As the summer heat arrives in full force, it could be difficult to get comfortable on a crowded beach. From Atlantic shores to Gulf Coast barrier islands, enjoy the allure of natural beauty at these secret gems along the shores of the South. We promise you’ll be able to stretch out with one of our summer reads and enjoy some peace and quiet on these beaches.
Padre Island National Seashore, Texas
North Padre is raw, unencumbered Texas coast. This park, which is the longest stretch of undeveloped barrier island in the world, protects 70 miles of coastline, dunes, prairies and wind tidal flats teeming with life. Near the island’s north end, Malaquite Beach is rarely crowded. Families can easily stretch out and enjoy the beach for a day or camp on the island and make it a weekend getaway. Various activities include windsurfing, kayaking or strolling any of the 60 miles of uninterrupted and beautiful white sand down to Mansfield Channel.
Sea Camp Beach
Cumberland Island, Georgia
Cumberland Island (pictured above) itself is a great spot for nature lovers. In 1972, it was established as a national seashore, providing for the protection of the island’s upland maritime forests, saltwater marsh and 17 miles of beach; it is now reportedly the largest “wilderness island” in the country. Because Cumberland is mostly underdeveloped, only 300 people a day are allowed to take the ferry onto the island. Sea Camp Beach is a perfect place to spot the wild horses, sea turtles and horseshoe crabs that inhabit the area. Collect shark’s teeth and shells from the soft gray sand, and sleep under the stars in one of Sea Camp’s tents on the beach. But make sure to make reservations.
Topsail Beach, North Carolina
Just off the southeastern coast of North Carolina, the town of Topsail Beach (pictured below) is the smallest of three communities located on a 26-mile-long island with only 500 year-round residents. You usually won’t find many crowds on the beach here compared to others on the Carolina shores, which makes it great for fishing, seashells hunting (this place is known for finding some of the best conch shells on the East coast, particularly in the late summer), body surfing and boogie boarding — or just sunbathing with a good book.
West End Beach
Dauphin Island, Alabama
Clear turquoise waters and white-sand beaches aren’t just found in Florida; much of Alabama’s beaches are made almost entirely from quartz grains washed down the Appalachian Mountains thousands of years ago. Dauphin Island is a lovely little barrier island at the southernmost point of Alabama with beautiful beaches, walking trails and lots of wildlife. In fact, the entire island is a designated bird sanctuary and has been named one of the nation’s “birdiest coastal communities.” West End Beach stays fairly uncrowded, leaving lots of space to settle down in the sand or search the shore for shells.
This little beach town stands on the western edge of what locals call the Cajun Riviera, a 30-mile stretch of South Louisiana coastline dotted by marshes and rivers. Even though this area has been wiped out by hurricanes in the past, efforts like “Caring for Our Coast,” a volunteer-based restoration project, have worked to restore the beaches and coastlines. Today, Holly Beach welcomes beach-goers, including swimmers, surfers, sailors and other water-sports enthusiasts. Because the beach is wide, it remains pretty uncrowded. Camping is allowed, and the numerous rental houses and RV areas might convince you to stick around for more than just a day.
Sullivan’s Island Beach
Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina
A barrier island 15 minutes north of downtown Charleston, Sullivan’s Island (pictured above) is renowned for its relaxed and casual lifestyle, uncrowded beaches and quaint seaside neighborhoods. This is where the locals go to avoid the summer crowds, so you’re practically guaranteed a quiet setting. Perfect for having a picnic, as well as water activities like paddleboarding and windsurfing, Sullivan’s Island is so pristine that some say it looks exactly as it did when Edgar Allen Poe was stationed there with the Army in 1827.
Lovers Key State Park
Fort Myers Beach, Florida
It can be hard to find a quiet, uncrowded beach in Florida, but not if you know where to look. Located just south of Fort Myers Beach, Lovers Key (pictured below) was only accessible by boat in the early 1900s and got its name because it was so remote that only lovers made the extra effort to get to the spot. Now, this 2.5-mile stretch of beach is easy to reach but still not well-known, making it a romantic spot to take your significant other. Lovers Key is also renowned for its pristine white beach and wildlife viewing opportunities, including birding and occasionally dolphin and manatee sightings.
Blowing Rocks Preserve
Hobe Sound, Florida
In a region with miles of sandy beaches, Blowing Rocks Preserve is unique: Its craggy limestone shore looks more like it belongs in Maine or Hawaii. Located on Jupiter Island at the southernmost tip of the Indian River Lagoon, about 25 miles north of West Palm Beach, this peaceful barrier island sanctuary is a well known model for large-scale, native coastal habitat restoration. The preserve was named for its rocky Anastasia limestone shoreline — the largest on the U.S. Atlantic coast. During extreme high tides and after winter storms, seas break against the rocks and force plumes of saltwater up to 50 feet skyward. The beach itself has soft sand and plenty of it for your to sit down and relax; swimming, snorkeling and scuba-diving are also welcome here.