There’s nothing quite like taking a vacation to the beach in the summertime. If you decide to visit the Carolinas, you’re in luck, as you can choose from beaches in two states. Whether you start in North Carolina and make your way down south to Hilton Head, or start in Hilton Head and make your way north to the Outer Banks, you’re sure to find plenty of sun, salt water, and relaxation. Before you decide where to start, it’s a good idea to learn a bit more about the states that combine to make up the Carolina coast.

South Carolina

South Carolina is the lesser-populated of the two states, with slightly over 5 million residents calling The Palmetto State their home. When you think of South Carolina, you probably think of Charleston. It’s not the most populated city nor the state capital (both of those honors go to Columbia), but it’s a historic coastal city that gets a lot of attention from tourists. If you like Southern hospitality, then you’ll love Charleston, as it’s literally won awards for its friendliness.

Don’t forget the food, either: In the Carolinas there’s more than enough Southern hospitality to go around. Want buttermilk pancakes or grits for breakfast? Charleston diners have got you covered. You can also have barbecue for lunch and oysters for dinner, or try anything else that tickles your fancy.

After all that food, you may want to unwind by taking a walk through Waterfront Park. Don’t forget your phone, either, since you’re going to want to send photos back home of both the food and the scenery. If you need a selfie stick for group photos, look for a cell phone store in South Carolina. They’ll sell you the accessories you need quickly so that you can get back to your vacation without too much hassle.

While you’re in South Carolina, you can’t miss the Grand Strand. The Grand Strand is a 60-mile stretch of some of the best beaches on the East Coast. The most famous city on the strand is Myrtle Beach, but you’re doing yourself a disservice if that’s the only town you visit. It’s worth taking your time and making your way up (or down) the Grand Strand as leisurely as possible.

North Carolina

About 10 million people live in North Carolina, making it the third most-populated Southern state after Florida and Georgia. The state’s largest city is Charlotte, about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Raleigh, the state capital and part of the area known as The Research Triangle. Both cities have a lot to offer, but if you want beaches, it’s a good idea to start with Wilmington in the southeast part of the state. TV shows like Dawson’s Creek have filmed in Wilmington, which offers easy access to no less than four nearby beaches, including Wrightsville Beach and Carolina Beach. If you’re traveling with some history buffs, make time to stop by the decommissioned USS North Carolina.

As you make your way north, up the North Carolina coast, you’ll no doubt be tempted to stop at numerous other beaches. Bring plenty of sunscreen, since there’s nothing like a sunburn to really put a damper on your vacation. Make sure to keep an eye on the weather forecast as well during the Atlantic hurricane season that runs from June to November each year. Experts don’t expect the 2018 season to be as busy as 2017, so chances are that everything will be fine and you’ll be able to enjoy your trip without any interruption, but it’s always better to be too prepared for something that doesn’t happen than to wake up one day to a mandatory evacuation order.