7 Southern Beaches You Need To Visit This Summer, Because There's A Lot To Love About The Sweet South

The beach generally calls to mind tropical breezes, crystal blue Caribbean water, or riding the waves on the California coast. But it's time to break out of your beach rut, and consider visiting a place where the tea is sweet, the porches are wide, and your chicken will most definitely be fried. Yep — I'm talking about hitting up a few glorious beaches in the South.

Southern beaches are generally underrated and passed over in favor of the New England coast or Hawaiian shores, but the region boasts plenty of beautiful beaches worthy of your summer vacation (and less popular can often mean less expensive). The South is famous for its down-to-earth, slow pace of life, and that attitude is crucial to a beach vacation. You may not find coconuts and tiki lamps, but you will stumble upon wide, sandy beaches, low country marshes, towering oak trees, and let's not forget to mention the delicious and zesty comfort food. Indulge in spicy shrimp and grits and tangy key lime pie to keep you fueled throughout your stay, because there are plenty of outdoor activities that will keep you moving all day long. Tennis and golf are the most popular activities in the south, but you can also go bike riding, paddle boarding, and even surfing. Convinced? Here are the seven southern beaches you need to visit this summer.

1. Sea Island, Georgia

Georgia's Golden Isles are well deserving of their name, and Sea Island is filled to the brim with post-card perfect scenery. Spend a day bike riding on the marsh side of the island underneath the Spanish Moss-draped oaks, or head over to the sea and soak up the sun on the large stretches of pristine beaches. It's southern hospitality at the seashore, and whatever you do — don't leave without trying the local Gold Brick Sundae.

2. Kiawah Island, South Carolina

The island in South Carolina's Lowcountry is a tranquil escape from nearby, vibrant Charleston. With bird-watching, fishing, hiking, boating, swimming, and, of course, golfing, counted among the island's most popular activities, you'll never run out of things to do (and therefore, reasons to stop visiting!).

3. Gulf Shores, Alabama

Head to the Alabama coast for 32 miles of white sand beaches. Go deep sea fishing (and get your fill of fresh-off-the-boat seafood), visit the historic forts, or just enjoy the crystal clear, blue water. It's relaxation meets adventure — what else could you ask for from a beach vacation?

4. Jekyll Island, Georgia

A visit to Driftwood Beach is a must while in Jekyll Island. Driftwood trees washed ashore create a hauntingly beautiful seascape that feels almost otherworldly.

5. Outer Banks, North Carolina

These barrier islands off the North Carolina coast stretch for 130 miles of wild beaches with rolling sand dunes. In addition to the abundance of outdoor activities, the islands feature several adorable beach towns and villages perfect for strolling, eating, and shopping.

6. Hilton Head, South Carolina

Hilton Head is by far the most popular and well-known southern beach destination. In addition to the world-class golf courses, visitors can partake in water sports, tennis, sample the tempting restaurants, or even take a day trip to nearby Savannah or Beaufort for even more southern charm.

7. Amelia Island, Florida

The island just off the coast of Florida has pristine waters, abundant wildlife, and rich and vibrant history — it's even been under the dominion of eight (!) different flags, including French, Spanish, and British. From beachside horseback riding to fly fishing, there's plenty to keep you occupied.

Images: Sienna Fantozzi; DreamPlanGoNow/Twitter; John Tuggle, Jeff Gunn/Flickr; theouterbanksnc, visithiltonhead, omni_aip/Instagram