These Southern Vacation Hotspots Are the Best Kept Secret in Travel!

Hilton Head, South Carolina, lighthouse at dusk.

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When it comes to planning a romantic escape without breaking the bank, the American South emerges as an enticing and budget-friendly destination for couples. From the charm of historic cities to the allure of natural wonders, the South offers a diverse range of experiences that won’t drain your wallet.

In this article, we’ll take you on a journey through some of the best affordable options for couples seeking a memorable and cost-effective getaway in the Southern United States. Whether you’re dreaming of cozy mountain retreats or exploring vibrant urban scenes, the South has something to offer every duo seeking an unforgettable, yet budget-conscious, vacation.

Gulf Shores Getaways

Gulf Shores Al
Photo Credit: Jenn Coleman.

Gulf Shores might be the reigning champion for southern vacation. It certainly is if you ask anybody from Alabama, where the question is “WHEN are you going to Gulf Shores,” not “IF.” It’s easy to see why, with beautiful beaches, fun hotels, great bike riding, and plenty of things to do for adventure and romance.

The weather and crowds detract from the Alabama coast, but you can beat them both by waiting just a little for your Gulf Shore getaway. By mid-August, the kids are back in school, and you’re on shoulder season availability if not pricing. The air has cooled by September, but the water is still comfortably warm. Even in October, you can still come down for watersports and fall migrations of birds and butterflies.

Coastal Mississippi

Coastal Mississippi
Photo Credit: Jenn Coleman.

Coastal Mississippi is a hidden travel gem for any season. Couples will love the boutique hotels and delicious food of Ocean Springs and Bay St Louis. There are some great bike routes on land and boat tours of every description, from schooners, tiki boats, haunted bayou rides, and ferries to legitimate beaches on Ship Island.

Bargain lovers will delight at sizzling summer deals on Biloxi Casinos and more fresh shrimp that you can eat. Even if you take a road trip on the US-90 cutoff from I-10, you’ll see the longest stretch of undeveloped coastline in the south.

Hilton Head Beach Vacations

Bird's-eye view of Coligny beach on Hilton Head Island.Ocean view at sunset with trees and hotels in the foreground
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

There’s an East Coast logistic question about how far south you need to go to reach a decent beach. I mean, you can take the day train to Rockaway or Atlantic City, but does that count? I-95 peels away from the ocean south of The City, not to return until around Hilton Head making this Low Country destination a reasonable choice for the “first beach” for budget car beach trips. It’s closer than Florida and way more beachy than The Monopoly City or Rockapulco.

You’re not settling when you visit Hilton Head because it’s the “#1 Island in the Continental U.S.” and “#2 Island in the World” according to Travel+Leisure Magazine, and the “Top Island in the United States” per Condé Nast Traveler Magazine. Your stay starts at beachfront or fairway resorts, many with on-premise spas. Your days are filled with watersports, biking, or enjoying the 12 miles of pristine beaches before dining on mouthwatering seafood. All of this, with a day and a half less driving than going to Florida.

Jekyll Island Historical Vacations

Jekyll Island Ga
Photo Credit: Jenn Coleman.

Not only do you reach Jekyll Island before you hit the Florida line, but it’s a historical vacation and beach vacation wrapped into one. The Jekyll Island Club was once the most prestigious club in America. The East Coast industrial elite would spend their winters here during “club season,” planning marriages and mergers. Their “cottages” rise off the riverside of the island like they’ve been lifted off the shores of Cape Cod. Today, you can rent a room that only a millionaire could afford a century ago.

The ocean side of the island features wide beaches and sandy dunes. If you’re looking for a beach getaway that offers more than just sun and sand, Jekyll Island is the perfect place for you. In addition to its stunning beaches, Jekyll Island also has a rich history, plenty of outdoor activities, and a seemingly endless supply of sweet Georgia shrimp.

Lake Martin Summer Fun

Southern Vacations - Paradise BnB
Photo Credit: Jenn Coleman.

If you want the best deals on summer fun in sand and water, just head to your local lake. If you’re in the “Real Housewives of Birmingham” circle, that lake will be Lake Martin. Of course, the area used to be farmland for Russell Athletics, so there’s quite a bit of diversity around Lake Martin.

Accommodations range from million-dollar lakeside homes to quaint B&Bs and rustic hotels. You can even spend the night in Hank Williams’s cabin. Activities range from gourmet dining and a summer concert series to catfishing by the dam and fully-automatic machine gun ranges. Of course, you can’t forget boat tours to Goat Island, Pirate Island, and more. The real story for Lake Martin and local lakes everywhere is that you don’t have to travel a thousand miles to have an adventure. There’s plenty to do waiting for you in your own backyard.


Aerial of Chattanooga Tennessee TN Skyline
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

If you combined Atlanta with the Georgia Mountains, you’d get Chattanooga. It has a tremendous aquarium, art museum, food scene, and riverfront. It’s also home to Lookout Mountain with Ruby Falls, Rock City, and Lulu Falls. Just outside of town, you’ll find hiking at Cloudland Canyon and the same whitewater rafting you’d go to from the Georgia Blue Ridge. You are just getting there from the other side.

We love Chattanooga as a cheap vacation for couples, especially along the I-20 corridor, because it’s hours closer than Gatlinburg or Blue Ridge. Add in the urban adventures and very reasonable accommodations (including staying in the Chattanooga Choo Choo), and you’ll have a “version of a really solid Tennessee excursion.”

Georgia Blue Ridge Mountains

Georgia Blue Ridge Mts.
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

The Georgia Blue Ridge Mountains are the start of all things Appalachia, from the Appalachian Trail to the southernmost wine grapes in America. It’s the sort of place where you can crush cars with a tank in the morning and go wine tasting in the afternoon. With Olympic-caliber white water and abundant waterfalls, it’s easy to find adventures from wild to mild in the Georgia Blue Ridge.

The Georgia Mountains are a budget alternative to the Smokies because they’re closer to the deep South with significantly better air connections through Atlanta. Your money goes farther in the Georgia Blue Ridge with all your vacation needs – eating, playing, and sleeping.

More Cheap Vacations for Couples:

Vacation couple in convertable via Deposit Photos
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

There are many reasons for couples to take cheap vacations. You may be on a budget and trying to retire early or want to balance expenses on a trip between luxury stays and heart-pounding adventures. Most importantly, you shouldn’t sacrifice your fun just because you’re looking for low budget vacation ideas.

56 Cheap Vacations for Couples to Swoon Over

Indulgent Itinerary for a Jekyll Island Romantic Weekend

Jekyll Island
Photo Credit: Jenn Coleman.

Imagine surrounding yourself with nature, history, beach, and bay all on a little seven-mile-long island. Sounds romantic, doesn’t it? Jekyll Island makes a beautiful weekend getaway for the Southeast or a long break on an I-95 road trip. No matter how you reach Jekyll Island, Georgia, you will enjoy our itinerary for a perfect 3-day/2-night romantic getaway.

Indulgent Itinerary for a Jekyll Island Romantic Weekend

15 Perfect Date Ideas in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach

Exotic Vacation Beach Couple
Photo Credit: Deposit Photos.

Beach vacations are a chance for simple things like fun in the sun and play in the shade, but why stop there? With our 15 perfect date ideas in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, you’ll find a way to rekindle romance, even if it’s already burning like a bonfire.

Mississippi Gulf Coast Road Trip – A Journey of Discovery Along the Secret Coast

Coastal Ms Beach at Sunset
Photo credit: Jenn Coleman.

What makes the Gulf Coast one of the best Mississippi road trips? You’ll experience 26 miles of beaches and delightful towns steeped in history and up-and-coming artists. Coastal Mississippi has enough to offer to entice you on an afternoon backroad adventure or anchor a slow travel road trip.

Mississippi Gulf Coast Road Trip – A Journey of Discovery Along the Secret Coast

Why Choose Lake Martin For a Fairy Tale Romantic Getaway

Lake Martin Mountain Laurel
Photo Credit: Jenn Coleman.

What do you look for in a romantic getaway? Is it delicious food, good music, a quaint B&B, or maybe a beautiful place to watch the sunset with the one you love? Lake Martin Alabama has all these things and more, and we will show you how to make it a romantic getaway to remember!

Why Choose Lake Martin For a Fairy Tale Romantic Getaway


Co-Founders and Content Creators at | Website

Hi! We are Jenn and Ed Coleman aka Coleman Concierge. In a nutshell, we are a Huntsville-based Gen X couple sharing our stories of amazing adventures through activity-driven transformational and experiential travel.



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