While heavily populated spots like Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head have dominated South Carolina beach culture in the past, you’ll be as delighted as we were to discover a plethora of barrier islands covering the protected coastline of Cape Romain to see some of the best beaches near Charleston. No true low-country excursion is complete without at least a day in the sand and the surf.
This geographical wonderland allows for a diverse range of beaches that Charleston’s day-trippers have been heading to for years. From piers covered in kitschy boutiques and sea breezy bar fronts to pristine sandy wilderness escapes, discover what fun in the sun means to you at any one of these beach town hot spots. A great excuse to get off the grid for a day and do some serious relaxing, here are all the best beaches near Charleston to find that sweet feeling of sand between your toes and bright, warm sunshine on your face.
Best Beaches Near Charleston
If you’re looking to ride the waves in South Carolina, Folly Beach is just the place. It’s well known as one of the best beaches in South Carolina. Famous for its surf, it’s touted as one of the best beaches near Charleston. This is due to some of the sickest swell on the coast at the tidal treasure trove Washout. The fishing pier at Folly Beach is an enchanting scene. There are several options for fishing as well – deep sea, river, or pier.
It’s also a popular place to take a cruise out on the open waters, as the coastline is especially beautiful from this vantage point. There is no shortage of funky beachside watering holes – check out our favorites Taco Boy or Lowlife. This sandy barrier island is a laid back, low-country gem only 20 minutes from Charleston. It offers the ideal beach aesthetic with nothing but sea as far as the eye can see.
If you want the best beach in Charlestone consider Sullivans Island! Minutes from Charleston, pop over to enjoy a relaxing beachy reprieve. Less frequented, Sullivans Island offers a more serene surrounding. The wide, smooth, sandy shores are the perfect place to while away a day. If you travel higher up the beach you can find the sand bar and tidal pool, a sweet spot to peacefully splash around.
For a bite after working up your appetite lounging away in the sun, hit up Poe’s Tavern. The famed author was stationed here during his time in the military, which inspired his story “Gold Bug.” Enjoy a burger or beverage in a chilled out oceanfront atmosphere. You can also visit Fort Moultrie to get a peek into the history of the area.
About an hour away from Charleston, this dreamy local is where the ACE Basin and Atlantic Ocean meet. This is an idyllic sun-drenched seascape if we’ve ever seen one. Less developed than the others, Edisto is a natural haven for long wandering walks. We love searching for the perfect seashell here. It’s also a very popular spot for camping. Pack your tent and slow down for sweet dreams under the starry sky.
Edisto offers a very calm and gentle atmosphere that’s definitely family-friendly, making it one of the best beaches near Charleston. In addition, the Edisto River is the world’s longest free flowing blackwater rivers. Don’t miss Botany Bay while here, an idyllic land preserve famous for its paradisical views.
Isle of Palms
Only 30 minutes from Charleston, Isle of Palms is one of our favorite spots for swimming and is one of the most popular things to do in South Carolina. With calm, clear waves, it’s safe and enjoyable for all to take a dip here. There are many beachfront bars available for a refreshing beverage. Check out the Windjammer for some live music to accompany that salty ocean breeze. Coconut Joe’s is ideal for a beach themed bite.
If you’re around at night, you may spot the loggerhead sea turtle population that nests on these shores every year, but be careful not to disturb them. It’s a great beach choice for kids and there are many activities around if curling up in the sand with a book is not your dream way to spend a day. Try sailing, kayaking, or paddleboarding.
Kiawah Island is about 40 minutes from Charleston and a fantastic weekend getaway in South Carolina. It’s a resort-based beach, so if you’re looking for some luxury this is the place to be. It’s made up mostly of private residences which creates a tranquil space away from the common commercialization. Try out one of the world-class golf courses on site. It has become known as one of the ideal island environments in the country.
There are many amenities here, and some excellent shopping opportunities. This is one of the best spots anywhere to try and spot bottlenose dolphins chase fish onto the beach, which is called “strand feeding.” If you make your way all the way to the end of the beach (called Captain Sam’s Spit) you will find yourself moseying along the beautiful banks of the Kiawah River.
Do you ever want to take a break from reality and feel like you’re leaving everything behind for a bit? This island is the perfect cure, and a fantastic alternative to the more bustling Hilton Head. It’s a secluded sea island, isolated from the crowds allowing for plenty of peace and quiet. Haig Point is the only spot on the island with the usual amenities. It’s a getaway to a simpler time, filled with ancient oaks, dirt roads, and Spanish moss. It’s the farthest oasis at a little over two hours, but worth the price of admission for the private and pristine outing.
This is a private residential beachfront community. Rent a home here for a vacation stay or, walk to the nearest access point you can find to enjoy the quiet, pristine coast. It’s only 30 minutes from the city.
There are two main beaches here, Pelican and North. The area is known mostly for their breathtaking sunsets. Don’t miss the stunning show of bright oranges and reds that paint the sky if you make the trip out here. You can even ride a horse on the beach during it for an unforgettable tropical experience. There are also marshlands and maritime forests to explore if you’re interested in a more nature-focused and wonder filled getaway.
Morris Island is a great getaway and only a short 15-minute trip from Charleston. It’s home to one of the prettiest beaches in the area and a fantastic thing to do in Charleston. Steeped in local history, there are many battlegrounds to discover and learn about here. This beach is a joy for all nature lovers, with stunning views and lovely trails to hike or bike. This is also where the iconic Morris Lighthouse is.
Make sure to get an excellent view of its impressive candy-striped structure, there are several. Shark teeth are a plentiful find here in the remains of the sandy dunes. It’s accessible by boat and located right at the top of the Charleston Harbor. Morris Island is coveted as one of the best beaches near Charleston, and we can’t help but agree.
About an hour away, this island adventure feels like traveling to another world. You can only reach its undeveloped shores by boat. Charter an available cruise for a relaxing and fun journey, or rent a kayak if you’re feeling more adventurous. There is plenty of native wildlife in the undisturbed ecosystem, so keep your eyes peeled for ospreys, eagles, and even dolphins.
The bleached tree skeletons of petrified palms make for ethereal atmosphere and photo ops. You can set up shop anywhere here overnight if you wish, give in to a true off-the-grid experience as the waves lull you to sweet dreams. Just don’t forget the bug spray.
This is a tiny historic fishing town, frequented and beloved by artists and outdoor adventurers. It’s a haven for fishing in all its forms, so take your pick of practices. If you’re not looking to land a catch, strolling among the salt marshes is a serene setting to enjoy the stillness of the sleepy town.
There are a few quaint restaurants and shops among a friendly community who will greet you with a warm and familiar welcome. Murrells is an oasis of solace for all who need it. With many tales of ghosts floating about, legends of Blackbeard’s lair, and the home of the perfect hush puppy, Murrels has quite the quirky small-town charm.
About an hour and a half away from Charleston, this beautiful barrier island is worth the trek. It’s one of the oldest beach vacation destinations in the country, an energy that is preserved through self-proclaimed shabby arrogance. Those who frequent Pawleys pride themselves on a slowed down lifestyle, with quaint cottages and preserved historical sites, the initial visit can feel like an unearthed treasure just discovered.
There are also lakes on the island, which are great for crabbing, along with many tennis courts and golf courses. Home of the Original Hammock Shop, Pawleys has everything you need for laid back, low-country living. It’s the perfect place to unplug. Hit up the locals’ favorite spot, Pawleys Island Tavern. If you call it PIT, you’ll probably be mistaken for one.
This is a special beach destination, home to South Carolina’s most popular state park. Less than two hours away from Charleston, it’s ripe with daytrip possibilities. With plenty of wilderness to witness, be ready to explore a saltwater lagoon, an ocean inlet, and miles of marsh. It also has the only accessible lighthouse in the Palmetto State, Hunting Island Lighthouse.
Climb the 167 steps to the top of the looming landmark for sweeping panoramas. Visit the nature center on the island to learn more about the local thriving flora and fauna you can encounter. Make sure to view a stunning sunset from the picturesque marsh boardwalk.
Bulls Islands holds a beautiful remote beach experience. It’s only accessible by boat, giving off deserted island vibes – there is plenty to explore here. At boneyard beach, you’ll find spectacular views and an endless display of seashells to look through. This beach is named for the most expansive example of ghostly tree skeletons emerging eerily from eroded dunes. Its pristine nature makes it a great candidate for spotting wildlife.
Check for alligators in low waters and dolphins in high. The other beach is North Beach, perfect for living out all your pirate fantasies, as it was once haven for them back in the day. Either way, the deserted desolation creates a hauntingly beautiful and unique island experience it’s hard to find elsewhere.
A white sand paradise, Surfside is a popular spot for family beachgoers. Bring your kids or channel your inner child, with plenty to enjoy at this seaside wonderland of fun. There is a long boardwalk full of all the beach chic favorite shops and shacks. With a plethora of hotels and resorts in the area, there will be no lack of amenities available here.
There aren’t as many water activities as some of the other beaches so it’s best if you’re only looking to relax, take a dip, and bask in the sun. In the surrounding space check out the mini golf or waterpark, adding to its family-friendly atmosphere. It’s about two hours away, and our favorite substitute for the crowds of beachcombers at Myrtle Beach.
This barrier island holds all the amenities to enjoy low-country living at its beachiest. It’s the most seaward of all the South Carolina shores. Covered in the state symbol, groves of palmettos give a tropical and resplendent beauty that feels very private.
Cousteau has even commented on the richness of the salt marshes in the area. Famous for its cinematic features, scenes of Forrest Gump and Jungle Book were shot here. It’s home to a wildlife sanctuary and praised for its lack of crowds. A golf and beach resort on the island adds some luxury, and its carefully conserved nature offers the rustic retreat vacationers seek.