As it boasts almost 3,000 miles of tidal coastline, it should come as no surprise that South Carolina has an astounding array of beautiful beaches. While some lie on untouched and undeveloped barrier islands, others are lined by sparkling marinas, resorts and amusement parks.
Undoubtedly the most popular stretch of sand to head to is the gorgeous Grand Strand that arcs its way over sixty miles alongside the Atlantic Ocean. Here you can find not only the vibrant vacation city of Myrtle Beach and family-friendly Surfside Beach but countless islands and some of the best beaches in South Carolina.
Thanks to all its fun attractions, superb seafood restaurants and wonderful watersports, the Palmetto State is a great choice if you’re after the perfect beach holiday.
12. Litchfield Beach
Lying alongside the appropriately named Long Bay, lovely Litchfield Beach can be found just to the north of Pawleys Island. A calm and quiet spot that never gets crowded, its scenic shores feel a world away from the bustling Myrtle Beach just half an hour up the coast.
Stretching 1.5 miles in length, the flat beach curves gently beside the bay and attractive oceanfront cottages and holiday homes line the shore. As it’s very wide and open, it is perfect for lounging on lazily, with superb swimming, surfing and kayaking to be enjoyed in the Atlantic.
Besides basking in the beach’s beauty and delighting in its laid back ambiance, visitors can also play rounds of golf at the three immaculate courses lying nearby.
11. Edisto Beach
Another very peaceful and picturesque spot to hit up is Edisto Beach, which lies just an hour’s drive from Charleston. Ideal for those looking for a quiet getaway, the small, secluded town occupies the southwestern tip of the mostly undeveloped Edisto Island.
As it is residential and non-commercialized, it has long been a firm favorite with families and honeymooners. Aside from all its quaint bed-and-breakfasts and vacation rentals, there are a couple of nice restaurants and shops to stop by and fishing, camping and golf to enjoy.
The main appeal, however, is its almost endless, untouched beach which sprawls more than 4.5 miles along the coast. Here you can sunbathe and swim to your heart’s content with barely another soul in sight.
10. Sullivan’s Island
Even closer to the center of Charleston is serene Sullivan’s Island. Set at the mouth of the city’s harbor, the charming town, island and beach lie only twenty minutes from the hustle and bustle of downtown.
Left in a natural state with no facilities or resorts bordering it, the pristine beach particularly appeals to those looking to escape Charleston’s crowds for the day. Besides sunbathing and splashing about in its shallows, you can also go kayaking, kitesurfing and paddleboarding along the shore.
In addition to its ample outdoor activities and glittering white sands, Sullivan’s Island also has some interesting historic sites to check out. At Fort Moultrie, for instance, visitors can hear about the role it played in the American Revolution while plenty of pretty old buildings also dot its historic district.
9. Surfside Beach
One of the most family-friendly destinations in the state, Surfside Beach is situated just to the south of Myrtle Beach. While all kinds of enticing attractions, eateries and accommodation options line its boardwalk, countless fun watersports can be enjoyed in the sea.
As well as being attended by lifeguards, the two-mile-long beach has comfy deck chairs and shady umbrellas available for rent. Thanks to its soft sands and gentle shallows, it is a great place to relax and unwind, or jet ski and kitesurf above the Atlantic’s sparkling surface.
On top of enjoying the breathtaking beach, visitors can amble along the pier, play mini-golf or have a wild and wet time in its water park. With ice cream stands, music concerts and playgrounds all on offer, it is no wonder Surfside is nicknamed ‘The Family Beach’.
8. Edisto Beach State Park
If it is some exciting outdoor activities that you are after, then Edisto Beach State Park is definitely the place to go. Covering a massive swathe of the unspoiled Sea Island of the same name, it has diverse landscapes, scenery and nature to explore.
Established in 1935, it encompasses not only a marsh and maritime forest but a stupendous seashell-covered beach too. Weaving their way about the sprawling park are picturesque trails to hike or bike along with campsites dotted here and there.
While kayaking and paddleboarding about its winding waterways, you can sometimes spot dolphins and turtles in the surf. Some fantastic birdwatching and picnicking can also be had in the oceanfront park.
7. Isle of Palms
Long a popular vacation destination, the idyllic Isle of Palms lies just to the northeast of Sullivan’s Island. Unlike its nearby neighbor, the largely upscale resort area has countless condominiums and luxurious hotels for beachgoers to stay at.
Much more developed than other stretches of sand in South Carolina, the barrier island’s beaches have a pier, marina and watersports rental services to make use of. As such, you can go surfing and kayaking, or take a sunset cruise, fishing trip or banana boat.
Alongside all its fun beach activities, the tranquil town has parks and playgrounds, tennis courts and two championship golf courses to enjoy. As numerous festivals are held each year, it is a great spot to head if you are after entertainment. Sea turtles also nest along its shores from May to August.
6. Cherry Grove Beach, North Myrtle Beach
Part of South Carolina’s gorgeous Grand Strand, Cherry Grove Beach is a lovely little patch of sand to spend some time on. Located within the small town of North Myrtle Beach, its wonderfully white sands lie not far from the border with North Carolina.
As it is calmer and quieter than many other beaches along the coast, families flock here in the sunny summer months. As well as shopping and dining along the strip, you can fish on the pier, boat around or simply lounge on the beach.
Cherry Grove’s other main appeal is that attractions such as Alligator Adventure and Ocean Drive Pavilion Amusement Park lie within easy driving distance. Several immaculately manicured golf courses can also be found dotted about town.
5. Huntington Beach State Park
Not far south of both Surfside and Myrtle Beach, you can find the spellbinding scenery and nature of Huntington Beach State Park. While keen birdwatchers and anglers come for its ample wildlife and fish-filled waters, history buffs also enjoy touring its magnificent old Moorish-style mansion.
Despite its smallish size, the coastal preserve certainly fits a lot into its scenic and secluded confines with creeks and marshes coating its interior. Alongside the Atlantic run three miles of pristine beach with its shallow waters being ideal for swimming and paddling.
Aside from hiking about its trails and camping, you can also explore the atmospheric Atalaya Castle that was built in the 1930s. Before heading back to the beach, make sure to visit the park’s superb nature center, which is home to informative displays and even some live animals.
4. Kiawah Island
Famous for its natural beauty, the incredible Kiawah Island is just a short drive from downtown Charleston. In no time at all, you can find yourself wandering along ten miles or more of unspoiled sandy beaches with marshes and maritime forests also coating the sea island.
While much of it is now made up of private beaches and golf resorts, there are also public stretches of sand to enjoy if you don’t want to stay at a luxury hotel. Besides sunbathing and swimming, hiking and biking can be had alongside umpteen rounds of golf.
You can kayak and canoe on the sparkling creeks, river and marshes at almost any time of year. But the island’s public beach only has snack stands and lifeguards on duty during the summer.
3. Folly Beach
As it is located only twenty minutes drive south of the city center, the fabulous Folly Beach is even closer to Charleston than its neighbor Kiawah Island. Popular with locals and tourists, it is the perfect place to relax and catch some rays while enjoying divine views over the ocean.
In total, the barrier island has over six miles of welcoming sands to bask on and is particularly known for its outstanding watersports. These include kayaking, surfing, paddleboarding, and kitesurfing too. Deep-sea fishing trips and sightseeing cruises are also on offer.
As the isle’s surrounding waters teem with marine life, you can sometimes spot dolphins, sharks and stingrays swimming here and there. In addition, it also has plenty of beachfront bars and restaurants to try out.
2. Coligny Beach, Hilton Head
Lying in the south of the state are the sun-kissed sands of Coligny Beach; one of the best places to vacation on the Eastern Seaboard. Situated just a short drive from Savannah in Georgia, it occupies the Atlantic side of the huge Hilton Head Island.
Due to its sublime views and scenery, South Carolinians and out-of-staters alike flock to its shores in summer to sunbathe and swim. Its award-winning park also has lots of picnic areas, showers and changing rooms for guests to make use of.
What makes the beach so special is that all the shops and restaurants of the vibrant Coligny Plaza lie just a short stroll away. Consequently, you can laze about and play on the ocean edge and then shop, dine and go out in the evening.
1. Myrtle Beach
By far the most popular tourist destination in South Carolina; amazing Myrtle Beach really does have it all. The central focus of the Grand Strand, it boasts endless golden sands and warm weather, plus countless luxury resorts, restaurants and nightlife spots are on offer.
As the coastal city is packed with attractions and entertainment options, it appeals to families and spring breakers alike. While some come to party and ride thrilling rollercoasters in theme parks, others come to play golf, relax in spas and enjoy the fine dining scene.
Everyone, however, heads to the beach at some point or other and its bustling boardwalk is one of the best in the nation. Lined by arcades, souvenir shops and mini-golf courses, it is lots of fun to explore.