By Randy Yagi
With the busy Memorial Day holiday just around the corner, isn't it time to start thinking about a well deserved vacation? It should be, especially if that next trip is a beachside destination along the Atlantic Coast. Although many vacationers might prefer quieter beachside communities like Delaware's Bethany Beach and even Cape May in New Jersey, even those popular spots can get very crowded and worse yet, can run out of available places to stay. While the following recommendations might not be suitable for every prospective visitor, these destinations offer among the largest range of activities and attractions, as well as the most dining and lodging along the East Coast. Here then, are the best beach vacations on the Atlantic.
Atlantic City, New Jersey
Of all the many outstanding beachside destinations along the East Coast or even the West Coast, Atlantic City is truly one of a kind. Home to America's first boardwalk and Vegas style casino gambling, Atlantic City offers a little bit of everything for most every type of traveler. As a family friendly destination and the entertainment capital of the Jersey Shore, there are many local attractions to enjoy, like Steel Pier, the oldest theme park in the city, the Atlantic City Aquarium and the Atlantic City Boardwalk itself, in addition to a wealth of affordable restaurants and lodging, including casino hotels like Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa and Caesars Atlantic City. While this historic seaside destination may not measure up to Las Vegas in terms of hotels, culinary choices and nightlife, something always seems to be going on in Atlantic City, from world-class nightclubs like Haven and Boogie Nights at the Tropicana Hotel, to live entertainment like the free summertime concerts or the Beachfest Concert Series on the beach, as well as upcoming leading acts like Kevin Hart at the Boardwalk Hall, Ringo Starr at Borgata and the Tedeschi Trucks Band at Tropicana. If those suggestions still aren't enough to spend a beachside vacation in Atlanta City, there are plenty of other things things to do, such as water sports like kayaking and jet skiing, shopping at places like The Playground and Tanger Outlets-TheWalk and cultural attractions like the historic Absecon Lighthouse, Atlantic City Experience, World War I Memorial and the iconic Lucy the Elephant, a National Historic Landmark in the nearby town of Margate.
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Hilton Head, South Carolina
Located near the southernmost tip of South Carolina, Hilton Head is a shoe-shaped barrier island that's world renowned for both its championship golf courses and its white sandy beaches. Incorporated in 1983 as the first eco-planned destination in the country, Hilton Head is a superb year-round destination with a wealth of outdoor activities, such as kayaking, biking, pickleball, tennis and of course, some of the best ranked golf courses in the country. In all, Hilton Head features more than 300 tennis courts and 24 world-class golf courses, most notably the Robert Trent Jones course at Palmetto Dunes and the acclaimed Harbour Town Golf Links, the signature course at the luxury Sea Pines Resort and recent host to the PGA's RBC Heritage golf tournament. With its distinctive red and white lighthouse and its many dining options, Sea Pines Resort's Inn & Club at Harbour Town is likely the best known spot to stay on this picturesque island recently named No. 1 among the Top 10 Islands in the Continental U.S. by Travel+Leisure. However, there are several other gorgeous beachfront rentals and luxury resorts to consider, such as AAA Four Diamond properties like the Westin Hilton Head island Resort & Sp, Sonesta Resort Hilton Head Island, the Omni Hilton Head Oceanfront Resort and Palmetto Dunes, named among the World's Best Family Resorts, with amenities like a 3-mile wide Atlantic Ocean beachfront, 25 tennis courts and an 11-mile long saltwater lagoon that's popular for kayaking.
Miami Beach, Florida
With its vibrant nightlife, fine dining and luxury beachfront hotels, Miami is easily among the best and most popular vacation destinations along the Atlantic Coast. While downtown Miami has several exceptional hotels like the Mandarin Oriental and the Four Seasons Miami, the most coveted area to stay for leisure travelers is Miami Beach, where visitors can choose to stay at any of the historic Art Deco hotels along Ocean Drive and one of the world's most famous beaches. Although there are several trendy Art Deco spots for travelers to consider, like Delano South Beach, the Raleigh or the Clevelander Hotel, there are many other lavish places further up the coastline, like the luxurious Setai Miami Beach, the Miami Beach EDITION, Nobu Hotel Miami Beach and the Fontainebleau Miami Beach. When not relaxing at the beach or seeing top attractions like Biscayne National Park, Little Havana, the Lincoln Road shopping district and the nearby Everglades National Park, visitors can dine at leading spots like Mango's Tropical Café, Gloria Estefan's Larios on the Beach, Bazaar by celebrity chef José Andrés, Red the Steakhouse and Gianni's at the Villa at the extraordinary Villa Casa Casuarina the former residence of fashion designer Gianni Versace. Other suggestions for sightseeing include a scenic boat ride through Biscayne Bay, a day trip down to Key West or an scenic excursion on the new Brightline train from Miami and Fort Lauderdale to lively places like Boca Raton, Delray Beach and West Palm Beach.
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
One of the best cities for a beach vacation on the Atlantic is also one of the most affordable destinations in the entire country. Filled with family friendly attractions, world-class golf courses and beachside hotels, Myrtle Beach appears on many Top 10 lists, including a consistent mention as one of the best beaches in America. Located in northeastern South Carolina, along a stretch of beach that extends as far as the eye can see, this vacation resort destination features a wide range of lodging options that will accommodate any traveler's budget, from low cost campsites and affordable vacation rentals to family friendly hotels with water parks and reasonably priced 4-star hotels. Among the suggestion hotels to consider are Crown Reef Beach Resort and Waterpark, Coral Beach Resort and Suites Marina Inn at Grande Dunes, Hilton Myrtle Beach Resort and Marriott's OceanWatch Villas at Grande Dunes. For activities, visitors will have no trouble finding something fun and entertaining to do, such as taking a ride on the famous wooden roller coaster at Family Kingdom Amusement Park at the famous Myrtle Beach Boardwalk, kayaking and snorkeling tours, live entertainment at the Carolina Opry and of course, championship-caliber golf at places like Myrtle Beach National with courses designed by golf legend Arnold Palmer, the Robert Trent Jones-designed Golf and Beach Club and Tidewater Golf Club. Among the best spots for dining are Aspen Grille, Croissants Bistro and Bakery, Sea Captain's House and Villa Romana Italian Restaurant.
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Located in southeastern Virginia, where the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean, Virginia Beach has all the makings for an unforgettable seaside vacation. Considered to be the world's Longest Pleasure Beach by the Guinness Book of Records, Virginia Beach has 35 miles of scenic coastline to explore, including yet another famous boardwalk, the Virginia Beach Boardwalk, outdoor activities like kayaking and parasailing, and hundreds of dining and lodging options. While rates will certainly be higher during the peak summer months, there are many great places to stay in Virginia's largest city, most notably the Hilton Virginia Beach Oceanfront, Westin Virginia Beach and the historic Cavalier Hotel, an iconic property that recently reopened after a nearly $85 million renovation. In addition to the Boardwalk as the city's premier attraction, other points of interest include Cape Henry Lighthouse, the Military Aviation Museum, Edgar Cayce's A.R.E. Headquarters and the Virginia Aquarium. As the state's largest city, there are hundreds if not thousands of places to dine, with suggested places like Captain George's Seafood Restaurant, Doc Taylor's, Waterman's Surfside Grille and Becca, the hottest new culinary destination inside the Cavalier Hotel. Visitors who have more time to explore the Commonwealth of Virginia might also want to consider visiting Norfolk, another outstanding waterfront city just a half hour away from Virginia Beach and full of leading attractions like the Virginia Zoo, the Battleship Wisconsin and the Chrysler Museum of Art, along with exceptional fine dining at places like Freemason Abbey Restaurant and Chartreuse Bistro.
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