Planning a vacation to South Carolina? Adding Hilton Head into your itinerary is a must. Hilton Head is famous for its abundance of white-sand beaches, including Coligny Beach, one of the best beaches in Hilton Head—and indeed, the United States.
Off the coast of South Carolina, Hilton Head is framed by the Atlantic Ocean on one side and Port Royal Sound on the other. It delivers the perfect balance of action-packed beaches with waves for surfers and calm, quiet waters for kayakers.
Beaches here are public from the ocean to the high water mark. The vast majority also come with wheelchair-accessible beach access paths, so everyone can enjoy the island’s beautiful beaches.
Ready to put together the perfect Hilton Head vacation plan? Make it unforgettable at one of these Hilton Head beaches.
Top-rated Hilton Head Island beaches
Coligny Beach Park
At the end of Pope Avenue is the most renowned beach in Hilton Head, Coligny Beach Park. Popular among locals, Coligny Beach is a family-friendly stretch of pristine white sand. On the beach, you’ll find rocking chairs to kick back on and plenty of shade under the series of rental umbrellas. Even you have just 24 hours in Hilton Head, Coligny Beach should be at the top of your list.
Coligny Beach comes with the largest free parking lot found at any beach on Hilton Head Island. The lot offers over 500 spaces. As you enter the beach, you’ll have public access to spacious change rooms, outdoor showers, and even free WiFi. If the action in the water isn’t enough, take to the nets for a game of beach volleyball.
If you begin to feel peckish, you’ll find several shops and restaurants within walking distance past Coligny Circle at Coligny Plaza. But to keep up the vacation vibe, hit up the outdoor beach bars including the Tiki Hut.
Folly Field Beach Park
Popular among locals and tourists alike, Folly Field Beach Park comes with wide sandy beaches and everything you need for a memorable day under the sun. The beach is located on the north end of Hilton Head Island. After completing the short boardwalk path to the beach, you’ll be greeted with gorgeous views of the coast.
For those who love to sunbathe in comfort, there are beach chairs available to rent. You can also get a break from the sun thanks to the on-site beach umbrellas. Although it’s a small beach, you’ll still find public restrooms and outdoor showers to wash off after a day in the ocean.
A popular activity to break up the beach day is to complete the bike ride along Hilton Head’s northern coast. There are several bike rental shops nearby. It’s a great way to explore more of the island.
Driessen Beach Park
Between Folly Field Beach Park and Burkes Beach, you’ll find Driessen Beach Park. A favorite spot for younger families and older community members, this stunning white-sand beach remains relatively quiet even during the peak tourist season.
A scenic half-mile boardwalk separates the car park and the beach. Don’t let that stop you: Miles of sugar sand beach await those who make the journey. You’ll find the car park at the end of Bradley Beach Road. (In fact, it’s common for locals to call this area Bradley Beach.)
On arrival, not only will you admire the scenery but you will also love the beach’s amenities. Pack a big lunch. Driessen Beach Park offers grills and a pavilion with picnic tables. You’ll also spot a playground and various beach rentals.
One of the best beaches on Hilton Head Island, Burkes Beach offers adrenaline-pumping surfing or bodyboarding among a selection of action-packed activities. You can park for free at Chaplin Community Park along Burkes Beach Road. After completing the walk to the beach, you’ll immediately notice the high energy along the snow-like sand.
Off the small beach, you’ll witness surfers attempted to tame the barrel waves. You may also spot sea kayakers. With the level of surf off Burkes Beach, you’ll be happy to know there are seasonal lifeguards on duty during the official beach season from April 1st to September 30th.
There are no restaurants within walking distance, however, it’s a short drive to Singleton Beach for bars and quick eats. South of Palmetto Dunes, you’ll find further restaurants to quiet the cravings.
Islanders Beach Park
Escaping to the north end of Hilton Head Island is the perfect way to find a truly local atmosphere. Islanders Beach Park, on the north coast, is a prime example of this. For a long time, Islanders Beach remained a well-kept secret. To this day, you can still catch residents enjoying a family day on the beach.
Islanders Beach is along Folly Field Road and is best accessed on foot or by bike. There are some metered spaces, but much of the limited parking is reserved for those with a beach parking pass.
Once on the beach, you’ll see the spacious picnic pavilion with grills. Stock up with all the necessary supplies and enjoy a memorable day cooking by the beach. You can also rent beach chairs and umbrellas. Lifeguards man Islanders Beach during summer.
Alder Lane Beach
A mile south of the popular Coligny Beach is the southernmost public beach on the island, Alder Lane Beach. This beautiful sandy beach offers a quieter experience compared to many beaches here but remains just as easy on the eyes.
You’ll find public access from South Forest Beach Drive, where there are several metered parking spots. On the beach, you’ll find handy public amenities, from showers to bathrooms along with lifeguards in the summer.
There are no beach bars on Alder Lane Beach, however, the popular Loggerhead Landing Bar is a short walk away. Head here for classic American fare and sunny cocktails. For more dining options, you can complete the easy 1-mile drive north to Coligny Plaza.
Mitchelville Beach Park
Featuring inlets, tidal pools, and the occasional driftwood from the local forests, Mitchelville Beach Park offers something different than other Hilton Head Island beaches. With fewer crowds on this less-developed beach, locals mostly come here to enjoy the striking scenery and head out into the calm waters on a kayak.
Visitors to the island should leap at the chance to explore Hilton Head’s vast landscape. Trees and dune grass are found up to the edge of the sandy beach providing plenty of shade and privacy.
You will have public beach access from Mitchelville Road, which connects to the nearby Beach City Road. One of the best ways to access the beach, however, is on your own two feet. Follow the Fish Haul Creek Pathway, which guides you through the lush landscape on a fairly flat path all the way to Mitchelville Beach.
Fish Haul Creek Beach
Another excellent, yet quiet, beach on Hilton Head Island is Fish Haul Creek Beach. Located on Port Royal Sound rather than the Atlantic Ocean, the surf here is a lot tamer than other beaches on the island.
For this reason, Fish Haul tends to be a lot quieter; surfboards are replaced with kayaks and SUPs. A less crowded beach with plenty of shade, Fish Haul Creek Beach is also the perfect place to kick back with a book and forget about the world.
You’ll find your usual beach amenities, including showers and clean restrooms, but there are no lifeguards or beach rentals to use. Like neighboring Mitchelville Beach Park, you’ll find picturesque scenery here and the beginning of the Fish Haul Beach Pathway. When you’ve finished reading your book, explore some of the best native vegetation on the island.
South Forest Beach
Encompassing the section of Hilton Head south of Pope Avenue, South Forest Beach is a community that includes the iconic Coligny Beach and Sea Pines Forest Preserve. One of the top places to see in Hilton Head, South Forest Beach offers easy access to some of the best beaches on the island along with cafes, restaurants bars, and live music.
Along with Coligny Beach, South Forest Beach includes Alder Beach and Hilton Head Beach. All three combine to form the largest public beach in Hilton Head.
With its location, South Forest Beach charms visitors with several beachside resorts and villas. Beyond the coast, you’ll also find a golf course, museums and plenty of activities for the young ones.
North Forest Beach
On the other side of Pope Avenue is North Forest Beach. This quieter neighborhood comes with Coligny Beach Park within walking distance. Just to the north are several other fantastic beaches, such as Burkes Beach, Folly Field, and Driessen.
Like South Forest Beach, there’s an abundance of quality accommodation close to or on the water here. Facing east, enjoy an uninhibited sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean each morning. Right behind you will also be two prominent golf courses, Shipyard and Long Cove. They’re perfect for an early morning or late afternoon round.
With the beach’s proximity to Pope Avenue, visitors will be able to take advantage of the many adventure outfitters who offer the chance to experience the popular beaches in a different way. Whether it’s surfing, kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding, the choice is yours!