Best Secluded Beaches on the East Coast

by | May 4, 2021 | Destinations, Family Adventures, South East, Traveling with Teens, USA, Weekend Trips

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There’s nothing like a beach vacation. Warm sand, cool waves, ocean sounds, it’s exactly what we all need after a year of crazy. But if you’d still like to avoid crowds (and really, who doesn’t?) There are a few beaches that are close enough to activities for a day trip, but far enough from tourism hot spots to attract fewer people. I don’t have any tips on avoiding annoying family members though, you’re on your own on that front. 





Corolla is at the northern end of the Outer Banks in North Carolina. It’s a small town, located about 45 minutes north of Kittyhawk and the main tourism areas (an hour or more on Saturdays due to the traffic). It’s a really cute town, a lot quieter than the rest of the area. If you really want to get away from everyone, you can rent a house on the 4×4 area of the beach, only accessible via 4 wheel drive vehicles. 


beach, dunes - secluded beaches on east coast

It’s also illegal to walk on the dunes in the Outer Banks. There are steps to get over them to the beach. Photo courtesy of Caleb George on Unsplash.


Corolla is famous for its wild horses. I’ve heard that if you rent a house on the 4×4 beach, it increases your odds of seeing a wild horse. If you happen upon one, don’t feed or pet them, unfortunately, it’s illegal.



Where to Stay

I highly recommend renting a house in the Corolla area. There aren’t many hotels in the area.


Use this map to check for availability and reserve the dates you want to visit:



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Where to Eat

Sooeys BBQ is great! They even offer large family packs if you’re traveling with the grandparents. 


Garden City

Garden City is a small town just 15 minutes south of Myrtle Beach in South Carolina. Myrtle Beach is a great area to visit, but it’s a hot spot tourist destination, so the beach can be crowded. Garden City is the best of both worlds. You can easily head over to Myrtle Beach to hit up the food, entertainment and shopping, and avoid the crowds on the beach. The heart of Garden City is the Pier. I often see people fishing from the pier and I’ve even seen a few small sharks near the end of the pier. 

If you feel like doing some shopping, or window shopping, head to Broadway at the Beach.  There are lots of fun stores to poke around in, but I’m just a little bit of a nerd so I like the magic shop. Myrtle Beach also has a really nice aquarium. It’s a total tourist trap, but when I was a kid I was always really impressed with their Legends in Concert show, which is a tribute show. 


Garden City Pier

The Pier is a fun place to check out. I had my fortune told there one time  Photo Courtesy of Garden City Pier


Where to Stay 

There aren’t many hotels in Garden City, so I highly suggest renting a condo. 



Where to Eat

My Aunt Karen, who lives in Myrtle Beach, says the best seafood you’ll find is in the Murrells Inlet area. She recommends any seafood restaurant there. Since she’s the expert, I will defer to her. 



Indian Rocks Beach 


In spite of the name, Indian Rocks Beach isn’t actually that rocky. Photo Courtesy of Jec 8992 via Wikimedia


Indian Rocks Beach is a small beach town located near Clearwater Beach and Tampa in Florida. It’s a cute town, with a few restaurants and bars on the main road, and over 3 miles of beach. Indian Rocks Beach is on the gulf side of Florida, so the waves are much calmer than the Atlantic side. Perfect if you have young kids or non-swimmers. Or even if you just don’t want your kids begging for surf lessons your whole trip. “Sorry honey, the waves aren’t big enough for surfing.” 

If you’re looking for more to do than be a beach bum, nearby Clearwater Beach is full of cool stuff to check out, including an aquarium, numerous dolphin cruises, and some pirate cruises too. A day trip to Walt Disney World or Universal Studios wouldn’t be out of the question either, it’s only about 2 hours to either location. 


Where to Stay 

There are a few hotels in the area, but I highly recommend renting a house or condo. 



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Where to Eat

The Kooky Coconut serves up delicious standard beach fare and is conveniently located near the beach. 


Flagler Beach 

If you want a quiet beach town on the Atlantic side of Florida, Flagler Beach is a great choice. It’s super private. My husband and my footprints were the only ones on the beach when we visited. Admittedly, there isn’t much to do in town, but it’s a short drive to St. Augustine or Daytona Beach if you want a little more excitement. And Walt Disney World, Universal and other Orlando area attractions are less than 2 hours away as well. 


photo of an empty beach, there aren't even footprints.

Look at this beach, not a single footprint on a Friday morning.

Where to Stay

There are hotels for every budget in Flagler Beach, as well as several condo communities. My husband and I stayed at the Flagler By The Sea campground when we visited. That’s where we encountered the totally empty beach. 



Where to Eat

We loved The Java Joint, we had a delicious brunch there and their shrimp and grits were to die for. 

No matter where you decide to travel to get your beach fix, let me share a tip I’ve learned over the years of running my travel agency. If you want to avoid the crowds on the beach, but still have some options for day trips and activities, staying in a beach town that is adjacent to the main beach town is your best bet. That way you can drive into the city when you want things to do, and avoid all the people when you’re trying to relax and soak up some solitude. 


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These are the perfect beaches for avoiding the crowds while still having options for activities!


Emily Householder Stacey is a writer and travel agent based in sunny Cleveland Ohio. When she isn’t writing or planning trips, you’ll find her hiding on a beach with a good book. Yes, Cleveland has beaches.