Boasting 2876 miles of coastline, South Carolina is a beach-lovers dream. Each beach is unique, with some offering solitude and others offering everything but. Regardless of whether you want to spend your day collecting seashells, tackling the waves from your surfboard, or enjoying the views from an oceanfront Ferris wheel, South Carolina has a beach to suit. Here's our pick of the 20 best South Carolina beaches.
20. Litchfield Beach
If you're looking for a quiet alternative to Myrtle Beach but don't want to travel far, take the advice of Trip Savvy and head just 20 miles northeast to the gloriously low key Litchfield Beach. With its laid-back vibe, it's ideal for couples and families looking to enjoy a relaxing beach trip away from the crowds. If you get tired of lounging around on the beach, head for the 26-mile-long Waccamaw Neck Bikeway to enjoy a hike or bike ride. If you remembered to bring along your clubs, enjoy a round or two on one of the three top-rated golf courses instead.
19. Pawleys Island
Travel around 30 miles south of Myrtle Beach and you'll find Pawleys Island, a barrier island with one of the oldest seaside communities in the country. The whole place drips with charm, from the beautiful historic homes to the incredibly picturesque Pawleys Island Creek. The beach is a delight, with tumbling sand dunes and calm, clear waters that are perfect for swimming and snorkeling. Despite its attractions, it rarely gets crowded, leaving you free to enjoy its charms without hustling for towel space. Before you leave the island, be sure to check out the Brookgreen Garden, a stunning place with an enhanced forest vibe that's ideal for a relaxing stroll.
18. Burkes Beach
Recommended as one of the best beaches in South Carolina by drivethenation.com, Burkes Beach offers visitors the chance to enjoy a beautiful stretch of Hilton Head coastline. It rarely gets crowded, even in high season, making it ideal for people who want to enjoy the views and relax in the sand without being disturbed.
17. Coligny Beach
Coligny Beach is big, beautiful, and very, very busy. Finding your own patch of sand can be tricky, especially during the summer, but if you do, you'll be well rewarded for your efforts. Despite its popularity, the beach is exceptionally clean, with gorgeous views, plenty of amenities, and some of the loveliest sunsets you'll ever see. If you get peckish, you'll find plenty of restaurants and cafes dotted around the beachfront. Dogs are welcome, so feel free to bring your pooch along for the ride.
16. Mitchellville Beach Park
As the Crazy Tourist says, Mitchellville Beach Park is ideal for families looking to enjoy the delights of the Hilton Head coastline. The waters are too calm for surfing, but ideal for swimming and kayaking. Kids will love the chance to build sandcastles in the soft sand. Amenities include a small picnic area, outdoor showers, and a few restrooms. The beach is located just a couple of minutes' walk from the parking area - as it rarely gets crowded, you shouldn't have any problems in finding a space.
15. Seabrook Island
Located just a short drive from Charleston is Seabrook Island. If you like down-to-earth beach communities with a casual vibe, this might not be the beach for you. Home to an exclusive private gated community and a top-notch private club, it's a glitzy, glamorous place with yachts in the driveways and designer labels every which way you look. But while it's exclusive, it's also beautiful, with a gorgeous beach, a lovely tidal creek, and an unparalleled array of amenities. If you like golf, be sure to bring your clubs along - the views from the course are breathtaking.
14. Isle of Palms
Recommended by travelsc.com as one of the best beaches to visit in South Carolina, the Isle of Palms is a small beachside community located just 12 miles from Charleston. Its beach is long, golden, and ideal for shelling, sunbathing and swimming. Kayaking, fishing, and windsurfing are also popular, and there are even a few beach volleyball courts if you get tired of lounging around in the sun.
13. Boneyard Beach
According to Lonely Planet, stepping onto Bull Island in Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge is like setting out on an east coast safari. Famous for its birdlife (by the last count, it was home to over 290 different species) and its numerous wildlife spotting opportunities (keep your eyes peeled for alligators, black foxes, loggerhead sea turtles, and bottlenose dolphins), it's a nature lover's dream. The island's best-loved beach is Boneyard Beach, so named for the bleached skeletons of trees that pepper its three-mile stretch of sand. Heaven for photographers, it's a must-visit for anyone looking to enjoy a very different kind of beach experience than they'd have at one of South Carolina's glitzier resorts.
12. Surfside Beach
Of all the beaches in South Carolina, Surfside Beach is quite possibly the most family-friendly. Located just 10 miles from Myrtle Beach, it boasts 2 miles of white sand beach with 36 beach access points. The amenities, attractions, and activities are second to none, with visitors welcome to enjoy everything from waterparks to mini-golf. If you decide to extend your stay over a few days, the nearby Ocean Lakes Family Campground offers a variety of family-friendly accommodation options.
11. Myrtle Beach
If you're looking for the kind of beach the whole family can enjoy, look no further than Myrtle Beach. As well as boasting a stonking 60 miles of white sand beach, it's also home to a smorgasbord of fun attractions and activities. Kids will love checking out the critters at Ripley's Aquarium of Myrtle Beach or taking a ride at the Family Kingdom Amusement Park. Venture into the town, and you'll be able to catch a minor league baseball game at TicketReturn.com Field at Pelicans Ballpark, catch a show at The Carolina Opry, or enjoy some fine wine and even finer food at one of the town's huge assortment of restaurants.
10. Murrells’ Inlet
Known as the seafood capital of South Carolina, Murrells’ Inlet is heaven for fishers. A small, traditional fishing village, it boasts both salt and freshwater fishing, offering no end of opportunities for keen anglers to show off their skills. If you'd rather buy your dinner than catch it, you'll find plenty to enjoy exploring the inlet's unique salt march ecology. It might not have the big amusements and tourist attractions of some of South Carolina's glitzier beaches, but nature lovers are certain to fall in love with its quiet charms.
9. Hilton Head
With its gorgeous beaches and lovely parks, Hilton Head is rightly regarded as the jewel of the South Carolina Low Country. The whole island is designed as the ultimate vacation spot, with endless shopping opportunities and a huge selection of bars, restaurants, cafes, and entertainment venues. It also boasts a mammoth 24 championship golf courses and numerous high-end spas. And then there's the beach itself, which promises fantastic opportunities for recreation and relaxation, including swimming, paddle boarding, boating, sunbathing, fishing, and surfing. Named as one of the best beaches in Southern Carolina by US News, it's the ideal destination for those looking to enjoy the beach and indulge in some of the finer things in life, too.
8. Cherry Grove
If you're looking for a relaxed beach community with a low-key vibe, Cheery Grove is ideal. The white sand beach is perfect for shelling, building sandcastles, or strolling. If you prefer boating, the saltwater channels dotting the town offer plenty of opportunities for sailing. If you get tired of the beach, you'll find numerous family-friendly attractions to enjoy nearby, including Alligator Adventure and the O.D. Pavilion Amusement Park.
7. Edisto Beach State Park
Just a short stroll from Edisto Beach is Edisto Beach State Park, a glorious area noted for its wide, pristine beaches, stunning views, and complete absence of development. If you want to camp out beneath the stars, hunt for shells, watch wildlife, or enjoy some natural history exhibits, this is the place to do it. If you visit during the summer months, you might even be in with a chance of joining one of the park's seasonal nighttime sea turtle walks.
6. Harbor Island
As drivethenation.com says, if you like the idea of a beach that is somewhat secret, head for Harbor Island. Located between Beaufort and Fripp Island, this secluded stretch of beach covers three miles in total, but is almost always empty. In fact, you stand a better chance of seeing a pelican than you do a person. Despite its seclusion, there's still plenty of amenities nearby to enjoy, including several very fine eateries - be sure to check out the scrumptious grilled donuts at Marsh Tacky Market Café in particular.
5. Huntington Beach State Park
Hunting Island is South Carolina's most popular state park, and for very good reason. With over 2500 acres of pristine maritime forest and saltmarsh wetlands to explore, it's ideal for nature lovers. The 5-mile beach is a little slice of heaven, with gloriously soft white sand, sublime views, and a plethora of activities to enjoy, from shelling and sunbathing to surfing and fishing. It's also home to over 300 species of bird, not to mention nesting loggerhead turtles, so be sure to keep a lookout for the wildlife. Before you leave, make a quick visit to the lighthouse, which is the only publicly accessible one of its kind in the state.
4. Sullivan’s Island
Like Folly Beach, Sullivan Island's proximity to Charleston makes it a hugely popular destination for day-trippers. Located just 10 miles east of downtown, it boasts over 3 miles of pristine white sand beaches along with the kind of calm, warm waters that are ideal for water sports like kayaking and paddleboarding. There's also the opportunity to take a stroll through the surrounding maritime forest, fish in the intercoastal waterway, or enjoy some seafood at one of the amazing local restaurants that border the beach. The island, which served as the inspiration for Edgar Allen Poe's short story "The Gold-Bug," is crammed with historical interest, so be sure to take some time to venture inland to check out sights like Fort Moultrie before you leave.
3. Kiawah Island
Kiawah Island is laid back, quiet, and surrounded by 10 miles of beautiful beaches. Most of the beaches are private, but you can still get your fix of sea and sand at the Kiawah Beachwalker Park. The amenities aren't extensive but include outdoor showers and seasonal lifeguards. Kayaking, surfing, and paddleboarding are all popular pastimes. Venture inland, and you'll find numerous scenic trails to explore by foot or bike. If you're a keen golfer, don't miss the chance to enjoy a round on the ultra-swanky Kiawah Island Golf Resort.
2. Edisto Beach
As Time Out notes, the lovely Edisto Beach is a perfect choice for a low-key beach vacation. Located on one of the least developed stretches of coastline in the state, it might not have the glitz and the glamour of many of South Carolina's bigger resorts, but its tranquil vibes and surplus of natural beauty more than make up for it. Popular pastimes include shelling (keep an eye out for ancient sharks' teeth too), fishing, and exploring the ancient oak woods that surround the beach.
1. Folly Beach
If you live in Charleston, you're probably already familiar with Folly Beach. Along with Sullivan's Island, it ranks as one of the most popular destinations for the city's residents to escape the hustle and bustle and enjoy some downtime by the ocean. It's not hard to see what makes it so popular. Not only is it less than 10 miles south of Charleston, but it's also completely charming, with a laid-back atmosphere, great surfing opportunities, and 6 miles of glorious white sand beach to explore. If you get thirsty, you'll find a good selection of bars along the beachfront - if you have the time, stick around to enjoy a cocktail as you watch the sunset over the ocean.
Written by Liz Flynn
Read more posts by Liz Flynn