Planning your vacation to Charleston, SC? If you’re heading to the Lowcountry, then you can’t pass up a visit to one, if not all, of the best beaches in Charleston, South Carolina. Along the Atlantic Ocean, the white sand shores offer pristine swimming, great surf, and all the warm sun you need.
Whether it’s in Charleston Harbor or along the barrier islands, Charleston’s beautiful beaches are just a short drive (or boat ride) away. Enjoy a coastal BBQ, wax up your board for an afternoon on the waves, or head to the end of the pier and cast off.
Ready to plan a memorable beach vacation around Charleston? Create the perfect itinerary with help from this guide to our favorite beaches in Charleston, SC.
Looking for more vacation ideas? Check out all our other beach guides and our Charleston Travel Guide and South Carolina Travel Guide for more ideas on where to go, when to visit & what to do!
Must-visit Charleston beaches
Often called the “Edge of America,” Folly Beach is one of the most popular beaches near Charleston. Found on Folly Island, a barrier island 15 miles from downtown Charleston, the area beckons travelers with its long sandy beaches and some of the best surfing on the East Coast.
At Folly Beach, soak in an envious amount of beachfront with plenty of water sports to keep everyone happy. Aside from some gnarly breaks, head out for a swim in the fresh Atlantic waters or take out the kayak to explore further afield. In Folly Beach County Park, you can also relax knowing that lifeguards are on the lookout all summer long.
Once you’ve had your fix of sun, sand, and surf, why not try your hand at landing tonight’s dinner at the second-longest public pier on the east coast? Folly Beach Fishing Pier extends over 1,000 feet into the ocean, with schools of fish surging north or south depending on the season.
For more family fun and a great restaurant scene, explore the town of Folly Beach with many beachfront bars for sunset.
For pristine beaches and plenty of natural beauty, you can’t pass up a visit to Kiawah Island. The island, just off the mainland, offers fun for the whole family with marshlands and forests to explore.
Keep your eye out for wildlife from migratory birds to river otters in the oceanfront Kiawah Beachwalker Park. But the real highlight of the island is, of course, Kiawah Island Beach. The calm waters of this public beach make it a magnificent spot to enjoy an ocean dip with the young ones. (Or to simply relax on your beach chair for an afternoon of light reading.)
If you’re up for some more adventure, stroll the accessible boardwalk, meandering through oakwood forests.
Another way to enjoy the rich nature on Kiawah Island is to play a round at the local championship golf courses, hosting several PGA championship events annually.
A great way for Charlestonians and travelers alike to escape the bustle of the city is to complete the scenic forty-minute trip to Edisto Beach. On Edisto Island, you’ll soak in the relaxed atmosphere. With the lack of major developments, there’s plenty of space to spread out on Edisto Beach and claim a personal piece of paradise.
After arriving at the popular beach, set up your gear, jump straight into the Atlantic Ocean and have all the stress washed away. Better yet, grab a kayak rental and explore marshlands and the creeks winding through them.
The island itself has a rich history. Edisto Island’s beautiful marshlands are found within a storied 4,000-plus acreage, otherwise known as Botany Bay Plantation. For further insight into the island’s natural heritage, pay a visit to the Serpentarium, home to a variety of excellent exhibits with displays of Edisto’s local wildlife.
Just a 20-minute drive from Charleston’s city center and located within Charleston Harbor, Sullivan’s Island is packed with beautiful coastline. You can make your way to the barrier island via the town of Mount Pleasant. After crossing the Ben Sawyer Swing Bridge, explore the broad local beaches with tide pools aplenty along with sandbars just off the coast.
Sullivan’s Island has a long and often tragic history, being such a prominent waypoint in South Carolina’s Transatlantic slave trade. The island was also once the home of Edgar Allan Poe. Some of Poe’s most lauded work found its wings here.
Within the Lowcountry beach town, Poe’s Tavern is one of the most popular restaurants. Another great place to visit on Sullivan’s Island is Fort Moultrie, a well-preserved military fort that played a significant role in both the American Revolutionary War and Civil War.
Between Kiawah Island and Edisto Island, Seabrook Island is home to multiple islands that you won’t regret visiting. The two main beaches on Seabrook Island are found within a private beachfront community, offering quiet and spacious sandy beaches to enjoy.
Pelican Beach is the perfect spot for the entire family to enjoy, away from the crowds found at more popular locations in Charleston County. With peaceful waters, everyone can wade in the oceans and build sandcastles along the shore before exploring the maritime forest.
But for one of the best sunset spots found on this list, make the journey to the island’s North Beach. The spectacular sunset, watched by just you and a few local residents, will make you feel as if you have your own private island.
Isle of Palms County Park
Across the Intracoastal Waterway and home to some of the most happening things to do in Charleston, SC, the Isle of Palms is a must-visit. The island is essentially a community of resorts, with plenty to offer away from the expansive golden shores. Travelers come here, not just for sun-baking and swimming, but for shopping and lively events.
When you aren’t enjoying the peaceful scenery, you can explore the pristine coastline on two wheels. At Isle of Palms County Park, kids will love the expansive playground while the rest of the crew can kick back at the several picnic sites.
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Other activities at Isle of Palms Beach include beach volleyball, including beach tournaments at different times of the year. When the sun goes down, head to the Windjammer, a beachfront venue with the best live music on the island.
Hilton Head Island
Famed for an abundance of white sand beaches, Hilton Head Island sits between the Atlantic Ocean and the Port Royal Sound. From Coligny Beach Park to Burkes Beach, you’d need multiple days to see it all. But that’s all the more reason to begin exploring during your Charleston itinerary.
Hilton Head provides the perfect balance of popular beaches with fun surf breaks along with quieter bays great for kayakers. One of the top beaches in Hilton Head is Burkes Beach. Come here for an action-packed day of surfing on a beach that always offers an exciting atmosphere.
For a more relaxed afternoon, head to Driessen Beach Park, which remains quiet even in the peak months. Enjoy the miles of sugar sand or stroll the boardwalk. Pack all your favorite beach eats to cook up a feast on the beach’s BBQs.
Short and sweet, Capers Island is an undeveloped stretch of pristine land that’s only accessible by boat. This, of course, makes Capers Island the top spot to explore if you want to escape the noise of Historic Charleston. Grab a free, but required, permit, and pack your tent for a night on the beach surrounded by driftwood.
The stunning beaches in Capers Island are far removed from the footprints of civilization. After waking up to the sounds of the crashing waves, hunt for shells or try to spot ocean life along the shores. Keep your eyes peeled for ospreys while watching the water for dolphins.
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Although the easiest, and most common way, of accessing Capers Island is via boat or charter, it’s also possible to paddle your way to paradise. From there, paddle to Bulls Island, a sprawling nature refuge and home to Boneyard Beach.
Another uninhabited area you should visit on your adventures in Charleston, South Carolina, is Morris Island. Like Capers Island, you can only reach Morris Island on a boat. The brief journey into Charleston Harbor is worth it. Visitors are rewarded with one of the most scenic Charleston beaches.
Far from just a spot to bask in the sun, the sandy shores are primed for shell collecting and bird watching. From wherever you are on the island, you’ll also be able to spot the Morris Island Lighthouse. Built in 1876, the historic lighthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Later, take the time to explore Fort Wagner, home a prominent battle in the Civil War. History buffs will love exploring the fort and learning more about the fort’s battles on a guided tour.
Cherry Grove Beach
On the northern tip of Myrtle Beach, Cherry Grove Beach is the best option for those looking for a day trip from Charleston. Just two hours from downtown, come here for an afternoon on the spacious white sand with plenty of surf and action beyond the beach.
The main attraction at Cherry Grove Beach is its resident fishing pier. The enormous pier stretches almost 1,000 feet out to sea, providing the perfect spot for anglers to cast their reels. If you’re seeking your next prized catch, this is the spot to do it.
Along the shoreline at Cherry Grove Beach are several great beachfront restaurants serving top-notch seafood. You’ll also come across a couple of highly-rated golf courses nearby.