Snowbird Getaway: From Charleston to Savannah to Myrtle Beach, 5 Places to Enjoy Coastal Living
Florida has long been a popular snowbird destination, but if you're looking for something different this year, you could do worse than exploring the southeastern U.S. coast. Photo: Charleston, S.C.; Courtesy of South Carolina Tourism
If you’re looking for an alternative sunshine destination to Florida, here are some places to enjoy coastal living on the southeastern U.S. coast.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
This is as a tremendous family destination, but it’s a place I always enjoy on my own. The golf courses (I love Caledonia Golf Club) are tremendous, and the beachfront arcades feature old-time baseball games and retro pinball machines. But there’s also fresh seafood and inventive restaurants, a beach that goes on just shy of forever and tons of outdoor activities. Try a kayaking trip on the quiet, peaceful Black River, where you’ll find live oak trees dripping with Spanish moss.
For culture fans, the Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum is a small place that packs a punch. Evergreen Gardens is a tremendous spot for nature lovers and photographers with its stunning floral displays, ponds and statuary. Murrells Inlet is a lively spot south of Myrtle Beach with a fine wooden boardwalk and several waterfront restaurants.
The Hammock Shops Village in nearby Pawleys Islands features brick walkways, thick groves of tropical trees and sophisticated shopping.
Hilton Head, South Carolina
This has remained one of the most popular getaways in the southeast U.S. for decades, and for good reason. You’ll find tons of golf courses, including Harbour Town Links, which is the site of one of the most prestigious tournaments on the professional golf circuit. There are several options for more casual golfers as well.
Hilton Head also is a thriving spot for tennis and, nowadays, pickleball. It’s fairly flat and there are tons of beautiful trees for shade, so it’s ideal for cycling. The beach has cool sand dunes that kids will love to explore. There’s also a fine Tanger Outlets shopping centre and great seafood restaurants. The Salty Dog has casual snacks and drinks and overlooks the water. There’s often live music as well as saltwater taffy. Sea Pines Beach Club has a stronger menu and is probably better suited for adult groups.
Charleston, South Carolina
This graceful, coastal city often ranks as the number one city in America in those fancy travel magazine polls, and there’s good reason. The old homes are impossibly beautiful and immaculately maintained. Many are done up in plantation style and feature flower beds that would make the Butchart Gardens folks envious.
Animal rights folks would argue the point, but one of the most popular ways to see the city is on a horse-drawn carriage. When I visited, my guide explained that the houses were specifically designed to increase air flow, with open porches that are perfect for a morning coffee or an afternoon mint julep. Charleston is only a few minutes from Fort Sumter, which is where the U.S. Civil War began in 1861.
Yet another city that often vies for “America’s best,” this riverside community in Georgia has some of the most stately architecture in the U.S. Not to mention southern hospitality, romantic parks, delicious food and stately B&Bs. There are a couple of trolley companies that offer hop on/off tours, which are a convenient way to see and learn about the city.
Ghost tours also are hugely popular in Savannah, which has a history dating back several centuries. The Marriott Savannah Riverfront has lovely river views and tons of style. Of course, this Georgia city also was widely featured in the movie Forrest Gump, and fans can sit on the bench in Chippewa Square where Tom Hanks delivered his famous line about life being like a box of chocolates.
Jekyll Island, Georgia
I’m partial to the Jekyll Island Club Resort, a throwback, Dirty Dancing kind of place with a ton of history. They used the 2020 pandemic slowdown to update their rooms, suites and cottages.
You can hike one of the lovely nature trails, or you can rent a bike and take a ride on the beach’s firm-packed sand. The sunsets over the Intracoastal Waterway are astonishing. Jekyll is famous for its fun and inexpensive golf courses. The state of Georgia owns the Jekyll Island Golf Club, which has three full 18-hole courses and a nine-hole layout. I find Oleander to be the prettiest of the bunch. It’s just US$45 to play one of the 18-hole courses if you don’t take a cart. That’s roughly the price of three tallboy beers at some courses in Ontario.
A version of this story was originally published on Nov. 19, 2021