19 Best Beaches in the South for Families

Dreaming of a beach vacation in the southeastern United States?

If so, this list of the best beaches in the south USA is for you! Whether you’re looking to get away for a spring break trip or a summer beach vacation, the destinations below are great places to spend time with the whole family.

From the white sandy beaches of Florida to beautiful destinations in the Carolinas, you can find the perfect spot for your beach trip below. Our list of the best beaches in the south includes quiet locations with lots of natural beauty and popular destinations with plenty of activities and entertainment options.

So, continue reading the article below for a list of the best beaches in the southeast! We think you’ll be hard pressed to choose just one favorite!

Clearwater Beach, Florida

The beach community of Clearwater, Florida is located on the Gulf of Mexico just west of Tampa. Clearwater Beach features white-sand beaches and some of the clearest water in Florida.

beach with pier and white sand/clear water
Clearwater Beach

This popular beach destination offers plenty of dining options, including various locations to enjoy fresh seafood. In addition to water sports, Clearwater offers kid-friendly activities like the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, dolphin tours, a pirate cruise, and more!

Clearwater also sits a short drive away from the following popular tourist attractions in Central Florida:

  • Busch Gardens Tampa Bay – 1 hour
  • Universal Orlando Resort – 2 hours 20 minutes
  • Walt Disney World – 2 hours
  • SeaWorld Orlando – 2 hours 20 minutes

Visitors to the area will find all sorts of family friendly hotels available either on or near the beach. If you’re looking for more spacious accommodations with amenities like kitchens and in-room laundry, we recommend checking out the VRBO website.

On VRBO, you can narrow down your search results to the number of bedrooms and bathrooms you need for your stay. You can also choose filters like a swimming pool and beachfront locations.

Tybee Island, Georgia

Tybee Island sits on the Atlantic Coast of Georgia, just 20 minutes from downtown Savannah. This beautiful coastal community offers wide beaches, amazing restaurants, and fun activities.

The quaint beachside community of Tybee Island possesses a remarkable history that can be explored at the Fort Pulaski National Monument and at the Tybee Island Light Station and Museum.

Tybee Island Lighthouse
Tybee Island Lighthouse

Another local, family-friendly activity is the Tybee Island Marine Science Center. Here, visitors can learn about marine animals and even interact with some in the touch tank.

Accommodations on Tybee Island mostly consist of local inns and vacation rentals. If you’re planning to spend an extended amount of time in Tybee Island, we recommend renting a cozy cottage or beach house via VRBO.

In addition to its close access to Savannah, Georgia, Tybee Island is also conveniently located to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. With a drive time of roughly 1 hour 13 minutes, Hilton Head Island features additional activities geared toward families.

Seaside, Florida

The family friendly town of Seaside, Florida sits on the Florida panhandle between Panama City Beach and Destin. The beaches in Seaside feature crystal clear water and soft white sand that’s perfect for building sand castles.

In addition to fun water activities like boogie boarding and paddleboarding, Seaside offers lots of kid-friendly things to do. The town square features a large lawn and amphitheater that hosts family movies, live music, and seasonal festivals.

dunes in Seaside fl
Dunes of Seaside

Visitors can also find plenty of dining options here, including beachfront restaurants and various food trucks. If you’re looking for accommodations in Seaside, Florida, we recommend checking out the VRBO website for small cottages or large vacation homes that are perfect for family reunions.

Families searching for a more luxurious or full-service place to stay should look into the oceanfront Watercolor Resort. This beautiful hotel boasts numerous pools, waterslides, a lazy river, multiple restaurants, and beautiful hotel rooms.

For additional information on this picturesque beach community, we highly recommend checking out our article on the Best Things to Do in Seaside, FL.

Key West, Florida

If you’re looking for the beaches in the south USA, you can’t get any more southern than the Florida Keys! The Keys sit just south of Miami and are made up of different areas, including Key Largo, Marathon, Islamorada, and Key West.

These are great beach vacation destinations because the water temperature in south Florida stays warm even during some of the cooler months of the year.

beach in Key West Florida
Key West

Key West features lots of fun things to do with kids like water sports, boat rides, and dolphin encounters. You can also check out the Sheriff’s Office Animal Farm for additional animal viewing and encounter opportunities.

Orange Beach, Alabama

Orange Beach is located on the gulf coast of Alabama near Gulf Shores. This family friendly beach community offers lots of fun dining options and activities.

Some of the fun things to do with kids in Orange Beach include visiting The Wharf where you’ll find lots of shops, restaurants, and even a Ferris wheel. Visitors to the area can also enjoy arcades, a pirate cruise, and a dolphin cruise.

beach in orange beach alabama
Orange Beach, Alabama

Additionally, families in Orange Beach can check out The Track Family Fun Parks where they’ll find fun activities like bumper boats, go karts, and mini golf. The town of Orange Beach is also located in close proximity to the popular beach communities of Perdido Key, Florida and Pensacola Beach.

Amelia Island, Florida

If you’re interested in visiting the Atlantic coast of Florida, Amelia Island is a great place to start. Amelia Island is part of a chain of barrier islands that feature luxurious resorts, beautiful beaches, and award-winning golf courses.

coastline in Amelia Island, FL
Amelia Island

Families visiting Amelia Island can enjoy activities like the Nature Center, local lighthouses, and water activities. Amelia Island is also located within a 40 minute drive of Jacksonville, which opens up a lot more opportunities for fun things to do.

Destin, Florida

The beautiful beachside community of Destin, Florida is the perfect spot for a family beach vacation. Destin, Florida sits on the Florida panhandle between the cities of Pensacola and Panama City Beach.

It features soft, white sand beaches and crystal-clear water. Families flock to this picturesque vacation destination each summer due to the beaches, dining options, and activities available in the area.

destin florida beach
Destin Beach

Destin offers fun attractions like The Village of Baytowne Wharf where families can enjoy live music, a playground, arcade, a ropes course, a carousel, and more. Harborwalk Village is another popular spot with lots of restaurants and activities for kids.

If you’re looking for a luxurious resort experience in Destin, Florida, we highly recommend staying at the Henderson Beach Resort. This beachfront hotel is located next to Henderson Beach State Park and offers modern accommodations and amenities, including a lazy river.

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beach travel planner

The Hilton Sandestin Beach Resort is another great option for families as its beachfront location includes multiple pools and restaurants. This hotel also offers a free shuttle to the popular Village of Baytowne Wharf mentioned above.

Additionally, Destin offers all sorts of amazing vacation rentals for families. From smaller cottages and condos to massive houses that sleep 30+ guests, you can easily find a home to suit your needs.

Nags Head, North Carolina

Nags Head is located in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, about an hour and 45 minutes south of Virginia Beach. This quaint beach community not only features beautiful beaches, but it also offers plenty of fun things to do with kids.

pathway leading to beach in Nags Head NC
Nags Head, North Carolina

Nags Head is the perfect place to enjoy water sports and is even a great place to participate in surf lessons. If you prefer to spend your time on land rather than in the water, Nags Head is home to some great places to explore.

Families enjoy visiting the local lighthouse, the Wright Brothers National Memorial, and First Flight Adventure Park. Nags Head also offers various food spots, including ice cream shops.

Miami Beach, Florida

Although many link Miami to an amazing nightlife scene, the city is actually family friendly as well. The South Beach area is a great beach vacation destination for families with kids.

The beaches outside the resorts on South Beach are super clean and appealing. The water is even surprisingly clear for the Atlantic Ocean.

view of South Beach from hotel balcony
South Beach

If you’re in the Miami area for a family trip, you’ll find all kinds of fun things to do. Some of the best attractions in the area include the Miami Children’s Museum, Seaquarium, Everglades National Park, Frost Science Museum, Zoological Wildlife Foundation, and Zoo Miami.

Ferris wheel at Bayfront Park Miami
Bayfront Park

If you’re looking for family friendly dining options, we recommend checking out Bayside Marketplace for lots of shopping and restaurant options. While there, you can even enjoy a ride on the Ferris wheel.

Folly Beach, South Carolina

Folly Beach, South Carolina is located just outside the popular city of Charleston. Folly Beach is the go-to spot for locals and families looking for a beautiful place to spend a beach vacation.

With its easy access to Charleston plus its own attractions, Folly Beach offers multiple dining options and activities for visitors. If you’re looking for things to do in the area with kids, we recommend checking out the Folly Beach playgrounds, dolphin tours, surf lessons, and the South Carolina Aquarium.

Folly Beach pier
Pier at Folly Beach

Folly Beach features plenty of beachside vacation rentals. Visitors will also find several family friendly resorts located near Folly Beach.

Siesta Key, Florida

Siesta Key, Florida sits on the Gulf of Mexico near the city of Sarasota. This beachside community features clear blue waters and temperatures that stay warm for the majority of the year.

This beautiful city features all sorts of fun activities for the family to enjoy. In addition to water sports and beach games, visitors to the area can visit beachfront playgrounds, Sarasota Jungle Gardens, and Siesta Key Village to name a few.

Siesta Key Beach
Siesta Key

Siesta Key is also conveniently located to nearby attractions like St. Armands Circle and Bayfront Park. If you’re looking for accommodations in Siesta Key, you’ll find a large selection of houses and condos available for rent.

Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

Hilton Head Island is a super family friendly town on the coast of South Carolina. Sitting just 45 minutes away from Savannah, Georgia, Hilton Head features numerous resorts, golf courses, restaurants, and activities.

Visitors to Hilton Head Island will want to check out places like Shelter Cove Harbour, where you’ll find shopping, entertainment, and boat tours. Kids also enjoy visiting Lawton Stables for horseback riding, Adventure Hilton Head for ziplining, and Sandbox Children’s Museum.

Hilton Head beach
Hilton Head Island

Also, make sure you visit Harbour Town at The Sea Pines Resort where you’ll find shops, restaurants, playgrounds, boat tours, and live entertainment. Gregg Russel, who has been entertaining here since I was a kid, performs children’s songs under a giant oak tree.

Disney has its own resort in Hilton Head known as Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort. Although you won’t find characters at this kid friendly hotel, you can expect to receive exemplary service and family focused activities.

For information on finding great deals at the Disney hotel in Hilton Head, we recommend checking out our post on Renting Disney Vacation Club Points. My family and I love to use this method to get great deals on deluxe resorts at Disney World and other Disney properties. 

Longboat Key, Florida

Longboat Key, Florida boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the country. With soft sand and crystal clear water that’s warm for most of the year, Longboat Key is a beach lover’s paradise.

This upscale community is located on the Gulf of Mexico near the cities of Sarasota and Bradenton in Florida. In addition to the numerous water activities available, Longboat Key offers plenty of fun things for families to enjoy.

aerial view of Longboat Key Florida
Longboat Key, Florida

Some of the fun attractions you’ll find in Longboat Key include the Mote Marine Aquarium, Sarasota Jungle Gardens, and The Bishop Museum of Science and Nature. Additionally, families can check out St. Armand’s Circle for local dining and shopping opportunities.

Jekyll Island, Georgia

Jekyll Island sits on the Atlantic Coast between the cities of Savannah, Georgia and Jacksonville, Florida. This charming coastal community features a laid-back atmosphere with super unique beaches.

Driftwood Beach South Carolina
Driftwood Beach

Visitors to Jekyll Island, Georgia enjoy participating in local activities like mini golf, beach horseback riding, and the Georgia Sea Turtle Center. Additionally, families visiting the area should check out Driftwood Beach which features remnants of dead trees due to erosion.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina is a popular destination for families because it offers so many fun activities and entertainment options. Sitting between the cities of Charleson, South Carolina, and Wilmington, North Carolina, Myrtle Beach offers miles and miles of beaches for families to enjoy.

Myrtle Beach Ferris wheel
Myrtle Beach

In addition to its massive shoreline and water sports, this exciting beach community offers an aquarium, pirate cruise, water park, and more. Plus, visitors love to spend time on the beachfront boardwalk, which offers restaurants, shops, and rides, including a Ferris wheel.

Hatteras Island, North Carolina

Hatteras Island is a barrier island off the coast of North Carolina. This quaint community features family friendly beaches and lots of unique things to do.

houses on the coast in Hatteras Island
Hatteras Island

Visitors to Hatteras Island can enjoy activities like exploring the Hatteras Lighthouse, touring Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, and riding horses on the beach.

Families looking for accommodations in the area can check out VRBO for the best vacation rentals near Hatteras Island.

Virginia Beach, VA

Virginia Beach is a popular beach destination, especially for families on the east coast. The beach here features a 3 mile boardwalk with its own set of attractions.

The Virginia Beach Boardwalk offers live entertainment during the summer months as well as multiple restaurants and bars. Visitors can also bike or rollerblade on the boardwalk.

Virginia Beach pier
Virginia Beach

If you’re looking for additional activities in Virginia Beach, you’ll find things like iFly indoor skydiving, the Virginia Aquarium, and Cape Henry Lighthouse to name a few.

St. Augustine Beach, Florida

History buffs will love spending time in St. Augustine, Florida, also known as the Nation’s Oldest City. Visitors can tour the historic St. Augustine, including the oldest house, school, and jail.

coastline in St. Augustine Florida
St. Augustine Beach

St. Augustine is also conveniently located to popular Florida attractions like:

  • Walt Disney World – 1 hour 50 minutes
  • Kennedy Space Center – 2 hours
  • Universal Studios Resort -1 hour 14 minutes

St. Pete Beach, Florida

St. Pete Beach on the gulf coast of Florida is a great beach destination for families. Located just west of the city of St. Petersburg on a barrier island, St. Pete Beach features soft sand and clear water.

This beachside community boasts mild weather, even during the winter months. Additionally, visitors to St. Pete Beach will find plenty of dining options and things to do in the area. 

St. Pete Beach
St. Pete Beach

Families should take time to experience fun attractions like John’s Pass Village and Boardwalk, Boyd Hill Nature Preserve, Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Great Explorations Children’s Museum, and dolphin encounters. If you’re looking to visit surrounding areas in Florida, St. Pete Beach is also conveniently located to Tampa, Sarasota, Orlando, and Ft. Myers.

Packing for the Beach

If you’re planning a family beach vacation to one of the prime spots mentioned above, you’ll want to make sure you are prepared and organized for your trip. We have created a printable beach planning guide for our readers that includes over 30 pages of beach planning help.

Our beach planner features PDF printable pages to compare hotels, organize outfits, and manage your budget. Use the itinerary pages to plan out each day of your trip to help with the outfit planning and budgeting process.

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beach travel planner

If you’re interested in checking out our printable beach planner, readers of this blog receive 50% when using the promo code BEACH31. The 30+ page printable is available in my Etsy shop by clicking on the image above or through the pink promo code.

Additionally, you can find a list of our favorite items to pack in this post our post: Family Beach Packing List. In that post, we discuss essentials that you won’t want to forget on your beach vacation.

We also include unique items to pack for the beach, including a mesh laundry bag, kite, and collapsible beach pails. You can grab a copy of our free printable packing list in that post as well.

Final Thoughts on Best Beaches in the South USA

The southern states in the USA are full of some of the best beaches in the country. You don’t have to go all the way to San Diego or Maui to find gorgeous beaches in the United States.

Whether you’re looking for the best beaches in Florida, South Carolina, Alabama, etc., the southeastern United States has plenty of beautiful beach communities that are perfect for a family vacation.

various beaches with text 19 Best Beaches in the South USA

Many of the beaches on our list are within driving distance of cities in the south and eastern USA. So, you can possibly find a top beach that’s a short car ride away from paradise. If not, many of the beach destinations in our list are also located near major airports in the USA.

Once you visit the towns on this list, you’ll not only find beautiful beaches, but you’ll also get to experience plenty of family friendly activities!

You may also be interested in our post on the Best Beaches in Florida with Clear Water!

So, what is your favorite southern beach?

Comment below to share it with us!

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