Coastal South Carolina and Florida – USA

I love going to Charleston, South Carolina. The weather is just right. The crowds are thinner than most hotspots in the southeastern United States. And the city has a great mix of coastal scenery, shopping, lodging and most of all, dining. Every time I'm in Charleston, I’m amazed at the local cuisine’s quality and quantity.

The standout restaurant for me is the Oak Steakhouse on Broad Street. Chef Brett McKee delivers every time. Whether it is the succulent marinated 36-ounce bone-In Rib Eye to the sesame encrusted Yellowfin Tuna, you cannot go wrong. My suggestion is to order something different and share your plates. If you think you might be missing out on Southern fare, McKee comes to the rescue with his Southern Style Buttermilk Fried Chicken. One of the most interesting dishes is a new take on a kid’s classic: the Lobster Macaroni and Cheese.

Once I was done with my entrée, I just wanted to get out onto Broad Street and walk it off, but McKee wouldn’t have any of that. The lively chef insisted that we try the restaurant’s “Chocolate Indulgence", which is described by the folks at Oak as, “…a six-layer devil’s food cake with chocolate butter cream and chocolate ganache".

After our hearty meal and dessert, we were ready to hit Charleston’s easy-to-navigate streets. I enjoyed strolling the Charleston City Market, located on the waterfront near the Ansonborough Area. This legendary attraction is still going strong after 220 years. It consists of four buildings that house hundreds of vendors who sell everything from jewelry to rice and beans. When I made my way back to my room at the Wentworth Mansion, I was beat, but fulfilled that I chose to visit. The Wentworth is located in the heart of the city’s historic district. This 1886 structure was renovated about 10 years ago. There are 21 spacious guest rooms, a spa and of course, a top-notch restaurant called Circa 1886.

When I was making the six-hour drive back to the Atlanta area, I had to admit that Charleston is loaded with many excellent restaurants and lodging choices.

Back to the beach
If it’s the beach you are looking for, but not the crowds, my suggestion is to make a visit to Amelia Island. No, you won’t exactly get a deep rich tan on this lush island, but who needs that with the sun’s harmful UV rays? Amelia Island is home to one of the finest properties that you can visit in the southeast: the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island. This 400-plus-room Ritz is located on a 13-mile stretch of well-preserved territory. It has four restaurants and lounges. My family and I dined at Salt Restaurant. While the menu includes exquisite selections, kids are welcome too. The view of the ocean is beyond breathtaking.

For more relaxation, check into the Ritz’s spa. It has 26 treatment rooms that offer: two couples massage rooms; two spa suites; a fitness studio and movement studio. Separate sex wet areas feature a steam room, sauna, indoor pool, whirlpool and private lounges. In short, I was in heaven.
While I was at the spa, Caitlin, my 9-year-old daughter, checked into the Ritz Kids Camp where she swam and had her hands busy with plenty of creative play. When I went to pick her up at the end of the day, I noticed the new teen program called “Our Space". This program is for guests between the ages of 12 and 19. It offers beach games, water sports, surf lessons, bike hikes, kayaking, pizza and movie nights.

After a few days at the Ritz, we decided to explore more of Amelia Island by taking a short drive to Fernandina Beach. This Victorian seaside port and fishing village is full of history and character. Many historians and Florida mavens alike say that Fernandina Beach is the birthplace of the modern shrimping industry. The cobblestone-filled streets conjure up images from a simpler time. My family and I loved the scores of small shops and restaurants which provide excellent service. The best part about the Ritz on Amelia Island is its location. Strolling its breezy beach that features unspoiled vegetation and sand dunes is very relaxing. It was a stress-free spring break I will not forget.

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