2024 South Carolina Beach Guide
Home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the US, South Carolina is an idyllic destination that will leave you feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. From quaint and peaceful coves to bustling boardwalks and lively nightlife, there is something for everyone in this coastal paradise. Whether you’re looking for relaxation or adventure, our comprehensive guide to the best beaches in South Carolina will help you plan the perfect trip. So get ready to dip your toes into the crystal-clear waters and be mesmerized by golden sunsets – South Carolina awaits!
The Grand Strand
The Grand Strand is 60 miles long. The 60-mile stretch of beaches on the SC coastline does not have any barrier islands. Most of the Grand Strand beaches have lifeguards on duty during the summer months. The area has over 120 golf courses from Georgetown to Little River. Most resorts offer golf packages and are referred to as a Golfotel. Grand Strand Resorts include Myrtle Beach, North Myrtle Beach, Litchfield Beach, and Pawleys Island. They are located north of Charleston.
Beaufort County has 65 islands along the SC Coast. St. Helena Island is the largest. There are no beaches on St. Helena Island. The closest beach can be found on nearby Hunting and Fripp Islands. Hunting Island has a state park with more than 5000 acres of wide beaches and a lighthouse.
North Myrtle Beach
North Myrtle Beach is a quieter location – best for family vacations. You can book a hotel/motel room on the beach, close to or near the beach with an ocean view. This is an ideal wedding or honeymoon destination. Many local businesses cater to those wanting to get married here. You can book a place to stay in advance.
North Myrtle Beach has 9 miles of beachfront. You can go biking on the beach, kayaking, boating, swimming, surfing, fishing. The big thing at North Myrtle Beach is shagging. The dance started here. There are festivals where you can shag in the streets till you drop.
The town is located at the northern end of the Grand Strand. Lots of festivals and events all year round. There are a lot of local state and regional parks in the vicinity. Also, there are Water parks, mini-golf courses, and championship golf courses…
Many people come to North Myrtle Beach for shopping. Bargain shopping can be found at area shopping malls, outlets specialty boutiques and waterfront shops. Tanger Outlets, Brand name outlet stores like the Gap, Nike, Oshkosh, Liz Claiborne and more.
Many couples come to North Myrtle Beach for a romantic wedding. There are local wedding planners who can help with all the arrangements. You might even be able to get married on the beach. And best of all, you are already in a great spot for a honeymoon.
Medieval Times Dinner and tournament is at N. Myrtle Beach. You’ll enjoy a medieval feast while watching knights joust and compete in games. Well worth a visit.
The Alabama Theater is located in N. Myrtle Beach. It features an original musical production with special effects and Vegas-style shows featuring celebrity concerts that have included Kenny Rogers, Loretta Lynn and more.
Georgetown is South Carolina’s third oldest port city. Take a river tour of the Pee Dee Plantation District. Visit old historic buildings, homes, and churches in the area. Many of these homes are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Walk along the scenic Harborwalk. Charter a boat to the Gulf Stream for a great day of Fishing Spots.
Tour the Bellefield Nature Center on Waccamaw Neck. Attend one of the many festivals that frequent this area.
Visit the Rice Museum located in the Old Market Building. Built in 1842. The old town clock can be seen here. See exhibits on the history of the old rice plantations that were in the area, plus exhibits on maritime history and rotating art exhibits.
Murrells Inlet is known as the seafood capital of the world. A friend of mine always visited Murrells Inlet’s restaurants while on vacation in North Myrtle Beach. She claimed they were the best seafood restaurants in the area. Murrells Inlet is located south of Myrtle beach via Hwy 17.
Waccamaw Neck is located between the Waccamaw River and the Atlantic Ocean. The towns of Litchfield, Pawley’s Island, Garden City Beach and Murrells Inlet are here. This area has condos and family housing units. Many of these properties overlook private beaches, golf courses and/or bays.
Murrells Inlet has a boardwalk that follows the banks of the inlet. This area has salt marsh grasses where many wading birds stay. Waccamaw Neck has a lot of old plantation homes and other historic homes in the area. There are many antique shops here too.
Huntington Beach State Park is located on US 17 at Murrells Inlet. There is an education center at the park where you can learn about the coast, loggerhead turtles, alligators, birds, and more wildlife. Inside the center is a huge display on birds. Here you can pick up a phone and hear what sound various birds make. There is a touch tank with sea critters like sea urchins, crabs, and clams. Downstairs is an Ecolab and a wetlands lab where school children come to interact every year. There are programs on birdwatching, seashell hunting, birding, snakes, reptiles, loggerhead turtles, more wildlife, coastal kayaking, and more. These programs have a fee. The park has 3 miles of beachfront property.
Brookgreen Gardens is located across from Huntington Beach State Park south of Murrells Inlet. Here you will find unique sculptures within exotic gardens and a wildlife park.
Garden City Beach is located near Murrells Inlet. There is a fishing pier here where you can catch lots of fish. Nearby, you can go jet skiing or parasailing.
Pawley’s Island has some of the highest dunes in South Carolina. At the north end of the island, the beach is actually getting wider. Nearby, Litchfield Beach has the most stable beaches which is a plus for property owners. Pawley’s Island is near Litchfield Beach and has quiet beaches because most are private.
The Hammock Shops Village on Pawley’s Island is a favorite place for shopping. Its located off Hwy. 17. There are many specialty shops as well as great restaurants to visit. There is a jewelry shop, candle shop, the Audubon shop, art galleries, clothing boutiques, a general store, gourmet candy and more unique shopping here.
South Carolina Sea Islands
Beaufort County has 65 islands along the SC Coast. St. Helena Island is the largest, but there are no beaches on St. Helena. The closest beach can be found on nearby Hunting and Fripp Islands. Hunting Island has a state park with more than 5000 acres of wide beaches and a lighthouse.
Capers Island is a State Heritage Preserve near the Isle of Palms. Daniel Island is near Charleston off the South Carolina coast. Daufuskie Island Resort is near Hilton Head Island and is only accessible by boat. Edisto Island is a favorite family vacation spot for many people. Hilton Head Island is located 15 miles from Savannah. Georgia. It is a year-round beach resort. The weather is mild. It is a world-renowned golf resort with lots of things to see and do. The Isle of Palms is located north of Sullivan’s Island off the South Carolina Coast near Charleston. Kiawah Island has 10 miles of beaches. Paris Island is the US Marine Corps recruit training depot. Beaufort and Port Royal Island have deep harbors. Both towns are near Hilton Head Island. Seabrook Island is near Charleston. This is a quiet secluded area. You can golf and play tennis here. There is a marina, beaches and marshes, a maritime forest with trails for hiking, and more. So, have fun. Sullivan’s Island is also near Charleston SC and south of the Isle of Palms. It is next to Mt. Pleasant.
Charleston has some wonderful seafood restaurants. The city is known for its gourmet cuisine. However, if you are not familiar with the area, finding a good restaurant is a hit-and-miss. The best thing to do is take a culinary tour. This will give you an overview of the best restaurants in town making it easier to decide where to go to eat. You will need to make reservations as this tour is quite popular.
There are so many historic places and other interesting things to see and do in Charleston. That said, I recommend taking a narrated carriage tour or a harbor tour to get a good overview of the city of Charleston. The tours cover the highlights discussing a brief history and pointing out interesting facts about the city. After you take a tour, you can then decide if you want to further explore the area more or not.
There are plenty of beaches in the Charleston area to enjoy. The closest beach to Charleston is Folly Beach. Here is a partial list of public beaches in the vicinity:
- Isle of Palms County Park
- Sullivan’s Island
- Folly Beach County Park
- Kiawah Island
- Beach Walker County Park
- Palmetto Island County Park
- North Charleston Wannamaker County Park
Hilton Head Island
Hilton Head Island has lots of things to do. However many of these tours and water sports are seasonal and are only offered a few months of the year. So, call ahead to make sure and make reservations. This information was gathered from a visit to Hilton Head Island in August 2006. Some information may have changed since then.
Take a dolphin tour. Explore dolphins and birds in their natural habitat. Get up close to the Dolphins. Reservations are recommended as these tours are very popular. Prices vary from tour company to tour company. Tours are available at the area marinas around Hilton Head Island, for example, Shelter Cove Marina, South Beach Marina, and Pinckney Island. The tour takes 2 hours.
There are sunset cruises, sunrise tours, moonlight tours, dinner cruises, and fireworks cruises. You can rent a pontoon boat to explore the coastal waters around Hilton Head or charter a boat with your own private captain. There are 2-hour guided kayak nature tours, 4-hour Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge tours, and a 6-hour tour down Bull Creek and the Callibogue Sound. You can get instructions for kayaking and rent a kayak. You can go fishing in a Kayak. You can water ski, wakeboard, parasail above the waves, or go tubing.
There are excursions to Daufuskie Island which is only accessible by boat. The island is rich in history. The guided tour takes 4 hours.
Many people visit Hilton Head Island to golf. It’s known as a golf resort. There is miniature golf too. The Island is so popular that there is no offseason.
You can rent bikes. I saw people riding bikes on the beach and around the island. You can rent sailboats, kayaks, umbrellas, and chairs for the beach too.
Hilton Head Island has the best beaches in South Carolina and some say the US East Coast. To get to Hilton Head Island take I-95 to US-278 East, south of Beaufort. There are Golf courses, tennis courts, boutiques, shops, outlet malls, resorts, and the Harbor Towne Lighthouse with a gift shop at the top. At Hilton Head, you can watch for Bottlenose Dolphins at Dolphin Head located at Hilton Head Plantation on the northern shore of the island. There are bluffs overlooking the Point Royal Sound where you can spot dolphins from the top. Hilton Head Beach is on the East end of the Island and located on Port Royal Plantation. Great views and hikes. North Forest Beach is on the south end of the island and so is South Beach which is Hilton Island’s widest beach. Things to do: Clamming, fishing, bird watching, dolphin watching, picnicking, hiking, tennis playing, golfing, sunbathing and lots more. There are some great seafood restaurants and nightclubs. Hilton Head is so popular there is no off-season. Hardeeville is about 15 miles away.
Fishing Spots in the surf. You can go beachcombing, crabbing, and Shrimping. You can go deep-sea fishing and night shark fishing too (not from the beach, chartered fishing boats).
Harbour Town is the home of the famous Harbour Town lighthouse. Coastal Discovery Museum has a variety of programs that teach you about nature, alligators, turtles, and more. The Sandbox is an interactive children’s museum that has educational and family-oriented exhibits. There is horseback riding on a guided trail. There are stables and a petting zoo at the Sea Pines resort. Pony rides and riding lessons are available. No horses are allowed on public beaches. Water Slides – Waterfun Park at South Forest Beach Dr at the Comfort Inn South Forest Beach. The water park has 3 giant water slides, a toddler pool with animal slides, and a fountain. There is an 18-hole miniature golf course too.
Savannah Georgia is very close by. So if you get bored at Hilton Head, you can head on over to Savannah.
Isle of Palms
Isle of Palms is located near Charleston. You can fish, swim, golf, go boating, sailing and play in the sand. It’s a beautiful place to visit. The Isle of Palms is located north of Sullivan’s Island off the coast of Mt Pleasant which is just North of Charleston South Carolina. It has some beautiful wide beaches here. To get here, you have to go through Mt. Pleasant and cross the Isle of Palms connector bridge.
Isle of Palms is a very small island with a private pier that is only accessible if you stay at the villa that owns it. We walked on the beach quite a lot. It was not very crowded during the week however on the weekend as expected it was more crowded. There were about 3 souvenir shops that had the same things available at every other beach resort. Parking was provided by the hotel we stayed at, for a $6.00 fee added to the bill. Public parking is available for $6.00 a day near Ocean Blvd for day visitors. Public access to the beach is available throughout the area. There is a public county park that closes at 7:00 pm which is very nice. It has restrooms, a playground, beach access, lifeguards, and a boardwalk to the beach.
The main reason to go to the Isle of Palms instead of Hilton Head was the attractions. Simply put, there is more to see and do here. Charleston attractions are about 20 minutes away. We visited the SC aquarium, Patriots Point which included the USS Yorktown, and then took a harbor cruise.
When traveling to and from the Isle of Palms you cross over a bridge. Many people walk, jog, and ride bikes along this bridge’s shoulder. The town has two main roads which are Ocean Blvd and Palm Blvd. Between these roads are connecting roads interlocking across the island. Ocean Blvd runs the length of the island along the oceanside. It is lined with hotels, villas, and beach houses. Everything on the island is within walking distance. The fire department and rescue squad are located not far from Ocean Blvd. We found we could walk to restaurants of our choice, visit the souvenir shop, get an ice cream cone, and pizza, and stroll on the beach all within a very short distance from our oceanfront beach hotel.
Beaufort is located on the South Carolina coast near Hilton Head Island, the USMC Recruit Depot, The Marine Corps Air Station, Hilton Head Island Golf Courses, and Public Fishing spots. Attractions include the Downtown Marina, Waterfront Park, historic homes from the colonial and Civil War era, The South Carolina National Golf Club, the University of South Carolina at Beaufort, Hunting Island State Park, and the United States Marine Corps Air Station
Beaufort and Port Royal have deep harbors. The two cities are located on Port Royal Island. There are full-service marinas in both towns where you can take a boat out to the ocean for diving or deep-sea fishing. Another public beach is located 17 miles east of Beaufort at Hunting Island State Park.
Hunting Island State Park is located east of Beaufort off the US-21 south. Good place for fishing and bird watching. There is a lighthouse here.
Spanish Moss and Oak trees line the streets of both Beaufort and Port Royal. Shop for Antiques, handmade chocolates or unique gifts. Take a romantic horse-drawn carriage ride through history. There are historic houses and sites in the area.
Both Beaufort and Port Royal have several festivals and events throughout the year. The seafood restaurants are excellent. There is a public beach in Port Royal. Another public beach is located 17 miles east of Beaufort at Hunting Island State Park.
Mount Pleasant is just over the bridge from Charleston SC. It is also a few minutes away from the beaches. You can shop at the boutique and antique shops.
Visit historic sites. The USS Yorktown carrier, a submarine, and a destroyer are all docked at Patriot’s point here. Other nearby historic sites include The Congressional Medal of Honor museum, the Boone Hall Plantation, Charles Pinckney National Historic Site, and the departure point for Fort Sumter National Monument.
The closest beaches are on Sullivan’s Island and the Isle of Palms. These beaches are within a few minutes away. You have to cross the Isle of Palms connector bridge from Mt. Pleasant.
There are also festivals held throughout the year. In September, the Scottish Games and Highland Gathering is held here.
Mt. Pleasant is known for its shrimp fleet. You can go fishing and golfing here. There’s a sailing school, old plantations, shops, ferry services, sea kayaking and more. You can go deep-sea fishing, kayaking, boating, crabbing, play tennis or golf. Go hiking or biking on the nature trails around here. There is a fishing pier too.
The nearby water park is located in the Palmetto Islands Country Park. It has a 200 ft slide and lots more.
Folly Beach is the closest beach to Charleston SC. It is a very popular beach for surfing and nightlife. There are 5 miles of beaches, golf, public tennis courts, a fishing pier, and the sunsets are spectacular here. At Folly Beach, public beach access is at Country Park where there are showers, restrooms, picnic areas, and a boardwalk. Lifeguards are on duty during the tourist season. There is a parking fee too. Come play in the sand and surf. Build sandcastles. Frolic in the ocean waves. Fly kites. Go surfing, boating, sailing or just sit in the sun and relax.
Near Charleston in Folly Beach County Beach. Isle of Palms County Park is 25 minutes from Charleston and open to the public. There are family beach house rentals available through local real estate agencies. There are also some really good seafood restaurants here. Folly Beach claims to have the longest pier on the US east coast. The pier is 1000 ft long. Go fishing, surfing, play tennis.