In a region characterized by temperate weather and colorful boutique shops, female travelers will find no shortage of ideal destinations for a girlfriend getaway in the South. Before making arrangements in a more common location, planners should consider one of these hidden gems.
Amelia Island, Florida
Nothing says getaway like a vibrant island with untamed landscape. Located on the northernmost point of Florida, Amelia Island features a glittering view of the Atlantic Ocean on one side and green salt marshes on the other. In between, visitors will find groves of live oak trees, sprawling grassland and looming sand dunes.
In addition to offering water sports like kayaking and paddle boarding, Amelia Island is one of the few locations in the country where people can go horseback riding on the beach.
Amelia’s historic downtown carries the influence of Spanish, French and British rule, offering a variety of Victorian architecture, boutiques and hook-to-plate seafood restaurants overlooking the marina.
“For an island, Amelia has truly exceptional food,” said Kaitlin Harris, account manager at Hayworth Public Relations.
Amelia Island has a long history as a shrimp fishing hot spot, so visitors would be remiss not to try a plate of fresh shrimp at one of the local eateries, such as Timoti’s Seafood Shak, which is ideal for those on a budget.
For an afternoon activity, groups can schedule a cooking class, such as the Farmers Market Tour and Class, at the Amelia Island Culinary Academy.
“The chef is highly rated,” said Harris. “He takes ladies to the farmers market to show them what ingredients to get; then they go back to cook the meal together.”
Groups can also take a ferry to nearby Cumberland Island, which was saved from commercial development during the 1970s and features wild horses, armadillos and mansion ruins.
Among several luxury resorts is the Ritz-Carlton, home to the five-diamond Salt restaurant, and the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort. The Omni Resort comprises a shopping village, a golf course, a nature center and a selection of nine restaurants managed by award-winning chef Daven Wardynski.
Mississippi Gulf Coast
With 26 miles of beaches and picturesque towns, the Mississippi Gulf Coast provides an ideal venue for girlfriend groups to lounge, shop and explore. Along the water, travelers can enjoy paddle boarding, kayaking, biking, walking trails and birdwatching, as well as mouthwatering seafood like salty-sweet oysters, fresh shrimp, flounder and crab.
Groups will find rich local culture and attractions in the city of Biloxi, Mississippi, without the crowds and expense of destinations like New Orleans. Lodging options along the waterfront include the Hard Rock Casino and Hotel, the White House Hotel and the South Beach Hotel. At the end of the day, visitors can experience award-winning Creole cuisine and outdoor seating at Patio 44.
Another great hotel choice to consider is the Oak Crest Mansion Inn, a beautiful antebellum bed-and-breakfast in Pass Christian.
Nearby, the city of Gulfport offers a vibrant nightlife, especially in Fishbone Alley, which runs between two prominent bar streets and serves as a community entertainment district. At Canvas and Cocktails, groups can learn how to paint step by step while enjoying a cool refreshment of their choice.
To experience some of the best beaches in the region, many visitors take the Ship Island Excursions tour, which travels from the Gulfport small-craft harbor on a 50-minute ferry ride to the barrier island of West Ship Island. During the trip, passengers sometimes catch a glimpse of a bottlenose dolphin.
Ocean Springs features a walkable, historic downtown with numerous boutique shops. For gourmet dining, groups can pay a visit to Vestige, which some travelers consider the best restaurant on the Gulf Coast.