7 Amazing South Carolina Beach Destinations
With 187 miles of subtropical coastline against a backdrop of palmetto trees and salt marshes, it’s no wonder South Carolina is one of the best states on the East Coast for a beach getaway.
Travelers will discover the Palmetto State’s rich heritage and southern charm throughout its coastal towns, giving these destinations a distinct sense of place.
Related: America's Favorite Beach Towns
During a vacation to one of these South Carolina beaches, you can look forward to hooking blue marlin off shore, golfing on one of the state’s world-class fairways, and simply lounging on the white sand beaches — sweet tea in hand, of course.
North Myrtle Beach
Part of the state’s 60 miles of northernmost coastline known as the Grand Strand, this destination often gets lumped together with Myrtle Beach, despite its much more laid-back and quiet feel. Visitors can choose from a number of condo-style hotels and vacation rentals, such as the Tilghman Beach and Golf Resort. Enjoy a horseback ride at the Inlet Point Plantation, and feast on fresh seafood at Joe's Bar and Grill (often freshly caught by Joe himself). Adventure-seekers can even head to Shark Wake Park to try wakeboardng without a boat.
While this favorite island destination and its associated resort is a golfer’s dream, you don't need to love the sport to enjoy a vacation on Kiawah Island. In addition to five championship golf courses, this 10,000-acre barrier island is home to an abundance of wildlife, such as loggerhead turtles, alligators, and egrets — and two excellent beach areas, East and West Beaches. Stay at the luxurious Santuary Hotel (a 255-room oceanfront resort and spa), which has multiple on-site restaurants including the poolside Loggerhead Grill. Guests can take unique excursions during their visit, such as a twilight paddle through the salt marshes, reached easily by a complimentary shuttle service.
Arguably the most well-known beach destination in South Carolina, Myrtle Beach boasts approximately 215 sunny days every year, and is home to a vibrant nightlife, theaters, upscale shopping, and ample outdoor recreational opportunities. The Island Vista Resort is an oceanfront property located a few minutes from downtown Myrtle Beach, but is the only oceanfront hotel for a mile in either direction, giving it a secluded feel. Travelers can also check out the popular Myrtle Beach resorts North Beach Plantation and Marina Inn at Grande Dunes. Grab a bite to eat at the recently opened RipTydz Oceanfront Grill and Rooftop Bar, or the quieter Atlas Tap House for a great selection of craft beers.
Hilton Head Island
This resort town and barrier island boasts 12 miles of pristine coastline just 20 miles northeast of Savannah, Georgia — and has been hailed as the best island in the continental United States. Visitors will find a number of bars, restaurants, and places to bed down, as well as opportunities for fishing, stand-up paddleboarding, and surfing. Consider a stay at the renowned Sea Pines Resort, and make time for a dolphin cruise and nature tour. The most popular beach is Coligny, while Driessen Beach is preferred by locals.
Known as the Family Beach, Surfside became the first autism-friendly travel destination in the world in 2016. Local businesses, restaurants, and attractions train employees on how to emphatically interact with — and support — families with autistic children, and are conscious of sensory issues that these children may struggle with. Try your hand at the local fishing pier, or take the kids to enjoy a day at the Wild Water and Wheels Amusement Park.
This hip, laid-back destination is Charleston’s beach town of choice. A slow-paced vibe is complimented by an eclectic mix of surf shops, local cafes, and bars with outdoor seating under palmetto-thatched roofs. Spend a night at Tides Folly Beach Hotel — the town’s only oceanfront hotel property — and then head next door to try the lowcountry boil at Pier 101.
Huntington Beach State Park
For nature-lovers, a trip to South Carolina is not complete without visiting Huntington Beach State Park. The park’s freshwater lake is home to alligators, while loggerhead turtles and other endangered wildlife can be found throughout the rest of the park’s 2,500 acres. Spend a night under the stars in one of the main campground’s 107 sites, or enjoy the solitude of primitive camping. While in the area, don’t forget to take a tour of Atalaya: a historical home built by Archer Huntington, the son of a great railroad magnate. Visit during the end of September to enjoy the Atalaya Arts and Crafts Festival.