What East Coast Beach for a Family Vacation?

chocolateavocado

DIS Veteran
Joined
Jun 7, 2013
I listed the beaches we usually go to a couple of posts back. The only place we rent a house is Avalon/Stone Harbor and it is super expensive. All the other locations - Myrtle Beach, Virginia Beach, OBX and Hilton Head - we trade our timeshare through RCI and stay at a timeshare condo property. Many of the timeshares also can be rented by non owners. We very rarely stay in hotels.
Thanks for this! I will look into the timeshare properties too. :)
 

TwoMisfits

DIS Veteran
Joined
Feb 21, 2002
Thank you for this! :) We are definietly looking for famly friendly. We are really considering Hilton Head. It looks wonderful. It's just the drive that isn't too wonderful, lol :)
Do you think there's fun stuff to do there to keep a 12 year old busy / happy? We don't mind driving a little out of the area to do things too.
Since you're a theme park family and Busch Gardens has such amazing deals all the time, I'd do Williamsburg and the history (where there usually are tons of reasonably priced summer accommodations), enjoy a day at the parks too, and then day trip to VA Beach from there...you'd drop at least 4-5 hours from the drive (making it a very doable one dayer), and get a really nice all around and cheap vacation...with tons of options for all sorts of things to do for all of you...
 

lovin'fl

Registered
Joined
Jun 7, 2011
Thank you for this! :) We are definietly looking for famly friendly. We are really considering Hilton Head. It looks wonderful. It's just the drive that isn't too wonderful, lol :)
Do you think there's fun stuff to do there to keep a 12 year old busy / happy? We don't mind driving a little out of the area to do things too.
We stay at the DVC resort but there are ocean front hotels. I know Mariott has one as my DS works for Marriott and I have looked to see if we get his family discount. But anyway there are all the water activities you want...kyacking, paddleboarding (they do it on the sound at the Disney resort) and DH and our kids did a fishing charter once and loved it. There is tons of biking and bike paths. Can even rent bikes there. There are putt putt places and a nice movie theater (for rainy days). The Disney resort does all kinds of kid activities like tie dying (and other crafts), pool parties, roasting smores on fire pit and they have shuffle board and cornhole. All kinds of fun stuff. They have a neat shopping area with beachy stores called Coligny Plaza (and some ocean front hotels by there too). Lots and lots of dining. And real golf too. And as you drive down the main road, it doesn't look like you're in a beach town. It looks like some southern small town...quaint. Lots of greenery. There are also nature talks and walks and they have the turtles. You can drive to Savannah for the day one day too...it's like 45 mins. Lots to do in Savannah with tours and historical stuff and ghost tours and shopping and dining (Pirate House restaurant is neat).

This past MLK weekend we took SIL and BIL to Hilton Head for a 3 day weekend. They drove down from MD and stayed at our house in NC. Then we went to HHI for the 3 nights and they drove all the way back home when we checked out. They said it was a long drive. Especially for 3 nights. I have 4 booked for us again for MLK 2020. Invited them but they may want to add on or stay in Savannah or something to make it worth the drive.

If looking at HHI, the Disney resort via cash booking can sometimes be reasonable and less than we pay in our dues. Especially if you get an AP special rate or DVC special rate. Also, the area around the resort is nice and you can find rental in Shelter Cove or Palmetto Dunes. So maybe check into those areas. Shelter Cove is on the sound (or marsh) and Palmetto Dunes is on the ocean side.
 
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  • chocolateavocado

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jun 7, 2013
    Since you're a theme park family and Busch Gardens has such amazing deals all the time, I'd do Williamsburg and the history (where there usually are tons of reasonably priced summer accommodations), enjoy a day at the parks too, and then day trip to VA Beach from there...you'd drop at least 4-5 hours from the drive (making it a very doable one dayer), and get a really nice all around and cheap vacation...with tons of options for all sorts of things to do for all of you...
    Great minds think like! :) We did Williamsburg and Busch Gardens 2 years ago for Thanksgiving break. We stayed at Kingsmill resort and had a great time!
     

    kydisneyfans

    <font color=blue>It may be because they are too em
    Joined
    Sep 26, 2005
    I'm with the past several posters. Virginia Beach is my favorite from the ones listed. Granted our tastes have changed as time progresses. We despise Myrtle Beach-if I'm on a beach to relax I don't want another family 2 inches away because the beach is so crammed. It's too commercial for me. It's not a relaxing place. Hilton Head doesn't seem to have many rooms with ocean views-I don't want to walk a 1/4 mile long boardwalk to see the ocean, I want to see it from my balcony. Virginia Beach seems clean, there are things to do if you want to, but not too much that it seems tacky. The city seems to always have events going on in the evening if you don't want to leave your resort or stay at the ocean-just walk down a few blocks and hear some music. Ocean City seems very nostalgic, but is also very expensive and the hotels seem older and not kept up the closer to the boardwalk you get.

    We live 3 hours from Dollywood and haven't visited for years-same reason as Myrtle. It's just too touristy. We love the national park but don't like miles long traffic jams. Trip costs add up quickly too. Once you eat lunch, do some go carts and mini golf-maybe hit something like Ripley's Aquarium or the Titanic exhibit, then wrap up the day with a dinner show, you quickly realize that Disney would have been cheaper.
     

    chocolateavocado

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jun 7, 2013
    I'm with the past several posters. Virginia Beach is my favorite from the ones listed. Granted our tastes have changed as time progresses. We despise Myrtle Beach-if I'm on a beach to relax I don't want another family 2 inches away because the beach is so crammed. It's too commercial for me. It's not a relaxing place. Hilton Head doesn't seem to have many rooms with ocean views-I don't want to walk a 1/4 mile long boardwalk to see the ocean, I want to see it from my balcony. Virginia Beach seems clean, there are things to do if you want to, but not too much that it seems tacky. The city seems to always have events going on in the evening if you don't want to leave your resort or stay at the ocean-just walk down a few blocks and hear some music. Ocean City seems very nostalgic, but is also very expensive and the hotels seem older and not kept up the closer to the boardwalk you get.

    We live 3 hours from Dollywood and haven't visited for years-same reason as Myrtle. It's just too touristy. We love the national park but don't like miles long traffic jams. Trip costs add up quickly too. Once you eat lunch, do some go carts and mini golf-maybe hit something like Ripley's Aquarium or the Titanic exhibit, then wrap up the day with a dinner show, you quickly realize that Disney would have been cheaper.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts! I really appreciate hearing everyone's opinions and experiences. It's hard to get a feel for what a place is really like, just from their commercials or websites.
     
  • nb75685

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    May 31, 2019
    I'm from NC, and we vacation on Oak Island, NC every year. It's the best fit for our family. The beach and city are not crowded and are geared more toward families. I will say though that there isn't a ton in the way of 'entertainment.' There's some shopping, a movie theatre, mini golf, historical tours, helicopter rides, fishing etc. If we get in the mood to take in the busier bits of vacation, we might drive to Wilmington (45m) or Myrtle (1h) for an evening and explore/play.

    Myrtle definitely has more activities available that most younger people (like your son) would probably enjoy. We've vacationed at Myrtle in the past, but we legitimately just don't like it. We actually didn't feel safe when out and about. The crowds there are different - in terms of size and behavior. We're also an impatient bunch who don't like waiting - in traffic, at restaurants etc. The extra things to do there just aren't worth it to us, but they may be to your family.

    The Outer Banks are beautiful, but the beaches are very different. There is a lot to do here though in terms of sight-seeing, historical tours, aquariums, activities, etc.

    Hilton Head is also beautiful, and a bit more exclusive/expensive. We're glad to have done it but don't feel a need to go back again.

    I didn't see Charleston on your list, but it's also one of my favorites!
     
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    chocolateavocado

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Jun 7, 2013
    I'm from NC, and we vacation on Oak Island, NC every year. It's the best fit for our family. The beach and city are not crowded and are geared more toward families. I will say though that there isn't a ton in the way of 'entertainment.' There's some shopping, a movie theatre, mini golf, historical tours, helicopter rides, fishing etc. If we get in the mood to take in the busier bits of vacation, we might drive to Wilmington (45m) or Myrtle (1h) for an evening and explore/play.

    Myrtle definitely has more activities available that most younger people (like your son) would probably enjoy. We've vacationed at Myrtle in the past, but we legitimately just don't like it. We actually didn't feel safe when out and about. The crowds there are different - in terms of size and behavior. We're also an impatient bunch who don't like waiting - in traffic, at restaurants etc. The extra things to do there just aren't worth it to us, but they may be to your family.

    The Outer Banks are beautiful, but the beaches are very different. There is a lot to do here though in terms of sight-seeing, historical tours, aquariums, activities, etc.

    Hilton Head is also beautiful, and a bit more exclusive/expensive. We're glad to have done it but don't feel a need to go back again.

    I didn't see Charleston on your list, but it's also one of my favorites!
    Thanks for this! I love hearing everyone's opinions!

    As far as Myrtle Beach- The extra things definitely would Not be worth it to us in a situation like you describe. We d not like rowdiness and bad behavior type atmosphere. We also don't want to be in a place where we don't feel safe. After reading a few reviews similar to yours, I have taken Myrtle Beach off our list- It doesn't sound like a place where we would feel comfortable or enjoy.
     
  • kmccain

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Mar 12, 2006
    Were from NEPa too! My SIL rented a house in Ocean Lakes Campground in Myrtle Beach. We usually camp at Pirateland Campground next door. They offer up to 3 bedroom rentals but i see Ocean Lakes offer up to 7 bedroom rentals. What's nice about this area is there are 3 campground right in a row that are a ways from the hotels so the beach is not as crowded.
     

    mickeyluv'r

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Feb 14, 2005
    Just wondering... For all of you that do vacation at beaches, do any of you ever stay at hotels or resorts?

    Thanks to all who took the time to read and respond!! I sincerly appreciate your help!! :)
    Yes. I prefer hotels. Most houses require you to bring your own sheets- UGH! I also don't really want to spend my week cooking using random cookware (often old scratched Teflon). I prefer hotels that include breakfast, and have a fridge and microwave. Though houses are kind of the way if you have a bigger family group and can share grilling/cooking duties. A pool is also nice feature. If you belong to any loyalty point programs, summer beach can be a good time to redeem points.

    Some beaches have mostly rental houses (Outer Banks), others have lots (mostly?) hotels (Ocean City, MD). Most have some mix.

    Really the East coast has a ton of nice beaches. Some are more commercial, others are more natural, some cater more to kids, some cater more to adult fun, a few even cater a bit to the LGBTQ community.

    It partly depends what you want, and how much you are willing to pay. Any room right on the water is going to cost extra. High season costs extra. July 4th will be super crowded and expensive, most of July is quite $$$, but rates drop in August. Most schools return by Labor day, so rates are especially low if you can go then- or want to go then. BUT...late summer = hurricane season, and hurricanes can hit just about anywhere from FL to just about anywhere, though they rarely hit above Cape Cod, MA.

    Knowing that, I suggest either a fully REFUNDABLE rate or some kind of trip insurance. KNOW your terms- and the latest date you can cancel for a full or partial refund. In some cases, you'll only be out a deposit- so that might be less risk than the certain price of insurance.

    In general though, just choose a location, and don't sweat it. If you pick one beach, and it isn't to your liking- the next beach is always just a short drive away.

    The other more or less big universal of ALL EAST COAST beaches is that weekend traffic in high season is absolutely HORRIBLE! I can't say that loudly enough. DO NOT arrive on a SATURDAY, unless you plan to BE AT THE BEACH by about 8:30am, or you WANT to spend HOURS and HOURS sitting in traffic. A ton of folks also leave every Sunday. Sundays can also = bad traffic. if you want to leave on a Sunday, leaving late is good. A one night stay about 30-60min from the beach is a good way to get around traffic- especially if you must arrive on a Saturday.

    Understand, almost the entire east coast has barrier islands, bays and canals. In most cases the real beach is located on the side that faces the ocean. Parking is often $$$ and limited. You'll want to arrive early. Walking to the beach with bulky beach gear is a royal pain.

    Because of the geography, MOST east coast beaches have some kind of limited road access. That is part of why traffic gets so horrible. Most beach houses rent Saturday to Saturday. (Sun to Sun is MUCH better) Most hotels require a minimum of two nights in peak season, especially on weekends. That's just how it is.

    A fun bonus is that many beaches have fireworks.

    If your place isn't directly on the beach, well...I highly suggest a beach that has public bathrooms and beachside outdoor showers (to rinse sand off your feet).

    Another consideration is food. Beach food is $$$. Much of it is junk food, but fun junk food. Most beach seafood is NOT caught locally, unless the place says so, and even then it isn't always true. You might not even be served the kind of fish you think you ordered! A bonus and drawback of beach houses is the option of cooking meals. Many beach goers kind of live on simple breakfasts (muffins, donuts, maybe eggs), and items like: pizza, French fries, ice cream, sandwiches, burgers, candy- much of the rest of the day. Nicer meals often run $30 or more per person....While pizzas often runs about $5 for a big slice ($10ish for combo meal deals), burgers $10-15. Another way to save is to bring a cooler full of drinks. Some beaches require restaurants to give free cups of ice water, others don't.

    More natural beaches = you have to bring your own food and CARRY OUT ALL TRASH. But you'll also get to see more critters, and likely have more space, but not all beaches have lifeguards.

    NEVER swim at dawn, dusk or ANYTIME you see schools of bait fish. Dawn dusk and bait = aquatic predators. NEVER swim alone. Never swim in the ocean if you are bleeding or have an exposed cut. MAKE SURE you also understand about rip currents and how to avoid getting caught in one. ALSO, male SURE to apply PLENTY of sunscreen. Know temps at the water are always cooler than temps just a few miles off the water. Expect breezes near the water, and weather can change very quickly.

    Really, you almost can't go wrong when choosing your beach; they all have sun, sand, water, and smiles.
     
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    mickeyluv'r

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Feb 14, 2005
    Coming from PA, the Delaware Beaches are probably a good choice. Rehobeth, Bethany, Dewey, and (tiny) Lewes Beaches are all quite nice, a reasonable drive for you, and aren't trashy. (Or maybe the NJ beaches, but I don't know those. ) I don't think there's any good reason to drive further south than Delaware. New England has some nice beaches, but driving past the NY area is also a big pain.

    The Delaware beaches offer a good mix of activities, but are family friendly, and prices are generally reasonable.

    A short drive away (within an hour, depending on traffic) are multiple natural state/national park style beaches. Delaware has at least one state park, and MD has Assateague Island with wild horses!
     

    dadtoagirl03

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Jul 29, 2015
    Isle of Palms, SC - 30 minutes from Charleston if you need some "city" life. Beautiful alcohol free beaches that is extremely family friendly.
     

    Lisa in WV

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    Jun 26, 2009
    Was hoping you guys could help.....

    We're going to Disney this year for Thanksgiving, but just decided (I know, very last minute), we'd like to spend a few days at a beach this summer (prob early/mid August).

    We have never really been to the beach (except in Maine many years ago in off season during our honeymooon). Looking for something family friendly; definietly not a party type place. It would be me, my son (12 yrs old), my husband and father-in-law. We would be coming from northeast PA. We would be driving (because my father-in-law absolutely refuses to fly). I have been looking online a lot and am overwhelmed by the amount of choices and so many differing opinions.

    Would love any recommendations on beaches you love and also hotel/resort recommendations. We could probably drive about 10-12 hours or so. Probably looking to stay 5 or 6 nights if the ride is that long. Like activites to do but would prefer to have the hotel/resort in a quieter section. I have looked online and was considering Myrtle Beach? The North Beach Plantation in North Myrtle Beach seems to get a lot of god reviews. But there are so many choices.... Myrtle Beach, VA Beach, Ocean City, Hilton Head, Outer Banks of NC...... It's a lot to try to take in when you've never been to any of them...lol

    Any help or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!!! Thanks in advance!!
    We love Ocean City, MD, and Chincoteague Island, VA.
     

    rosiebean

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Sep 17, 2005
    My family splits time between Bethany Beach, DE (small, but not too small and very family friendly) and Rehoboth Beach, DE (larger, still really family friendly), and both are an easy drive from Pa. And I don’t think they’re ‘trashy’ as alluded to earlier in this thread. Traffic is much better at Bethany than Rehoboth.
     

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