Family Travel

Kerry Egan



7 reasons to go to the beach in the winter

Posted 2/10/2014 11:46:00 AM

Now don't get me wrong -- I love going to the beach on a beautiful summer day. I love swimming in the ocean, and I love the hot sun drying the water off my skin. I love boogie-boarding with my children, and I love baking on the sand.

But I love the beach in winter more, and here’s why:

1. No crowds: There is something to be said about the energy of the beach in summer -- the rainbow umbrellas and towels strewn on the sand, the screams of children playing in the waves, the packs of teenagers flirting and preening. But holy cow--the beach is so much better when it's empty. The long stretches of empty beach to the right and left, the massive ocean stretching out in front. It all seems bigger and more majestic in the winter. Simply put, the beach is more beautiful in the winter.

2. No fear of the sun: I haven't had a really, horribly bad sunburn since I was 19. My boyfriend and I had fallen asleep on the beach. He just ended up a bit more tanned on one side. I ended up with lobster-red skin and blisters down the right side of my body. I've been a maniac about sunscreen ever since. And with kids, I'm even more on guard about the sun. But in the winter, when the sun is low and your arms and legs are covered, there's little need to worry. Just put sunscreen or moisturizer with SPF on your face, and you're good all day. And no slathering, no spraying, no chasing whining children claiming that you've blinded them with sunscreen. Doesn't that silence sound good, all you parents out there?

3. More wildlife: With fewer people, the animals come out. At South Carolina beaches in the winter, you can see an astonishing variety of birds, from tiny and rare piping plovers, to huge wood storks. At some beaches, you can spot dolphins in the waves and starfish in tidal pools. I'm not sure if there actually is more wildlife in the off-season, or if they're just easier to see. Maybe you just notice more. I think that's the key -- you notice more in the winter.

4. More shells: When you aren't competing against a thousand other people for the perfect shell, you're much more likely to find it. Add to that the winter storms that can wash up boatloads of shells onto beaches, and you're in beachcombing heaven. Even the littlest children can find treasures on the beach in winter.

5. You can stay longer: When you don't have to worry about sunburn or heat stroke for yourself or your little ones, you can stay all day. You can get there at 9 in the morning and leave at 5 that night, watching the sun travel across the sky and the shadows shrink and then grow again. A day at the beach can literally be ALL day at the beach. This is nice if you live by the beach, but if you have to travel a significant distance to get to the shore, this is key.

6. Feels less tame: In the summer, the beach often feels like an amusement park, full of people and color and noises. The gorgeous natural beauty of the dunes and shoreline can be lost in the cacophony. You can almost forget just how wild the beach can be. Not in the winter. When that big, open beach stretches on both sides of you, there's forgetting that you are out in nature.

7. The light is different: So this one is a little more esoteric, but it's my favorite part of the beach in winter. The sunshine is different. The light falls in a way that isn't just glaringly bright, as it is in the summer. It's softer, and seems to illuminate things from inside. Somehow it seems both bluer and more golden at the same time. If you've seen it, you will know exactly what I mean.

If you are a die-hard summer person, who lives for the days when you can bake in the sun and float on the waves all day, you might disagree. But just give to a try. Almost all the things you do in the summer at the beach, you can do on a beautiful, warm South Carolina winter day. Build sandcastles, play frisbee, read books, search for creatures, go for a walk -- you can do all that in the winter. Except that everything is even more beautiful. Spend a morning, or even an hour, at one of South Carolina's beaches. You might change your mind.

For more information on South Carolina beaches:
Myrtle Beach area
Charleston area
Hilton Head area