Looking for a coastal getaway with Southern charm? Look no further than this guide to the best beaches in South Carolina. From the vibrancy of Myrtle Beach to easy-going Kiawah Island, South Carolina offers everything for an unforgettable Southeast USA beach trip.
Right in the middle of the U.S. East Coast, South Carolina is easily accessible and the perfect destination for a quick weekend getaway or week of relaxation. You can spend your time relaxing on the beach, toughing out deep-sea fishing, or chowing down on the freshest seafood in the Atlantic Ocean.
Ready to start planning your South Carolina seaside getaway? Find everything you need for your family vacation at one of these favorite South Carolina beaches.
Top-rated South Carolina beaches
When you think of South Carolina beaches, Myrtle Beach likely comes to mind. The coastal city of Myrtle Beach is the most popular beach destination in South Carolina. With its 60-mile stretch of beach and plenty of entertainment for the whole family, you won’t want to miss this must-see SC beach.
Myrtle Beach is home to over 1,000 hotels, beachfront resorts, and plenty of restaurants. With so many cool things to see & do in Myrtle Beach, you could easily spend your whole SC vacation in the coastal city.
Spend hot summer days soaking up the South Carolina sun on its endless white-sand beaches. Or enjoy Myrtle Waves Water Park, one of the city’s three family-friendly water parks. If you’re an adventure enthusiast, you can also enjoy plenty of water activities like paragliding or downwind sailing along its 60 miles of beach.
Myrtle Beach is also known for its amusement parks and arcades huddled around the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk. Grab the kids and play some carnival games. Or ride the city’s 187-foot-tall observation wheel, SkyWheel Myrtle Beach, and dazzle at incredible views over the city and ocean.
For a quieter experience, head up to Crescent Beach in North Myrtle Beach. The family-friendly beach is a fantastic spot for chillin’ out with the waves lapping at your toes while the kids frolic in the water.
Looking to escape Charleston, SC? Look no further than Folly Island, home to Folly Beach. Just a 20-minute drive from downtown, this South Carolina beach is one of the top day trips from Charleston. With its sandy beaches and quirky restaurants, Folly Beach is the perfect antidote to Charleston city life.
Start your day on Folly Island early with a deep-sea fishing trip. Or grab a spot on the deck for pier fishing to see what you can reel in closer to the shore.
Along with Folly Beach, you can spend time exploring the Folly River. Opt for a local safari SUP tour to paddleboard along the river and catch glimpses of Charleston’s nature. Once you’ve worked up an appetite head to Rita’s Seaside Grill to enjoy fresh seafood to the sounds of a live band.
Kiawah Island is one of those SC destinations you’ll want to keep going back to time and time again. It’s still under the radar, making it more exclusive and lesser-known while maintaining its natural beauty.
For many travelers, the main attraction on Kiawah Island is its championship golf course. If you have a golfer in the family, it’s the perfect spot to go for world-class golf.
Although small, Kiawah Island is home to a few different landscapes, giving you a plethora of activities to choose from. Relax on its white-sand beach, walk on its sand dunes, or paddleboard and kayak through maritime forests drenched with marshes. Every inch of Kiawah Island is soaked with spectacular views. Hop on a bike to explore all its nooks and crannies.
Kiawah Island is about 45 minutes south of Charleston. Early risers will love starting their day trip by enjoying a spectacular sunrise over the ocean. It’s often touted as one of the most beautiful sunrises on the East Coast.
Hilton Head Island
One of the most popular places to visit in South Carolina, Hilton Head Island is the perfect East Coast island destination. It’s loaded with plenty of opportunities for adventure. (Of course, you’ll also get plenty of time for lazing around Hilton Head’s beautiful beaches.)
Compact and loaded with attractions, Hilton Head is the perfect destination to enjoy outdoor activities without the hassle of renting a car. Along its slew of bike paths, you’ll be able to travel the whole island on two wheels. The island is home to 12 miles of white sandy beaches to make all your summer dreams come true.
Beach bums should start with Coligny Beach Park. The park is the most popular beach in Hilton Head, famous for its white sands and walking & bike paths. After lazing in the sun, eat delicious food and stock up on beach gear at Coligny Plaza. This buzzing outdoor shopping area is located just north of Coligny Beach.
Elsewhere on the island, you’ll enjoy an array of quieter beaches including Burkes Beach, Islanders Beach Park, Fish Haul Beach, and South Beach.
Besides its beaches, the most popular places to go in Hilton Head are its sporty & family-friendly attractions. Hit a round of golf at one of the island’s award-winning golf courses. Or bring the kids to Adventure Cove, to enjoy its arcade games and mini-golf course.
After a day in the sun, relax on a catamaran for a sunset dinner cruise on a catamaran. Enjoy unforgettable views of a fiery East Coast sunset on this popular activity.
Isle of Palms
Located just 35 minutes away from downtown Charleston, the Isle of Palms offers the perfect South Carolina beach getaway. With its over 50 different beach access points, you’ll be digging your toes in the sand in no time here.
Water sports are a huge draw in Isle of Palms. With great surf and plenty of sailing opportunities, it’s one of the best places in South Carolina to hit the water.
If you’re driving into Isle of Palms from Charleston, you’ll find plenty of public parking along the beach. It’ll set you back just $10 for the whole day.
Want to spend a weekend on Isle of Palms instead? Lay down your head at one of the incredible bungalows at the Wild Dunes Resort. This upscale resort takes up the whole eastern end of the island. From the resort, you’ll enjoy easy access to the beach along with a beautiful golf course.
Huntington Beach State Park
Located in Murrells Inlet, Huntington Beach State Park is right on the South Carolina coast. The popular state park is surrounded by wetlands and the Atlantic Ocean, making it the perfect place for bird watchers and nature lovers.
Three miles of pristine beach cling to the shores at Huntington Beach State Park. They’re an ideal destination for a relaxing day. The state park is also known to have great fishing from the shore. Don’t forget to pack your rod and reel!
Over 2,500 acres await at Huntington Beach State Park for you to explore. On its nature trails, you can discover over 300 species of birds. Along the river, you might even spot some alligators and turtles.
If you want to bask in the outdoors overnight, the state park offers over 173 campsites.
Edisto Beach State Park
Located an hour southwest of Charleston, Edisto Island is a laid-back, untouched island with incredible views. The island is home to Edisto Beach State Park, one of SC’s must-see camping destinations. The park gives you the best of both worlds. With two separate campsites, you can either enjoy a beachfront site or a shaded backcountry site. Either way, you’re destined to be in a relaxed state of mind at Edisto Beach
With easy beach access, Edisto Island is the perfect spot for an unpretentious SC beach vacation. Just be aware: there are no lifeguards at the beach. Be sure to keep a watchful eye out for the kids.
If you are wanting a change of scenery for the afternoon, drive four miles to Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve. On the 4,687 acres stood two former plantations. Visit the preserve to enjoy a free-driving tour through its historic acreage.
There’s hardly a better beach in South Carolina for adventure-seekers than Surfside Beach. The deep blue waters of this popular family destination are perfect for like diving, jet-skiing, parasailing—and even riding a banana boat.
Located just south of Myrtle Beach, Surfside Beach is a great beach for both swimming and relaxing. At the end of a day soaking up the sun, enjoy a cocktail in one of the beach bars, and take in the view.
Surfside Beach is the perfect place to avoid the large crowds elsewhere on the coast but still enjoy plenty of activities on your South Carolina beach vacation. With lots of antique shopping and yummy seafood, Surfside has everything you need for a fun day in the sun. Grab your beach umbrella and blanket and find your spot on the coast for the ultimate beach day.
Those looking to explore the town can find some great shopping in Surfside Beach. Explore Old Time Pottery for some unique dining sets, and Hudson’s Surfside Flea Market for a range of eclectic collectibles.
With a long stretch of beach and calm water, Burkes Beach is an ideal beach spot on Hilton Head Island. Close to Chaplin Community Park and several biking trails, it’s one of the easiest beaches in Hilton Head to visit by bike. It’s also got plenty of parking spots for road trippers.
Grab a book and a blanket after an early morning on the water to soak in the solitude of Burkes Beach. On its quiet expanse of white sand, you’ll love basking in the sun without the crowds of other popular Hilton Head Island beaches.
For outdoor enthusiasts, it doesn’t get much better than Murrells Inlet. The small town occupies a quiet coastal area, with three miles of uncrowded beach and marshlands to discover.
Early in the morning, spend some time on Murrells Inlet Marsh Walk to enjoy an amazing sunrise. If you’re not an early riser, this is also a great place to enjoy lunch and an afternoon out in nature. Keep your eyes peeled to spot birds in the trees and fish in the river.
In Murrells Inlet, you’ll also find Huntington Beach State Park. At the park, you can enjoy relaxing on the beach and explore Atalaya Castle. The Moorish-style mansion will make you feel like you’ve been transported to Europe.
Finally, don’t forget to stop by Brookgreen Gardens to enjoy its beautiful botanical gardens and a collection of sculptures so intricate that you’ll want to reach out and touch them. Thanks to its zoo, Brookgreen Gardens is also a popular destination for families.
Hunting Island State Park
One million visitors visit Hunting Island State Park every year, making it South Carolina’s most popular state park. With its five miles of sandy beaches and 5,000 acres of marsh and maritime forest, it attracts beach lovers and campers alike. There’s something for everyone in your family here.
Hunting Island State Park is home to the only accessible lighthouse in South Carolina. Climb its 167 steps to take in spectacular bird’s-eye views of the ocean. Over 10 hiking trails will allow you to discover the natural beauty of the area. You’ll love the close-up views of the salt marsh and a chance to observe wildlife in its natural habitat.
After a long morning of hiking, cool off in the Atlantic Ocean. Be aware though: There are no lifeguards on duty at this beach. You’ll be swimming at your own risk.