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The 20 best beaches in South Carolina

Whether traveling solo, with friends or family, you'll love the endless seashores at the best beaches in South Carolina

Written by
Kristina Pahr

Nestled along the southeastern Atlantic coast, the beaches of South Carolina are comprised of almost 200 miles of beautiful seashore. With a beach for every budget, the coast of South Carolina has plenty of things to do other than visit Charleston. You’ll find high-dollar luxury resorts, beautiful, undeveloped stretches of sand and everything in between. As you drive South, tourist destinations like Myrtle Beach give way to the laid-back, local haven Folly Beach, and end up on the beautiful resort island of Hilton Head, near the Georgia border. Check out the multitude of barrier islands for family-friendly fun or head down to Charleston for a night of cocktails and haute cuisine. It’s official: the best beaches in South Carolina really are the jewel of the South.

Best beaches in South Carolina

Edisto Beach
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Kim Wright Photography

1. Edisto Beach

A family favorite, Edisto Beach is a perfect choice for a low-key beach vacation. Located on one of South Carolina’s barrier islands, what Edisto lacks in glitz and glamour, it makes up for in relaxation. As one of the least developed beaches on the coast, Edisto offers eco-tours, top notch fishing opportunities and, for budding fossil hunters, a perfect chance to find ancient shark teeth washed up on the beach.

Edisto Beach State Park
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Danie Becknell

2. Edisto Beach State Park

Just down the street from Edisto Beach, Edisto Beach State Park offers wide open beaches, amazing views and a natural coastline with no development. Managed by the state of South Carolina, EBSP features year-round cabins and camping, natural history exhibits, wildlife viewing and prime seashell hunting opportunities. During the summer months, the park even hosts nighttime sea turtle walks to explore their native nesting habitat.

Kiawah Island
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/rocor

3. Kiawah Island

Ten miles of coastline border this super laid-back barrier island beach town. Comprised of private beaches attached to personal residences and vacation rentals, the only public beach access on the island is at Kiawah Beachwalker Park. Well-known for its world-class golf resort, Kiawah also offers the chance to partake in adventures like kayaking, surfing and paddle-boarding. Fantastic dining and cocktails and several different spas on the island ensure a relaxing stay.

Hilton Head
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Lee Coursey

4. Hilton Head

Considered by many to be the jewel of the South Carolina Low Country, Hilton Head Island is a golfer’s paradise boasting 24 championship golf courses and several PGA events throughout the year. You can also enjoy fine dining, local seafood or casual fare at one of the many resorts on the island. An upscale retreat, this is an ideal destination for families seeking to vacation with a bit of luxury on the side.

Myrtle Beach
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Perry Quan

5. Myrtle Beach

The centerpiece of South Carolina’s “Grand Strand,” Myrtle Beach is one of the most well-known beaches in the southeast. Miles of uninterrupted coastline with piers, boardwalks and hotels to fit every budget make this one of South Carolina’s most popular destinations. There are water parks, amusement parks and abundant shopping, restaurants and bars for fun times off the beach, as well as challenging golf courses, minor league baseball and a Nascar track.

Folly Beach
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Ted Kerwin

6. Folly Beach

Referred to as the “edge of America” by locals, Folly is one of South Carolina’s most well-loved beaches. South Carolinians and tourists alike flock here year-round to experience the unique island town’s laid-back ambience. Visitors are surprised to learn Folly Beach is also one of the best places for surfing on the entire eastern seaboard. Grab your board and head to the area known as the “washout” for lessons.

Isle of Palms
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/James Williams

7. Isle of Palms

Just 12 miles from the historic city of Charleston, Isle of Palms offers the best of both worlds. Spend the day relaxing on the beach or take a trip into the city to experience cosmopolitan nightlife. Lounging on the beach not your style? Also find world-class golf, fishing charters and even beach volleyball courts. Relax in the comfort of one of the many resorts or vacation homes before heading into town to visit some of the best restaurants in the country.

Hunting Island State Park
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/jprime84

8. Hunting Island State Park

South Carolina’s most popular state park, Hunting Island offers unmatched views and the only publicly accessible lighthouse in the state. Untouched maritime forest and salt marsh wetlands make Hunting Island an outdoor lover’s paradise. Tons of wildlife and five miles of stunning beaches, complete with beachfront campsites, draw over one million visitors a year to this relaxing spot.

Huntington Beach State Park
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/jprime84

9. Huntington Beach State Park

Huntington Beach State Park is a dream location for beachcombing, wildlife lovers. The park boasts an inland freshwater lake that is prime for alligator watching and the adjacent Brookgreen Garden is a lovely place to spend an afternoon. For the fisherman, Huntington Beach has the best surf-fishing in the state. Oh, lest we forget: the chance to spot nesting loggerhead turtles here is pretty high.

Sullivan’s Island
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Bernardo D.

10. Sullivan’s Island

Right on the mouth of Charleston Harbor, Sullivan’s Island is a small, sleepy island town that almost demands relaxation. With a little over three miles of coastline, you can spend the day strolling on the beach or taking walks through the lush maritime forest, kiteboarding or kayaking off-shore, or fishing in the intercoastal waterway. Sullivan’s Island also boasts amazing local restaurants, specialising in seafood and local, low-country fare. Do also take a few hours to explore Revolutionary War history at Fort Moultrie.

Seabrook Island
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Southern G.

11. Seabrook Island

Another Charleston-area beach, Seabrook Island is a unique place. An Audubon Certified Green Community, it is home to a world-class private club and exclusive private gated community as well as lush, beautiful public spaces. There are a wide variety of vacation rentals available across the island, allowing visitors to choose between beachfront, golf-course, tidal-creek and beach view premises. Bonus points: the amenities are unmatched.

Mitchelville Beach Park
Photograph: Shutterstock

12. Mitchelville Beach Park

Located on Hilton Head Island, Mitchellville Beach is a secluded, pristine beach where nature is supreme. The forest greets the ocean and seagrass is lapped by the waves at hightide, making this the perfect day-trip spot for tiny explorers and budding naturalists. Mitchellville is quiet even during the busiest seasons, offering unsurpassed natural beauty and peaceful relaxation. There is a bathroom on site, but it is a primitive spot, so pack accordingly and bring your bug spray.

Surfside Beach
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Myrtle Beach TheDigitel

13. Surfside Beach

A tiny coastal town in the Grand Strand, Surfside prides itself on being a family vacation destination. Home to waterparks and mini-golf, as well as other family-oriented attractions, Surfside hits all the marks for group fun. It’s also the first autism-friendly vacation town in the U.S. Providing activities geared specifically toward families with children with autism, Surfside even passed a town resolution in 2016 guaranteeing a safe and inclusive space for those on the spectrum.

Litchfield Beach
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Joe Plocki

14. Litchfield Beach

Close to tourist heavy Myrtle Beach, Litchfield Beach offers a reprieve from the crowds. The resort community boasts golf courses, restaurants and a laid-back atmosphere that vacationers love. Not to mention the spa services, health and fitness clubs, and on-site bars and restaurants that will basically hinder you from ever leaving the premises.

Pawley’s Island
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Ken Lane

15. Pawley’s Island

A quintessential South Carolina coastal town, this barrier island, located 30 miles South of Myrtle Beach in the state’s famous low-country, drips with Southern charm. The oldest seaside community in the country, Pawley’s Island maintains a low-key vibe despite the grand architecture of the beautiful historic homes in the area. A perfect destination to soak up the unique low-country culture and cuisine, Pawley’s is a local favorite and a national treasure.

Murrells’ Inlet
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Myrtle Beach TheDigitel

16. Murrells’ Inlet

This traditional South Carolina fishing village ten miles South of Myrtle Beach calls itself the seafood capital of South Carolina, and for good reason. The Inlet boasts both salt- and freshwater fishing while the Waccamaw River delta pours out into the Atlantic creating a unique habitat for wildlife and fish. Murrell’s Inlet’s salt marsh ecology and long history make it an ideal destination for nature lovers and history buffs.

Coligny Beach Park
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Terry A.

17. Coligny Beach Park

Located on Hilton Head Island, Coligny Beach is a public access park that not only boasts showers, swings and a play area, but also public wi-fi access on the actual beach. Ample parking with shops and a variety of restaurants within walking distance make this the perfect beach day trip.

Burkes Beach
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Kendall P.

18. Burkes Beach

Another Hilton Head treasure, this public beach is perfect for bike riding and twilight strolls. Free of the hustle and crowds that characterize nearby Coligny Beach, Burkes Beach and the adjacent Chaplin Community Park offer a pure experience. You can even bring four-legged family members and let them run loose in the dog park. If you drive, be sure to bring a handful of change as the parking spaces are metered.

Port Royal
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Korona Lacasse

19. Port Royal

Seven flags have flown over Port Royal since the arrival of the Spanish in the 1520s, drenching the area with a rich history and cultural legacy. The town of Port Royal also takes a great deal of pride in the pristine natural surroundings and the vibrant salt marsh ecosystem. A nice public beach, nature trails, boating and birding opportunities make it a unique coastal destination offering something to all types of visitors.

Boneyard Beach
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/oliver.dodd

20. Boneyard Beach

A low-country secret, Boneyard Beach is singularly amazing. Located on the tip of Bulls Island, a beach erosion allowed the ocean to swallow this maritime forest of live oaks and red cedars. Leaving ancient trunks and branches bleached and twisting in the sun, visitors are not soon to forget the surreal vista. Accessible by boat and car, and requiring a long walk down a sandy ocean path, the beach seems secluded and private even during busy times. Be sure to bring your camera for some one-of-a-kind pictures.

Ready to plan out the rest of your trip?

The 14 best things to do in South Carolina
  • Things to do

Explore all the best things to do in Palmetto State: scrappy cities like Greenville and Columbia, plantations steeped in history and shaded with oak trees, and converted country stores offering homestyle barbecue dishes and throat-clearing shots of moonshine. No matter where you travel in the state, you’ll be greeted as a friend with a ‘hey y’all’ from nearly everyone you meet.

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