Whether you’re getting away for a week, just a day, or even a few hours, there are several colorful beach towns on the South Carolina coast worth visiting. You’ll find a bit of history, a whole lot of beauty, and plenty of opportunities to make memories.
When it comes to South Carolina beach towns, where you should go depends a lot on who you’re going with and what your ultimate goal is, whether that’s some alone time in nature replenishing your soul, or reconnecting with friends and family and maybe a bit of your wild side. To help you decide which beach to throw your towel down on, we’ve outlined what each city is known for and offered up suggestions on where to go, why, and what to do once you’re there.
Here are 19 South Carolina coastal towns that we know you and your crew will adore!
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Charleston – The Something For Everyone City
Founded in 1670, Charleston is the oldest town in South Carolina, and it truly has something everyone can enjoy. Really. If you just want to pick a spot on the sand and sleep, you can do it. If you want to explore the historic district, and there’s ample history here, you can do that, too, whether you take a carriage ride or rent a bike to explore.
You’ll find great food in famous restaurants and some super chic nightlife, if that’s what you’re after. And that famous hospitality you hear about in the South, well, this is the capital of that, too. In fact, Charleston has been called the most polite and hospitable city in the country.
Beaufort – Let’s Call This The Enchanting City
First, let’s get the pronunciation right. In this state, it’s BEW-furd.
Beaufort is right behind Charleston when it comes to the oldest cities in South Carolina, but has more of the small town atmosphere. Much like Charleston, you’ll still find quite a bit of antebellum architecture here, and several spots may look familiar, since scenes were filmed here for Forrest Gump, The Prince of Tides, and The Big Chill.
If you want to get your toes in the sand, you should head to Hunting Island Beach, or if you want to be more secluded, go to Land’s End Beach instead. And once you get your fill of that, spend some of your time enjoying the art you can find pretty much everywhere. There are cultural festivals and stores packed with books, art, antiques and more.
If that’s too mild for you, it’s also a place to find some water sports excitement, since National Geographic named it the seventh-best waterfront adventure town.
Daufuskie Island – If You’re Looking To Escape, This Is The Spot For You
You have to take a boat to get to Daufuskie Island, which makes it very isolated and the ideal spot for anyone looking to truly get away from it all. The island is found between Savannah and Hilton Head, and it’s one of the least crowded beaches you’ll find in the state. It’s quiet, but that doesn’t mean it’s boring.
There are two “sides” of the island, Daufuskie and Haig Point. There are very few cars allowed on the island on either side. Mostly, you’ll find electric golf carts to help you get around. And without cars and crowds, the only noise you’re likely to hear is someone yelling “four” while spending a few hours at the top-ranked golf course. Or some wild calls of nature. There’s plenty of that here.
You’ll find an equestrian center at Haig Point. That’s also where you’ll be able to find a place to stay and several spots to eat. There are other rentals available on the Daufuskie side, too. That’s where you’re more likely to find more of the local flavor, and the local flavors, like deviled crab, southern grits, collard greens and cornbread. It’s a great place to connect with the folks who live on the island year-round.
Folly Beach – Land Of The Laid-Back
Charleston is just down the road, and much more about the business side of the city, where Folly Beach is truly about feeling carefree. The laid-back vibes make it perfect for the less serious stuff in life, like lounging in the sun, or learning how to surf.
There are lots of small inns and houses you can rent, but you can also stay in the full-service oceanfront hotel, Tides Folly Beach. Its least attractive attribute is that it’s so popular, but honestly, you’ll soon see why when you spend a few hours here. You’ll find the basics for any fishing town – a pier and a lighthouse – but also some fun restaurants and bars, as well.
Seabrook Island – Most Exclusive Beach Town On The List
Seabrook Island is a barrier island packed with miles of untouched beaches, peaceful marshes, and a watery forest. It’s gated, so you’ll need special access to spend your time here. You can rent a home and relax for the weekend or longer and enjoy some of the quietest beaches in the state.
Here you’ll find impeccable dining options, top-tier shopping, nationally recognized golf courses and a marina where you can expect to see some very expensive vessels. Of course, you can rent smaller boats, or skiffs, too.
Something else you’re likely to see: The dozens of volunteers who work as the turtle patrol, looking for and protecting loggerhead turtle nests. The turtles return to the same beach year during nesting season, and may lay up to 450 eggs at a time.
You can also see alligators, along with dolphins, deer, and birds. Sunset here is spectacular from the marsh side and the sea side. You just can’t lose.
Sullivan’s Island – The Small Town Packed With Big Charm
Sullivan’s Island is a two-and-a-half mile-long barrier island situated near the mouth of the Charleston Harbor. There’s no commercial development, and very little garbage. It’s a well-kept beach where you can still do all the adventurous things like kiteboarding, sailing, and kayaking.
You can soak up some history by taking a boat out for the Fort Sumter tour, and even see the spot where Edgar Allen Poe was stationed and set his short story “The Gold Bug” years later. Fort Moultrie is another draw. It’s a national monument, built during the Revolutionary War.
You can rent a spot to stay on the beach and maybe even walk the entire public beach span while you’re here, since it’s only a little more than three miles long. Also be sure to check out the Sullivan’s Island Lighthouse, which is one of the last of the lighthouses ever built in the U.S.
Edisto Island – A Slow, Peaceful Pace
Edisto Island has five miles of peaceful beach for you to explore. It’s almost impossible to walk the shores and not spot turtles, dolphins, pelicans or egrets, along with a crab or two.
Plenty of people come for the golf, but you can also take a sunset cruise or book a fishing charter. I personally love catching sunset at dinner here, enjoying some of the freshest seafood you’ll ever find.
There are tons of condo and home rentals, and some timeshares, too. You can even camp out at Edisto Beach State Park. You can bring your best friend, too, because dogs are welcome on the beach here.
Isle Of Palms – My Favorite Upscale Spot To Get Active and Explore
Isle of Palms is an ideal beach to plant yourself for some fun, as long as your idea of fun is being active. One of the best tennis classes of my life was given here. There’s also surfing, paddle boarding, golfing, and so much more.
When my family visited, we stayed at Wild Dunes in a gorgeous rental unit, complete with a penthouse. We took an eco-boat tour that gave us an educational evening that the kids actually enjoyed, learning all about the oysters and crabs all over the waterways, along with the other wildlife.
You can also enjoy the beach at Isle of Palms County Park. They even have beach-accessible wheelchairs, which I personally hope becomes something every beach in the state and nation start to adopt. There are dozens of beach access points in the area, and even grills on the beach that you can use. It’s the perfect place for a family-friendly adventrue.
Pawleys Island – The Beach Of No Stop Lights
Pawleys Island is another great escape that takes you away from the day to day grind by taking you back in time a bit. It’s one of the oldest summer resorts on the East Coast and doesn’t have any stop lights. None.
The big excitement here is fishing and crabbing, or searching for seashells. There are three miles of idyllic coastline here. There are two historic inns on the island – the Sea View and the Pelican Inn (built in 1840) – and they’re great for a long weekend, but you can also rent a vacation home with an ocean view, too.
There’s more than just the beach, though. You can also head to the South Carolina Maritime Museum or stop in to The Pawleys Island Chapel, where many couples decide to tie the knot. The shoreline is stunning on what the locals call “the Hammock Coast”, because of the shape this land takes through this region.
Hilton Head Island – If You’re Here For A Good Time, This Is Where You Go
Hilton Head is a major draw and fan favorite for the entire state. It’s always ranked among the best islands in the nation. There are about two dozen championship golf courses in this region, but it’s good for families too, thanks to its 12 miles of beaches packed with fun things to do.
You’ll find plenty of big high end resorts, including the Marriott and Omni, or the boutique hotel called The Inn & Club at Harbour Town.
You just can’t run out of things to do at HHI. Beyond the beach and golfing, many people enjoy the waterfront village of Harbour Town, and go up in the Lighthouse where you can get a panoramic view of the Calibogue Sound and nearby Daufuskie Island.
You’ll also be tempted to spend a dime or two in the boutique shops and restaurants, or the spend a bit of time exploring the Sea Pines Forest Preserve.
Murrells Inlet – Best Place For Great Seafood
Murrells Inlet is known as the seafood capital of South Carolina. It’s a little fishing village not far from Myrtle Beach (about 30 minutes), but feels like a whole world away with its quaint fishing village packed with charm. It’s also oozing loads of history, with a backstory that involves the infamous pirate, Blackbeard.
There are tons of deep sea excursions and boat rental options, along with MarshWalk, a half-mile wooden boardwalk, where you can find some fabulous waterfront restaurants where you can also find live music.
Black River Outdoors offers kayak tours of the salt marshes around Murrells Inlet. Huntington Beach State Park is also a big draw to the area, and Black River offers a 2-hour paddle around the salt marshes at the state park with a Huntington Beach State Park naturalist.
Murrells Inlet is also home to the Moorish/Spanish-style Atalaya Castle, one of the state’s most distinctive historical homes. It was the winter retreat for Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington, and they’re responsible for starting Brookgreen Gardens, which is the oldest and largest public sculpture garden in the country, with more than 2,000 sculptures on display, right next to centuries-old live oak trees. The 2,500-acre property is also home to more than 300 bird species, ranging from bald eagles, ospreys, seabirds, and more. And it’s a nesting ground for loggerhead sea turtles.
Myrtle Beach – If You’re Bringing The Kids, This Is Where You’ll Want To Be
Myrtle Beach is considered the unofficial capital of the Grand Strand, with a 60-mile stretch of beaches. There are all kinds of activities on the water and onshore.
The kids are really going to love the SkyWheel Ferris wheel and all the fun you can find at the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk and Promenade. (Mom is going to love the shops there, too.)
Myrtle Beach also has an aquarium, an amusement park, and a trampoline park. And you can always find a show at the Alabama Theater. And I haven’t even mentioned the mini golf courses. Myrtle Beach has more than four dozen of them.
Read More: 27 Cheap & Free Things To Do In Myrtle Beach
North Myrtle Beach – Myrtle Beach’s Little Sister
The claim to fame for North Myrtle Beach is that it’s Vanna White’s hometown. The welcome signs even brag about this fact.
North Myrtle Beach is full of small town charm and plenty of fun things to do. Music is a big thing in North Myrtle Beach, and you’ll find the House of Blues here is one of the best live music venues in the area. What goes hand in hand with music? Dancing! North Myrtle Beach has plenty of that, too. In fact, North Myrtle Beach is where the Shag dance was invented! (SC trivia: The Shag is the official state dance of South Carolina!)
You’ll find popular annual festivals, water sports, Duplin Winery, the Alabama Theatre, and restaurants, shopping and entertainment in North Myrtle Beach. It’s the perfect place for a fun beach getaway on the coast.
Kiawah Island – Where The Wealthy Choose To Relax
Kiawah Island gets a level all its own in my book. It’s packed with million-dollar houses that are second homes in many cases, with some sections of the island set up as gated communities. You can rent homes here or book a stay at The Sanctuary, its luxurious beachfront hotel with a spa, pools, and a variety of dining venues, including the acclaimed Ocean Room.
The golfing is phenomenal, with five stunning golf courses created by some of the best pros and designers in the world, including the Kiawah Island Golf Resort. You’ll find over 10 miles of sandy beaches and lots of marshland to explore, too. You’ll see wildlife galore.
On my last visit there, I ran into deer on my way to the water, and actually got to watch a turtle nest hatching when I got up for sunrise on the ocean one morning. Kiawah Island’s natural beauty is the stuff you read about in books, and feels transformative when you’re there. I’ve done some of my best soul-searching sitting on the shore.
It’s now a popular go-to vacation destination for families and couples, and, as I discovered, really special for solo travelers.
Bluffton – This Is Where To Find The Simple Pleasures Of Life
Bluffton is the heart of the Lowcountry and the kind of place where you’re going to want to find a kayak to go explore the waterways.
It’s a wonderful place to launch a kayak, throw a fishing pole in the water, hike a trail through the woods, or bike through town like you did as a kid. It’s where all of life’s simplest pleasures come to life. Of course, there are also restaurants, shopping, and art galleries to explore, too.
Georgetown – Where To Go For A Small Town Feel
Bluffton may be the heart of the Lowcountry, but Georgetown is the heart of the Hammock Coast, situated between Myrtle Beach and Charleston. It’s an important port, and has been called “America’s Best Coastal Small Town” by USA Today.
The downtown area of Front Street is packed with several historical museums, like the Rice Museum, Kaminski House Museum, the Georgetown County Museum, the Maritime Museum, and The Gullah Museum. You won’t find anything else like it anywhere.
History is important here, with more than 60 buildings in town on the National Register of Historic Places. The historic waterfront is also special in this town, with the Harbor Walk serving as the perfect spot for a nice walk with a waterfront view. You can absorb the beauty of the Intercoastal Waterway and even take a tour to see the lighthouse.
Mount Pleasant – The Fun Beach Town That’ll Teach You History, Too
Mount Pleasant is just across the water from Charleston, and offers up a fun beach vibe while also serving up some incredible history. You can find it at Patriots Point, which is the final resting place for the USS Yorktown, which was a WWII warship. There are other National Historic Landmark ships and the Patriots Point Museum, along with the Congressional Medal of Honor Society and the Medal of Honor Museum.
You can see stunning views of the Charleston Harbor from the Waterfront District at Shem Creek. The Memorial Waterfront Park playground is a great place to take the kids to burn off a little of their energy, and Francis Marion National Forest is ideal for camping, hiking, kayaking or paddle boarding.
Litchfield Beach – Let’s Call This One A Barefoot Paradise
Litchfield Beach is on the northern part of Pawleys Island and made up of several former plantations. You’ll find beautiful beaches, fine golf courses and tennis courts.
There are more than a dozen public walkways that give you easy access to the beach if you don’t end up renting a vacation home that’s waterfront.
Surfside – The Beach For Families Without The Amusement Park Vibe
Just south of Myrtle Beach, Surfside offers up fun for families, without all the tchotchke feels.
It’s not just fun for families, though, but it’s also serious about its care for them, including those with special needs children. In fact, it was the first autism-friendly travel destination in the world.
There are three dozen beach access points, some of which have wheelchair access. You can rent a home or stay in one of the handfuls of hotels.
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR TRIP TO SOUTH CAROLINA
- YOUR SOUTH CAROLINA VACATION
- LAKES: Deciphering The Best Lakes In South Carolina For Your Visit
- RESORTS: 14 Amazing South Carolina Resorts You Will Love
- CHARLESTON TOURS: These 41 Charleston Tours Let You Make The Most Of The Holy City
- MYRTLE BEACH TOURS: 17+ Myrtle Beach Boat Torus Perfect For Soaking Up The Sun
WHERE TO STAY IN SOUTH CAROLINA
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