Guide to Summer in the South

Thirty-six ideas for waterborne adventure that will have you soaking up every last drop of summer

Photo: Peter Frank Edwards

A friendly greeting at Pete's Pub, in the Bahamas.

Beachfront Campsite
Capers Island Heritage Preserve
South Carolina

You don’t need a million-dollar home to wake up a shell’s throw from the beach. Though remarkably close to civilized Charleston, three-mile-long Capers remains a beautifully undeveloped option. A classic Southern barrier island, it has brackish impoundments populated by ibis, ospreys, and alligators; maritime forests; an ocean teeming with flounder and redfish; and a stunning “boneyard” front beach—a natural graveyard of bleached tree remains. Free camping permits are available through the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, though you’ll need a boat to get there. If you don’t own a watercraft, paddle out via kayak or reserve a boat with Charleston’s Coastal Expeditions. Bugs can be tough in the island’s interior, so plan accordingly.—

Photo: Wilson Baker

Bluegrass on the Banks
Red Wing Roots Music Festival

Mount Solon, VA

Deep in the Shenandoah Valley alongside the North River, Natural Chimneys Park has long been a summertime destination: Its annual jousting tournament has drawn equestrians since the 1800s. These days the area is attracting a different type of boot-clad crowd, thanks to Virginia-based roots band the Steel Wheels, who last year launched the Red Wing Roots Music Festival. Back for its sophomore run (July 11­–13), the outdoor gathering features a lineup of forty performers, including Sarah Jarosz, Trampled by Turtles, Pokey LaFarge, and the Hackensaw Boys. Beyond the tunes, join the Steel Wheels for morning bike rides through the mountains, cast a line in Mossy Creek, and be glad this is one music festival with a lot better scenery than the sunburned back of the guy in front of you.—

SEE ALSO: Three Hotel Pools Worth a Plunge

Boat Beer
Westbrook Brewing Co. White Thai

Just about any beer on the water is a good beer—as long as it’s cold (and you’re not at the helm). But White Thai, from South Carolina’s Westbrook Brewing Co., raises the bar on summer sipping. A light-bodied Belgian-style witbier (in cans!), it’s punched up with the additions of lemongrass, ginger, and lemony hops, and about the most refreshing thing this side of an iced-down glass of lemonade. Your crew will thank you.—

Bonefish Lodge
Deep Water Cay


Bonefish lodges are known to come and go. Few have stuck around as long as Deep Water Cay, which is a testament to the world-class fishing found along its sand flats and mangroves. Just off the east end of Grand Bahama Island, the resort was founded in 1958, and it’s only gotten better in recent years after a nearly $20 million renovation, including a collection of high-end guest villas built with such amenities as an infinity pool and a fitness center. Make no mistake, though: While there’s snorkeling and diving and paddleboarding and kayaking, it’s the reel-searing run of a hooked bonefish that remains the star attraction.—

Catfish Shack
Hagy’s Catfish Hotel

Shiloh, TN

By high summer, boaters can ski, fish, and otherwise sunburn themselves silly late into the evening on West Tennessee’s TVA-created paradise Pickwick Lake. So why do smart folks sneak off the water early? To nab a table at Hagy’s Catfish Hotel, ground as hallowed to locals as nearby Shiloh battlefield. The Hagy family has been famous for serving catfish on this riverbank spot since 1938—for good reason. Their fried whole catfish is golden, flaky, and rivaled only by their addictive hush puppies. Dig in to an all-you-can-eat platter and pity the latecomers swarming
the front porch. Or at least pretend to.—

SEE ALSO: Three Southern Mountain Lakes 

Chesapeake Feast
Cantler’s Riverside Inn
Annapolis, MD

Sure, it’s messy work, but the payoff is well worth it. For blue crabs as fresh as they come, fifth-generation Marylanders Jimmy and Linda Cantler don’t fool around. Grab a seat at one of the coveted wooden picnic tables, and watch boats unload the day’s catch right on the restaurant docks before the crabs are steamed, seasoned, and ferried to your paper-topped table by the trayful. Then roll up your sleeves and get cracking. There’s a big washbasin out back where you can clean up later.—

Photo: Aqua Expeditions

Cruise the Jungle
Aqua Expeditions


If you’ve always wanted to explore the Amazon but aren’t so sure about roughing it, Aqua Expeditions’ two sleek cruisers are your ticket to ride. The modern sixteen- and twelve-cabin riverboats ply a little-traversed Peruvian stretch of the Amazon River, and local architect Jordi Puig designed them with floor-to-ceiling picture windows for awe-inspiring views. But it’s not all air-conditioned luxury. Small skiffs piloted by native naturalists disembark daily, carrying groups down backwater tributaries to remote outposts. Spot pink dolphins, three-toed sloths, squirrel monkeys. Then finish off the day with sunset cocktails from the rooftop observation deck and bar.—

Photo: Aqua Expeditions

Fishing Marina
Bud N’ Mary’s

Islamorada, FL

A capital of fishing in the sportfishing capital of the world, Islamorada’s Bud N’ Mary’s marina has been the launching point for countless good days on the water ever since it opened back in 1944. And luckily for Keys fishermen, it’s anything but fished out. The Stanczyk family has overseen the marina for more than three decades, and today second-generation captains Rick and Nick Stanczyk are among the experienced guides who lead trips in pursuit of tarpon, snapper, mahimahi, and more. Whether you’re looking to take a nighttime swordfishing trip or cast for redfish among the mangroves of Everglades National Park, your best starting point is among Islamorada’s oldest.—

Morning at Bud N' Mary's, an Islamorada classic.

Photo: Intersection Photos/Brown W. Cannon III

Guide Post

Morning at Bud N’ Mary’s, an Islamorada classic.

SEE ALSO: Three Summertime Watering Holes

Good Cause
Heroes on the Water

“It’s pretty amazing what something as simple as putting someone out on the water can do for them,” says Jim Dolan.
A Texan, air force veteran, and avid kayak fisherman, Dolan knows of what he speaks. In 2007, he founded Heroes on the Water, an organization dedicated to putting veterans, many recovering from injuries, in the seat of a kayak, taking them fishing, and letting the water work its magic. After a few early trips in Texas, Dolan had a feeling he was onto something. Was he ever. The volunteer-run program now has chapters in twenty-five states and aims to put close to six thousand veterans on the water this year. “These guys and gals are coming back to the States and wound tighter than a drum, and until they’re unwound, getting back to their families and their jobs and their education is really, really tough,” Dolan says. “We unwind them.”—

Grocery Run
All-Andros Crab Fest
Andros, Bahamas

The start of the summer rains each year means it’s time for the inhabitants of Andros Island to slip on their gloves, head outside, and start scooping up the hordes of land crabs racing to the ocean in their annual mating ritual. Find out why anyone would get excited about chasing around an overgrown fiddler crab at the All-Andros Crab Fest (June 12­–14), a celebration of an age-old tradition where you can sample plates of crab and rice, crab and dough, crab patties, or any of the one-hundred-plus crab dishes that island vendors offer during the festival. It’s a good idea to get some instruction in crab catching before you try to compete with the locals. Or better yet, stick to crab eating.—

SEE ALSO: A Swimming Hole in Tennessee

Marsh Hideout
Southeast Expeditions Eastern Shore Escape
Cape Charles, VA

Few of us would want the backbreaking work of commercial fishermen, but they do get to hang out in some of the most beautiful places. Courtesy of SouthEast Expeditions, you can enjoy their view for a weekend with a stay in a century-old working waterman’s cabin perched above the salt marsh near Virginia’s Smith Island. Though few survive today, these small clapboard lodges once dotted the Eastern Shore’s vast marshlands—outposts for oystermen guarding their grounds. To begin the meandering paddle trip out to the remote cabin, meet your guides at the Eastern Shore National Wildlife Refuge in Cape Charles. Upon arrival, tuck into a feast of local oysters and steamed clams prepared by SouthEast owner Dave Burden, accompanied by a glass of Chatham Vineyards chardonnay. And don’t forget a toast to the watermen who made it possible.—

Intracoastal Loop
Boating Weekend

Elizabeth City, NC, to Norfolk, VA

There’s only one round-trip route a boater can take on the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, and it makes for an amazing bit of summer adventure. Let’s say you can put your hands on the keys to a boat eighteen feet or better—a center console is perfect—and you have a three-day weekend coming up. Thursday afternoon, trailer your vessel to Elizabeth City, and bunk in one of the historic town’s charming B and Bs. Friday morning, drop the boat into the Pasquotank River and let ’er run: up the river, into the Dismal Swamp Canal, on to the Elizabeth River, and into Hampton Roads. Bunk a night or two on the Norfolk waterfront, then take the back-door route back south: Pick up the Chesapeake and Albemarle Canal into Currituck Sound, then back in Albemarle Sound to Elizabeth City. While there are some big-water fetches, most of the trip is in protected canals and rivers, and it’s a route any capable captain could handle.

SEE ALSO: Logan Ward’s Favorite Swimming Hole

Island Hooch
River Antoine Rum Distillery

St. Patrick’s Parish, Grenada

This is how we’d like to imagine all rum comes to be: from organic cane harvested on the Caribbean’s rugged Spice Island, carted by hand, wrung of its juices in a water-wheel-driven press powered by the River Antoine, boiled in cast-iron pots, piped into copper stills, and bottled from a spigot, pretty much the way it’s been done there without interruption since 1785. No marketing department, no focus groups, not a hashtag in sight. And the rum? Pure firewater, the kind of high-octane overproof grog that might have made Blackbeard himself cry out for Mama. Forget bringing a bottle of the 150-proof version home, guides will tell you, unless you smuggle it in your suitcase: too flammable to bring aboard a plane.—473-442-7109

Haptic Lab Sailing Ship

Before Orville and Wilbur Wright launched themselves into the air, they built kites to test their high-flying ideas. Architect Emily Fischer, founder of the design studio Haptic Lab, studied those models as well as designs by Alexander Graham Bell and the work of Balinese artisans, renowned for their kite-making traditions, to come up with her Sailing Ship Kite. Though it looks like an intricate work of art, this ship is made to soar (provided you have a good breeze), and its bamboo frame makes it pretty resilient. “Anything you bought at the store was cheap and temporary,” Fischer says. “I wanted to make a kite that wasn’t seen as trash, but as something you could keep and fly for a long time.”—

Music by the Beach
The Hangout

Gulf Shores, AL

Long before there was the Hangout Music Festival, there was the Hangout, a Gulf Shores institution since the 1950s and the unofficial hub of the area’s music scene. Located at the end of State Route 59, where blacktop meets sugar-white sand, the open-air bar and restaurant hosts a daily lineup of live talent on two stages, with a particular focus on acts from the Gulf Coast region. Go around dinnertime for one of the Hangout’s signature burgers—make like a local and order it “LTOP” for all the fixings—then head to the courtyard to see the bands crank up at sundown.—

SEE ALSO: Daniel Wallace’s Backyard Escape

Natural Pool

Falling Water Falls
Newton County, AR

This classic Ozarks swimming hole hits all the marks on the fun-hog checklist. Waterfall cascading into an aquamarine pool? Check. Rock ledge to launch cannonballs off, just high enough to give you a split second on the way down to think about what you’ve done? Yep. Rope swing? Naturally. Plus hardwood forest surroundings, a fetchingly ridiculous name, and a location on Falling Water Creek just remote enough to discourage overcrowding even during a midsummer scorcher. (For the record, that’s down a dirt road off Highway 16 southeast of the town of Ben Hur, roughly equidistant from Fayetteville and Little Rock.) You’ll expect Tom and Huck to arrive any minute.

Outer Banks Getaway
Sanderling Resort

Ducks, NC

A former hunting lodge for a wealthy North Carolina businessman, the Sanderling retains one of the Outer Banks’ wildest and most exclusive settings. The resort borders a 2,600-acre Audubon sanctuary of marsh and forest, egrets and ospreys. Last year’s renovation brought a new fine-dining restaurant, two dune-side pools, and a beachfront bar, and the whole place has a laid-back coastal vibe. The property didn’t get its first paved road until the eighties, and most people still explore the adjacent village of Duck on foot or bicycle.—

The beach at Sanderling Resort, in the Outer Banks.

Photo: Emily Chaplin

Ocean Perch

The beach at Sanderling Resort, in the Outer Banks.

Paddle Trip
Roanoke River

North Carolina

For an excursion that feels a lot like paddling back in time, say a thank-you to the Roanoke River Partners for a remarkable series of sixteen camping platforms along the river in northeastern North Carolina. Tea-hued water carries you downstream through some of the wildest cypress and tupelo swamp in the Carolinas, with clearly marked tributary campsites, some lined with massive old- and second-growth trees. Some platforms are built right on the banks. Others occupy bluffs overlooking the water. And some, like Tillery and the Bluff, also feature screened enclosures to make bug season bearable. You’ll see eagles, ospreys, egrets, turtles, turkeys, and perhaps even a bear or an endangered red wolf.—

Remote Beach Retreat
Little St. Simons Island


If you want sugary beaches and crystal-clear water, head to the Caribbean. For a wilder experience, book a cottage on Georgia’s Little St. Simons, an overgrown barrier island reachable only by boat that has been a nature preserve for more than a century. Roam the woods with a team of experienced naturalists or walk the seven miles of beach without encountering a soul. Bicycle up to the prehistoric shell rings, kayak the perimeter, or stroll through the organic garden. With a maximum of thirty-two guests at once, the 10,000-acre island offers plenty of room to spread out.—

Sea Salt
J.Q. Dickinson Salt-Works

Malden, WV

Wait a minute, West Virginia doesn’t have an ocean. Well, not anymore. But the prehistoric Iapetus Ocean left behind a legacy: a series of saltwater deposits hidden beneath the Appalachian Mountains. Back in the nineteenth century, a handful of businessmen made fortunes shipping West Virginia salt to the meatpacking plants in Cincinnati. Now, the seventh-generation descendants of one of the original salt kings have relaunched the J. Q. Dickinson Salt-Works. Like their predecessors, Nancy Bruns and Lewis Payne draw brine from wells hundreds of feet deep and dry it under the mountain sun for a coarse, clean sea salt like no other.—

Seafood Primer
Jon Bonnell’s Waters: Fine Coastal Cuisine

“I’m pretty sure I could fish before I could talk,” says Texas chef Jon Bonnell, who grew up casting for largemouth bass and crappie in a pond on his granddad’s cattle farm before going on to chase trout, tarpon, cobia, you name it. A year ago, Bonnell turned his lifelong passion for seafood into Waters, the second of two restaurants he helms in his hometown of Fort Worth. Now he’s giving the rest of us a leg up with his recently released cookbook. Cleverly divided into sections based on preparation, from chilled and raw to crispy-fried, the book includes recipes that range from the familiar (Creole gumbo and barbecued shrimp) to the showstopping (oysters and shiitakes in a brandy cream sauce). “People are so intimidated by seafood,” Bonnell says, “so I’ve made sure to give lots of instruction. I’m not keeping any secrets.”

SEE ALSO: Recipe for Chef Jon Bonnell’s Whole Roasted Pompano

Snorkel Site
Dry Tortugas National Park


Discovered by Ponce de León in 1513, these remote islands, seventy miles west of Key West, once served as route markers for merchant ships. They now mark the way to some of the finest snorkeling in the Keys. Located at the edge of the world’s third-largest coral reef, the Tortugas’ clear waters shelter anemones, schools of brilliantly colored tropical fish, docile nurse sharks, and gentle sea turtles. Warm, shallow water makes exploring pleasant and easy. Onshore there’s a historic garrison, Fort Jefferson, white sand beaches, and plenty of chances to spot rare birds. In addition to private charters, a public ferry departs from Key West, or arrive beachside via low-flying seaplane.—;

Surf Shop
Village Surf Shoppe

Garden City Beach, SC

Though the South isn’t known for monster waves (unless they’re hurricane driven), Southerners have learned to make the most of what they’ve got. No one more so than surfboard shaper Kelly Richards, who long ago began designing boards tailored to the knee-high wind swell typical off Dixie coasts. A protégé of local surf icon Eric Eason, who opened the tiny cinder-block Village Surf Shoppe in 1969, Richards began shaping his own boards out back and took over when Eason offered to sell him the shop in 1988. Today Village remains a hub for surfboards, suits, rentals, and lessons, as well as the home of Richards’s remarkable collection of antique boards, including a Greg Noll longboard and a never-surfed Sunshine shortboard, shaped by Florida legend Claude Codgen.—843-651-6396

Trout Stream
Beaver Creek

Hagerstown, MD

When summer heat broils other trout streams, Beaver Creek still fishes like opening day, dishing out wild rainbows and browns and stocker frying-pan fish throughout the dog days. An hour and a half’s commute from downtown D.C., the creek bubbles out of its subterranean limestone bed cool and clear and gushing at up to 3,500 gallons a minute. Maryland’s only significant limestone stream, it has a few miles of just about everything: a stocked section for catching dinner, a catch-and-release/fly-fishing-only section, and private water where the fish can go to eight pounds. The guides at the streamside Beaver Creek Fly Shop can help with your spring fever all summer long.—

Whole Roasted Pompano

The Texas chef shares a recipe from his new cookbook

Serves 1 to 2


    • 1 whole pompano, roughly 1½ to 2 pounds*

    • 2 tsp. pink sea salt

    • 1 tbsp. olive oil

    • 6–8 sprigs fresh dill

    • 1 lemon, thinly sliced

“I’m pretty sure I could fish before I could talk,” says Texas chef Jon Bonnell, who grew up casting for largemouth bass and crappie in a pond on his granddad’s cattle farm before going on to chase trout, tarpon, cobia, you name it. A year ago, Bonnell turned his lifelong passion for seafood into Waters, the second of two restaurants he helms in his hometown of Fort Worth. Now he’s giving the rest of us a leg up with his recently released cookbook. Cleverly divided into sections based on preparation, from chilled and raw to crispy-fried, the book includes recipes that range from the familiar (Creole gumbo and barbecued shrimp) to the showstopping (oysters and shiitakes in a brandy cream sauce). “People are so intimidated by seafood,” Bonnell says, “so I’ve made sure to give lots of instruction. I’m not keeping any secrets.”


  1. *Preparing the fish:

    The only cleaning required for the pompano is to gut the fish. Rinse well with cold water both inside and outside, allow to dry, then rub all over with olive oil and sea salt (inside the cavity as well).

  2. For the dish:

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

  3. Place the fish on a sheet pan over a few sprigs of fresh dill, then stuff the inside loosely with lemon slices and remaining dill. Roast for 18–20 minutes, or until done. The internal temperature of the meat should reach 145 degrees. Allow to cool slightly, then serve whole.

Recipe from chef Jon Bonnell’s Waters, Fine Coastal Cuisine.

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