Edited by: Nick Ellis
& Keri Stooksbury
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South Carolina is a state that isn’t always at the top of people’s travel lists. That’s a shame because this relatively small state has a lot to offer. It’s got an interesting history, rich culture, and some of the best beaches on the East Coast.
However, figuring out which South Carolina beach destination you should head to can be overwhelming since there are so many choices. To help you narrow down your options, we’ve put together this list of the best beaches in South Carolina.
Hot Tip: Interested in the best beaches in North Carolina? Check out our detailed guide!
If you want to get away from the crowds while in South Carolina, Boneyard Beach is the place for you. This stretch of the South Carolina coast, on Bulls Island just north of Charleston, hasn’t gained much notoriety yet, but it’s only a matter of time. The beach is natural yet smooth and easy to walk on. You won’t feel like you’re getting a workout in getting to and from the water.
The water is clear and beautiful as well. However, be careful. Since the beach doesn’t see too much foot traffic, it’s likely there won’t be a lifeguard on duty. For a safe beach day, stick to wading in the shallow end.
You’ll still have just as much fun on the sand as you would splashing around in the water. The beach is known for its views, after all, with its petrified trees creating a dramatic and picturesque shoreline look.
Burkes Beach is one of the jewels of the popular Hilton Head Island. While you won’t go wrong with any of the island’s beaches, Burkes deserves extra attention.
This beach is perfect for anyone looking for a little relaxation and serenity while they’re on the coast. The sand is soft and the water is clean, so you can rest easy while you enjoy your day. Drinking on the beach is banned, so it doesn’t get too rowdy, and it’s one of the most family-friendly beaches in the state. You don’t need a car to access the beach — you can easily walk or bike to the shore.
Burkes Beach is even dog-friendly before 10 a.m. and after 5 p.m. daily during the summer. During the rest of the year, it’s dog-friendly all day!
When you look up Edisto Beach, you’ll notice 2 themes: “family-oriented” and “gently developed.” Those are the perfect ways to describe this stretch of the South Carolina coast.
The beach was developed to make sure families have everything they need. However, it’s not overdeveloped, so the natural landscape can remain intact for people to enjoy for years to come.
Edisto is also family-friendly. The entire town has plenty of wholesome activities appropriate for all age groups. The town is tiny, with fewer than 500 people living there full-time. If you visit, you’ll be treated like you’re part of the family.
Edisto Beach is known for its shallow waters — but even more so for the shell-hunting opportunities it offers. Kids and adults alike can spend hours hunting for shark teeth and seashells. If you don’t have much luck finding them yourself, the souvenir shops have plenty.
Folly Beach is one of the best South Carolina beach towns for people who don’t need a lot of excitement but also don’t want to vacation somewhere totally quiet. Folly Beach balances both worlds perfectly.
You can spend your days relaxing on the sand or popping in and out of souvenir shops. You’ll notice more than a few board shops as well while you’re there. That’s because this beach is a great choice for casual surfers.
The visitor beaches are well-maintained and offer plenty of room to lay out a towel, even during busy summer weekends. However, if you’re looking for something a little more unique that you’ll remember forever, take a trek or a bike ride to the more natural coastal areas. That’s where you’ll be able to see some of Folly Beach’s natural wildlife, like its pelicans or its sea turtles, if you’re lucky.
Hilton Head Island sets itself apart from many other beach towns on the East Coast because it’s actually an island! Hilton Head is just a short ride from the mainland, but it’s enough to make visitors feel like they’ve left their stresses behind.
You’ll find just a single town on the island, but it offers 12 miles of beautiful beaches for you to choose from, including Coligny Beach Park, the aforementioned Burkes Beach, Folly Field Beach Park, and Fish Haul Beach Park.
The island is known for its beaches in general, and you won’t find a bad stretch of shore. Whether you’re looking for a place to swim and splash around or you just want to go on sunrise or sunset strolls on the sand, you’ll find just what you’re looking for here.
If you’re looking for a tropical paradise without having to leave the U.S., look no further than Hunting Island State Park in South Carolina. As a barrier island, the park is a short boat ride away from the mainland, but that boat ride is worth it. You’ll find a secluded park with thriving wilderness.
However, you don’t have to worry about walking into an overgrown mess. The island self-maintains in a way that keeps the sand pristine. Whether you want to go for a swim or you just want to picnic far away from the bustle of the mainland, Hunting Island is the perfect place for a little getaway.
You can even camp on the island — just make sure you call ahead because spots are limited. Hunting Island is an ideal beach spot for nature lovers looking to get away from the commercialized parts of the coast.
The Isle of Palms island shares its name with the City of Isle of Palms, which happens to be the home of one of the best beaches in South Carolina.
The city has 7 miles of beaches on offer, giving you and your whole family plenty of room to explore without feeling too crowded during the busiest summer weekends. This beach sets itself apart because it doesn’t just aim to entertain but educate as well.
Isle of Palms was an important site during the Civil War, so you can learn all about the island and the state’s role in one of the most important events in American history in between soaking up the sun on the beach. Its entertaining, fun educational opportunities and safe beaches make this a particularly great place to visit if you have kids.
Near Charleston, you’ll find Kiawah Island. This getaway spot is known around the state for being a little pocket of luxury like what you’d expect from an exotic tropical location.
Guests can spend their days relaxing however they see fit. They can visit a spa for a relaxing treatment or play a round (or 2) of golf on one of the many courses the island is famous for. Or, just spend your time lounging in the sun or frolicking in the waves.
While there are 10 miles of beach on Kiawah Island, much of it is private. The single public beach — Beachwalker County Park — is located on the west end (also known as West Beach) of the island.
No list of South Carolina beaches would be complete without Myrtle Beach. It’s easily the most recognizable beach town in the state, and for a good reason. It offers fun and excitement for people of ages.
Myrtle Beach’s tourist season starts with the first college spring breaks and doesn’t end until mid-September. So, for nearly half the year, you won’t have any shortages of things to do.
The city has 60 miles of coastline, so it’s easy to escape the crowds. Speaking of crowds, there are no doubt a lot of visitors in Myrtle Beach, but there’s so much to do in the city that it’s likely the crowds will be dispersed much of the time.
The water in Myrtle Beach is clean and swimmable, but sand is displaced easily due to the number of visitors, perhaps making the water look a bit murky during peak periods.
Just 25 miles away from Myrtle Beach, you’ll find Pawleys Island, a more lowkey beach spot that often goes unnoticed by out-of-towners. As its name suggests, Pawleys is another barrier island, so locals and visitors enjoy the peace and quiet that comes along with being separated from the rest of the state.
The island has plenty of things to do, from walking around its historic district to visiting its zoo. However, the main event for making the journey out here is to spend plenty of time on the beach.
The beach spans miles of coastline, so you can run around or just sit back on a beach chair and relax the day away. The water is generally safe, but during the busy summer season there will also be lifeguards on duty to make sure you and your loved ones are taken care of.
Sands Beach on Port Royal is yet another island beach that comes highly recommended by locals but has gone unnoticed by many visitors to South Carolina.
With over 10,000 people living on the island, however, it has a little bit more of a bustling feel than some of the other more isolated barrier islands in the state. If you’re looking for a little more excitement but you still want to make sure you get in plenty of relaxation, Port Royal is the perfect place to visit.
You can bury your feet in the soft sand or go for an early morning walk so you can catch a flawless East Coast sunrise. Kids will love looking for shark teeth on the beach, and it’s easy to spot dolphins from the beach.
If you’re looking for luxury and a bit of seclusion while on your vacation, Seabrook Island is the place for you. The island only has about 2,000 permanent residents, so it has a small-town feel, but with all the luxuries you could ask for.
You won’t find much in the way of exciting nightlife while you’re here, as the island has aimed to make itself a family-friendly vacation destination. However, you’ll still find restaurants and lively music after a long day of relaxing by the water.
The island has many amenities for guests, but no one would blame you if all you want to do is lay on a towel and listen to the tide for hours on end until you’re completely relaxed.
Surfside Beach is a destination so wholesome that it’s earned the nickname “The Family Beach.”
If you or anyone in your family has ever been interested in learning how to surf, boogie board, water-ski, or any other number of water activities, this is the perfect place to learn.
You don’t have to worry about feeling self-conscious around professionals. Just let loose and enjoy yourself. You’ll be having fun in some of the cleanest and clearest water, not just in the state but on the East Coast as a whole.
If you like the beach but prefer staying dry, there are plenty of other activities for you to do as well, from tennis to shuffleboard. Of course, you can also always go for a nice long walk on the miles of beachfront that make up Surfside’s coastline.
South Carolina has some of the best beaches in the U.S., even if they are sometimes underrated compared to other beach locations in the country. When you head to South Carolina for your beach vacation, with this list, you’ll know just where to go to have the best trip possible.
South Carolina has many nice beaches that draw visitors from around the country. They’re soft and well-maintained all over the state. However, the water is typically too cold in the fall and winter months for swimming.
South Carolina’s water is generally clear. More popular beaches may have murkier water due to more displaced sand, and there might be more litter affecting the water’s clarity. However, you won’t have to worry about water quality typically at any South Carolina beaches.
As a southern U.S. state, South Carolina boasts nice weather for longer periods of the year. So, during the spring and summer, the beaches are nice and warm. However, it will be too cold to swim even on mild winter and fall days.
You can swim at many South Carolina beaches. You’ll even find lifeguards on duty in many places along the coast during the high tourist seasons. However, for your safety, confirm that an area is considered swimmable before going into the water.
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