland, there are both mountaineering and snowmobiling tours available, and of course, the jaw dropping views at Bear Notch. Bartlett is also an attraction for rail-fans. The Conway Scenic Railroad, a heritage railway in nearby North Conway, operates a train to the town daily for sightseeing.
About Attitash: “Attitash Mountain Resort is more than just a ski area, it is the essence of skiing, snowboarding and the winter lifestyle. Attitash Mountain Resort offers 68 trails and 11 lifts across two big, connected mountains (Attitash & Bear Peak) that combine traditional New England runs and challenging terrain with modern, wide-open cruisers suited for all abilities. Located in the heart of the White Mountains, Attitash Mountain Resort is considered New Hampshire’s premier year-round vacation area.”
About Waterville Valley (town): You’re only two hours from Boston, but you’ll feel much more at peace in this fun resort town than you would have ever expected. This “playground in the mountains” will keep adults and kids entertained for your entire stay. With a golf course, a pond, three 4000′ mountains, and more you can see why Waterville Valley is a monster of tourism.
About Waterville Valley (ski resort): “Waterville Valley Resort is a unique New Hampshire destination, nestled in a natural snow pocket in the White Mountains and surrounded by other 4000′ footers. Offering a variety of terrain for every skier or rider, whether a first-timer or an expert.”
About Hunter: The Town of Hunter contain two villages, one named Hunter and the other called Tannersville.The ski resort is the largest employer in the village, which is run by the Slutzky family in the heart of Hunter. The mountain peak is the second highest in the Catskills. Grab drinks and burgers at Ronni MacGregor’s Pub or the Hunter Mountain Brewery. The zipline adventure tours are a must-try for the whole family when visiting Hunter, as well.
About Hunter Mountain: “As Upstate New York’s premier winter destination for skiing and snowboarding, Hunter Mountain celebrates renowned terrain, award-winning snowmaking, luxury mountainside accommodations, and being a true four season resort! As an ideal family ski destination, a couple’s getaway, or just a day for friends and fun, Hunter Mountain has you covered! Discover Hunter’s impressive array of mountainside amenities, including ski and snowboard programs for adults, children, and families, lodging at the Liftside Condominiums and the slope-side Kaatskill Mountain Club, unique mountain eateries, two full service retail stores, and New York State’s largest snowtubing park!”
About Killington (town): Killington, Vermont is a town in Rutland County, located on VT Route 100 in the “Crossroads of Vermont” region, just 35 minutes from the Rutland Southern Vermont Regional Airport. Perfectly situated in the Green Mountains, Killington has some of the highest and most varied mountain terrain in all of New England. Killington is home to some of the most scenic areas of the Appalachian Trail – one being Thundering Falls. The town has 10 weather stations and sees over 200 inches of natural snow per year.
About Killington (ski resort): “Killington provides skiers and riders of all ability levels a choice of wide-open groomed cruisers, narrow classic New England runs, moguls steeps and trees all serviced by 22 lifts including two express gondolas. The Resort offers multiple terrain features for snowboarders and freeskiers in six terrain parks, including The Stash: an all-natural terrain park with more than 50 features, as well as a 500-foot long Superpipe with 18-foot walls. Killington always hosts a jam-packed schedule of bands, festivals, and competitions from Rails 2 Riches to the Dirty Girl Mud Run. Plus there’s plenty to do off the mountain including tubing, dinner excursions to the Ledgewood Yurt, snowmobile tours, sleigh rides, snowshoeing, spa treatments, shopping and more than 100 restaurants and bars in the region. After the snow melts, Killington features an 18-hole championship golf course as well as 35 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails, plus the new Snowshed Adventure Center and Killington Bike Park.”
About Jeffersonville: Derived from the name of Thomas Jefferson, this town in New York is a charming, older village in the western part of the Catskills. Head down Route 52 in town to visit all the shops, restaurants, and other small businesses. Near the scenic Delaware River, Jeffersonville is a mecca for the arts and antiquing. A fire destroyed most of the main drag in 1918, but the town was rebuilt better than ever afterwards. You can spend your days playing golf, fishing or take a canoe or tube down the Delaware River or simply take a drive and count the cows. Canoe, kayak, horseback ride, try fly boarding or zip lining, or visit a distillery.
About Smugglers’ Notch: “Smugglers’ Notch Resort is a very special vacation destination. It’s nestled right in the heart of Vermont’s Green Mountains, surrounded by more than 3,000 acres of pristine forest, spectacular mountain vistas, and postcard-perfect scenes just waiting for you to discover. It’s the perfect playground in which to recreate, regenerate and relax in a family-friendly atmosphere where you will feel completely at ease … and at home. Your family and friends will love all the skiing and snowboarding our 3 big mountains have to offer. No matter what your skill level – we have terrain for all abilities, ranging from gentle cruisers for beginners to more advanced trails for intermediates, all the way to the East’s only triple black-diamond trail, The Black Hole, for the most experienced skiers and snowboarders. Regardless of your ability or age, we have a world renowned ski and snowboard school, our own Snow Sport University that will help you take your skills to the next level. And, we have so much more than just alpine activities! Other outdoor activities include such adventures as cross-country skiing and snowshoeing and snowmobile touring.”
About Lincoln: Lincoln is home to the New Hampshire Highland Games and to a portion of Franconia Notch State Park. Set in the White Mountains, large portions of the town are within the White Mountain National Forest. Walk around The Basin at Franconia Notch State Park for babbling brooks and forest scenery. Clark’s Trading Post and the Central Railroad is a fun trip to take with kids. There’s a waterpark, play house, mini golf course, moose tours and more to pass the time when you’re off the mountain.
About Loon Mountain: “Loon Mountain is New England’s most accessible big mountain resort. Located just two hours from Boston and three miles off Interstate 93, Loon offers 61 trails and 2,100 vertical feet of unparalleled skiing and riding. Although it’s close to home, Loon offers the kind of varied terrain and possibilities that you would find at a more remote resort. It’s a mountain that has something for everyone, whether you’re looking to ski the steeps or take your first snowboard lesson.After riding the Lincoln Express Quad to the 2,450-foot summit of South Peak, take a minute to enjoy the views of Mount Moosilauke to the west, Franconia Notch to the north, and Mount Washington to the east. Once you’ve worked up an appetite on the slopes, hit up the Pemigewasset Base Camp for a Boom Run Panini or killer burrito. At 3,050 feet, North Peak is the resort’s high point. On a powder day you’ll see skiers and riders make a beeline to expert trails like Upper Walking Boss and Upper Flume, which collect some of the best snow on the mountain. Experts will love glades like Walking Boss Woods and Buck Saw, while intermediates will enjoy Sunset and its panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.”
About Dover: Near the southern tip of Vermont you’ll find quaint, quiet Dover.With a history of tourism, Dover has served as a summer getaway since the early 1900s. For those who appreciate an active, outdoor, four-seasons lifestyle but also crave fine restaurants and night life, Dover may be the community for them. A top attraction is the Valley Trail, connecting Mount Snow with the West Dover Historic District. This pedestrian and biking walkway links town shopping areas and recreational amenities. You can also visit the Southern Vermont Natural History Museum in nearby Marlboro, go snowmobiling, or take the Green Mountain Adventure Challenge. Eat cake at the Sticky Fingers Bakery or grab a burger at the Valley View Saloon.
About Mount Snow: “Mount Snow is a premier four season resort located in the Green Mountains of Southern Vermont featuring four mountain faces of downhill skiing and snowboarding – including one of the East’s best terrain parks, Carinthia – slopeside lodging and golf at the acclaimed Mount Snow Golf Club as well as flexible wedding and conference facilities. Other activities include snow tubing, ski & snowboard lessons, downhill mountain biking and a full schedule of festivals and events. Mount Snow is a member of the Peak Resorts family.”
About Stowe: About 5 miles away from the cascading ski trails on Mount Mansfield, the highest peak in Vermont, you’ll find the town of Stowe. There are plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy in Stowe like the Smugglers Notch State Park, Stowe Recreation Path, and the Sterling Falls Gorge. At the Trapp Family Lodge Outdoor Center you can drink, eat, hike and learn about the famous family that runs the attraction. You’ll find a fantastic hike in Wiessner Woods and you’ll be in awe of the bucolic beauty of the Gold Brook Covered Bridge. The Vermont Ski Museum is nearby as well. The community comes alive with festivals, shopping and dining opportunities with activities for everyone in all seasons. Stowe has made the most out of its natural setting– Mount Mansfield, the forests and fields, clear mountain streams and fine air carve out an appealing, enduring, distinctively New England style of life.
About Stowe Mountain: “Stowe Mountain Resort, is the definition of the luxury Eastern resort, and provides quality skiing and riding for all levels of family abilities. The area’s lift system includes a gondola to shuttle guests between Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak, and its “sister” mountain, Spruce Peak. This inter-mountain transfer lift provides transportation to and from the slopes at the bases of Mount Mansfield and Spruce Peak – formally linking the two. The Poma ten-person standing gondola spans Vermont’s Route 108. Stowe benefits from its location on Mt. Mansfield with 333 inches of average annual snowfall that falls over it’s 2,360 foot vertical drop and 485 acres of skiable terrain.”
About Lake Placid: Lake Placid has done an admirable job with Olympic arena upkeep and related tourism. The still-operational Herb Brooks Arena (site of the “Miracle on Ice”) still hosts many youth and international ice events each year. Visit the Olympic Sports Complex to take a real bobsled ride! For non-Olympic related attractions, Lake Placid has much to offer. The Whiteface Golf Club is one of the most gorgeous courses in the area. If you can, hike up Mount Jo which has high peaks where you can see for miles. Explore the frozen waterfalls at High Falls Gorge, or take in a family-friendly show at the Lake Placid Center for the Arts. With many fresh water rivers for fishing and lakes for canoeing, Lake Placid is an outdoorsman’s dream.
About Whiteface Mountain: “When you get to the top of Whiteface Mountain, you’ll be at the top of Northeast skiing. No ski mountain in the east reaches higher than ours. Around you, dozens of Adirondack peaks jut into the horizon. The fresh air filling your lungs has just blown over a protected park larger than Yellowstone and Yosemite, combined. And below you lie trails that have led Olympic athletes to glory. American Phil Mahre won silver here in the 1980 Winter Olympics. Andrew Weibrecht, a Lake Placid local who grew up skiing at Whiteface, earned a Bronze Medal in Super G at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics and a Silver at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics! It’s your turn. Whiteface opened in 1958 and has earned its place in the annals of big-mountain skiing. It has the greatest vertical drop in the east, which means if pointing the boards downhill is your thing, you’ll have plenty of opportunities. We regularly stage major national and international skiing events, yet welcome first-time skiers and riders every day. We have 87 trails (a third of which are rated for expert skiers), 11 lifts including the Cloudsplitter Gondola, terrain parks, adrenaline-pumping glades skiing, and six Whiteface restaurants. Whiteface is the Olympic Mountain, which means not only can you carve the same turns as the world’s best racers, you can visit the other Olympic facilities, like the Olympic Jumping Complex and the Olympic Sports Complex, just down the road in Lake Placid. This is a place that has brought the best out of world-class athletes, outdoor enthusiasts, all-mountain skiers and riders and beginners for years. It’s your turn.”
About Jay: At the extreme northern end of Vermont, you will stumble upon Jay.The northern Vermont area is a bit more wild and wooly than the postcard-ready southern end, especially since it shares a border with Canada.Jay is in an area of the state known as the “Northeast Kingdom” and is one of the last “undeveloped” towns where you still find peace and serenity while enjoying the world-class recreational opportunities that exist within the borders.Seek out a remote border town and you might stumble upon a barn museum, winery, or swimming hole.The Jay Peak Pump House, a super cool indoor water park, might be the perfect relaxation area or thrill ride for those who want to spend some time off the mountain. The Jay Challenge is a combination adventure race and triathlon that occurs yearly in and around Jay. It is a three-day event comprising a 26-mile kayak trip on Lake Memphremagog, a 30.5-mile run over rough terrain and 65 miles of mountain biking. There is no better time to visit Jay than during President’s week and winter school vacations. You can discover an Ice Fishing Derby on Lake Memphremagog, “Fat Bike” Riding, and experience snowshoeing & snowmobiling at their best.
About Jay Peak Resort: “If you’ve been to Jay Peak, you know our reputation is deserved – the most snow in eastern North America and a liberal in-bounds policy that ensures you can enjoy it. 78 trails, slopes and glades wait for you but the nooks and crannies are what really set Jay Peak apart. If you haven’t been here, come experience the reality behind the legend. From the far-out corners of the backcountry, to the close-at-hand convenience of The Zone learning area, there’s a little something for everyone at our larger than life mountain. Poke around and make some moments of your own.”
About Ellicottville: At the far western end of New York lies Ellicottville. A simple town with a long name, Ellicottville plays host to thousands of Canadian skiers and snowboarders every year and is 55 miles away from Buffalo. If you’re looking for a glitzy, glamorous, fake ski resort town, you’ve come to the wrong place. Ellicottville has retained its charm despite growing sizably in winter tourism. With brick-fronted stores and Victorian-era homes lining the streets, Ellicottville can hold its own in the northeast ski discussion. There are nearly two dozen restaurants in and around the village with a handful of bars and breweries continuing the party into the night with live music throughout the week. The village, although it is only 1 square mile, is full of fun, activities, shops and restaurants to please folks of all ages and interests.
About Holiday Valley: “Holiday Valley offers fifty-eight slopes spread over four different faces with a 750-foot vertical drop and 13 lifts. Four terrain parks plus a half pipe, several glades and a wonderful children’s program provide fun for skiers and riders of all ages.”
My Algarve Family Travel Guide shows you how to take the best from your time in Europe’s sunniest and friendliest family holiday destination. Algarve is Portugal’s most Southern Region, known for its fair beaches, quality of seafood, safe environment and fair weather all year round. Most recently it has been awarded the best Beach Destination of Europe for the third time by the World Travel Awards. Its coastline of just 160 km is easily covered in less than two hours by car, so exploring the whole Algarve Region is a must.
Besides an uncommon offer variety a price-quality ratio with no match in Europe, you will find historic heritage, paradise private beaches, popular and cultural events, mild waters and a climate with 300 days of sun exposure per year. In a context of absolute security and where almost everyone speaks English, the Algarve is peaceful and affordable, setting a new benchmark for family and beach destinations across not only Europe but worldwide.
FlipKey has over 1000 properties in the Algarve, featuring some the region’s best-located rental apartments, houses or villas. Like the one with sea view where I stayed in during my holidays in Tavira.
São Vicente Cape and Fortaleza de Sagres make up the most western point of the European continent. First dated from XVI century, these two fortified navigation lighthouses were destroyed, rebuilt and modernized throughout the centuries. Victims of their own strategic position, this place witnessed many acts of war and piracy. A well-known example in this was the Francis Drake fleet. The São Vicente lighthouse can be visited and so can the Sagres fortress. Enjoy the outstanding views from the top of the 70 meters high cliffs and watch the ships sailing this major ship route between the Mediterranean and the North Europe.
Kitesurf in Tavira
Address: Praia do Barril, 8800 Tavira
Vacations are also an excellent opportunity to venture yourself in water sports. Try a kitesurf class or just sale on the mild waters of Barril beach near Santa Luzia, Tavira. A sand island which can only be accessed by a floating pedestrian bridge. Then take the small train to cross the dunes. The nautical center of Barril provides classes for theses water ports as well as kayaking and sailboats lessons.
Fish your own lunch
Address: Marina de Vilamoura Cais Q, Escritório 9/10, 8125-403 Vilamoura / Phone: (+351) 289 302 318
Have a different day introducing your children to the fishing world. Algarve Seafaris offers a family program through the Algarve coastline where you will have the chance to fish your own lunch. Then climb on the smaller boats, and navigate the sea grottos and gorgeous rock formations of the Algarve coastline to enjoy lunch in inaccessible beaches. If you are lucky, even dolphins can be spotted.
Address: R. Cmte. Francisco Manuel, 8000-250 Faro / Phone: (+351) 289 890 920
Take your children to the Live Science Center in Faro and let them be a scientist for a day. There is a permanent exhibition dedicated to the sea, and areas to learn about physics, the chemistry of light and the brain. The garden presents a set of experiments dedicated to solar and wind generated energy. But there is much to discover, so make a day out of it.
The Lagos coastline has some of the most breathtaking coastal beauty on the Algarve. A perfect example of this natural wonder is Praia Dona Ana, which in 2013 as named the best beach in the world by Condé Nast. Camilo beach and its rock formations are also referenced as one of the most beautiful in the region. Don’t forget Ponta da Piedade…You’ll why when you are there!
Moorish Heritage in Silves
Coordinates: 37.190578, -8.437894
Walk through the Castle of Silves, a city under muslin domination until the XIII century. From the ancient walls, the castle offers you an astonishing view over the countryside. A medieval fair takes place in the historical center on the first two weeks of August, making it the best time to visit the Moorish Capital of the Algarve. You can learn a bit more about ancient local customs, see historical reconstitutions and let yourself be enchanted by jugglers and snake-charmers.
The Family Golf Park is the largest and most modern American-style miniature golf course in Europe. Situated in the center of Vilamoura the Golf Park is the only fully air-conditioned in Portugal, which makes it even more pleasant during hot summer days. A Super Mini-golf with two 18-hole course combines recreational with cultural and historical learning, such as information about the Roman occupation of the Iberian Peninsula. The family Golf Park also has a snack bar, games room and a Kids Club where themed birthdays are organized. The tourist train of Vilamoura it is an excellent means of transportation to the park!
Your own Private Beach
Coordinates: 37.012468, -7.935705
Have lunch away from the hustle in a deserted island called Barreta. To get there, one must take a boat in Cais da Porta Nova, Faro. The trip takes about 35 minutes, which also gives you a chance to see the natural beauty of the offshore Algarve. The Estaminé restaurant is only newly constructed eating establishment across the island and was concerned not interfere with the landscape. Local grilled fresh fish is the specialty of this restaurant.
Portuguese Fleur de Sel
Explore the internationally awarded salt of Tavira and Castro Marim and visit the fleur de sel saltenrs in the heart of Ria Formosa. Jorge Marim in the owner of Sal Marim, a passionate boutique producer of Portuguese Fleur de Sel and the best person to teach kids about how salt is made. It makes for some great sunset photos as well.
Europe’s Last Sunset
Dubbed by old tales as “The place where the land ends and the sea begins”, Sagres is Europe’s most western village (with Lisbon being the most western city). A strategic intersection between the trading routes between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, an international trading post, a fisherman’s harbor and frequently attacked by pirates, Sagres was one of Portugal’s most valued land assets. Sagres fortress was built on a prominent rock formation in the 15th century and besides being a national monument its location offers a most spectacular vantage point to witness the last sunset of mainland Europe. I recommend checking the sundown tables and arriving about thirty minutes before, to allow you plenty of time to navigate the clay and protruding limestone cliff tops until you find your comfort place.
The Algarve offers several options for an unforgeable meal by the sea. The Caniço restaurant, one of the oldest restaurants in the area, is located on the beach of the Praia dos Tres Irmaõs (three brothers beach) in Alvor. Built inside a cliff grotto, access is via a tunnel and a lift from the village of Prainha. Fresh fish and shellfish are kings in their menu.
Tasquinha Charneco in Entombar
Address: R. Cel. Manuel Gregório Rocha 3-5, 8400-037 Estômbar / Phone: (+351) 282 431 113
The Tasquinha Charneco in Estômbar, Lagoa, offers a rustic and homely atmosphere. The menu lives up to the classic dishes of the Algarve cuisine such as “alimados” horse mackerels, corn starch, fish and Seafood Cataplana or monkfish rice. A changing tasting menu consisting of seven dishes is presented every night, so there are plenty of reasons to come back.
Noélia e Jerónimo in Cabanas de Tavira
Address: Av. Ria Formosa 2, Cabanas de Tavira / Phone: (+351) 281 370 649
The Noélia e Jerónimo, in Cabanas de Tavira, is a restaurant dedicated purely to Algarve regional cuisine. Every dish made is the utmost dedication, knowledge and above all, time! Clam soup, Dory fillets, octopus with Aljezursweet potato, and braised tuna with ginger are some of the specialties on the menu that mainly focus on fish.
Ribeira do Poço in Vila Do Bispo
Address: R. Ribeira do Poço 11, 8650 Vila do Bispo / Phone: (+351) 282 639 075
In the capital of goose barnacles, Vila do Bispo, restaurant Ribeira do Poço is a place where seafood variety rejoices, always presented to the client fresh. Limpets, mussels, clams are just some of marine delicacies that you can taste. But you should come here mainly for these prehistoric looking sea creatures – goose barnacles are a Portuguese delicacy – which taste like the sea itself.
Restaurant Vila Joya, inserted into the magnificent town of Albufeira, holds two Michelin stars since 1999 and is considered one of the best restaurants in the world. These facts alone are more than enough to attest the quality of cuisine practiced here. It is a signature cuisine restaurant with the leadership of the Austrian chef Dieter Koschina.
It is pretty much like walking into a Portuguese family’s seafood feast. Everyone knows each other, and even strangers join in the union ambiance, along with the waiters and the owners. Upon entering you can hear the bashing of hammers in crab shells, the popping of wine corks and more importantly, the rumble of a very lively restaurant atmosphere. Waiters are constantly scooting to the kitchen from the two-meter high live seafood tank with, lobsters, langoustines, crabs, spider crabs, clams, barnacles and sea snails. All freshly caught on the Portuguese cold Atlantic shores.
Where to shop
Delta Pele in Alvor
Address: R. Dr. António José de Almeida nº 13 – A, 8500-017 Alvor / Phone: (+351) 282457 175
Delta Pele store in Alvor, Faro, dedicates itself to handmade leather products 100% Portuguese. With many years of experience, this company is totally committed to producing unique pieces, such as wallets, backpacks, belts and suitcases that promise to conquer the most demanding customer.
Sardinha in Loulé
Address: Largo D. Pedro I, nº 3, 8100-519 Loulé / Phone: (+351) 289 512 936
In Loulé, Sardinha – Fresh Souvenirs from Portugal is a vintage store that offers customers the most genuine Portuguese products with a touch of modernity. A wide variety of canned and oils, as well as pieces in ceramic and wicker, are among the products that tourists can get to know.
The Lipscani Design brand of fashion accessories was created in 2010 by designer Mariana Pires. She was inspired by the traditional elements of Portuguese culture to give life to their products. The architecture, the tiles and images as street lamps or kiosks emerge represented in wallets, scarves, and jewelry.
Casa das Portas in Tavira
Address: Rua Dr. Augusto Silva Carvalho, nº3, 8800-324 Tavira / Phone: (+351) 281 321 025
The architectural elements of Tavira photographed by Jane Gibbin set the tone for the creation of this shop. Inside Casa das Portas you will be able to get photos of the doors and windows of the city, there are handmade soaps, ceramic products, textiles and jewelry all produced in Portugal.
Disclaimer: The Algarve Family Travel Guide was written as a part of my ongoing partnership with FlipKey Vacations Rentals. All opinions are my own.
The majestic Gulf Coast waters lap the shores of seven US states: Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. Spanning hundreds of miles and welcoming millions of tourists each year, it’s not hard to find a sandy place to soak up some sun. But to make it an even easier decision, we’ve narrowed down the best Gulf Coast beaches to visit.
Better yet? FlipKey offers over 300,000 rentals available around the world. So you’re sure to find the perfect beach house to suit your needs in one of these Gulf Coast gems. A Gulf Coast beach house rental means extra space for the whole family (and beach toys?), a full kitchen for home-cooked meals, and amenities like laundry or an outdoor barbecue area.
Gulf Shores, Alabama provides a peaceful beach escape for vacationers along the Gulf Coast.
Gulf Shores is home to incredible beaches, including West Beach, a heavenly retreat for vacationers looking for a quiet place for a getaway. This destination is less crowded than the more well-known beaches in the area and one of the best Gulf Coast beaches for a relaxing vacation. Here, there is an abundance of single family beach house rentals mixed with the occasional complex of condo rentals for vacationers to enjoy. The added space and privacy that these rentals provide make West Beach an ideal destination for families and those traveling in large groups.
The beach itself stretches for six miles and soft, sugary-white sands carpet the expansive shoreline. West Beach becomes less congested the farther west you go, and it is impressively clean for the amount of beachgoers that camp out here each day. Seasonal lifeguards are on duty at this top Gulf Coast beach from March until September each year, but the waters remain relatively calm, so families can enjoy the beach at ease. Another perk of visiting West Beach is that the water temperatures become bathtub-warm during the summer and are slow to cool off during the off season as the weather along the Gulf Shore remains mild year-long.
Located on the Fort Morgan peninsula and jutting into Mobile Bay, West Beach is easy to reach by car as West Beach Boulevard runs parallel to the coast. While the majority of the beach is free and open to the public, parking is not free at all lots. Park at one of the lots on West 4th or West 5th streets to save money on parking, otherwise you’ll pay a nominal fee to park. The perks of paying to park are that these lots typically have restroom and shower facilities. West Beach does not have concession stands but many beachfront restaurants and cafes are only ever steps away from the beach.
Situated on Florida’s Emerald Coast, Destin is perfect for family trips to the beach.
The Emerald Coast, aptly named for the brilliant blue-green waters that lap its shores, is home to Destin, Florida. One of the best Gulf Coast beaches to vacation, this destination beckons millions of visitors each year to stay in the plethora of Destin vacation rentals available on and around its beautiful beaches. It is the perfect place for those interested in pure, white-sand beaches without the distraction of over-the-top tourist attractions.
Destin has so much pristine coastline to enjoy, but Henderson Beach State Park in the eastern part of the city is one of the best Gulf Coast beaches here to visit. Admission to the park is on a per car basis and the small entry fee is worth it to relax amongst swaying dunes and sand pines. Boardwalks give visitors access to excellent swimming, sunbathing and fishing spots, and there are pavilions for picnicking and grilling spread out around the grounds. Henderson Beach even has air conditioned and heated bathhouse facilities open to vacationers year-round. Although there are no lifeguards on duty at this beach, colored flags are posted along the shoreline and indicate the swimming conditions at that time.
The area got its start as a small fishing village, and it has not lost its appeal for vacationers that look forward to spending enjoyable days fishing at one of the top beaches on the Gulf Coast. The city’s underwater population is vast, and the surrounding waters teem with trout, grouper, and flounder, among many other types of fish. Choose between casting a line from a spot in the sand or venture out to the deep seas off shore to reel in fresh catch during one of your vacation days.
Soft, white sands welcome visitors to Siesta Key, Florida.
Lather on sunscreen, grab your towel and head to the breathtaking beaches of Siesta Key. Siesta Beach, Turtle Beach and Crescent Beach are three of the best along this barrier island’s 35 miles of coastline. Each spot has white-quartz sands that almost shimmer in the sunlight and the sand stays cool to the touch all day long, making it perfect for strolling along the beach. Siesta Beach has relatively shallow waters and it is monitored by lifeguards year-round. For those looking to stay active, take advantage of the horseshoe pit, playground, volleyball courts and picnic areas at Turtle Beach. Crescent Beach has limited parking, which helps give it a more secluded feel than the other Siesta Key beaches. Here, visitors can enjoy tranquil waters that provide a safe spot for swimming in the warm, azure waters.
Just off the southern tip of Crescent Beach is Point of Rocks, one of the best places for snorkeling and underwater exploration along the Gulf Coast beaches. It is made up of large chunks of limestone covered with coral and sponges and a range of sea life inhabit these underwater formations.
Siesta Key is a top beach town to visit on the Gulf Coast year-round as the weather is consistently mild to warm in temperature. Stay in an oceanfront rental for ultimate convenience, so you never have to leave the beach or rent a place amidst the quirky shopping and nightlife options. During your stay, there will always be something unique to see, whether it’s wildlife or locals performing the Siesta Key Drum Circle, and the beach and bay will always be within reach.
A long dock welcomes boaters and beachgoers at West Ship Island.
Although Mississippi might not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking of the best Gulf Coast beaches, West Ship Island is a top vacation spot for adventurous beachgoers. Part of Gulf Shores National Seashore, West Ship Island is a quiet place to spend the day and leave the stresses of the mainland behind. Since no overnight stays are allowed on this barrier island, book a Gulfport beach rental or stay in a Biloxi condo rental, so you have a comfortable place to return to after a day of soaking up sun.
West Ship Island is ever-changing as its position as a first line of defense from hurricanes for the mainland causes much erosion. As a result, there are not a lot of amenities on the island and this Gulf Coast beach is not for those looking to be surrounded by lots of shops and restaurants. Prepare for a day trip here by packing snacks, sun tan lotion and a cooler with lots of beverages to avoid the long hike to the snack bar on South Beach. You can bring your own food and drinks or purchase them on the ferry ride to the island. If you’d rather travel light though, there is a boardwalk where visitors can purchase food, rent beach chairs and umbrellas, and use the restrooms and shower facilities. Seasonal lifeguards are also available at the end of the boardwalk if you choose to make the trek.
While the beautiful beaches are the main allure for visitors, the island is also home to Fort Massachusetts and a variety of wildlife. Fort Massachusetts is a great place to explore for history buffs and those who can’t sit still for an entire day at the beach. In terms of wildlife, from the shore beachgoers can enjoy birding, shelling, and watching for dolphins, while excellent snorkeling spots can be found in the surrounding waters. Although, the island is small in size, it is great in opportunities for fun.
Galveston offers visitors a variety of beautiful beaches and waterfront activities to enjoy.
For a bustling beach getaway on the Gulf Coast, make your way to Galveston Island off the coast of Texas. With 32 miles of sandy beaches surrounded by a variety of shops, restaurants, and galleries, this destination is a perfect place to book a Galveston vacation rental and escape from reality for a few days. Here, the dune-backed beaches are some of the prettiest along the Gulf Coast of Texas and the action is non-stop for vacationers looking to make the most of their vacation time.
One of the reasons that Galveston Island is known for the best Gulf Coast beaches is because there is a beach park for everyone. From wide swaths of sand surrounded by gift shops, beach gear rental stores and public amenities, to quieter stretches of uninterrupted beach all vacationers will enjoy their time here. Seawall Urban Park is centrally located near local attractions, offers the nation’s longest continuous sidewalk for running, biking or people watching, as well as cheap parking. Galveston Island State Park offers a quieter retreat where beachgoers can spend a relaxing day among nature. There is a per person entry fee here, but it is worth it to spend the day at the park’s undeveloped 2,000 acres.
A spectacular sunset seen from South Padre Island, a lively Texas beach town.
It’s impossible to consider the best Gulf Coast beaches and not include South Padre Island on the list. Situated just off the southern tip of Texas, this barrier island is only one-half mile wide, but it features long stretches of luxurious sand, sparkling blue waters, and an abundance of activities to enjoy at its Gulf Coast beaches. It is a tropical paradise for young and young-at-heart that makes for an excellent vacation spot.
The shores that line South Padre Island are impeccably clean and well-maintained, so tourists can spend relaxing days at the beaches here. The surrounding ocean is typically warm and perfect for swimming, while the shallow waters make it an ideal place for families on vacation. Here, the beaches are wide enough for visitors to spread out, and they allow ample space for sand sculpting. South Padre Island is also one of the best Gulf Coast beaches to enjoy a variety of water sports. Its waves are home to some of the best surfing on the Gulf of Mexico, and other popular water activities include parasailing, kayaking and boating.
This Gulf Coast destination does get crowded by spring-breakers during parts of March and April, so visit during a different month if you’re looking for a more relaxing or family-oriented trip. Stay in one of the many South Padre Island vacation rentals for ultimate comfort and classic beach charm.
Spot wildlife and enjoy a peaceful beach vacation in Marco Island.
You’re in for a treat when you visit the pristine beaches of Marco Island as this destination is for the traveler who enjoys comfort and luxury during a beach vacation. Marco Island is one of the largest of Florida’s Ten Thousand Islands, and it boasts a magical and alluring atmosphere. Book a colorful Marco Island vacation rental right on the water to avoid paying for parking and to maximize your time at some of the top Gulf Coast beaches here.
The beaches here have sun-washed, white sands that stretch for miles and waters that remain warm for the majority of the year. Tigertail Beach is one of the most popular options for visitors and locals alike as it offers beachgoers all of the essential amenities. There are restrooms available, beach equipment rentals, a concession stand and ample parking, so all you need to bring is yourself for fun in the sun. Seasonal lifeguards are also on duty at this beach, so it is a safe place to bring the entire family. At the opposite end of the island, South Marco Beach is a bit smaller, but vacationers can also enjoy this hot spot from sunrise to sundown each day. There are also countless private beaches that outline the island, so check with the owners of your Marco Island vacation rentals to see if beach access is included during your stay.
Marco Island offers an upscale retreat and attracts mostly families and older travelers. Here, breathtaking beaches and stunning natural beauty is the focus, rather than rowdy bars and cliché tourist attractions.
Explore local lighthouses and enjoy the beach at St. George Island.
When you just want to dip your toes in the Gulf of Mexico and sunbathe in peace, St. George Island is the perfect vacation spot. Part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore, this Florida barrier island offers beachgoers a rare swath of totally undeveloped coastline perfect for swimming, sunbathing, fishing, and playing around. With a variety of cozy beach rentals to choose from, vacationers will feel right at home during a trip here.
Visitors flock to St. George Island to enjoy the sugary sands and crystal-blue waters that lap the untainted shores. Nestled between the Gulf of Mexico and the Apalachicola Bay, the island has two public beaches, Massingale Park Beach and Coast Guard Station Beach, both of which have lifeguards on duty during the summer season and a bathhouse open to beachgoers. At these beaches, the waves are calm and the water’s warm temperatures are inviting to swimmers. Families love these beaches as the sands are smooth and soft and there is an abundance of seashells to be collected along the shore. For adults, drinking is permitted in the sand and relaxing by the beach is a way of life.
St. George Island is also a dream for nature-lovers and wildlife enthusiasts. The island beaches here are lined with swaying seat oats, scrub and splash pine flatwoods, which provide a pretty setting or walk to the beach. Whether actively looking or not, it’s also likely that visitors will see nesting loggerhead sea turtles when visiting between the months of May and October. The island is home to many turtles and unique wildlife, which is part of what makes it one of the best Gulf Coast beaches for vacationers to escape to.
Wide, sandy beaches allow for ample room in Orange Beach.
Orange Beach lies at the easternmost part of Alabama’s coast and it borders Florida’s Perdido Key along the state’s Emerald Coast. It offers the perfect combination of beautiful beaches and outdoor adventures, which has helped this destination earn its reputation as one of the best Gulf Coast beaches.
Dig your toes in the sand and allow yourself to sink into the pristine beaches that makes up this coastal paradise. Orange Beach Waterfront Park is a popular spot to bring the family as it is open year-round and offers public beach access. Work up a sweat jogging the nearby Back Country Trail before cooling off in the surrounding waters. Set right on Wolf Bay, this park is a scenic setting to spend the day and includes amenities like picnic tables, a playground, restrooms, and a 400-foot fishing pier that juts into the bay.
Another advantage of Orange Beach is that vacationers have access to both the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the interior bays and bayous just north of this beach town. Explore these waters by kayak, sailboat or a deep sea fishing excursion and realize the area’s natural beauty. Book an Orange Beach vacation rental close right in the heart of things, so you can enjoy the town’s stunning beaches and lively atmosphere.
Inviting Panama City Beach chairs and umbrellas provide a comfortable place to relax seaside.
Panama City Beach is among the best Gulf Coast beaches to enjoy all year long – not just during Spring Break. It is one of the most breathtaking of the Emerald Coast beaches along the Florida Panhandle, with crystal-clear blue waters and snow-white sands that shimmer in the sunlight. Panama City Beach condo rentals provide easy access to public beaches and ultimate convenience during a trip to the beach.
There are over 27 miles of beaches to choose from here, with nearly 100 public access points, and each one has its advantages. Follow the crowds to Schooner’s beach where vacationers can see and be seen while grabbing a cold drink on a hot day. Join a beach volleyball game here or show off your tan among the younger crowd. For a quieter escape at a more undeveloped beach, head to Camp Helen State Park or St. Andrews State Park. You’ll never be far from a refreshing sea breeze at either beach and the parks’ natural beauty is breathtaking. Enjoy swimming, sunbathing, snorkeling or scuba diving along the Gulf Coast, but pay attention to the beach warning flags as there are no lifeguards on duty at either park.
Vacationers come to Panama City Beach for its soft, quartz sands and spectacular sunsets and return for its lively beach atmosphere and friendly vibe year after year.
Millions of vacationers flock to the shores of North Carolina each year to bask in the sand and sea at some of the state’s best beaches. Whether the shores look like near copies of breathtaking Caribbean beaches, or are only accessible by 4-wheel drive, there’s something that makes each unique. With over 300 miles of coastline to choose from and countless beachfront vacation rentals to book from FlipKey, we’ve listed some of the best North Carolina beaches and what makes them so perfect to help you decide.
A beautiful day at one of North Carolina’s best beaches, Wrightsville Beach
Known for its crystal-clear waters and wide, sandy beaches, Wrightsville Beach attracts vacationers from all over the country. The town boasts an impeccable strip of sprawling beach that stretches for four miles down the coast of North Carolina. There are 44 public access points to the beach, and its accessibility is one of the reasons it is considered one of the best North Carolina beaches. The vast number of access points also allows crowds to be spread out throughout the length of the beach, so it never feels overly crowded and there’s always enough room to lie out in the sand.
There are 13 staffed lifeguard stands from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Additionally, lifeguards patrol the beaches via all-terrain vehicles and a boat making it easy to address any emergencies. They are on duty from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., seven days a week from May until September. For the convenience of patrons, Wrightsville Beach also has seven public restrooms that are accessible along the beaches.
In addition to being a great place for sunning and swimming, Wrightsville Beach has long been considered a paradise for surfers and kiteboarders of all levels. Here, the waters are shallow and the waves are gentle during the summer, so visitors new to such watersports can give it a try. Later in the season when the winds pick up, stellar waves become the setting for many regional and national surfing competitions. It is important to note that surfing is not permitted in front of lifeguard stands during the summer season, though. These areas are clearly marked by black and white checkered flags, so be on the lookout. Whether you’re surfing, swimming or sunning at Wrightsville Beach you’ll love this North Carolina vacation spot.
Nags Head epitomizes the laidback beach vibe that the Outer Banks is so well-known for, and it has been beckoning travelers to its shores for years. The area is home to the iconic Nags Head style of architecture with hip roofs and propped-shutters, and its abundance of homes will make it easy to find a vacation rental that meets your family’s needs. Because Nags Head is such a classic North Carolina beach town it does see more tourists than other towns along the Outer Banks, but its wide beaches allow crowds to be disbursed along its soft sands.
The area has many public beach access points, so vacationers can find a quiet spot along the water to lounge for the day. Many beaches have bath houses available and are handicap accessible, and from Memorial Day through Labor Day, both stationary and mobile lifeguard teams patrol the beaches daily to keep patrons safe. They’re typically on duty from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. and different colored flags will indicate water conditions to swimmers. If you see a red flag flying, stay out of the water as rough waters could result in harm or at least a hefty fine for those who ignore them.
Nags Head is also home to the largest living sand dune on the East Coast. Pay a visit to Jockey’s Ridge State Park to see it and climb the ever-changing dunes here. This is a great place to bring the kids to explore as beachgoers must stay off the protected sand dunes that line many of the Nags Head beaches.
This North Carolina beach town is a great to spot far-out dolphins swimming in the glistening waters, see anglers reeling in fresh catch and to be a beachgoer frolicking in the warm waters. Beach fires are allowed with a permit, so you can make a full day out of your trip to the beach and watch a spectacular sunset over the water in the evening.
A visit to Carova is like a step back in time…in a good way. There are no paved roads, gas stations or restaurants in this North Carolina vacation spot, so your Carova vacation rental choice is all the more important. Choose one with easy access to the beach and then stock up on the essentials before your arrival, so you can truly retreat to the beach. The area is known for its rustic beach cottages and weathered homes, and it’s a place for a quiet beach escape without distractions.
When planning a vacation to Carova, it is important to remember that 4-wheel drive vehicles are required here, and while it might be easy to be fooled by the appearance of firmly-packed sands, you’ll be sure to get stuck in any other type of vehicle. When driving out to the beach, follow the tire tracks of other cars, and check the tides as they can change frequently making it difficult to drive home.
Carova boasts some of the best North Carolina beaches as the vast, secluded stretches of sand offer a sense of freedom that is difficult to match. The beaches are clean and the waters that lap the shore stay warm for a couple of months, even after the summer ends.This North Carolina vacation spot is a place where wild horses have the right of way while roaming sands and dunes, and vacationers enjoy quintessential beach getaways free from the stresses and hurry of everyday life. The tradeoff for pristine beaches, ample space and a lack of crowds is that there are no fixed lifeguard stations here. While roving lifeguards do pass through on ATVs, Carova beaches might not be best for families looking for an extra set of eyes to watch their children in the water. These beaches also do not offer amenities like concession stands as the natural beauty is the main attraction.
Stay right near the beach in Corolla, North Carolina.
The beach is the main attraction for vacationers visiting the Outer Banks and Corolla is certainly no exception. Corolla is a seasonal North Carolina beach oasis filled with charming oceanfront rentals and sleepy beach stores. Part of its charm comes from its small-town feel and relatively undeveloped landscape.
Book a Corolla vacation rental for a week to fully enjoy its secluded beaches along the Atlantic Ocean and the Currituck Sound. This North Carolina destination is best for families looking to lounge and play uninterrupted at the beach. Here, the dunes are rolling and windswept and the beaches are wide and gently slope into the ocean, making it a perfect natural playground for children. There are no commercial boardwalks to pollute the area with noise and foot traffic, and lifeguards man the beaches from 9:30-5:50 daily during the summer season, so it is a very safe environment to spend the day.
Fishing pier pillars at Rodanthe in North Carolina
If you’re looking for a vacation with only the simplest of life’s pleasures then Rodanthe has some of the best North Carolina beaches to visit. The town lies at the easternmost part of North Carolina on Hatteras Island and offers many secluded beaches and warm waters for beachgoers to enjoy. It is a beach town so beautiful they even made a movie about it. If you haven’t seen Nights in Rodanthe though, visit this picturesque place for its spectacular beaches and to see raised beach homes lining the dunes and dotting the landscape along the edge of the best North Carolina beaches.
Rodanthe boasts both sound-side beaches along the Pamlico Sound as well as beaches that open into the Atlantic Ocean. If you’re looking for on-the-water fun go to the beaches along the sound. This saltwater lagoon is the largest on the East Coast and has shallow waters that make it easy for kiteboarders, windsurfers, small boaters and waders to navigate. Winds create small waves to propel adventurers and the area is a great open water playground. Mosquitoes and small reptiles can interrupt your beach day though, so make sure to bring bug spray and stay on the lookout for small critters that could become bothersome.
On the ocean-side, you’ll find miles of empty beaches sheltered by towering dunes. There are no lifeguards here, so swim at your own risk or just soak up sun from the comfort of your beach chair. Surf fishing and beach fires are both allowed if you get a permit ahead of time allowing you to spend the entire day at this top North Carolina beach.
While many of the best North Carolina beaches can be found in the Outer Banks, Topsail Island is equally as charming just a bit farther south. The island has three beach communities, Surf City, North Topsail Beach and Topsail Beach, that makeup the 26 miles of untainted coastline along the glistening waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The area is very family-oriented and its lack of commercialization makes it a peaceful place to spend days at the beach.
With mild temperatures year-round, the shimmering waters that wash over Topsail Island beaches remain warm throughout most months. The shore gently fades into the water, and the lack of a steep drop-off makes these beaches great for families. The Atlantic Ocean deposits lots of seashells along the beaches that face the ocean and a stroll along the sand will reward you with many unique treasures. On the sound-side, enjoy the protected beaches and calm waters that are perfect for kayaking and boating along the Intercoastal Waterway. When planning a family vacation to these top North Carolina beaches, keep in mind that no lifeguards are present on Topsail Island.
In addition to welcoming vacationers during the summer months, the Topsail Island beaches also see many Loggerhead Sea Turtles that visit to nest and lay their eggs near the dunes. These turtles are protected by local organizations that help to ensure nests remain untouched and that turtles can crawl into the sea upon hatching. Topsail Island is a great place to witness coastal wildlife in their natural habitat, just make sure not to disturb any you see.
Board a ferry to Bald Head Island for a blissful escape to one of the best North Carolina beaches. Located at the southern end of North Carolina and just off the east side of the Cape Fear River, this beach destination beckons vacationers looking to get away from it all. Few cars are present on the island and visitors and locals alike use golf carts to get from beach to beach during a stay at a spacious Bald Head Island vacation rental.
The island has three main beaches that are named based on their location making it easy for vacationers to remember their favorite. North Beach is very spacious and is a great place to relax during low tide. When the tide is out, families can enjoy searching for shells along the beach or try paddleboarding and kiteboarding when the waters are flat. Waves are minimal, so it is not a good spot for surfing and the currents can be strong during high tide. West Beach is best for an older crowd looking for breathtaking views and beach fires. Rip tides and currents can be strong here preventing beachgoers from floating in the ocean. South Beach is the most popular among families as it is easy to access, is spacious, and has consistently warmer water temperatures than its neighboring beaches. Breezy conditions keep beachgoers comfortable on the shore and create small waves for kids to play in. Finally, East Beach boasts powerful waves that are great for watersports, but not for a relaxing day spent at the beach.
During a stay in Bald Head Island, choose your beach wisely as swimming is at your own risk and no lifeguards are on duty. You can even choose an oceanfront rental right at the beach of your choice for easy access and total convenience while you’re on vacation.
Sunset on Bogue Sound, Emerald Isle, North Carolina
Located on the stunning Crystal Coast, Emerald Isle is one of the best beaches in North Carolina with clear blue waters set against a back drop of shimmering white sands. Here, beauty can be found both above and below the ocean’s surface, as the area is a well-known destination for wreck-diving. The Emerald Isle lies near North Carolina’s “Graveyard of the Atlantic,” and it is a great destination to explore for vacationers who want to spend as much time in the water as possible.
Emerald Isle has public access points along Bogue Sound and the Atlantic Ocean, so that visitors can enjoy every inch of this vacation spot. These public access points are open from sunrise to sunset, and many offer a variety of amenities, such as picnic areas, restrooms, boat launches, playgrounds and volleyball courts. During the summer season, stationed lifeguards are on duty at the Western Regional Beach Access and the Eastern Regional Beach Access, while a mobile lifeguard patrols the area between the two beach access areas via an ATV.
Wildlife is abundant along the coast of North Carolina, and it is important to take precautions both in and out of the water during a visit to Emerald Isle. On land, make sure to use bug spray to repel pesky mosquitoes that hang around on hot and humid days. In the water, keep an eye out for jellyfish and Portuguese Man-of-Wars floating along the ocean’s surface. A run-in with the tentacles of either type of sea creature can be extremely uncomfortable and can be avoided by staying alert. Further out to sea, you will see a variety of colorful and exotic Gulf Stream fish when you go diving along the Crystal Coast.
Any worries you have will leave you during a trip to one of North Carolina’s best beaches. Make your home-away-from a cozy beach bungalow at the end of a sandy road, or stay in an oceanfront condo rental near bustling public beaches. Whatever your preference, you’ll find it along the expansive coast of North Carolina.
Is there anything better than knowing your whole family is happy? That can be a difficult thing to accomplish when you’re planning a trip with the whole family, but it’s possible to achieve. To do so, plan a trip to one of the top South Carolina vacation spots. From frolicking in the waves to fishing, boating or golfing, there are endless possibilities for enjoyment that will have everyone smiling. With so many incredible South Carolina destinations to choose from, we’ve narrowed it down for you.
Wooden boardwalk leading to a Hilton Head beach on a beautiful morning.
It is no secret that Hilton Head is a favorite among the many South Carolina destinations that travelers flock to throughout the year. This island oasis offers 12 miles of uninterrupted beaches along the Atlantic Coast and countless paths, parks and preserves for families to explore. Here, the beach sands are so firmly packed that you can enjoy a range of activities by the ocean, including bike riding on certain occasions. Hilton Head is a haven for sports enthusiasts and one of the ideal beach destinations in South Carolina for families that love the outdoors.
The official beach season in Hilton Head lasts from April through September, and there is lots of room for vacationers to spread out since all of the Hilton Head beaches are public from the ocean to the high water mark. It’s important to note, though, that while the beaches are public, access to some is private. The town provides parking and access at only seven beach areas with paid parking available at all but the Islander’s Beach Park. Most of these beaches have lifeguards on duty from Memorial Day until Labor Day, and numbered markers in the sand indicate their location with respect to emergency responders, so everyone can feel at ease while having fun in the water.
If you’re staying in a Hilton Head vacation rental on the south end of the island, Alder Lane Beach Access is the most convenient. It is easily accessible by bike and offers a wide stretch of sound that is relatively uncrowded. This beach has restrooms, vending machines and has mats available to make it wheelchair accessible. On the northern end, enjoy Folly Field Beach. It’s known for being a quiet, safe beach with minimal undertow, and it is a favorite beach among surfers. Folly Field Beach also has lifeguards, restrooms and showers available to the public. If you’re looking to be where the action is, spend the day at Coligny Beach. It is the island’s busiest beach and lots of amenities, including restrooms, showers, water fountains, volleyball nets and a nearby outdoor bar can be found here. Lifeguards also rent beach equipment for those who come empty-handed.
Hilton Head is one of the largest South Carolina islands, so you won’t have trouble finding a beach vacation rental that will fit the whole family. Young and old will be happy at these beaches splashing in the surf, wandering through the dunes and walking along the firmly-packed sands. Visit any time of year as the water stays relatively warm year-round.
A weathered boardwalk leads vacationers to a quiet Murrells Inlet beach.
Just five minutes north of picturesque Pawleys Island lies Murrells Inlet with its gorgeous Huntington Beach State Park, a blissful beach oasis for vacationers in search of sand and sun at their finest. There is a small admission fee that ranges from $3-$5 depending on age, which goes toward protecting and preserving the natural beauty of the beach. Here, beach goers can bask in the sun and frolic in the waves that wash over the three-mile stretch of sand at Huntington Beach State Park. The park is open year-round and stays open until as late as 10 p.m. during the summer months, so you never have to feel like you’re in a rush at this beautiful South Carolina beach.
For families, stick close to the beach’s main access points as all of the park’s amenities are conveniently located near this area. There are showers and restroom facilities available, as well as a well-stocked snack bar during the summer season. Picnic areas nearby provide the perfect place to snack without having to leave the beach or get the crunch of sand in your food. The main beach access is also located right next to the Atalaya Castle, a unique piece of South Carolina history that is worth exploring during a visit to Huntington Beach State Park.
A bit farther down the beach at the north end, vacationers can enjoy a spectacular day at the beach. This end of the beach also has restrooms and picnic tables, as well as paths that lead to a number of jetties that jut into the water at Murrells Inlet. Stroll along the beaches or wander through the park’s protected salt marshes to spot over 300 species of wildlife.
Even if you have to drive a short distance from your South Carolina vacation rental to reach Huntington Beach State Park, it is worth the drive because lifeguards are on duty here during the summer season. Not all of the nearby beaches are patrolled by lifeguards, so enjoy this added peace of mind during your South Carolina beach vacation.
Myrtle Beach vacation rentals are perfect for families looking for space and comfort during their stay.
Myrtle Beach isn’t just a city bustling with activity. It is home to one of the best stretches of sandy beach in South Carolina, and it is a vacation spot that is easy for families traveling with children to visit. Fly into Myrtle Beach International Airport and you’ll immediately be right near the action. Rent a car to get to your South Carolina vacation rental and stay right on the waterfront for ultimate convenience.
The star of the Grand Strand, a 60-mile string of beaches, you’ll find a seemingly endless stretch of brown sugar sands and beachfront activities in Myrtle Beach. The beaches can get crowded during the summertime when the weather is warmest, so look to visit during the off season or find a beach farther down the Grand Strand. The beaches are less crowded during off months, but the water will still be warm well into the fall. If you must go during the summer, go to Myrtle Beach State Park, a bit farther down the Grand Strand as it is worth the nominal entrance fee to have access to this quieter area. The shores here have an abundance of seashells scattered about, so kids can enjoy treasure hunting or decorating sand castles with the ones they collect.
Tourists and beach-goers spill onto the sand from the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk all day long and the beach is a great place for people watching. Lifeguards patrol the beaches daily during the summer season to keep swimmers and beach bums safe, and they provide beach-going wheelchairs free of charge at many access points. Some unique rules to be aware of during your stay include keeping away from sea oats as it is illegal to cut, break, or destroy these beach plants, no swimming 50 yards from the beach, and no jumping or diving from piers. While surfing, parasailing, jet-skiing and other water sports are permitted, there are designated areas for these activities, so as to avoid any issues with swimmers.
Myrtle Beach vacation rentals are perfect for families looking for space and comfort during their stay. This South Carolina vacation spot is more affordable than some of the quieter beach destinations because there are so many options to choose from. With high-rise condo rentals lining the boardwalk and cozy beach homes away from the main drag, there’s a place for every family.
Kiawah Island is a hidden gem off the coast of South Carolina that brims with endless possibilities the entire family will enjoy. Fly into Charleston and then rent a car to reach your cozy beach rental just over 20 miles away from the city. The atmosphere here is laidback which makes it a perfect place for a relaxed family vacation in one of the many nearby home rentals.
If you’re not staying in a condo rental with private beach access at one of the island’s resorts, head to Beachwalker Park to soak up sun and swim in the refreshing waters. You’ll spend the majority of your time here since it is the only public beach on Kiawah Island. It offers a variety of seasonal amenities that vacationers can take advantage of, including a snack bar, outdoor showers, and restrooms. Parking is limited to control crowds, so it’s best to walk or ride a bike from your Kiawah Island vacation rental to the beach. You don’t have to worry about toting beach gear around all day since you can rent beach chairs and umbrellas at this South Carolina beach.
Lifeguards are on duty daily from Memorial Day until Mid-August, and then only on the weekends through the end of September. The water is generally very calm, though, so you don’t have to worry about kids playing in the waves. Even your furry family members can join you for your beach day, since it is a dog-friendly spot as long as they are kept on a leash.
You don’t have to visit during the high season to enjoy the beauty of Kiawah Beachwalker Park, though. The Atlantic Ocean waters that lap the firmly-packed sands stay warm from April to October. If you’re not interested in swimming, just enjoy the unique view of both the ocean and the Kiawah River from your beach chair or a nearby vacation rental.
Just east of downtown Charleston, Isle of Palms is where family’s go to experience ultimate relaxation at some of the best South Carolina beaches. It is a Lowcountry hideaway accessible only by a bridge that connects the island to the mainland. Since it is only 5.4 square miles in area it is very easy for vacationers to get around. Golf carts are the preferred mode of transportation here, but you can also rent a bike or moped for easy island travel.
This South Carolina vacation spot was originally opened as a recreational playground tucked into the surrounding natural beauty, and not much has changed. The city has more than 50 beach access paths that vacationers can use to reach the beach and there is ample parking at designated lots. The shores of Isle of Palms have been repeatedly certified as Blue Wave Beaches, which means that the beaches meet specific criteria related to cleanliness, safety and access to the public, and help make it one of the best South Carolina beaches.
Front beach is open to the public and it is the most popular beach in the area. The beaches are wide here, and it is an ideal spot for swimming, sunning and sandcastle building. Just remember to follow the beach rules and fill any holes your kids dig back up with sand. The County Park is another great beach spot that is centrally located and easy for families to get to. Here, you’ll find lifeguards on duty as well as showers and restrooms. Soak up sun along the miles of pristine, wide beaches that line the island.
The shores of Isle of Palms aren’t just great beach destinations for vacationers, though. They’re also a haven for wildlife and the perfect place for vacationers to observe nature. The Isle of Palms beaches are particularly unique because many sea turtles make their way up the beach to nest during the summer months. Hundreds of eggs are laid on these South Carolina beaches and in the tall dunes each season. This is something to keep in mind during a visit as the turtle eggs are monitored by the Island Turtle Team and show not be interfered with if you spot an egg. Keep your eyes peeled for the occasional turtle sunbathing on the beach.
The small size of the island makes it easy to access all of the great things to do here, and a great place for a quick beach getaway. Staying in one of the many luxurious, family-friendly vacation rentals on Isle of Palms will mean you never have to be far from the ocean. Visit this South Carolina vacation spot from April to October when the weather and water are at their warmest.
Whether you’re looking to spend lazy days at the beach or to tire the kids out with fun seaside activities, there are plenty of South Carolina destinations to meet your needs. Book a vacation rental to visit any time of the year and enjoy spacious relaxation down south.
It’s easy and fun to bike to the best beaches on Cape Cod
Sitting in traffic just to find out the only beach parking lot is full doesn’t sound like a great way to start a vacation day, does it? Enter: the bicycle. Whether you’re an avid cyclist or a little wobbly starting out, biking is a great way to get to and from Cape Cod’s best beaches. With a total of 114 miles of bike paths, you can get just about anywhere on the Cape without the headache of dealing with traffic. While most of the beaches listed below have accessible parking lots, biking is the best way to reach them stress-free.
Near the southern end of the Shining Sea Bikeway is Trunk River Beach, a rocky barrier strand that serves as a perfect pit stop along the 10.7-mile converted trail. If you’re looking for a quiet beach away from the crowds and you love wildlife then this is the place for you. It is a relatively private stretch of sand along the ocean that is hidden from all except the bikers, skaters, and strollers following the bikeway along the coast. There are no lifeguards on duty here and no concession stands, which keeps droves of tourists away and the beach’s atmosphere calm. It is not very wide and the shore is rocky, so it’s best if you’re looking for a refreshing dip during your ride, or a peaceful place to enjoy nature.
Trunk River Beach is an excellent spot for birdwatching and fishing. Overhead, you’ll spot beautiful marine birds like osprey and heron gliding over Vineyard Sound while an abundance of fish swim in the sea. If you can, bring your fishing rod because bass gather at the mouth of the Trunk River feeding on herring that empty into the ocean here. Unless it’s foggy out, you’ll be able to see Martha’s Vineyard in full view while you enjoy activities on the beach.
The Shining Sea Bikeway winds through picturesque Cape Cod scenery and connects Trunk River Beach to nearby Falmouth destinations, like Surf Drive Beach and Nobska Light. From flooded cranberry bogs to scenic harbors and muddy marshes to private sands, you’ll see it all on your way to some of the best beaches on Cape Cod. Since the bikeway hugs the coastline from North Falmouth to the village of Woods Hole, the path is only a short distance from many Cape Cod vacation rentals.
The Cape Cod Rail Trail offers many opportunities to veer off the bike path for a stop at a nearby Cape Cod beach. The trail winds through towns from Dennis to Wellfleet where there are many beach homes and condo rentals to choose from for your visit. At the beginning of the trail, make a detour to West Dennis Beach, which sits at the mouth of the Bass River, to see one of the premier Nantucket Sound beaches on the Cape. When you arrive, note that the east end of the parking lot is reserved for residents only, so you’ll want to lock your bike up on the west end of the lot before staking out a spot. The lot comes right up to the edge of the beach, so you won’t have to walk far to find a place to unfurl your towel.
While West Dennis Beach is one of the town’s most popular beaches, it rarely feels crowded because it is so expansive. The fine sand stretches for exactly one mile giving patrons plenty of room to stretch out. It is well-maintained and very clean, so it is a pleasant place to lay out, go for a stroll, or take the kids hunting for seashells that have washed ashore. The vast size of the beach is important, since one end of the beach is closed from time to time during the summer due to nesting piping plovers that can’t be disturbed.
Being on the ocean-side of Cape Cod, the water at West Dennis Beach is chillier than at the bayside beaches, but the calm waters make it a perfect place to swim. Families can feel comfortable with their little ones in the water as lifeguards are on duty during the day throughout the high season. If you’re more adventurous, try your hand at windsurfing here. There’s usually a good breeze, which makes it a great place to try the sport.
Out of the ocean, enjoy the well-equipped concession stand that is open during the day from Memorial Day to Labor Day. After eating, let the kids frolic at the playground next to the snack bar or fly kites from the jetty that juts into the ocean. Before heading home for the night, take advantage of the shower facilities and restrooms available to the public at West Dennis Beach.
There is no parking at Coast Guard Beach from mid-June to Labor Day, so it’s best to pick up the Nauset Bicycle Trail at Salt Pond Visitor Center for a leisure 1.6-mile bike ride to the beach. Located in the heart of the National Seashore, Coast Guard Beach is a favorite among Cape Cod beaches. It is where the Mayflower first sighted land in 1620, and today it is frequently recognized as one of the best in America. Here, the enduring Coast Guard Station looms over sunbathers lolling in the sand and the Cape Cod National Seashore, a park of the National Park Service, manages the beach keeping it in pristine condition.
Coast Guard Beach is patrolled daily by lifeguards during the summer season, so beachgoers can feel safe in the water. It is a prime spot for swimming and the cool temperature of the water makes for an invigorating dip on a hot day. Just be aware of strong ocean currents as you get farther out to sea. This beach is also one of the most popular spots for surfers looking to catch a wave. Here, the waves are more powerful than they are at other Cape Cod beaches and are shared by surfers and boogie-boarders alike. If you’re just wading in the water, don’t turn your back to the ocean as a wave might knock you off your feet.
The beach can get very crowded during the summer months, so for a change of scenery and a quieter area, walk down the beach in either direction. Along the way, you’ll see glacial sand cliffs and you can explore the golden sand that stretches as far as the eye can see. From the shore, scan the waters for seals. There is an abundance of them off the coast and kids can enjoy spotting them on a walk. If you do see seals in the distance, don’t get too close though because it could mean a shark is nearby.
When you visit Coast Guard Beach, bring your own lunch as there is no snack bar available. There is a picnic area, though, so you don’t have to worry about getting sand in your sandwich. In addition to packing snacks, make sure to bring bug spray since greenhead flies make appearances during the day beginning in mid-July. When you’re ready to leave, you can use the on-site restrooms and shower facilities, so you don’t have to track sand back to your vacation rental.
Located near the tip of Cape Cod on the untamed Atlantic side, Head of the Meadow Beach is a secluded spot where tourists and locals alike can enjoy one of Cape Cod’s best beaches. Its two-mile long namesake trail leads bikers down a bumpy stretch of pavement past forest and towering dunes before ending at the beach. Here, patrons will find a wide stretch of unspoiled coastline that easily connects to nearby National Seashore beaches. It is well-maintained and clean, and it is much less crowded than nearby Coast Guard Beach. This is likely because beachgoers must trek down high dunes to reach the beach.
The water at Head of the Meadow Beach warms up in the summer making it a pleasant place for a dip, and in season, there are lifeguards on duty to keep swimmers safe. A bit offshore, ever-changing sandbars form throughout the day, and attract many swimmers and waders. The sandbars create a great environment for bodysurfing and kids love to play here. While bodysurfing is allowed, keep in mind that surfing is only permitted outside the main beach area.
At low tide, trickling rivers burrow through the sand forming smaller tide pools where kids can splash and frolic. Also at low tide, you can catch a glimpse of the wreck of Frances, which ran aground in 1872 and can be seen in the distance surrounded by an abundance of seals, dolphins, and whales. Head of the Meadow Beach falls within the area’s “ocean graveyard” where there have been more than 1,000 shipwrecks. If tide pools and shipwrecks don’t interest you, participate in a rowdy volleyball match using one of the nets set up for the public to use.
If you refuse to leave the beach covered in sand, this might not be the beach for you, though. Temporary restrooms are set up for the summer months, but no showers are available here. Additionally, you’ll need to bring your own snacks as there is no concession stand at this beach. Head of the Meadow Beach is all about its natural beauty, so you won’t find lots of amenities here.
Herring Cove Beach is one of the best beaches on Cape Cod and is a popular stop for bikers along the challenging Province Lands Trail. It is a stunning strip of sand that emerges just past Provincetown’s undulating dunes, and it is managed by the Cape Cod National Seashore. Located at the knuckle of Cape Cod’s iconic arm-shaped peninsula, the gorgeous beach here is wide and seems to go on forever. If you can, book a vacation rental for June or early July and visit when this beach is less crowded. Otherwise, expect large crowds from mid-July through the end of summer here.
There are two parking areas at Herring Cove Beach. If you’ve brought your whole family, head to the bike racks and lot on the right side as it is closer to the beach and more convenient if you’re carrying loads of beach gear. This area of the beach is also close to the amenities available to the public, which include restrooms, showers, and a seasonal concession stand. If you’ve left the kids at home and are looking for an adult-oriented area, pack up your stuff and venture to the left of the parking lot. At the end of a long path surrounded by dunes, you’ll find a clothing optional beach that adults can enjoy. It’s a fun adventure if you’re not shy or afraid of a little nudity, but be prepared to be a bit far away from the rest of the beachgoers.
Herring Cove Beach is relatively rocky for those just looking for a stroll, but the water here is unusually warm and calm because it’s on the bayside. Lifeguards are on duty during the summer season and there isn’t much undertow, so it is a safe place for swimmers of all levels to spend the entire day. Stay for the breathtaking sunsets in the evening, and spot whales breaching and seals bobbing in the distance.
If an oceanfront rental isn’t in your budget, stay in a charming cottage or downtown condo rental that provides easy access to bike paths and quiet side streets for a scenic bike ride to the beach. With so many Cape Cod vacation rentals to choose from, pick the best beach for your stay and then don’t forget your bike!
I spent the day in Tetouan, Morocco via the ferry from Spain years ago and fell in love with the utter uniqueness of the country – I knew I had to go back.
Eight years later I booked our honeymoon to Morocco, but as I began the research and planning portion of the trip, I became overwhelmed. From the coastal towns with sprawling beaches to the snow capped Atlas Mountains, the range in topography of this country is incredibly varied and unique. I realized that there was so much to see and I was worried 16 days wouldn’t be enough time but after hours of research and the help of an amazing guide named Nick, we had an amazing time in this beautiful place.
In order to help future travelers looking to visit this vast and ancient country, I’ve layed out the top five must-see spots in Morocco in this post (and don’t forget to click on the poll links to vote on your favorite vacation rental!) Each of the five can easily be seen within a 10-12 day timeline.
Essaouira (Mogador): If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, you’ll immediately recognize this coastal city from Season Three as the city of Astapor. Originally called Mogador when it was founded by the Portuguese, the contrast of the dark citadel against the white city walls is a beautiful site. Stroll through the medina and grab a French crepe, or wander along the wall to take in gorgeous views of the Atlantic ocean. Foodies will love the fish market.
Fes: Believed to be one of the largest car-free cities in the world as well as a UNESCO World Heritage site, you will feel as though you’ve stepped back in time as you walk through the medina. Our walking guide had grown up in Fes and admitted he still gets lost in the medina among the many windy streets, some of which are barely a foot wide. (Note: at least one guided tour is a must in this city or I promise, you will get lost!)
Moulay Idriss: A magnificent holy city founded by the Moulay Idriss I, the Muslims believe that visiting Moulay Idriss seven times is the same as visiting Mecca once. As you approach the city, the silhouette of the outline of the community on the surrounding hills seems to take on the form of the humps of a camel. Highly recommend lunch at the Scorpion House to take in the panoramic views on your way to or from the ancient ruins of Volubilis.
Marrakech: Located north of the foothills of the Atlas Mountains, this bustling city also touts a very large medina (although not quite the size of Fes) and continues to grow in popularity – especially with the Europeans – as a big tourist destination. The giant marketplace, Jamaa el Fna, is worth a visit for sunset where you’ll see snake charmers, magicians and many other unique street performers. For an elegant, authentic meal, make sure to check out La Maison Arabe for dinner.
Sahara Desert: After many hours of driving, two of which included off-roading through the desert – that’s right, no roads, just desert!) I can’t begin to explain my sense of awe as we arrived via camels to our Luxury Desert Camp run by Nick & Bobo. The desert is an absolute must when visiting Morocco. From the watching the sun set over the dunes every evening, to looking up at the vast night sky full of bright stars, every experience in the desert was unforgettable. The view of what feels like infinite dunes is a sight to be seen and every night we were treated to a bonfire with traditional music performed by the Berbers who ran our camp – truly incredible.
Tess is Director of Digital & Social Content for a new social media ios app backed by Google Ventures called Cinch Polls, an easy way to see what people think about your images & ideas with a quick vote. When she’s not having fun with Cinch, you might find Tess researching the next unique destination to visit while sipping a fresh glass of bubbly.
Lush green forests, friendly little towns in quiet green valleys… Madeira is a Portuguese island, part of the archipelago with the same name, geographically belonging to Africa, but part of the country of Portugal, enjoying local autonomy. In order to avoid any misunderstandings: this article focuses on the main island of the archipelago with the same name, Madeira.
View of Funchal from higher ground
The Portuguese quite often refer to this island as “Ilha Jardim” (“Garden Island”), because it’s famous for its beautiful flowers and variety of green plant species. In fact, one of the top reasons for visiting Madeira is to see its beautiful plant life. The island has breathtaking scenery and there are several architectural attractions worth visiting as well. Now, let’s see some details about what you can experience on Madeira.
Madeira’s Top Attractions
Nevertheless, the primary reason for visiting the island of Madeira is to admire the scenic mountainous and shoreline views. It’s nature that offers the best enjoyment – you’d be amazed by the plentitude of breathtaking landscapes and the variety of beautiful terrain on such a relatively small island (57 km or 35 mi north-south and 22 km or 14 mi east-west).
An old street in Funchal
Madeira’s capital – Funchal has more than 110,000 inhabitants, by far the biggest city on the island. And, it is the best place to set your base for exploring the entire island, even. You’ll find a variety of tour companies offering excursions, guided trips to various parts of Madeira. Generally, the trips focus separately on the east, west and central regions of the island.
One of the top places to visit is the enthralling town of Curral das Freiras (literally meaning “Valley of the Nuns”), found right in the heart of Madeira. There, you’ll find yourself inside a cool green valley, surrounded by mountains. The scenery is stunning and probably the best viewpoint is the one on a mountain just south of the town. Buses, taxis will take you there. But a tour company will ideally bring you there first, before visiting the town famous for its chestnut liqueurs and green Madeira wine made from grapes cultivated in this region.
Another stunning place is the green Encumeada Pass, which is found in western Madeira. This is one of the most spectacular part of the entire island. The views there will take you off your feet. You might also try taking a hike, it could be an experience of a lifetime.
Don’t leave Madeira without thoroughly exploring the capital of Funchal either. Funchal’s attractions are scattered and due to the multitude of valleys, gorges, hills, some travelers find their way around with difficulty. Know the target attractions and if you have little time for looking around, don’t rely exclusively on your own two feet.
There are two cable car lines serving Funchal and the views from either one of them are spectacular. Don’t miss out on the experience of going up to the Monte neighborhood of the city. From there, you can contemplate the stunning views of Funchal from an altitude of 1,000 m, but some parts of the Monte are around 1,300 m above sea level. Up there on the Monte, you’ll find the Nossa Senhora do Monte Church. Inside it, you’ll find the coffin of the last Hungarian King, Charles IV, who lived in exile on the island and died young.
The Strelitzia flower is considered Madeira’s symbol
Funchal prides itself with a gorgeous Botanical Garden and a Tropical Garden – both are found on higher ground, at a considerable distance from one another. Under no circumstance should you miss out on the Botanical Garden, it has an impressive collection of plants and exotic birds. Funchal’s fortresses are particularly interesting, there are four of them: São João Baptista do Pico Fortress, São Tiago Fortress, the São Lourenço Palace (fortified with walls) and the Molhe Fort.
The São Tiago Fortress
Finally, the Sé (Cathedral), the scenic Largo do Chafariz (a square with a water fountain at its centre surrounded by beautiful buildings) and the Port area constitute primary attractions. Further information about Madeira you can find on the Madeira guide on the Escape Hunter site: basically a trip-based, slightly journal-like walkaround guide.
Spain’s biggest cargo port, home to a famous soccer team, part of the country’s 3rd biggest urban agglomeration area and… host of the famous yearly Fallas festival. But, overall Valencia is not getting the attention it deserves. Undoubtedly, other cities in Spain get vastly more exposure (for various reasons), but that doesn’t mean Valencia is so much less interesting that the other cities. In fact, Valencia is an intriguing friendly city with lots of hidden attractions and several mind-blowing attractions as well.
What Should the Traveler Expect From Valencia?
It’s a Mediterranean city with the characteristic feel and, it is the birthplace of the paella. Expect lots of restaurants filled with menus based on seafood, especially in Valencia’s complex Old Town full of narrow streets and beautiful old buildings. You will not find as many World-famous imposing buildings (as opposed to Barcelona), but perhaps there’s a lot more delicacy in Valencia’s architecture. It’s definitely worth wandering the streets, noticing the fine details, discovering the variety of scattered buildings. There certainly is more architectural variety in Valencia than in Madrid or Barcelona.
Valencia is a city of contrast. You will frequently encounter old architecture and modern side-by-side. The central area is incredibly diverse with an intriguing network of old streets and, an abundance of street art creations. You’ll need a list of Valencia’s attractions and places of interest, then you will be able to walk around, exploring and checking all of them one-by-one. Otherwise, visiting would be a bit complicated.
Some of Valencia’s Most Special Attractions
The Cathedral with the Miquelet is in the Old Town’s centre. The Miquelet is a tower of the Cathedral, which offers splendid 360-degree views of the Valencia. The city has quite an intriguing skyline worth contemplating for long minutes.
Down in the Cathedral, there is a cup held inside a chapel. Locals believe it is the “Holy Grail”, which has been used to catch Jesus’ flowing blood during the crucifixion.
Valencia’s Old Town and the streets in the city core have an abundance of beautiful Art Nouveau, Beaux Arts and Baroque buildings (scattered). These buildings are in great condition, but unfortunately most travelers don’t take the time to explore the streets to discover them.
Some of the most important buildings to look up are: the Mercado Central (Modernist-style market hall), the Palacio del Marques de Dos Aguas (a very beautiful Rococo palace), the old building of the Silk Exchange (Llotja de la Seda), the two remaining fortified city gates – the Torres Serranos and Torres de Quart.
The City of Arts and Sciences is a Santiago Calatrava-designed complex of futuristic buildings (hosting museums, aquariums, auditoriums…), found in the green area of the former Túria Riverbed.
The latter has a story of its own – most commonly known as “The Túria Gardens”, it’s a vast artificially-created green area, which cuts across Valencia. It’s easily noticeable on maps as a thick green line stretching across. The course of River Túria was diverted and the space gained from this was covered with this green park-like recreational area. Valencia’s vast beaches add to all of these previous attractions. The sandy beaches here are among Europe’s biggest ones – both in terms of width and length. They tend to be quieter than Alicante’s or Barcelona’s beaches, but also further from the city centre and less restaurants, clubs hotels are near.
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