The ultimate vacation: starting at the ocean by myself
July 15, 2012 7:54 PM   Subscribe

Recommendations for a quiet, budget-conscious solo vacation consisting of staring at the Atlantic Ocean?

I want to take a solo vacation this fall (some time in September-November) after a major work event. I really like the idea of sitting on a chair immediately next to the Atlantic Ocean and staring at said ocean (maybe with some bookreading thrown in) while avoiding people noise (families, partiers), since I'll need to de-stress and do some mental life reorganization. I've checked out the many beach rental/vacation sites recommended on other AskMe questions, but I'm having trouble telling how quite and secluded various beach options are.

1) Do you have any recommendations for quieter (non-family, non-partier) places to have a meditative, relaxing vacation along the southeastern U.S. coast? Cottage rentals, lighthouses, specific hotels? I'm entirely uninterested in leaving my chair for activities or local flavor. Just want to sit in a chair, by myself, and check out the ocean.

2) Should I just try to find a cruise deal and get my own tiny balcony facing the water? Watching the water from a balcony + included room service sounds pretty good, but will it be difficult to find a good deal for a room with a good balcony view?

Budget: $700 or less (as cheap as is still worth it would be great)
Departure location: anywhere on the east coast of the U.S.
Preferred length: 3-8 days

Thank you for any advice!
posted by pavane to Travel & Transportation (23 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
Nags Head, North Carolina has a quieter, calmer feel than, say, Myrtle Beach or Virginia Beach. The beach itself (from what I remember about 10 years ago) is not lined by a boardwalk or any other noisy things. (The street is a block away, but there aren't many stores right beside the beach.)

I went to Ocean City with my sister in March, and it was cold and windy and foggy, but VACANT. During the summer season it's crowded and packed and touristy, with a boardwalk and busy, crowded beach. Maybe in the fall it wouldn't be bad, either. You could probably at least arrange to get a hotel room with a balcony overlooking the ocean and have space to yourself there, if not directly on the beach. Not sure when the off-season starts, or if the fall would be as similarly empty as the spring. (That was my personal experience about 4 years ago.)

However, if you really aren't interested in swimming, my bet would be that the further north on the Atlantic you are able to go, the less busy it will be due to weather. It will probably be cooler the more north you go, which could scare away potential beach goers and ocean swimmers. You could still sit on your balcony and sit on the beach and take long walks on the beach, but swimming in the ocean might be too chilly.

Best wishes for a successful project and for a relaxing time at the beach!
posted by shortyJBot at 8:14 PM on July 15, 2012

Oh, and I think it would be much more relaxing and easier to hold up in a hotel and order room service than it would be on a cruise. I have no experience with cruises, though, but I imagine most cruises (esp. budget ones maybe) to have food be in a buffet style service, with the possible option to shell out a lot more for room service. I think it would be easier to be solo and get the real ocean experience from a hotel on land instead of a cruise. (Even if you had a balcony on a cruise, you'd probably have a view of open water, not waves coming into shore, and you'd have boat noise, and your room would be much smaller which might feel more cagey than relaxing after a while by yourself.) *My opinion, never been on a cruise but biased against them*
posted by shortyJBot at 8:19 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think a cruise would be a great option, if you can find a balcony room in your price range. All food is usually included, which means that room service is FREE. I thought a cruise would be sort of fun, then I went on one, and it was totally fantastic. I would definitely look in to that option.
posted by insectosaurus at 8:23 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Kiawah Island will be dead after 1 September. The beaches are amazing.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:33 PM on July 15, 2012

Assateague Island has amazing beach camping. So so wonderful, quiet, and has incredible wildlife. I highly recommend it. You are camping basically right in the other side of the dunes. Just a quick walk to the beach proper, and they allow beach campfires.
posted by two lights above the sea at 8:33 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

September to November is a good off season time for the OBX. I'd suggest Duck, NC (pretty close to Nags Head actually). You could also go waaay south in the OBX to either Ocracoke or Hatteras. I'm pretty sure those areas are desolate that time of the year.
posted by neveroddoreven at 8:36 PM on July 15, 2012

Edisto Island, South Carolina
posted by ZabeLeeZoo at 8:42 PM on July 15, 2012

Wife and I stayed on the Isle of Palms in Charleston, SC for a week a few years back. We stayed in a resort called Wild Dunes that had some great off-season deals for everything from a hotel room to 1BR condos to full-size houses. This was the view from our oceanfront condo. There were also a ton of vacation rentals right on the beach that'd probably work, especially in the offseason. There was also a grocery store right across the bridge to the island, so if you did a big stock up run on the way in, you'd probably never have to leave the place.

You could also try Tybee Island, down by Savannah, GA. It was gorgeous and I know there were 2-3 BR cottages right on the beach last time we were there.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:03 PM on July 15, 2012

Oh, one thing to specify is oceanfront may be the BUILDING is on the ocean, not necessarily that your porch/room/whatever would be FACING the ocean. I'd call to check since that's the entire purpose of your trip.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:11 PM on July 15, 2012

I've stayed at Wild Dunes on Isle of Palms and it is great. If you want access to nice restaurants and touristy stuff in Charleston that's the place to go. A little more budget friendly is Ocean Isle Beach, NC - pretty much deserted in the off season. The last time I went I stayed at the Islander Inn. I went by myself on Easter weekend and had a lovely stretch of staring at the ocean from my balcony. In the fall you can get under $100 per night.
posted by Daily Alice at 9:36 PM on July 15, 2012

If this was me, I'd try for Plum Island, Massachusetts. At that time of year it's likely to be pretty quiet and peaceful. There aren't that many accommodations there, but a quick search just turned up one on, and there is an inn called the Blue Inn that looks like it offers its low season rate in the fall.
posted by gubenuj at 9:38 PM on July 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you'd consider the Florida Gulf coast as well, I think the cabins at St. Joseph State Park in Florida would suit you nicely. They're pretty isolated for the eastern US -- a 45-minute drive from the nearest town (of 3000), and 15-20 minutes past the park gates. It should be very quiet in October and November. I think there's 8 or 10 cabins, and they're separated from the campgrounds. Lots of wildlife. Pack plenty of bug repellent if you go in September.
posted by junco at 10:04 PM on July 15, 2012

So, what we used to do during that time of year was go to lighthouses. Staring at the dolphins from the top of a 150 year old lighthouse was a nice thing. Someplace like Cape May might be workable, or another beach-centric town. Just check the calendar to make sure there's not a legume festival or biker rally during the time you want to be there.
posted by Mad_Carew at 10:06 PM on July 15, 2012

I second off-season Outer Banks, particularly the smaller towns. We stayed in Kill Devil Hill last Thanksgiving, and it was pretty amazing—a hundred-year old house that was right on the water, I mean like it was built up on stilts and high tide rushed under the house; hardly any people out except a handful of grouchy old fishing guys early in the morning; nice weather that was cool enough for a sweater at night, warm enough for a t-shirt during the day; friggin dolphins, man, swimming up the coast at sunrise—incredibly peaceful and conducive to long, intense thinking sessions There was enough open in the town a couple miles up that grocery/booze/whatever shopping wasn't a hassle. And it cost, like, $800 for an enormous house that slept 7.
posted by peachfuzz at 10:15 PM on July 15, 2012

We vacationed at Cape May Point when I was but a wee one, and I can assure you that it's quiet and peaceful at the height of the summer season, let alone the off-season. Nuns vacation there.

(Cape May proper is lovely as well, but the Point is really free of people. And infrastructure -- there was only one proper store there when I was little, selling beachy stuff, sandwiches, and not much else.)
posted by kalimac at 2:29 AM on July 16, 2012

What about staying at a guest room at a convent or monastery? A friend spent a long weekend 'decompressing' at the Convent of Saint Birgitta at Vikingsborg. Although not on the ocean, they do have rooms overlooking Long Island Sound.
posted by bCat at 5:14 AM on July 16, 2012 [1 favorite]

My wife and I discovered joys of southern Maine after Labor Day. The weather is gorgeous, tourists are gone, the motel prices go down by 50%, the roads and restaurants are uncrowded, and the people are less pressurized.

We've been going to Ogunquit, just north of the New Hampshire/Maine border, for 20 years to walk along the Marginal Way, an elevated path along the rockbound coast, eat lobsters and clear our minds. There's a very nice sand beach in Wells, about 10 miles north.
posted by KRS at 5:23 AM on July 16, 2012

I like cruises and fall cruises are awesome because the kids and families are back in school and the holidays haven't started yet.

One thing to do is to wait out the Last Minute cruise thing. They make no money on the rooms they don't sell, so they flog them off very cheaply at the last minute. (about two weeks prior to departure.)

The Caribbean is your best bet for this because there are so many ships and as long as you can get down to Florida, you're in business.

Cruises are all inclusive (except for cocktails) so once you pay, you're done.

$700 isn't a whole lot of money though, and after tips and taxes you probably won't be able to afford a room with a balcony.

$700 isn't a whole lot of money for much of anything, especially if it needs to include transporation to the site and meals.

Pehaps you can elaborate on what your $700 needs to cover?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:06 AM on July 16, 2012

Assateague is a great quiet destination as Two Lights Above the Sea mentioned. Right next to this island is Chincoteague which also has fairly quiet places for rest and relaxation. With both beaches, you may have the opportunity to spot wild ponies which are protected on the islands.
posted by samsara at 6:16 AM on July 16, 2012

Oh also, another beautiful spot in Maine is Halibut Point. When I last visited, there were very few people on the actual beach side (as it is comprised of large rocks from the not your typical sandy beach.) You can definitely stake out and claim a rock out there and sit for many hours watching waves break undisturbed.
posted by samsara at 7:32 AM on July 16, 2012

The Outer Banks of North Carolina, specifically Kitty Hawk / Kill Devil Hills / Nags Head.

Be advised most of the budget motels there are only one story, and aren't ocean-side, but you could get a cheap, off-season room at one and easily walk over to the beach with your chair. There are a handful of bigger places with ocean view rooms, like the Sea Oatel and the Surfside.
posted by Rash at 11:18 AM on July 16, 2012

Nthing the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Manteo, Nags Head, and Kitty Hawk can get a little busy during peak tourist season but still definitely don't have the Spring-Break-beach-party atmosphere that Atlantic Beach and Myrtle Beach have. And even during peak tourist season, most of Hatteras Island is still fairly quiet. I particularly recommend the town of Rodanthe (I grew up there so I'm biased, but it really is a nice quiet little beach town), though lodging prices are a little higher there ever since the movie Nights in Rodanthe came out, so you might want to check out, well, any other town on the island that's not in the immediate vicinity of the lighthouse. Ocracoke Island (just south of Hatteras) is also pretty small and quiet.

Like someone else has already said, the budget motels usually won't be beachside, but you can walk to the beach with your chair, drink, and journal in about 5 minutes. And off-season prices for the nicer hotels are pretty reasonable. And sitting on the sound side of the island can also be quite relaxing, as long as the weather is such that you can't smell it. :)

Good luck with your trip, wherever you go! I'm taking a solo trip myself in a couple of weeks with similar goals. I hope you find what you need.
posted by rhiannonstone at 1:39 PM on July 16, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks, all! These are all really helpful suggestions.
posted by pavane at 10:27 PM on July 17, 2012

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