Travel Tips

11 Top-Rated Beaches in South Carolina

South Carolina is not only a wonderful state to visit for its rich history and attractions, it’s also home to magnificent beaches. Stretching for 187 miles along the Atlantic, South Carolina’s coastline boasts some of the most beautiful and unspoiled beaches in the USA.

Some of the most popular beaches for tourists are located on the Grand Strand, a 60-mile stretch of perfect sandy shores located between Georgetown and the Little River area that includes the beaches at Litchfield, Murrells InletSurfside, and Myrtle Beach (the latter alone attracts some 10 million tourist visits a year). Add to this the beaches of Hilton Head Island, and it’s easy to see what all the fuss is about.

To get the most from your time in this beautiful state, read our list of the best beaches in South Carolina.

1. Myrtle Beach

In terms of the volume of visits, Myrtle Beach is by far the most popular beach destination in South Carolina. While much of the draw is due to its many family-friendly tourist attractions, beachfront resorts, and diverse entertainment opportunities, the destination’s magnificent white-sand beaches are what keeps them coming back.

Stretching for 60 miles to the north and south of the main beachfront area with its fun fairs and theme-park-style attractions, Myrtle Beach certainly seems endless… as do the opportunities for fun. Walk the beach (or its very long boardwalk), and you’ll see people enjoying activities as diverse as surfing and scuba diving, as well as simpler pursuits such as collecting shells and building sandcastle, or just pulling up a sun lounger and relaxing.

For those wanting something a little less hectic, head a little farther up the coast to North Myrtle Beach. While the beaches are just as nice, they’re generally quieter the farther away you travel from the busy tourist attractions of the main beach area to the south. There’s plenty of room to spread out here, whether you’re wanting to hit the water and swim, parasail, sea kayak, or just hang out and enjoy the sunshine.

2. Coligny Beach Park, Hilton Head Island

While Hilton Head Island is, in essence, really one very big beach – it boasts 12 miles of beautiful sandy shoreline – there are a number of distinct areas that stand out. For those seeking a wonderful family beach experience, head to Coligny Beach Park. The beach is reached through an attractive public garden with great facilities, including change areas and comfortable swing seats large enough to hold a family (there’s even free Wi-Fi).

From here, follow the path to the matting that extends all the way to the water, enabling access for those in wheelchairs or using other assistive devices. After renting a beach chair and umbrella (or setting up your own), it’s time to enjoy the water, secure in the knowledge that it’s safe for kids, thanks to the presence of lifeguards.

Afterwards, take time away from the water for a stroll around Coligny Plaza, just steps from the beach. Here, you can enjoy a meal or a snack, get in some souvenir shopping, buy beach accessories and clothing, or enjoy a movie or live entertainment. While parking is at a premium during the busy summer season, the island does provide a great shuttle bus service for those willing to park a little farther away. Alternatively, park the car and rent a bike, which you can even use to ride directly on the beach at low tide.

3. Kiawah Beachwalker Park

Located just a short drive away from the beautiful city of Charleston, Kiawah Island boasts an impressive 10 miles of unspoiled sandy beaches. Flanked on one side by the Atlantic and on the other by a vast 10,000-acre tract of woodlands, Kiawah Beachwalker Park – easily accessible from the mainland by bridge – is a great spot for couples and families alike, with public amenities available, including washrooms and change rooms, outdoor showers, picnic areas with barbecues, a pleasant boardwalk, an easy-access ramp for those with mobility issues, and public parking.

Beach gear, such as umbrellas and chairs, are also available for rent. If traveling with kids, make for the well-marked designated swim areas, as these include lifeguards on duty during the peak season.

4. Folly Beach, Charleston

Folly Beach is another great sun spot within easy reach of Charleston. Just 20 minutes’ drive from downtown, and you’re on Folly Island, home to Folly Beach and its excellent fishing pier (don’t forget to pack your rod), which also makes the perfect backdrop for a romantic selfie. Other fun things to do at Folly Beach include outdoor adventures such as sea kayaking and paddleboarding (plenty of rental locations are located nearby), surfing (lessons are available), and dolphin spotting cruises, to name but a few. It’s also a pleasant beach to simply stroll along while enjoying the ocean views.

For a truly unique experience, rent a kayak and paddle around the inland shore of Folly Beach Country Park for some marine wildlife spotting, including dolphins, stingrays, and even bonnethead sharks.

5. Edisto Beach

Regarded as one of the last uncommercialized beach areas in South Carolina, Edisto Beach has a unique charm that makes it particularly attractive for those who like a quieter beach experience. The town of Edisto Beach itself is worth the hour-long journey from Charleston and is as popular for its restaurants as it is for its shops, galleries, quaint bed-and-breakfasts, and relatively laid-back vibe.

In addition to its excellent swimming (without lifeguards, so keep an eye on the kids), adventurous types can explore the unspoiled northern section of the beach, belonging to Edisto Beach State Park, on kayaks or paddleboards. Other fun things to do include beach-side camping, fishing, and, come nightfall, a delightful dolphin-watching or sunset cruise. The park also offers a number of great trails to follow, which in turn can lead to some very quiet places to stop and relax on the beach.

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