Autumn is my favorite time of the year to hit the beach. The weather is fantastic, crowds nonexistent, and—most importantly—the low-season prices are cheap. These seaside escapes combine great fall conditions with easy access to adventure, whether you like to fish, hike, bike, or paddle.
The Best Fall Beach Escapes: St. George Island State Park, Florida
There’s a reason St. George Island, a nearly 30-mile-long and two-mile-wide isle off the Florida Panhandle, is home to one of the most exclusive vacation communities in the world: its sugar-sand white beaches and warm, welcoming waters are spectacular. But you don’t have to be Scrooge McDuck to stake a claim: The St. George Island State Park, which inhabits the island’s nine easternmost miles, is open to everyone. A primitive campsite, accessible only by kayak or the 2.5-mile Gap Point hiking trail, is easy to reserve at this time of year. Camping fees are $24 per night.
The Best Fall Beach Escapes: Santa Barbara, California
If you can do it on a beach, you can do it along the sand-strewn Pacific shores near Santa Barbara. And even though the weather is perfect nearly year-round (average temperature in November is in the high 60s), fall is still considered the low season. East Beach is known for its volleyball and stand-up paddleboarding; the Santa Barbara Sailing Center rents stand-up paddleboards for $15 an hour and leads guided SUP tours. Rincon is the prime surfing beach; you can get lessons through Santa Barbara Adventure Company for $99 per person per hour. If you want to kitesurf, head to Leadbetter, where Airborne Kiteboarding gives group lessons for $75 per person.
The Best Fall Beach Escapes: St. Simons Island, Georgia
St. Simons is the largest of Georgia’s four idyllic Golden Isles, and also typically the most touristy. But in the fall, when the taffy eaters have largely vanished and the air temperature still lingers in the 70s, you'll barely have to share the soft, grass-crowned sand with anyone. The prime adventure activities are fishing from the shore or St. Simons Island Pier, surfing (you’ll need a wetsuit), and road biking through St. Simons and other barrier islands. If you’re looking for a place to stay outside of the five-star resorts, head for the quiet Island Inn. Fall rates start at $99 per night.