A Beachin’ Road Trip

A Beachin’ Road Trip

It is time to put the mountains in the back of your mind and make your way to the beach. We have put together the ultimate Southeast coastal road trip from Georgia to the Chesapeake Bay. You can split the itinerary into multiple trips or drive the whole route in one big go.

Soaring Sights

Walks through Georgia’s wildlife refuge.

The three National Wildlife refuges on Georgia’s coast are open to the public and it doesn’t get much better than that. The refuges have been established to provide a series of sanctuaries for migrating birds, as well as supporting a suite of other saltwater species.

Matthew Emmer is a photographer and president of the Friends of the Savannah Coastal Wildlife refuge. He describes the experience as extraordinary, with Spanish moss draped from the live oaks, alligators swimming in ponds, and a variety of birds nesting in the trees. He said, “once you turn into the property, it just engulfed you.” You’re transported into a new place.

From crowded summer stops, Harris Neck offers an escape. Matthew Emmers has photos.

Harris Neck is the only refuge accessible by car. The trails and shores of the other two are accessible by boat. Although all three refuges are within 30 miles of each other, they each have their own unique experience. Each refuge has different opportunities for the different species of wildlife that call them home.

There are wood storks that nest in cypress trees at Harris Neck. During the summer, Wassaw plays an important role in helping to bring back the loggerhead sea turtles who nest on the island, while Blackbeard Island is an excellent place to see a variety of shorebirds year-round.

There are more things to see as you drive up and down the coast. You can enjoy the beaches on St. Simons Island, get a taste of southern cuisine, and visit the charming towns of St. Mary’s and Darien on this trip.

Cumberland Island National Seashore has miles of undeveloped beach and maritime forests that are accessible only by ferry. You can stay a few days at one of the campgrounds. There are animals on the island, such as the horses, alligators, and armadillos.

Travelers should help keep the wildlife wild when visiting wildlife refuges. Before you go, make sure to read about the more fragile species that live in the refuge and give them a lot of space. It is always good to keep an eye on a refuge because some species, like the Piping Plover, nest in the sand. You don’t know what you might find.

Hit the Trails

The South Carolina Low Country is windy.

The Spanish Moss Trail is a scenic tour through the Lowcountry. The rail trail links the towns of Port Royal and Beaufort and is full of amenities. The paved path will cover 16 miles when finished.

Dean Moss, the founder and volunteer executive director of the Friends of the Spanish Moss Trail, rides his bike multiple times a week. He said the trail is the key ingredient for travelers as they decide on a place to visit with mild temperatures and outdoor recreation. You can enjoy changing landscapes within a short distance.

The Spanish Moss Trail is in coastal South Carolina. The Friends of the Spanish Moss Trail have photos.

According to Moss, there are a lot of adventures on the path. Whether you are a young family with children learning to ride bikes, want a sunset stroll to see the dolphins play in the salt creeks, want a connected 20-mile round trip cycling experience, or are a lifelong learner, you can find it here.

The Port Royal Cypress Wetlands and Rookery can be found in the middle of town. A variety of boardwalks, paved trails, and natural paths can be found in the wetlands. There are birds, cypress trees, and an alligator in this area.

Hunting Island State Park has trails that go through a variety of habitats, from beachfront and maritime forests to a lagoon and barrier island. If you want to stay the night, you can also book a campsite here.

There are other things to see, such as a tour to learn more about the Gullah culture. Experiences include cooking shows, fishing, nature walks, and museums. Food, art, culture, and more can be found in a variety of events.

When you travel out to one of the islands off the coast, you can find shops with local art and restaurants that serve up the fresh catch of the day. The sanctuary that is Fripp Island is an excellent place to view wildlife. On the southern coast of the county, there is a bike-friendly community called Hilton Head Island. Pinckney Island National Wildlife refuge has electric shuttles and bicycle tours.

The Spanish Moss Trail is in coastal South Carolina. The Friends of the Spanish Moss Trail have photos.

Need wheels to get out and about? The friendly people at Lowcountry Bicycles have knowledge of the local biking scene for more than 30 years.

Relaxation Station

You can chill out on North Carolina’s islands.

If you want to watch the waves roll in, you can find secluded spots on the southern tip of North Carolina’s coast. Those who prefer a relaxing vacation can choose between six beaches and 10 coastal towns.

A variety of marine life can be seen on the barrier islands, from dolphins swimming in Pods to shore birds walking the dunes, or a turtle making its way up the beach to lay eggs.

There are a lot of outdoor recreation opportunities at the beaches of North Carolina. The photos were taken by the NC’s Brunswick Islands.

A sea turtle nest that was fenced off for protection was found by Suzan Bell while she was on Oak Island in 2001. She learned more about local efforts to protect the sea creatures from the volunteers assigned to keep watch as she visited nest after nest along the beach. Bell spent her summer vacations patrolling the beach for turtle tracks and sitting around hatching nest late into the night.

Bell is a full-time resident of the island and oversees the Oak Island Sea Turtle Protection Program with her husband. She said that she still feels excited every time she sees the hatchlings emerge. I get the excitement when I see a mama turtle.

She says there are many ways to relax by the water, from exploring nature preserves on Bald Head Island and Bird Island, to heading into the towns of Southport and Calabash for fresh seafood. It wasn’t a Myrtle Beach-type area, but we love it that it has a small-town feel. There are some wonderful local shops and fun places, but it is a quiet, beautiful beach that is undisturbed.

There are a lot of outdoor recreation opportunities at the beaches of North Carolina. The photos were taken by the NC’s Brunswick Islands.

Bell recommends a trip to the Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Surf City, which is an hour’s drive north across the Cape Fear River, if you want to walk the beaches looking for shells. You can take a tour of the sea turtle hospital to learn more about how to get these swimmers back into the ocean.

Turtles don’t see well on land so make sure to pack all your gear and fill any holes you’ve dug before leaving the beach each day. If you see a turtle on the beach, do not shine lights, make loud noises or approach her. Bell said that if you stood back and watched, you would see the experience of seeing her dig the chamber and lay the eggs.

Pristine Paddling 

Quiet Virginia waters in Cape Charles.

Cape Charles was a quiet spot on Virginia’s Eastern Shore when David Burden opened SouthEast Expeditions. He quickly realized the potential of the area after studying environmental science in college. Between the 70 miles of coastline in the form of barrier islands and millions of acres of pristine salt marsh it is an ideal location.

The Eastern Shore is one of the top paddling destinations. The Eastern Shore is now on a list of places where people have been. It’s an incredible change that we hoped would happen over time.

There are guided paddling tours around Cape Charles. There is a festive jaunt out to a sandbar, complete with snacks, cold drinks and a stunning sunset. Taking a float out to Chatham Vineyards will let you pass local wildlife on your way to the historic property. This experience includes a guide, gear, and a bottle of wine to take home.

The photo is courtesy of a news agency.

The Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife refuge is a great place for water lovers of all skill levels. It is an amazing migratory habitat with amazing salt marshes, and the creek just wind through those like an old medieval maze, according to Burden. Blue crabs, monarch butterflies, colorful wildflowers, and marine turtles are just a few of the species you can look out for.

The Seaside Water Trail runs from Cape Charles to Chincoteague Island. There are many wonders to be found in the area, whether you explore it by boat or on foot. Buden said they were trying to create relationships between people in the salt marsh.

Other ways to get on the water include boat tours, jet skis, kiteboarding, and standup paddleboarding. You can get delicious treats in town, such as hand-churned ice cream, fresh clam chowder, and local craft brews.

It’s important to look at the tide charts before heading out on the coast, just like you would check the water levels on a mountain river You might not be able to get back to shore once the tide goes out.

If you time it right with the tides, Folly Creek is one of Burden’s favorites to paddle. You will reach the intertidal basin of the inside barrier islands with the Atlantic Beach on the outside after paddling from an inland saltwater creek. Burden said the trip through the intercoastal is a beautiful paddle.

Down by the Bay

Take a tour of Maryland’s waterfront parks.

The remains of prehistoric species, massive cliffs, trails, and boardwalks can be found in this area. It can be found at 12 state parks in Maryland that are near the bay.

There are hiking and biking trails, scenic campgrounds, and fishing access in popular parks, but smaller parks like Franklin Point offer a more secluded experience.

You should visit Janes Island State Park for a walk along the isolated beaches. On the mainland section of the park, you can reserve a campsite, picnic by the water, and crabbing on the canal. You can access more than 2,900 acres of salt marsh and the bay from the marina. During the summer, the park has full and half day kayak rentals.

The sun is setting in Maryland. Sean Simmons took the photo.

There are seven water trails going from the marina. The trails are marked to guide you through the water. A variety of routes, from short jaunts with abundant wildlife to a 12.5 mile circumnavigation of the island, allow paddlers of all abilities to enjoy the park.

The park manager at Janes Island enjoys paddling the yellow trail from the marina to the beach. There are five miles of white sand beach on the east side of the island. It’s quite peaceful out there. Carlson likes to walk the beach and look for shells that catch her attention. On the Tangier Sound side of the island, swimming is allowed.

You will need a permit to reserve one of the three primitive campsites on the island, only accessible by boat. Due to the nature of the marine environment, Treat the site with care.

More than 170 sites are connected to the Watertrails Network to tell the story of the region’s history and wildlife. Get a full picture of the area by visiting a variety of parks, historic sites, museums and byways. North Point State Park, the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Scenic Byway and the Annapolis Maritime Museum are some of the highlights.

During the summer months, it can get pretty buggy. Pack plenty of bug spray and check for ticks at the end of the day. The parks recommend wearing lighter colors as flies prefer dark colors.

Ocean Isle Beach is located in the North Carolina’s Brunswick Islands. The photo was provided by NC’s Brunswick Islands.