The Very Best Family Vacations in the Southeast

Steps Amidst Sea Against Sky at Tybee Island

Kayla Brady / EyeEm / Getty Images

The sunny Southeast offers many destinations for a fun family getaway. The enormous U.S. region includes 12 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. Since many of these states touch the Atlantic or the Gulf of Mexico, beaches are abundant. If you have a jones for a vacation in the mountains, you'll find it in Tennessee, North Carolina, West Virginia, Virginia, and Georgia.

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Orlando, Florida

Epcot Disney World

Courtesy of Walt Disney World

The benchmark for family destinations, Orlando includes theme parks such as Disney World, Universal Orlando, and Epcot; full-service resorts with golf, multiple pools, and a variety of restaurants on-site; and a multitude of other attractions with kid appeal in an easy-to-navigate city. 

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Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

People enjoying and walking along Dolphin Head beach on Hilton Head Island, SC.

Rachid Dahnoun / Getty Images

Drawn by miles of Atlantic beachfront, a host of world-class golf and tennis facilities, and a wide choice of hotel and vacation rental options, families who want to fully relax choose Hilton Head Island as their vacation destination.

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Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama

Gulf Shores, Alabama

W. Drew Senter, Longleaf Photography / Getty Images

With 32 miles of spectacular, sugar-white beaches and a seemingly endless choice of outdoor activities and family attractions, the neighboring towns of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach make premier family beach vacation destinations.

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Outer Banks, North Carolina

outer banks north carolina

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The Outer Banks, a string of barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina, stretches for 130 miles. This destination, known locally as the OBX, provides for a laid-back family getaway, with beaches, sand dunes (some 100 feet high), swimming, crabbing, kayaking in salt and freshwater marshes, and spying on the wild horses that live there.

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Sanibel and Captiva Islands, Florida

White sand beach at sunset on Sanibel Island, Florida, USA

Danita Delimont / Getty Images

Yearning to get away from it all? The beautiful Sanibel and Captiva islands offer shell-strewn beaches, a laid-back vibe, terrific restaurants, chic shops, and an incredibly diverse array of wildlife. You won't find amusement parks, traffic lights, billboard-lined highways, glaring neon, or tracts of high-rise condos.

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Tybee Island, Georgia

Tybee Island Light Station

VisionsbyAtlee /  Getty Images

Rich in both history and natural beauty and located just off the Georgia coast near Savannah, Tybee Island is famous for its seafood and its uninterrupted three-mile beach. Families can explore salt marshes that teem with ​birds and wildlife unique to Georgia’s coast. 

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Chincoteague Island, Virginia

Ponies grazing Chincoteague National Wildlife Reserve

Denise Panyik-Dale / Getty Images

Accessible by boat or car off Virginia's eastern shore over the Route 175 bridge, the small and serene Chincoteague Island is the gateway to the Assateague Island National Seashore, a nature refuge that is home to the herds of wild ponies made famous in the classic children's book "Misty of Chincoteague."

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Destin, Florida

Henderson Beach in Destin

Courtesy of Florida State Parks

With sand like powdered sugar, great weather and the brilliant turquoise Gulf of Mexico, Destin is a gem on Florida's Emerald Coast. Put the area's kid-friendly attractions at the top of your vacation to-do list.

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Steve Harwood / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

 

The most visited of all of America's national parks, Great Smoky Mountains National Park straddles North Carolina and Tennessee and offers breathtaking scenery and wildlife viewing as well as remnants of Southern Appalachian mountain culture.

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Sea Island, Georgia

Sea Island Resort Exterior

Courtesy of Sea Island Resorts

Located 85 miles south of Savannah, Sea Island is one of the barrier islands known as the Golden Isles, where families return for generations. Its most plush hotel, The Cloister, was built in 1928. Sea Island offers 10,000 acres of forest and marshland, five miles of private beachfront, and many outdoor and indoor activities for families. 

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Daytona Beach, Florida

Daytona Beach, Florida

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Head to the "world's most famous beach" for sandcastles, surfing, and sunrises. Planning a getaway to this family-friendly destination is a snap when you know where to play and eat with kids.

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Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

USA, South Carolina, Myrtle Beach, Illuminated Ferris wheel on Grand Strand

John Coletti / Getty Images

South Carolina ranks as the No. 2 state for tourism after Florida, and Myrtle Beach plays a big role in this win, with a 60-mile stretch of sand, dozens of affordable hotels, and several amusement parks.

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Fort Myers Beach, Florida

Pier Over Sea Against Sky During Sunset in Fort Myers

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Looking for a super laid-back Florida beach with white-sugar sands and a kid-friendly vibe? Find your paradise in southwest Florida at down-to-earth Fort Myers Beach, located on a skinny barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico.

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Virginia Beach, Virginia

A colorful sunset on a calm tranquil sandy beach.

Sky Noir Photography by Bill Dickinson / Getty Images

Virginia Beach is a huge summer resort town and the largest tourist destination in Virginia. Drawn by the 20 miles of unbroken beachfront, families have long favored its sandy shores, but a beach face-lift and a fresher, upgraded image have added even more to the appeal.

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Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

Dollywood Lightning Rod

Courtesy of Dollywood

Tennessee's breakout destination is Pigeon Forge, just eight miles from the ​Great Smoky Mountains National Park and home to the Dollywood theme park, with its family-friendly resort and thrilling rides.

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Carolina Beach and Kure Beach, North Carolina

Sunrise at Kure Beach

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On the southern coast of North Carolina, Carolina Beach and nearby Kure Beach are less commercially developed than many other beach towns in the Southeast and offer a relaxed, family-friendly vibe. Both Carolina Beach and Kure Beach deliver a classic beach town experience, with lovely stretches of sand and fishing piers. Both towns have boardwalks: Carolina Beach Boardwalk offers seaside amusements and an arcade, while Kure Beach's boardwalk is part of a green oceanfront park.

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Stone Mountain Park, Georgia

Stone Mountain

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Located just 15 miles from Atlanta, Stone Mountain Park is Georgia's top tourist draw, combining natural attractions with amusements such as a sky ride, scenic railroad, and laser light show. This is the largest outcropping of exposed granite in the world, with the world's largest sculpture, a Confederate memorial, carved into the stone.

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