The Best Off-Season Beaches in the Southeast

When the cool weather starts floating in, many people head to the mountains. But I say – “Why not the beach?”

Sunrise at the beach with only one child on the sand.

Vacationing at the beach in the fall and winter can be a great escape. There are fewer people, allowing for soulful walks along the beach, and time to sit and enjoy a sunset or sunrise.

Even better, there’s no line at the coffee shop and you can probably get one of those fresh donuts right out of the fryer instead of longingly staring at them as you count the people in line in front of you. 

Sure, the water may be cold, but the light is fantastic, the bugs aren’t as annoying, and you can have some “me” time.

If you’re looking for a beach in the southeast to visit this fall or winter, don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. We have 19 (NINETEEN!) recommendations for the best southeast beaches to visit in the fall and winter.

Let’s get rolling and find your new favorite off-season beach!

Photo Courtesy of Terri Markle

Florida

Tigertail Beach

Recommended by Lori and Angelo of Naples Florida Travel Guide

One of the best southeast US beaches to visit in the Fall and Winter is Tigertail Beach on Marco Island, Florida. It’s also one of the most unique beaches you’ll ever experience.

With equal parts lagoon estuary, white sand beach, wildlife habitat, and Everglades adventure, Tigertail has two unique beaches to enjoy and so many fun things to do.

On the tidal lagoon, you can rent kayaks, paddleboards, or relax on the beach. There’s a tall tower for bird watching or taking in the panoramic views of this pristine natural environment.

Getting out to the beach on the Gulf of Mexico is where the fun really begins. You can choose to walk the mile around or simply wade through the lagoon to the other side, which is quite safe and worth the effort. You’ll carry your beach chairs and gear with you overhead.

When you reach the outer beach, the short path leads through mangroves to a beautiful beach that’s rarely crowded. There’s soft white sand, excellent shelling, and the warm aquamarine water of southwest Florida.

Adjacent to the parking lot is a very good snack bar, outdoor showers, and restrooms, and you can park all day for $8.00.

Amelia Island, Florida

Recommended by Deanne of Scenic and Savvy

Thirteen miles of wide, uncrowded beaches make Amelia Island, Florida, one of the best beaches in the Southeast to visit this winter. Amelia Island is a barrier island near the Georgia border and an easy 40-minute drive from Jacksonville.

The super soft sand on the wide-open Amelia Island beaches is perfect for sinking your toes into. You can stroll along the shore, relax on the beach, or take a dip in the ocean. There are public access points to the shoreline up and down the stretch of island.

One thing not to miss along the Amelia Island beaches is a beautiful sunrise. Many accommodations sit seaside, giving you the chance to step right outside your door and enjoy the sand, waves, and pastel sun rising in the distance.

If you’re up for a little adventure, check out the beach in Amelia Island State Park on the southern end of the island. It’s the only Florida state park where you can horseback ride on the beach.

Whether you’re looking for a seaside adventure or total relaxation, a warm winter getaway to the beaches of Amelia Island will not disappoint.

Playalinda Beach, Florida

Recommended by Vicky of Buddy The Traveling Monkey

One of the best Southeast beaches to visit is Playalinda Beach just off of Titusville, Florida. It’s on the northeastern shore of Merritt Island, on a beautiful stretch of undeveloped beach. From downtown Titusville, Playalinda Beach is easy to get to and only about a 25-minute drive.

Playalinda Beach is located in the Canaveral National Seashore, which is a U.S. National Park. It costs $20 per vehicle to enter, but it is good for 7 days. Park hours are 6 AM to 6 PM during the winter. There are 13 parking lots that run along a 4-mile road. The first few are always the busiest, so we suggest skipping those.

Playalinda Beach also has a clothing-optional section that is accessible through parking lot 13. It’s easy to avoid, though, if that’s not something you’re into.

Another cool thing about Playalinda Beach is that it’s on the same island as Kennedy Space Center. On launch days, Playalinda Beach is one of the closest, unobstructed views you can have for a rocket launch.

South Beach, Miami Florida

Recommended by James of Travel Collecting

South Beach is home to most of Miami’s nightclubs, bars, and restaurants, as well as countless hotels. The area is also called the Art Deco District, for the famous and unique tropical take on art deco architecture. But it is the beach that is the main attraction. 

South Beach is one of the most iconic beaches in the country and the cooler months are the best time to visit. 

The beach stretches for about 9 miles along the entire length of a narrow island about 3 miles off the Miami coast. The most southern 2.5 miles are South Beach. 

South Beach is dotted with 36 brightly colored, uniquely decorated lifeguard towers that add flair and flavor to the beach. The beach is divided into rough sections, identified by the street they are at the end of. 

Running alongside the beach is a narrow grassy park, with a winding path that is perfect for strolling, running, rollerblading – or just people watching. On the other side of the park is Ocean Drive, where you’ll find Miami’s famous nightlife.

So, if you’re headed to Miami, stay in Sobe, and enjoy the beach and all the fun that Miami has to offer! You can find more great places at Travel Collecting.

Fort Zachary Taylor State Park Beach in Key West, FL

Recommended by Kylie of Between England and Iowa

A great beach to visit in the Southeast USA in winter is Fort Zachary Taylor State Park beach in Key West Florida!

Key West is the southernmost point of continental US, it’s closer to Cuba in the Caribbean than Miami! So of course by visiting Key West in winter you will be treated to warm, sunny weather. The sea is a beautiful blue color, and it feels like a desert island! 

Fort Zachary Taylor State Park Beach is quite easy to walk to from downtown Key West. Entrance to the state park is $2.50 per person if you’re on foot. There is a parking area. The cost for vehicles with 1 person is $4.50, which rises to $7 for 2 people. After that, additional passengers are $0.50 each. 

There are lots of shaded areas with picnic benches or sun loungers and umbrellas are available to rent. It’s also a good spot to snorkel. If you don’t have your own equipment, this can be rented too.

My personal favourite thing about this beach is that entrance to Fort Zachary Taylor is included in the state park fee. The fort dates back to 1845 and it is great to walk around!

Beer Can Island, Florida,

Recommended by Victoria of Florida Trippers

One of the best beaches to visit in the southeast in Fall or Winter is Beer Can Island in Florida! It was many years before I visited here, and I can’t believe it took me so long! It is truly one of the many hidden gems in Florida and something that you shouldn’t miss when traveling to the southeast.

First, it is important to note that there are two Beer Can Islands in Florida! One is located in Tampa Bay [not this one!] and the other in Longboat Key near Sarasota. This is the Longboat Key location!

One of my tips for visiting Beer Can Island is that you have to park and walk a little ways and then you come to a beach where you hike through trees and mangroves. It’s an easy walk, only about 5-7 minutes. And then, you arrive! At this gorgeous beach with dead trees!

Now, some of the trees have been cleared out, so don’t let that scare you! There are still plenty of trees to visit and it is the perfect place for swimming and exploring. Fall and winter are great times to visit as it is much quieter as the boaters aren’t there as often, really only on weekends! 

Lovers Key State Park, Florida

Recommended by Candice of CS Ginger

Lovers Key State Park just outside Fort Myers is home to picturesque beaches, tidal lagoons, and mangrove canals. It is also a great place to look for seashells and wildlife.

There is so much to do at Lovers Key State Park you can easily spend the day exploring the area. The Black Island Trail is the main trail through the park and is about five miles long. Along the trail, there is a pond where you can look for alligators and turtles.

Another great activity is kayaking the estuary in Lovers Key. There are two miles of waterway trails. During the winter you have a great chance of seeing a manatee so make sure you keep an eye out! Kayak rentals are available from Lovers Key Adventurers near the boat ramp in the park.

Lovers Key Beach is a 2.5 mile stretch of beautiful white sand. There is a tram that will take you from the parking area down to the beach but if you prefer to walk, it isn’t a very long walk.

The entrance fee is $8 per car. Lovers Key State Park is open from 8 am to sunset, 365 days a year.

Lido Key, Florida

Recommended by Terri of Female Solo Trek

I escaped to Lido Key, Florida in late September in search of sun, sand, and long beach walks. I flew direct to Sarasota, Florida, which is located on the Gulf of Mexico. It was a 2-hour direct flight from Washington DC.

Lido Key is famous for its turquoise green water, white sand beaches, and Armand’s Circle shopping district. You can swim, snorkel, kayak, or rent a powerboat.

Lido is less than a 15-minute Uber drive from the Sarasota airport. The 15-acre key includes two state parks, miles of beaches, and top-class hotels. If expense is no object, book your room at the Ritz Carlton property.

The main mode of transportation is a car, although I saw a lot of people riding bicycles for exercise. The temperatures are typically in the 80s in the autumn. The coldest month is January. Short rainstorms are typical in Florida.

I recommend birding on Lido Key. Wake up at 6:30 am so you can walk the beach before sunrise. Expect to see the Great White egrets and black herons splashing in the water. You can get the perfect “Golden Hour” photo of the birds with the city of Sarasota as a backdrop. 

Daytona Beach, FL

Recommended by Victoria of Guide Your Travel

Daytona Beach is located in the city of Daytona and one of my favorite places to visit. The beach is very wide which means there is always room, even on crowded days.

The beach is popular year-round, attracting thousands of tourists, even during the winter months. Temperatures tend to stay in the 70s making this the perfect spot for swimming and water sports if you don’t mind the slightly chilly water temperatures.

Daytona is the perfect place to go surfing and try different water sports. The surf can be rough but on calmer days this is a great place for beginners to try surfing or even just paddleboarding which can be a lot of fun.

A great thing to do at Daytona Beach is to rent a boat and go on a tour along the coast. There are a lot of tour companies offering day charters or you can join a larger group. You can find more great places to visit at Guide Your Travel.

Naples Beach, FL

Recommended by Rebecca of Whatever Packs Your Bag

Naples Florida has miles of beautiful beaches, but the best one by far is Naples Pier Beach, located at 12th Avenue South in Naples Florida.

Fall and winter are the most beautiful seasons to visit. In the cooler months, you almost always see dolphins from the pier. The white sandy beaches are beautiful, and the sand is soft and perfect for walking barefoot where the ocean meets the land.

Parking can be a little tricky. Make sure to get there early so get a spot (they fill up fast) and remember to pay for your parking so you don’t get a ticket. 

Sunset over the Gulf of Mexico is the perfect start to your evening and will be the highlight of your trip to beautiful Naples Florida. The pier has a snack bar in the middle, but if you are looking for an even better treat, walk over to Barbatella and enjoy some amazing gelato Italian style.  

Photo Courtesy of Alanna of Periodic Adventures

Georgia

Jekyll Island, Georgia

Recommended by Alanna of Periodic Adventures

Jekyll Island in Georgia is a beautiful, underrated beach destination perfect for a fall or winter getaway! It used to be a winter retreat for tycoons in the northeast like Rockefeller, Pulitzer, and Vanderbilt. Now, you can visit the island to get a glimpse of their sanctuary.

The best thing to do on Jekyll Island is visit Driftwood Beach. It’s located on the northeast tip of the island and is quite the sight! It’s famous for incredibly large driftwood pieces that have floated on shore and found permanent homes there. Kids will love climbing over the bare trees.

Driftwood Beach is also a fantastic spot for photographers to capture the sunrise, sunset, and even night photography.

I love Jekyll Island because it feels like Georgia’s secret escape! The island is so small that you can bike around the whole thing and the shops, beaches, and restaurants have such a small-town secluded feel, it’s hard to believe you’re only an hour from Savannah.

The cooler months are the perfect time to visit too because there are fewer crowds and fun holiday activities like Holly Jolly light tours to see the Spanish moss draped trees covered in lights.

Tybee Island, Georgia

Recommended by Victoria of Southern Trippers

Tybee Island is truly one of the best beaches in the southeast to visit during fall and winter! Why? Because it is one of the best day trips from Savannah, Georgia!

This means that you get to combine a Savannah city trip with a beach trip. Tybee Island is the closest beach to Savannah making it a popular day trip or secondary destination. In fact, it has been a popular day trip destination for Savannah since the 1800s!!

The island is 3 miles wide and home to stunning beaches and super cute houses. Savannah is truly one of my favorite cities in the USA and the very best time to visit is during the off-season or fall/winter, especially during Halloween or Christmas.

So, if you want to visit Tybee Island and visit Savannah during this time, you are in for a real treat!

Tybee Island is home to 5 different beaches, so you can take your pick when visiting this fantastic destination!!!!!

Photo Courtesy of Kate Storm

South Carolina

Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

Recommended by Alex of Wander with Alex

If you’re looking to escape to a warmer climate in the fall and winter months, I highly recommend visiting Hilton Head Island in South Carolina! From gorgeous beaches and freshly caught seafood to world class golf courses and beautiful sunsets, Hilton Head is a delightful place to vacation.

Whether you’re looking to relax, explore, adventure, or eat, this magnificent island has a little bit of something for everyone.

Visiting Hilton Head Island after the summer months is an ideal time due to fewer crowds and cooler temperatures. I visited in October and the daytime temperatures stayed around the mid-80s.

The Island has 12 miles of beautiful clean beaches for you to explore. Popular areas around the island include Coligny Beach Park, Hilton Head Island Beach, Burkes Beach, Islanders Beach Park, Fish Haul Beach Park, and Pine Island Beach.

One of the more popular beach options for tourists and locals is Coligny Beach Park. Coligny Beach Park has showers, restrooms, changing rooms, and tons of outdoor lounging before you reach the beach.

Once you arrive, you’ll find tons of chair and umbrella rentals along the sand and miles of gorgeous sandy beach.

Pro Tip: if you’re looking to rent chairs and umbrellas, do it ahead of time because they go quick!

Huntington Beach State Park, South Carolina

Recommended by Melinda of Mel On The Go

South Carolina’s Huntington Beach State Park is a great off-season destination, combining a beautiful beach with a coastal preserve and campgrounds.

There’s so much to do at Huntington Beach. With 3 miles of sandy beach, it’s lovely for a stroll and more. Home to a huge variety of native birds, sea turtles, and alligators, it’s designed for naturalists, with hiking paths and wetland lookouts for prime wildlife viewing.

History and architecture buffs should visit Atalaya Castle, the 1930s estate which was a winter home to local legends The Huntingtons.

This wealth of activities in any season makes Huntington Beach Park one of my top things to do in Pawleys Island SC.

Located just south of Myrtle Beach on the main highway, it’s an easy drive to Huntington Beach, and there’s ample parking. Alternatively, bike lanes lead to and throughout the park.

Huntington Beach is a state park, so state park pass holders enter free. All other adults pay $8.

I highly recommend bringing bikes in your car or cycling there to access all the nature trails. Or sign up for a Segway tour. They looked really fun!

Photo Courtesy of Kate Storm

North Carolina

The Crystal Coast, North Carolina

Recommended by Kate of Our Escape Clause

Sometimes referred to as the Southern Outer Banks, the Crystal Coast of North Carolina may not have quite as big of a reputation as its cousin to the north–but it’s well worth a visit.

Some popular things to do along the Crystal Coast include admiring the lighthouse at Cape Lookout National Seashore, spotting wild horses on Shackleford Banks, browsing shops and historic sites in charming Beaufort, riding horses on the beach on Cedar Island, and touring Fort Macon State Park in Atlantic Beach, NC–all of which can be done during the fall and winter!

… And, of course, the most popular activity of all is simply enjoying the 85+ miles of gorgeous, sandy North Carolina seashore, which is stunning even in cold weather, though you may want to enjoy long walks on the sand rather than setting foot in the Atlantic!

While some attractions–like climbing to the top of Cape Lookout–won’t be available, reduced crowds and access to activities like horseback riding in Emerald Isle (forbidden during the summer) make the Crystal Coast a delight even in the off-season.

If you’re looking for an off-season East Coast beach vacation peppered with sandy beaches, seafood, lighthouses, and historic towns, look no further than North Carolina’s gorgeous Crystal Coast.

The Outer Banks of North Carolina

Recommended by Pamela of The Directionally Challenged Traveler

One of the best southeast beaches to visit is the Outer Banks. The Outer Banks is a chain of barrier islands that runs for 175 miles along the coast of North Carolina. It’s one of my favorite places to visit because of the wide variety of things to do.

While summer is the most popular time for visiting due to the miles of beach and scuba diving in the shipwrecks, it’s great all year!

Fewer crowds means you get to explore without waiting. The weather is still mild in the fall and winter, around 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit. So, while you probably won’t be relaxing on the beach or splashing in the water, you won’t be bored.

From the Camp Hatteras lighthouse at the south to seeing the wild horses of the Outer Banks in Corolla up north, there’s so much to enjoy! I loved taking a jet ski tour with Corolla Water Sports. It was a great way to see the area while getting my heart racing.

No matter where you visit in the Outer Banks, you’ll be glad you did.

There are a few airports near the outer banks if you’re flying in.

Virginia

False Cape State Park, Virginia

Recommended by Alison of ExplorationSolo

False Cape State Park bridges Virginia Beach with North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Before heading out, you should know that it’s not for the faint of heart. While you could stay in Virginia Beach and bike into the park for a day visit, the only way to spend the night is to camp. And it’s 3 miles of hiking to get there – so you’re carrying everything in with you.

But the payoff is having the beach almost entirely to yourself in the evenings and mornings. Few people venture here and, if you get one of the further campsites, it’s even more remote.

I thoroughly enjoyed my solo trip to False Cape State Park.

You can hang out at the beach, or walk to the Outer Banks via the beach or the internal trail. There’s a small visitor’s center with a few supplies if you need anything, but be aware the hours are spotty. It tends to be open when a volunteer is around to man the shop.

Definitely opt for one of the beach campsites. Weather permitting, you can forgo the tent pad and camp on the beach itself.

Assateague National Seashore, Virginia

Recommended by Julie of Fun in Fairfax VA

A visit to Assateague National Seashore in Virginia delivers a gorgeous combination of Atlantic coast beach and wildlife preserve. The beach is part of the Chincoteague Wildlife Refuge, home to wild ponies and a scenic lighthouse.

When our twins were young, they loved biking around the refuge, climbing the lighthouse, and trying to be the first to spot ponies. Returning as a couple, we were struck by the peace and beauty of this natural setting. Chincoteague sits at the northern end of Virginia’s Eastern Shore, a lovely Chesapeake Bay peninsula dotted with quaint towns and stunning nature.

Chincoteague and Assateague are perfect for a fall or winter getaway immersed in nature. It’s too cold to swim, but you can still bundle up and walk the beach. Summer humidity (and hordes of mosquitos) are gone, which makes the refuge trails much more welcoming.

Drive the Wildlife Loop around the preserve or visit after 3 pm when the road is only open to bikes and pedestrians. Stay in the cute town of Chincoteague, which is wonderfully peaceful in the off-season. Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and the Assateague Seashore are open daily, and admission is $10 per vehicle.

Virginia Beach, VA

Recommended by Erin of Go Hike Virginia

Virginia Beach is a coastal getaway that’s an easy destination to love in fall and winter thanks to delightful sandy beaches, colorful murals, a three-mile stretch of boardwalk, and plenty to do outside. Hike or bike at two state parks or paddle coastal waterways in search of river otters and bottlenose dolphins.

Stroll the boardwalk or go horseback riding on the beach, even in cool weather months when average highs can top out at 50 degrees. The horse corral is located at the 31st Street beach entrance, as is the 34-foot-tall statue of King Neptune. A royal selfie is a must, as is a whale watching cruise aboard the Atlantic Explorer between late-December and early-March.

Walk the ViBe Creative District for colorful murals, including the “Greetings from Virginia Beach” mural at The Beach Bully on 19th Street. Off the beach, hike the Osmanthus Trail at First Landing State Park, which guides park-goers across a freshwater cypress swamp that awes with curious bald cypress trees with knobby “knees.” It’s one of the best hikes in Virginia Beach.

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