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Hankering after Georgia’s best peach cobbler, or some shrimp and grits? Want to know the hotspots around Charleston? We’ve scoured the coast of the southeastern US states through Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia and found the destinations you shouldn’t miss.
1. Charleston, South Carolina
A necessary stop on any trip south of the Mason-Dixon line, Charleston is a place of Southern belles, pastel-hued antebellum architecture, flavourful food and turbulent history. Stop by Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, the oldest public gardens in the United States, where Monet-style footbridges and mossy trees are punctuated by bright flowers and white peacocks. Fig restaurant is a must-try in the city, serving Southern classics with a twist – dig in to the cast-iron cornbread with cottage cheese with pecans and peaches. Stay at the charming Elliott House Inn and enjoy your morning coffee on your balcony overlooking the surrounding palms and cobblestone paths.
2. Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Upon arrival on Hilton Head Island, you can expect to be greeted by a romantic canopy of Spanish moss draped over southern oaks. Once you’re settled in – preferably at one of the island’s seaside cottages – rent a beach cruiser and pedal your way along the wide, wave-lapped beach. Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge also has a bike trail, and is a great place to scope out alligators; biking your way through is especially useful for those who are too scared to go on foot. Sailors should also rent a catamaran to gain a different perspective of the island as they loop around the coast.
3. Savannah, Georgia
Savannah is a staple of the South. It’s a foodie capital, and ideal for picking up Georgia’s best peaches or some sweet pralines. Drop by B’s Cracklin’ BBQ for some real-deal brisket and ribs, and plan a seafood dinner at the chic and airy Atlantic. Spend plenty of time exploring the city by foot (if only to work up an appetite for your next meal) – the abundance of old oaks will provide respite from the beating sun, and you can snag a seat on Forrest Gump’s bench if you fancy a break. Check out the avant-garde SCAD Museum of Art, where you’re as likely to stumble upon sketching workshops as you are sculpture exhibitions.
4. Raleigh, North Carolina
Set in what is known as the “Research Triangle” between Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, student-centric Raleigh merges the feeling of a buzzing city with Southern charm. There’s an abundance of museums, including the North Carolina Museum of Art, which has an outdoor sculpture park. Food-wise, you can’t go wrong. Many local restaurants offer a great take on fusion, such as the Italian-Japanese Papa Shogun, where soba panzanella and kombu gnocchi take centre stage. For fresh seafood, don’t miss Locals Oyster Bar, where shrimp, oysters and fish are brought in fresh from the coast.
5. Charlottesville, Virginia
At the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Charlottesville is surrounded by vineyards and golf courses and crowned by the University of Virginia, a breeding ground for southern preppies. Once home to Thomas Jefferson and Edgar Allan Poe, this charming city is cut through by the historic Downtown Mall, lined with vintage shops, organic restaurants and multiple wineries and breweries. Stroll along the Monticello Artisan Trail, a pathway connecting galleries, artists’ studios and farmers’ markets. Shenandoah National Park on the Appalachian Trail is also a world-class hiking area for something that’s a bit more cardio-heavy.
6. Outer Banks, North Carolina
A group of tiny barrier islands off North Carolina’s coast, the Outer Banks have some of the most beautiful beaches in the area. Roanoke Island, which is part of this strip, was the first point of contact for the English when they tried to settle in America in the late 16th century (before officially doing so in Jamestown, Virginia). An ideal place to rest and recover from a busy year, this is a destination made for reading for hours on end, biking to lunch and swimming the afternoon away before dinner by the beach.
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