Some stretches of coastline are iconic, either for rocky, rugged cliffs or wide, welcoming beaches. The unique geography of North Carolina’s Outer Banks has wrecked hundreds of ships over the centuries. At Cape Cod National Seashore, visitors find the best of both bayside and oceanfront shorelines. Sometimes, the sand itself is special, like the sugary, squeaky grains along Florida’s Emerald Coast and the rain-washed granules along Oregon’s central coast.
Make sure your group travelers don’t miss the opportunity to see some of these famously scenic coastlines around the country.
Tybee Island, Georgia
With sandy beaches on its eastern edge and a slim web of waterways that put the island just off the coast, minutes from the city of Savannah, Tybee Island has long been a favorite vacation spot for Georgians.
The Tybee Light Station first started safely guiding mariners into the Savannah River in 1732. Although the lighthouse has been rebuilt several times since then, the current black-and-white cylinder was rebuilt after the Civil War. Visitors can hike the 178 stairs to the top of the lighthouse for “arguably the best view of Tybee,” said Sara Lane, director of Visit Tybee.
Admission includes several other structures at Tybee Light Station as well as the museum, which is housed in one of Fort Screven’s seven batteries. There, exhibits showcase the island’s history and role in the Civil War. Just on the other side of the museum is public access to North Beach, which is “a great spot to ship watch and take in the beach and look back at the lighthouse,” she said.
Tybee Beach is a popular sunbathing and swimming spot during peak summer season. The beach is the site of a wooden fishing pier with a picturesque octagonal pavilion that’s available for group rentals. Located at the pier, Tybee Island Marine Science Center offers staff-led eco-tours and beach walks “that are really worthwhile,” Lane said.
Emerald Coast, Florida
Looking at photos of the sugar-white sand and emerald-green water, people may be surprised to learn the images weren’t captured on a far-off tropical island but right along Florida’s panhandle.
Florida’s Emerald Coast is a 24-mile stretch of shoreline along the Gulf Coast where the oval-shaped sand squeaks underfoot and the jewel-tone water surprises first-time visitors. The reason for the sugary sand and teal water? The Apalachicola River delivers quartz from the Appalachian Mountains to the Gulf of Mexico.
The coast includes Destin, Destin Harbor, Fort Walton Village and Okaloosa Island, a barrier island surrounded by Santa Rosa Sound, Choctawhatchee Bay and the gulf. The island “is my go-to beach,” said Maureen Morgenthien, deputy director of sales and marketing for the Emerald Coast Convention and Visitors Bureau. Instead of condos and restaurants, visitors will find natural dunes and sea oats, and “it’s quiet and pristine.”
If groups are looking for less quiet and more activity, Destin Harbor is the spot. The Destin Boardwalk offers easy access to restaurants, shopping, water activities and fishing charters.
“Everything there overlooks the beaches that protect the harbor,” she said. Groups can take sunset or dolphin-watching cruises or rent paddleboards and jet skis. Visitors can also dine at about 30 area restaurants that participate in the “gulf to table” program where “what the fishing fleet catches today is on your plate tonight,” she said.