11 Best Beaches in South Carolina

Updated On October 4, 2023

Everyone has their own version of ‘paradise.’

But if your definition involves warm white sand and ageless beaches, South Carolina must be on your best beaches list.

The Palmetto State cherishes roughly 2,800 miles of stress-reducing coastline known as the ‘Grand Strand.’

Some are wind-swept and desolate.

The more popular vanilla-white stretches host resort-styled bungalows.

Boardwalks lead to beach grills and kid-proof restaurants.

And for those beach aficionados looking for serene spots for a sunrise stroll, South Carolina has that too.

In fact, this southeastern coastal playground combines enviable weather, hundreds (yes, hundreds) of golf courses, marinas, and that ever-elusive beachcomber’s style.

11 Best Beaches in South Carolina

Myrtle Beach
Myrtle Beach

1. Myrtle Beach

Myrtle Beach is golf central.

For most visitors, it is the first stop on the 60-mile stretch of sand known as the Grand Strand.

Myrtle Beach is popular for its soft sands and kid-friendly atmosphere.

Luckily, even when crowded, the sheer size of Myrtle Beach dispurses the crowds, allowing for a semi-private day.

The water is known to be warm, perfect for beachy-related activities such as jet skiing, surfing, and soaking up a few rays.

If you fancy a bite, nearby restaurants range from casual coastal shacks to upscale cuisine.

Running around the Kingdom Amusement Park will ensure a good night’s sleep.

And there are over 90 golf courses in the small, 35,000-resident town.

As a premier spring break destination, Myrtle Beach has an active nightlife, something you would expect of a premier spring break destination.

Hunting Island State Park
Hunting Island State Park

2. Hunting Island State Park

Beaufort, South Carolina, has a secret.

Just 17 miles east of the sleepy community is a destination jewel.

Hunting Island State Park sports a diverse ecosystem with saltwater lagoons and sea grass-filled marshes.

The animal residents of the park include loggerhead turtles, deer, and even a few east coast cousins of the diamondback rattlesnake.

But the jewel of the park is five miles of pristine sands.

Because of the ocean currents, Hunting Island State Park Beach is also one of the area’s best places for beachcombing and shark tooth hunting.

And a great launch point for anglers to surf-fish for trout or flounder.

While exploring, don’t forget to tour the cast iron Hunting Island lighthouse built in 1858.

Kiawah Island
Kiawah Island

3. Kiawah Island

The closest you’ll come to paradise in South Carolina is Kiawah Island.

The secret beach of South Carolina’s Lowcountry is a private island.

It boasts ten miles of wispy dunes and lush marshes.

Reminiscent of a forgotten maritime wilderness, these sands are owners only.

The nearest accessible area is near the Island’s eastern tip.

Beachwalker County Park is a small stretch with picnic tables and seasonal lifeguards.

Even if you are only visiting, Kiawah Island will not disappoint.

Thirty miles of hike and bike trails crisscross the Island, peppered with lavish resorts.

And you guessed it, golf courses.

Seabrook Island
Seabrook Island

4. Seabrook Island

If your family is in tow, but you still yearn for an island paradise, Seabrook Island is the place.

Its two beaches – Pelican Beach and North Beach – extend for four miles of sandy peace.

Pelican Beach is the spot for families with warm waters with gentle waves.

North Beach is more of an activity beach.

It offers a smooth stretch perfect for horseback riding or bird watching.

During the winter months, dolphin pods can be spotted offshore.

Hilton Head
Hilton Head

5. Hilton Head

Hilton Head is the perfect combination of beach style and indulgence.

This famed barrier island sits 30 miles northeast of Savannah, Georgia, ringed with sigh-inducing beaches.

Luckily, all of Hilton Head Island’s beaches are public, from the ocean to the high tide water mark.

If you are looking for a bevy of beachgoers, try Coligny Beach Park.

But if solitude is the name of the game, try Islanders Beach.

It’s the best unkept secret on the Island. Sailing and deep-sea fishing charters abound for a day out on the water.

But Hilton Head is not just about sand and surf.

The Island is also famed for luxurious spas, upscale shopping, well-manicured greens, and tennis.

You might even find a pickleball court or two.

Pawleys Island
Pawleys Island

6. Pawleys Island

Pawleys Island combines a few traditional resorts with a surprising remoteness.

Almost indistinguishable from the mainland, this barrier isle remains largely undeveloped.

With mostly private homes and a dozen boutique-style hotels, Pawleys Island’s wispy sands are an excellent place to recharge and restore.

The list of activities is short.

The Island’s historic district and short boardwalk near the marina will provide some exercise.

But if shopping is your game, Myrtle Beach or Hilton Head are only a few hours’ drive.

For nature enthusiasts, the area is heavenly.

If you are battling a golf binge, then Pawleys Plantation Golf & Country Club is a short drive across the South Causeway Bridge.

Sullivan's Island
Sullivan’s Island

7. Sullivan’s Island

Sullivan’s Island is a four-square-mile barrier island and one of the preferred weekend jaunts for Charleston residents.

Its draw? The vanilla white beaches and calm water.

The fact that it sits less than ten east of downtown Charleston is a boon.

And the tranquil waters are perfect for newbie SUP paddle boarders, kayakers, and snorkelers.

But bring your favorite board and gear because there are no beachside vendors or rentals.

Sullivan’s Island also has a history worth exploring.

Fort Moultrie National Monument and lighthouse guard the entry to the bay.

And according to legend, the area fueled Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Gold Bug.”

Bulls Island
Bulls Island

8. Bulls Island

Bulls Island is the place to go to avoid, well, everything.

Undeveloped and uninhabited, it is part of the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge.

One of the many barrier islands, Bulls Island, is dedicated entirely to nature.

It is a bird watchers’ paradise.

Its beaches are more scenic than functional.

However, some visitors enjoy a few minutes of sunbathing.

North Beach is for shell hunting.

But all shells must be left, for taking any living shell from the Island is illegal.

Nearby, Boneyard Beach, known to locals as “The Boneyard,” is aptly named for its many downed trees and desolate atmosphere.

The waters surrounding both beaches are gentle, perfect for wading.

Bulls Island is a great day trip, but double-check the boat schedules.

It is only accessible by ferry from Garris Landing — 25 miles northeast of Charleston.

Isle of Palms
Isle of Palms

9. Isle of Palms

Slightly northeast of Sullivan’s Island sits the Isle of Palms.

Reachable from the mainland by the IOP Connector Bridge – 517.

The Isle of Palms is a centralized beach community with six miles of public shoreline.

At the end of the IOP-517 is Front Beach – a great ‘day’ beach.

For those who face the lure of the links, there are also two PGA public golf courses on the barrier island.

Water enthusiasts will find all of the usual activities: kayaking and fishing.

There is also enough churn for modest surfing.

The Isle of Palms County Park, mid-way down the Island, is a busy beach with vendors, chair and umbrella rentals, and seasonal lifeguards.

Edisto Island Beach
Edisto Island Beach

10. Edisto Island Beach

Edisto Island is a small barrier half-island that proudly claims to be one of South Carolina’s most family-friendly and best beaches.

The coastal community is home to roughly 1,000 year-round residents, although during the summer, that swells significantly.

Edisto Beach is a residential hub.

It consists mostly of vacation cottages and waterfront homes.

Public camping is allowed at Edeisto Beach State Park at the Island’s north end.

It is this lack of tourist-centric development that has preserved the serpentine shore.

But lack of over-development doesn’t mean that Edisto Island lacks life.

Not far from the soft sands are unique shops.

And casual restaurants line Palmetto Boulevard.

Folly Beach
Folly Beach

11. Folly Beach

Folly Beach on Folly Island is one of the most well-known South Carolinian summer destinations on the east coast.

It is an easy day trip for Charlestonite, just ten miles south of the city.

But its baby-powder soft white sands and accessibility make Folly Beach the perfect place to catch some sun or splash in the waves.

Center Street Beach and Folly Beach County Park are prime spots of sand.

The Edwin S. Taylor Fishing Pier is a tourist draw, especially at sunset.

Folly Beach is also known as an angler’s paradise.

Boat fishing requires a license which is available online.

Closer to shore, pier fishing is all the rage.

Just grab a pier-friendly wristband and go; a permit is not needed.

Unfortunately, Folly Island’s popularity means lots of traffic, minimal parking, and crowds.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What color is the sand in South Carolina?

Most South Carolina sandy beaches are covered with ground quartz and calcite from shells.

This mix of ground glass and stone covers the state’s shoreline with barefoot soft, bleach-white sand.

Can you shore-fish in South Carolina?

From eels to bass, the Palmetto State has some impressively fishable waters.

However, in most cases, a fishing license is required.

A handful of piers sell wristband permits.

Shore casting requires a state permit – easily and quickly purchased online.

What kind of sharks are found off the South Carolina coast?

Sharks are abundant in the shallow coastal waters of South Carolina during the summer months and offshore year-round.

Some of the most abundant species include bull, tiger, and nurse sharks.

Great white sharks are common in the area, mostly in winter months.

Georgia vs. South Carolina - Who claims Hilton Head Island?

The beautiful island playground of Hilton Head Island is part of the barrier island system and is located at the southernmost tip of South Carolina.

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