As summer begins to come to a close, many look for a quiet getaway to escape to, and Southern Living has curated a list of the region’s hidden destinations to escape to this summer.
As always, due to local regulations, travel restrictions, and COVID-19 surges, it is suggested that travelers properly research all local guidelines and CDC recommendations in order to keep you and those you care about as safe and responsible as possible in these unprecedented times. Luckily, Southern Living’s list of “Hidden Southern Escapes” includes many isolated getaways, allowing for more social distancing and relaxation.
Once upon a time, nearly one million acres of desert habitat covered southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina, and preserving that environmental marvel in Virginia today is the largest intact remnant of that desert habitat, the Great Dismal Swamp National Refuge. Originally opened as a result of a local forest products company’s sizable 1973 donation of 49,097 acres to The Nature Conservancy, this refuge encompasses over 112,000 acres of an environmentally, biologically, and historically important area. Visit Lake Drummond, the largest natural lake in Virginia, and take part in some one-of-a-kind birding or boating experiences in one of the most diverse and unique landscapes available in the American South.
In their curated list, Southern Living calls this destination the literal “home where the buffalo roamed,” and they’re not technically wrong because as the National Park Service reports this exact stretch of land in Oklahoma was originally inhabited by tens of millions of bison. Today, this preserve that encompasses 39,650 acres is the single-largest protected remnant of the tallgrass prairie habitat left on the planet earth today. Visit the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve to take part in excellent wildlife watching opportunities, since over 700 plants, 300 birds, and 80 mammals call this prairie home. One highlight of the preserve is quoted by the Nature Conservatory as allowing visitors to “experience the wide-open prairie and the patches of cross timbers forest by circling the 15-mile bison driving loop, hiking along designated trails and stopping to take in the views at various scenic turnouts.”
Second only to the majesty of the Grand Canyon is the Palo Duro Canyon State Park located in the heart of the Texas Panhandle. At this hidden destination, visitors of this massive, other-worldly expanse can explore the canyon as they see fit by foot, mountain bike, car, or horse. The park itself has over 30 miles of equestrian, biking, and hiking trails from which to view the canyon’s highs and lows as well as the wildlife. This State Park originated from a vast ranch owned by the legendary Texas cattleman Charles Goodnight before it was acquired by the State of Texas in the 1930s. The diverse landscape that embodies the park is a combination of sediment, rock formations, and canyon walls, but they are also contrasted spectacularly by the vibrancy of Texas plant life. This makes for a truly beautiful, picturesque expanse of land that was once so unique that it inspired the infamous painter Georgia O’Keeffe.
The final hidden destination listed here in the name of isolation and hermit-try is South Carolina’s Daufuskie Island, a location only accessible by boat. Now occupied by local artisans is the Mary Fields School, a historic schoolhouse where classic author Pat Conroy taught. Conroy, who has written such literature as The Prince of Tides and The Great Santini, was inspired by the students and outside, timeless island landscape on Daufuskie Island to write his 1972 memoir The Water is Wide. Take a self-described “remote retreat from modern life” and visit an island lost to time itself.
For more travel-related news and other hidden destinations to visit, click here.