Perhaps the most surprising twist in Netflix’s adventure thriller Outer Banks – now in its third season – isn’t a plot twist at all. Only the most dedicated of set-jetters would realise that the series isn’t actually filmed in the windswept barrier islands of North Carolina of the same name – instead, the crew (and outrageously attractive cast) followed the compass across the border into South Carolina, mainly around the Charleston area.
This is an idyllic landscape of marshy waterways, historic homes and tumbledown fish shacks, reachable from the UK in around 11 hours with one connecting flight (or fly to Atlanta, and make the five-hour drive).
Outer Banks has become cult viewing, tracking the twists and turns of life in the fictional beach town of Kildare Island. John B. Rutledge (played by Chase Stokes) plays the brooding teenage lead from the wrong side of the tracks, joining his friends Kiara (Madison Bailey), JJ (Rudy Pankow) and Pope (Jonathan Daviss) – known as the Pogues – as they embark on a seafaring quest, seeking shipwrecks, long-lost treasure and John B’s missing father.
Key to the drama is the epic, scene-stealing landscape, which is mostly captured in South Carolina’s Lowcountry, a coastal region that includes the tidal Sea Islands and the port hub of Charleston. As one of the most charming cities in the US, Charleston’s vibe is quintessentially Southern: horse-drawn carriages clip-clop along centuries-old cobblestone streets, Spanish moss drapes elegantly from trees and ornate, wrought-iron balconies lace the city’s grande-dame architecture.
Get your bearings at Washington Square, in the heart of Charleston’s walkable downtown, where John B and Sarah memorably took a romantic stroll beneath the oak trees, before following in their Converse-clad footsteps with a visit to the nearby Gaillard Center.
Standing in for the University of North Carolina on screen, this stately building is where the sleuthing duo rummaged through dusty records in search of incriminating clues. In real life, the Gaillard Center is one of The South’s most prestigious performing arts theatres, with everyone from touring Broadway musicals to the Charleston Symphony orchestra having graced the stage.
While the 18th-century Lowndes Grove estate – which doubles as the Cameron family’s abode in the series – is largely off-limits as a wedding venue, you can still channel its twinkling, chandeliered decadence with an overnight stay at the Belmond Charleston Place (from £274). The hotel has a nautical theme, with deep-sea maps lining the walls, and the waterfront is just a short walk from its handsome, marbled lobby.
Eight miles east of Charleston, cruising over the river on a show-stopping cable-stayed bridge, is the easy-going town of Mount Pleasant, location for the iconic waterfront scenes in the series. Follow the map to Shem Creek, a dockside hideaway that’s a hotspot for shrimpers, their boats frequently trailed by porpoises and dolphins. Here you’ll find that Kiara’s parents’ restaurant, The Wreck, is actually The Wreck of the Richard and Charlene; a breezy spot where the house speciality is seafood platters piled high with clams, oysters and crab, served on paper plates out on the wooden deck at sunset.
Despite the name change, Outer Banks fans will instantly recognise the nearby Geechie Seafood restaurant (00 1 843-860-7046) as the show’s Heyward’s Seafood, a rustic joint run by Pope’s father. This rickety seafood hut is the perfect place to try brown shrimp plucked fresh from the local creeks, which can also be explored with boat tours departing from the harbour.
Keep a look out for Captain Dan’s Water Tours, which offers bespoke excursions to soak up Outer Banks filming locations from the water, gliding through salt marshes teeming with wildlife. Experienced paddlers can also join the Sea Kayak Carolina adventure tour, which heads out to Morris Island Lighthouse, known as the bewitching Redfield Lighthouse in the series.
Don’t miss a visit to Mount Pleasant’s Dunes West Golf & River Club, the whimsical setting for the outdoor film screening in Outer Banks. Much like a gripping scene from the Netflix show, this elegant resort, once home to an Italian prince, burnt to the ground under suspicious circumstances. It’s since risen from the ashes, to become a swanky golf club. You’ll need membership to tee off, there’s nothing stopping visitors from dining at the onsite restaurant, The Grille Room.
Those wanting to recreate the dreamy film screening can venture a little further down the coast to Kiawah Island, a tranquil sliver of golden-sand beaches and maritime forests, where Freshfields Village hosts alfresco movies in the balmy summer months.
Treat yourself to a night in the Kiawah Island Golf Club (from £288), the glittering setting for the Midsummer Night’s party, where John B finally confessed to Sarah where the loot was stashed. Considered one of South Carolina’s finest resorts, this treasure trove of ocean-view suites and sprawling beach-fronted grounds is well worth splashing some gold on.
For more information, visit discoversouthcarolina.com