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Old 12-27-2011, 09:39 PM
 
Location: http://www.johnscreekrealtypartners.com
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Just curious... What are some of the nicest beaches in FL Panhandle, South Carolina, or North Carolina you can drive to from Atlanta?
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Old 12-27-2011, 10:19 PM
 
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There are just so many choices.

I always say that for my vacation dollar, nothing beats good ol' Panama City Beach. It's probably the closest and best destination (5 to 5.5 hours away).

If you like playing golf and have a lot of money, Hilton Head is very nice.

Believe it or not, the city of Jacksonville actually has some very nice beaches. They are not touristy at all, but they are nice and have lots of walkable restaurants you can visit. Jacksonville Beach and Atlantic Beach are my favorites. These are mostly local and residential beaches, but it's the only nearby beach area that also has the amenities of an actual city if you get bored of the standard beach fare.

If you want some history and a charming old downtown area, you can go 30 miles further south and visit St. Augustine. Lots of people consider this the best part of Florida because it has history, Spanish architecture, and a vast amount of local pubs, restaurants, and stores to discover. There's a bit of your run of the mill touristy stuff like a Ripley's Believe it or Not museum and ghost tours, but there are strict building codes and high rises are not allowed, so the beach is fairly quiet.

Also driveable and places like Charleston, Myrtle Beach, and some places I'm not familiar with in North Carolina and Georgia like Tybee Island, St. Simons Island, etc.
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Old 12-27-2011, 11:08 PM
 
Location: Atlanta
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I would say there are four different areas to consider as far as physical geography of the beach
-North Carolina
-Georgia/South Carolina
-Gulf Coast (Anything east of Mobile Bay to Panama City)
-Florida's Atlantic coast

-North Carolina is unique in that the shape of the coast jutting out causes a much smaller tidal difference. The beach generally slopes into the water slowly.

-Georgia/Southern S. Carolina is just the opposite. There is an even bigger tidal difference (5-8ft vs 1-2 ft.) and you are more likely to find recently live (unbleached) sand dollars wash up. There are also tons of interesting salt water tidal marshes surrounding the areas. Most beaches are located on islands, which are caused by this tidal surge. You might make more of your trip if you can take a day (or two) trip to Savannah, Charleston, or St. Augustine. They are the old south and the old history with it.

Generally speaking... these two areas tend to have more old money given the old and wealth and power grew out from the coast during the colonial years. Hilton Head is very upscale, but it isn't new and polished. I'd also say these are better places for eco-tourism to be a component of the beach trip. S. Carolina and Georgia are much more likely to save their coast lines from development by a few extra hundred feet, so you have more protected dunes and walkways to rivers and marshes (but this can be different from specific place to specific place).

Florida Atlantic... is a flat coastline. It is midway between what I described with Georgia and North Carolina. However, Florida never had strict regulations on anything, doesn't have old money, and you'll see alot of places that attracted tourists and had their hey-day during the 50s-70s. Daytona Beach comes to mind. That particular beach is unique in that you can drive and park on it!

-The Gulf Coast of East Alabama and the Florida Pan handle. It is the ultimate closer to pure white sand beach. Less old money, more new money, more southern-esque, less building regulations so many buildings open right on to the beach with fewer boardwalks and dunes. Panama City is the most known city... admittedly I have never been there, but the impression I get is its busier and slightly less family friendly than other places on the Gulf Coast. Other places to check out on this coast would be Ft. Walton Beach, Destin/San Destin, and I wouldn't leave out Alabama at least the Orange Beach/Gulf Shores area. (I would pass Pensacola Beach... I view that more of a quick city getaway for people living and stationed in Pensacola).

Now I am biased in two ways... I like Hilton head and the Georgia coast for the more protectionist regulations that have than Florida and North Carolina. I also find the tidal surge to be interesting, but that is from my inner-geek.
I am also biased for Orange Beach and Gulf Shores. My family has a condo between the two towns. There isn't a large city there (like penscola), but the area brings a sizable number of vacationers, so there are alot of places to eat and entertain yourselves there. They have have a large amphitheater for concerts, (but I'd skip that and enjoy the beach ). However, the area is very family oriented and auto-centric, so don't go here if you are expecting a beach party or a boardwalk atmosphere.

The Gulf Coast is definitely clean and open for business, but they do have a few years of economic damage lingering from the BP oil spill and a few years before that Hurricane Ivan... it hit the Gulf Shores/Orange Beach area dead on. Many of the buildings in this area are newer though.

Regardless of where you go... I'd spend more time choosing whether you want to rent a house, an older low-rise condo, or a newer really tall condo tower. The factors are privacy vs. price vs. amenities.

Whatever you do... DO NOT go west of Mobile Bay! Skip Mississippi unless you just want to go to a Casino. There are no good beaches in Louisiana either and the only good things about the Texas beaches... well they are near Houston and alot of people have really easy access... but we aren't those people and they aren't that great!
What I will say is... if you are driving to New Orleans or Texas... driving down US 90 (on the coast) through Ocean Springs, Biloxi, Pass Christian, and Bay St. Louis you will find a really scenic drive with the old trees and old homes (at least the ones that weren't completely destroyed by Katrina ).
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Old 12-28-2011, 06:56 AM
 
Location: Cambridge, Isanti County, MN
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I used to do St. Pete Beach from my home in Woodstock. Every bit of 7 hours driving, but I live for long distance road trips, so it didn't bother me a bit. All interstate, too, which is awesome. You can pull out of the driveway at 7 a.m. and still be there an hour early for hotel check in. Not bad proximity to one of the best beaches in Florida.

For those who don't know, St. Pete Beach is part of the Tampa Bay region. I know that wasn't one of the places the OP asked about, but my take on it is if you're willing to drive 5.5 hours, the extra 1.5 to get down there is more than worth it.
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Old 12-28-2011, 07:02 AM
 
Location: GA/AL state line
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I completely agree with cwikimbro - great post! I go to Biloxi, MS often now for gambling but it's not a great beach area. Panama City beach and gulf coast area is nice for families. I like the touristy Myrtle Beach, SC area for the long public beach area and lots of beachfront activities. I used to live near Virginia Beach and I always thought the beachfront area in Myrtle Beach was better.
I don't remember any great beaches around Charleston, but Hilton Head SC may be worth a visit.
Some of the southern NC beaches south of Wilmington may be within daytrip range also. I used to take the family often to Carolina Beach and Fort Fisher, NC area during the 90s. I've never been to Savannah, so I'm planning to stay in that area over the New Years weekend.
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Old 12-28-2011, 07:24 AM
 
Location: Columbus, GA
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mrpanda View Post
Just curious... What are some of the nicest beaches in FL Panhandle, South Carolina, or North Carolina you can drive to from Atlanta?
Destin, Seaside, and Panama City are the best in the panhandle. Most people from metro Atlanta go there. Those are by far the nicest beaches.
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Old 12-28-2011, 02:38 PM
 
Location: Kirkwood
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Tybee Island. The Gulf Coast is for people scared of the real ocean. Growing up in Florida I always thought the Gulf Coast sucked in comparison to the Atlantic Ocean.
Hilton Head Island is for rich people and looks too much like the suburbs on an island. Tybee Island is like an old-school beach town.
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Old 12-28-2011, 03:03 PM
 
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Quote:
The Gulf Coast is for people scared of the real ocean.
I was going to just laugh at the hilarity of this post until I remembered a few years ago I was swimming at Flagler Beach and the undertow was so strong it literally almost lifted me off my feet in waist deep water. I've never been scared of the ocean, but this was one of those days when it was just common sense not to go too far out (I think there was a tropical storm nearby).

Still, in all my years visiting both coasts, I have never been to the Atlantic side and heard anyone utter the following phrase:

"Well, we were going to go to the east coast, but we're just too darn scared of that big bad Atlantic Ocean!"

Most people in Florida tend to share the attitude that the Atlantic coast is better. Of course, most people who live in Florida also have never even been to the panhandle. They tend to judge their opinion of the Gulf coast on places like Clearwater. The panhandle is seen as being more a part of Alabama than Florida.

I wouldn't ever say the Atlantic coast isn't good, but I think people who think the Gulf coast sucks are dead wrong, or perhaps they just haven't been to the right places. In terms of actual beach quality, the Gulf coast actually destroys anything the Atlantic side offers. It has finer, whiter sand and much clearer water. On the panhandle you can watch sunrises and sunsets on the beach, whereas on the Atlantic side you can only watch sunrises. The Atlantic coast does have rougher water, but to be honest, unless there is a pretty decent storm offshore somewhere, the waves tend to be pretty modest most of the time.

The Atlantic coast is long and diverse, but I would pick Panama City over places like Daytona any day of the week. I went to New Smyrna Beach this summer and I found it to be pretty boring. However, I really liked Cocoa Beach and I like the Jacksonville/St. Augustine area. I still prefer PCB for the sheer quality of the beaches and entertainment options available most of the time. I wouldn't go there in the middle of the summer or during spring break, though.
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Old 12-28-2011, 04:27 PM
 
616 posts, read 877,510 times
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30A.


Enough said.
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Old 12-28-2011, 04:47 PM
 
Location: Decatur
461 posts, read 899,876 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Northman View Post
For those who don't know, St. Pete Beach is part of the Tampa Bay region. I know that wasn't one of the places the OP asked about, but my take on it is if you're willing to drive 5.5 hours, the extra 1.5 to get down there is more than worth it.
Agree totally. We really love the small islands south of there, Anna Maria, Don Pedro and even on down to Sanibel/Captiva.
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