The coast of South Carolina is home to some of the best beaches in the entire country. We absolutely love driving around and exploring the very best beaches in South Carolina year round.
There’s plenty of cute beach towns to enjoy before digging your toes in the sand, and then enjoy the sweet sound of the ocean waves and the seagulls nearby. Heading to the beach is one of the best things to do in South Carolina, so we’re breaking down the best South Carolina beaches for you to enjoy.
The Best Beaches in South Carolina
You can’t go wrong on Pawley’s Island, an off-the-beaten-track favorite that keeps families coming back year after year. The island has all the attractions of a more significant beach destination, without the crowds. Catch your own dinner in Pawley’s Island Creek or enjoy the quieter boardwalk options that fill this island resort.
Its distance makes it an excellent choice for a calmer vacation near South Carolina Beaches’ central hub of Myrtle Beach. You can try out activities in the more touristic areas along South Carolina’s Ocean and retire to some peace and quiet on Pawley’s Island.
Beachfront property is a hot commodity on the East Coast and everywhere, from Maine to Florida, has commercialized this prime real estate. Edisto Beach seeks to buck that trend and serves as one of the last natural beach areas on the coast. Edisto Beach State Park preserves the northern section of the beach, and the surrounding waterways are perfect for a calm day of kayaking.
This unique natural charm doesn’t mean there aren’t accommodation and dining options on the quaint beach area. Known for its bed and breakfasts, Edisto Beach has exquisite shops, restaurants, and art galleries to ensure cloudy days won’t leave vacationers twiddling their thumbs.
Folly Beach is the best choice for outdoor sports enthusiasts looking for a beach vacation and is also one of the best family beaches in South Carolina. Within easy reach from Charleston lies a pristine fishing pier, as well as an open beachfront ready for kayaking, paddle boarding, and surfing.
You don’t need to get your heart rate up to enjoy your time on this slice of beachfront paradise. The long, open beachfront is perfect for simplistic surf-front strolls. Folly Beach Country Park is known for its marine wildlife spotting, and one quick boat trip can have vacationers getting up close and personal with some fishy friends.
Front Beach highlights the Isle of Palms, a gorgeous beachfront destination ripe with lush options to spend a summer holiday. Close to South Carolina’s mainland hubs, there’s plenty of parking and private beach access in this idyllic stretch of sand. Sea turtles were the area’s first locals. The sea reptiles still stop by every summer and take a pilgrimage to Front Beach to lay eggs in the dunes.
Be sure to share your slice of paradise with these hard-shell friends by avoiding trampling along the protected dunes. Take a sunrise jog along the beachfront on the right day, and you may see hundreds of tiny amphibians making their first rush to the sea.
Hilton Head is easily one of the best beach towns in South Carolina, and a highlight of Hilton Head Island is Burkes Beach. Original planners carved The entire island out for pedestrians, and this beach is a testament to that ideology. It is best reached by bicycles, with various paved and sandy trails winding through its sands.
It’s an excellent destination for a family vacation, with plenty of wide-open areas to carve out your own space and various outdoor activities, all accessible from the beach. It also sits adjacent to Chaplin Community Park, further expanding your options.
Hunting Island State Park
This State Park is known for a lot more than having one of the best beaches in South Carolina, and anyone who sets Hunting Island in their sights won’t have trouble figuring out what to do in between soaks in the surf. There is an extensive wildlife population on the island, which is famous for its bird watching. The beach is surrounded by 5,000 acres of marshy, woodland habitat, giving visitors a unique blend of landscapes.
You can camp right off the beach and enjoy a night under the stars after a day in the sun. The area comes complete with a nature center packed with information and history of the place and a 130-foot lighthouse providing views over the area.
Beach walkers flock to Kiawah island for 10-miles of sandy beaches surrounded by 10,000 acres of woodlands. Trails criss-cross the entire area for an endless amount of wandering. South Carolina’s unique geography is on full display in this slice of beachfront paradise.
Head to Kiawah Beachwalker park to have your fill of options for a day out. Showers, boardwalks, and barbecues, as well as a plethora of beach gear for rent, are easily found throughout the park’s gates. With amenities available on the beach, all you need to pack is a cooler.
Colorful beach houses dot the shoreline of Surfside beach, a quieter option near bustling Myrtle Beach. The area has a more family-friendly atmosphere than the tourist haven of Myrtle Beach, so much so that some locals call the area ‘family beach’. As the name implies, the beach has a calm slope onto shore, providing gentle swimming and shallow pools for the kids to splash around.
Concerts and water parks are pumping all summer long, and lifeguards keep everything safe. It provides many of the same amenities as a large area while sparing the crowds.
Seabrook Island is a collection of numerous wide-open, sandy beaches. With the number of options along this route, there’s bound to be a perfect slice of waterfront real estate for your next beach vacation. The spread-out nature of these beaches gives you more chances of finding yourself alone amongst the white sand, and is a perfect destination for those looking to get away from it all.
Seabrook Island’s northern areas are considered some of South Carolina’s hidden gems—don’t tell anyone about them! —while the southern ends are known for calm currents and wild sunsets, perfect for families. If you’re lucky, your week here will involve you seeing more birds and dolphins than other people.
Litchfield is a name that could describe a town in the English countryside, and the architecture of the beachside accommodation options in this area reflect this pedigree. A far cry from the towering resorts spotted in beaches just 30 minutes north, Litchfield has loads of authentic cottages along its shores.
Plenty of vacation homes line the shorefront, giving you a private view of the sunset over the water from your balcony. There are only two public access points to this beach, so choosing to spend a week’s vacation in one of the villas here gains you access to a premium beachfront area.
A small slice on the Northside of South Carolina, Cherry Grove is full of local landmarks and some of the best golf in the state. It is one of the smallest beaches on this list, but its amenities pull well above their weight. Saltwater channels wind around the streets of this laid-back stretch of sand, allowing ample opportunity to get boats in the water.
Head to the Cherry Grove Pier to check out some of the record catches often reeled in in the area, or check out the alligators on exhibit nearby, in a protected environment, of course!
Another calm slice on Hilton Head Island, this beach keeps things simple. Plenty of parking and outdoor showers on the beach are just about all you’ll find in this more remote offering on Hilton Head. Brackish lagoons surround the beach area, giving you plenty of space for exploration on your next day out.
Don’t forget to pack extra sunscreen—the lack of beachfront restaurants means a lack of proper shade. The only trees you’ll find in the marshes behind the beach have been dragged in by the sea in this wide-open expanse of sand, salt, and sun.
Coligny beach serves as a foil to Mitchellville’s vast open stretches of nothingness. This beach is accessible through a public garden space that makes the area stand out. Visitors can find plenty of shade within the gardens, and the beachfront walk is paved; great for those looking for a wheelchair-accessible peach.
Coligny Plaza is flush with dining and souvenir shopping, and an air-conditioned shuttle service takes you to and from your parking area. To top it off, the entire beach area is covered by WiFi to ensure your playlists never get stale.
Myrtle Beach is without a doubt the most famous beach in the state. South Carolina’s tourism industry epicenter draws in millions of visitors every summer and all year long. Resort towers line the beachfront area, and the options are endless. Visitors can find funfairs and amusement parks throughout the beach. If you want to take the family somewhere, they won’t be bored: you’ll find something to do at Myrtle Beach.
The crowds don’t thin out day or night, so if you’re looking for peace and quiet, it’s not a bad idea to find a lodging option far away from the city center. If there is any activity you want to get done on your vacation, you’ll find it on Myrtle Beach.
The closest option to downtown Charleston on this list is right at the mouth of Charleston Harbor. Sullivan’s Island is a sleepy destination where shippers who had just made the harrowing Atlantic crossing used to relax and stay awhile.
Revolutionary war history is right off the waterfront, as well as a maritime forest that uniquely combines the woods with the seas. Three miles of coastline present various backdrops, all explorable from an intercoastal waterway for a great day’s kayak.
Murrells Inlet used to be the main economic draw to the area. The brackish waters brought in by the tide are filled with sea creatures ready for a trawl. Nowadays, the iconic inlet still sits central to the town that is beloved by artists and quirky visitors.
Restaurants, hotels, parks, and special events ensure an endless summer at this slice of South Carolina’s beachfront, with more of a focus on the arts than some other offerings on this list. If you’re looking to find some inspiration on your vacation, Murrells Inlet could be the place for you.
South Carolina’s citizens built no bridge to Fripp Island until 1963, and this largely untouched section of South Carolina’s beaches has a unique flavor. Used as a film set for Forrest Gump and the Jungle Book, this island is full of scenic backdrops thanks to its fertile salt marshes.
Fripp Island is one of the best beach resorts in South Carolina and it’s the most exclusive island on this list, as the entire island is a gated community. The area broke apart in the late 1800s, and there are now three islands within close proximity for a unique geographical feel.
Dewees Island is the least commercialized island on this list, and possibly in South Carolina. There are no paved roads on the three-mile island, populated only by people looking to create an environmentally conscious community. The island’s human inhabitants developed their space committed to leaving the smallest carbon footprint possible and didn’t clear any natural vegetation in the construction of their properties.
This commitment gives visitors a unique experience. Wandering through a beachfront utterly devoid of any architecture or human interference is typically reserved for national beachfront sites. Still, this private nature preserve exists to give you a glimpse at how the land around us would develop naturally.
At the northern tip of Bulls Island sits one of South Carolina’s best-kept secrets. Boneyard Beach gets its name from the plethora of driftwood that has found its way onto shore, giving the beachfront the appearance of an unearthed natural burial ground. Seven undeveloped miles of beachfront await any hearty explorer.
Kids can spend the days meandering through tree trunks and collecting various shells that wash up on shore. The whole family can enjoy bird watching and alligator sightings along the inland trails if you’re up for an adventure.
Highlighted by a candy-striped lighthouse, this dog-friendly oceanfront paradise mixes history with relaxation to serve as an excellent beach vacation destination. Close to Charleston, the island saw months-long sieges during the Civil War before becoming a shell seeker’s paradise.
Untouched but well kept, this island is now yours to roam. It is a popular destination for boat tours leaving Charleston Harbor, but the 1800 acres have plenty to offer as the highlight of any trip.