A Last Chance at Summer: 7 Affordable, Last-Minute U.S. Beach Vacations

by  Amanda Black | Oct 4, 2013
Outerbanks, North Carolina
Outerbanks, North Carolina / digidreamgrafix/iStock

While October might not scream "beach season," many parts of the U.S. are still enjoying weather that calls for shorts and a lounge chair. Sure, you can go to Florida or Southern California pretty much year-round for sun and sand, but what about beach destinations that get cooler as fall sets in? For now, many of them are still prime for a late-season visit, with great deals, fewer crowds, and comfortable temperatures. Okay, so you might not get a sunburn (Who wants that, anyway?), but you'll still find plenty to do in these seven locales.

Editor's Note: While the 2013 have since expired, the below destinations remain smart places to find shoulder season savings. To get started with your searching, check out the current offers pages of the hotels we've vetted here.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

With 60 miles of beach (and free entry), plus a famous 1.2-mile-long boardwalk, there's plenty to do during a fall beach trip to Myrtle Beach. Temperatures through October remain in the upper 70s and 80s, so you're still guaranteed great beach weather.  See the beach from above on a parasailing tour, or try your hand at taking home a cash prize at the 57th annual Grand Strand Fishing Rodeo, which goes through October. Or, enjoy the heat at the 14th Annual Surfrider Lip-Rippin' Chilympics Chili Cook-Off on October 13.

The deal: Make the cool hotel BLUE your home base for a Myrtle Beach vacation. The beachfront resort's "Summer Never Ends" package has rates starting at just $29 in October and November.

Virginia Beach, Virginia

Free public beaches are a huge draw for visitors heading to Virginia Beach. For a quieter atmosphere and smaller crowds, head out to the Chesapeake Bay. Or maybe you just want to get out and explore First Landing State Park, where English colonists first landed ashore in 1607 before heading to Jamestown. Go on one of the many walking trails that cover nearly 20 miles of landscape. You can also catch the tail end of Bottlenose dolphin watching season with Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center's 90-minute boat tours ($21 for adults). And, if you're heading to the beach October 19 or 20th, be sure to check out the Virginia Beach Craft Beer Festival. Admission is free and you'll get to sample beers from over 50 breweries.

The deal: The 3.5-star Wyndham Virginia Beach Oceanfront is offering an "Endless Summer Getaway." Wake up in your deluxe oceanfront room and enjoy breakfast in bed for two; rates from $119 ($84 for standard room without breakfast).

The Jersey Shore, New Jersey

The Jersey Shore has had its fair share of tough times, from Hurricane Sandy to a recent fire along the completely remade Seaside Heights boardwalk. But, that hasn't deterred the spirit of store owners and loyal patrons who return every year. Still pleasant temperatures in the 70s and 60s offer plenty of time to enjoy the beaches in the towns that line the shore. Check out the Farmers Market in Red Bank through mid-November for local food and produce to take to the beach. Want more ideas? Check out what you can see and do in these four lesser-known Jersey Shore towns.

The deal: Stay in the quiet southern town of Cape May at the Peter Shields Inn & Restaurant for just $119 per night with breakfast and Wi-Fi. Or maybe you want to stay in the northern part of the shore in Asbury Park; the historic boutique Berkeley Oceanfront Hotel is offering rates from $129 per night.

Half Moon Bay, California

Located less than an hour outside of  San Francisco, Half Moon Bay is known for its beaches, historic town, and incredible golf courses. Enjoy the coast on horseback with Sea Horse Ranch – their beach and trail rides show you the area's highlights, and if you're lucky, you could spot whales or dolphins swimming offshore (beach rides from $65). Explore Half Moon Bay State Beach or the four-mile Coastside Trail that borders the beaches. You can also camp for the weekend in one of the park's many campsites. Take a stroll through downtown's Main Street and do some window shopping at the boutiques and art galleries, or duck into Barterra winery for tastings of one of their varietals or California-made olive oils.

The deal: Get away from it all at the cute bed and breakfast, Zaballa House. Get breakfast and free parking starting at just $124 per night.

Hilton Head, South Carolina

All of Hilton Head's beaches are open to the public, but access to the beaches is sometimes limited, so be sure you verify a few key entry points here. Head to Shelter Cove Harbor after a day on the beach for live music and food at the Music on the Harbor Concert Series (Thursdays in October; free admission). From now through November 4, visit the Coastal Discovery Museum where you'll find the Art Beyond Tradition exhibit, which showcases abstract works from 12 artists (free admission). Or, go on the museum's 2-hour guided walk of the National Wildlife Refuge, Pinckney Island. You'll come across birds, marsh inhabitants, and more ($12 for adults).

The deal: The 4-star Omni Hilton Head Oceanfront Resort is offering a "Beach, Breakfast, Bikes & Bubbly" package with suite accommodations, breakfast, bike rentals, and champagne starting at $178 per night.

Monterey, California

Start your trip to Monterey County with a trip along the 17-Mile Drive which winds from Pebble Beach to Pacific Grove – it's often referred to as one of the most scenic drives in America. If you're planning on spending part of your days along the coast (we recommend Monterey State Beach for its beautiful coast, free parking, and easy access), head a bit inland for your evening activities. In Salinas, go on the First Fridays Art Walk; from 5pm to 8pm, participants can wander the streets and explore the various shops, galleries, and restaurants that open their doors for the event. Art exhibitions, readings, live music, dance performances, and more can be found. Or, head to the Carmel Art & Film Festival (Oct 9–13), where, if you buy a pass, you can gain access to some of the year's best independent films (5-day pass $57.70).

The deal: Start your day right at the upscale downtown Casa Munras Hotel & Spa with their breakfast package, which includes a morning meal and free Wi-Fi from $101 per night.

Outer Banks, North Carolina

Even the locals in the Outer Banks say fall is the best time to visit – with still-warm temperatures in the 70s and fewer crowds. Winds pick up during autumn as well, which means that some of the area's most popular activities are best enjoyed now. Go hang gliding off the sand dunes, kiteboard and paddleboard off shore, or just relax on the beach. If you want to learn the history of flight before you take the leap off a dune, head to the Wright Brothers National Memorial where you can see full-scale reproductions of the Wright 1903 Powered Flyer, and more (closed temporarily due to Gov't shutdown; $4 admission). The area is also known for its incredible fresh seafood, so you'll want to stop by the Outer Banks Seafood Festival for live music, cooking demonstrations, and local food (October 18–19; $3 admission).

The deal: With their "Buy One Night; Get a Second at 50% Off" promotion, spend a couple nights at the classic 4-star beachfront Sanderling Resort from $157 per night.

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