The 13 Best Beaches in South Carolina

Crowd enjoying the last days of summer, Folly Beach, South Carolina
Photo: Daniela Duncan/Getty Images

With miles and miles of sandy coastline, South Carolina is an ideal destination for a beach vacation. With something for every type of traveler, South Carolina beaches range from luxurious, private islands with five-star oceanfront resorts to family-friendly destinations with activities both kids and adults will love. We've rounded up the best beaches in South Carolina, from fan-favorite Hilton Head Island on the southern coast to laid-back Folly Beach, located just a short drive from Charleston. Whether you're looking for your family's next summer vacation spot or a romantic getaway, there's a South Carolina beach perfect for you.

Related: More beach vacation ideas

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1. Hilton Head Island

Sunrise at Hilton Head Boardwalk, SC
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Consistently ranked among the best islands in the United States, Hilton Head has plenty to offer potential visitors. With more than 33 championship golf courses in the area, this destination is a golf lover's dream, but it's perfect for families, too, with dolphin tours, water sports, and 12 miles of beaches. Opt to stay at one of the many beachfront resorts, like the Marriott Hilton Head Resort & Spa or the Omni Hilton Head Oceanfront Resort, or book a stay at a beloved boutique hotel, like The Inn & Club at Harbour Town.

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2. Kiawah Island

Canoeing at Kiawah Island, SC
Joshua Laskin

If you're seeking a relaxing beach getaway, look no further than Kiawah Island. Even though it's only 25 miles from nearby Charleston, Kiawah feels totally isolated and secluded. With five stunning golf courses created by the best professional players and designers, Kiawah Island has everything an avid golfer could wish for. Book a stay at The Sanctuary, a luxurious, 255-room beachfront hotel with a spa, beautiful pools, and a variety of dining venues, including the acclaimed Ocean Room.

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3. Myrtle Beach

Ferris Wheel at Myrtle Beach, SC, at night
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As the unofficial capital of the Grand Strand — the more than 60-mile stretch of beaches on the South Carolina coast from Little River to Winyah Bay — Myrtle Beach is ideal for families looking for a beach destination with plenty of activities on and off the shore. Like many other South Carolina beaches, Myrtle Beach offers sandy shores and world-class golf, but it also has attractions the whole family will love, like the SkyWheel Ferris wheel, the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk and Promenade, and more. Marriott's OceanWatch Villas at Grande Dunes is one of many oceanfront hotel options in the area.

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4. Folly Beach

Crowd enjoying the last days of summer, Folly Beach, South Carolina
Daniela Duncan/Getty Images

Folly Beach offers laid-back vibes just minutes away from downtown Charleston, making it an ideal destination for visitors who want to explore the Lowcountry during their beach vacation. The beach is the main attraction at Folly — spend time lounging in the sun, or learn how to surf with lessons from one of the many surf schools. Tides Folly Beach is Charleston's only full-service oceanfront hotel, but there are a number of small inns and house rentals available on Folly, too.

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5. Huntington Beach State Park

Huntington Beach State Park near Murrells Inlet, SC
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Located between Myrtle Beach and Georgetown, Huntington Beach State Park offers historic sites, fishing, bird-watching, hiking, and of course, a three-mile beach. There are over 300 species of birds at the park, making it a birder's paradise, and visitors are also known to spot pelicans, alligators, sea turtles, and more. Atalaya Castle, now a National Historic Landmark, was built here in the 1930s as a winter home for Archer and Anna Huntington. Plus, camping is available at Huntington Beach State Park for those who want to spend more time enjoying its natural beauty.

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6. Isle of Palms

Isle of Palms beach, South Carolina
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Isle of Palms is one of the Charleston area's best beaches, sandwiched by the Atlantic Ocean and Intracoastal Waterway. Enjoy tennis, surfing, paddleboarding, and golf, or charter a boat to explore this location from the water for a fresh perspective. Whether you opt to stay at the Wild Dunes Resort or rent an oceanfront home, there's plenty of opportunity to soak up the sun on the soft and sandy beach. Isle of Palms County Park has lifeguards, outdoor showers, restrooms, a playground, chair and umbrella rentals, and beach-accessible wheelchairs available. Stop for dinner on nearby Sullivan's Island.

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7. Surfside Beach

Houses at Surfside Beach, South Carolina
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Nicknamed "The Family Beach," Surfside Beach is located on the Grand Strand south of Myrtle Beach. Surfside's commitment to family focus goes beyond its nickname — it became the first autism-friendly travel destination in the world in January 2016. Visitors can enjoy the sandy shores from 36 different access points (some of which provide wheelchair access), and there's also mini-golf and plenty of restaurants to choose from. There are only a few hotels on Surfside Beach, including the Surfside Beach Oceanfront Hotel, but you can also opt for a home rental, so you and your crew have room to spread out.

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8. Daufuskie Island

Haig Point on Dafauskie Island, South Carolina
Courtesy of Dafauskie Island

If you've ever wanted to just get away from it all, Daufuskie Island, located between Hilton Head Island and Savannah, Georgia, is a solid choice. This isolated island is only accessible by boat, which means you're sure to get the peace and quiet you're looking for when you visit. Say goodbye to crowded beaches and hello to quiet time with family with a top-ranked golf course and equestrian center located at Haig Point. Haig Point is also home to some of the only accommodations and restaurants on this island, though there are other rentals available on Daufuskie, too.

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9. Edisto Island

The Milky Way shot at Edisto Island, SC on with a partly cloudy sky.
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Edisto Island, one of South Carolina's Sea Islands, is home to almost five miles of peaceful beach. Wildlife is abundant on the island, with visitors often spotting turtles, dolphins, egrets, pelicans, and more. Relax on the beach, go for a sunset cruise, book a fishing charter, or play a round of golf. You can choose between a variety of home and condo rentals, or opt to camp out at Edisto Beach State Park.

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10. Sullivan's Island

Sullivan's Island Narrows
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For small-town charm, head to Sullivan's Island, the two-and-a-half-mile-long barrier island near the entrance of the Charleston Harbor. With no commercial development, this is one of the cleanest beachfronts you'll find in the area. When you're not enjoying sunset walks down the well-kept beach, try sailing, kayaking, or kiteboarding in the island's waters. Tour Fort Sumter or see where Edgar Allan Poe was stationed at Fort Moultrie (he later set his short story, "The Gold Bug," on Sullivan's Island). Poe's Tavern, The Obstinate Daughter, and Home Team BBQ are among the best restaurants on this island. There's plenty of lodging in downtown Charleston only 20 minutes away, or consider one of the beautiful beach rentals on the island.

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11. Pawleys Island

Sunrise Pawley’s Island, SC
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One of the oldest summer resorts on the East Coast, Pawleys Island includes three miles of pristine coastline and plenty to do and see. Have fun collecting shells on the shore or surfing the waves in the Atlantic. Or, try fishing or crabbing the nearby scenic tideland creek. Grab local seafood at Bistro 217, Chive Blossom, or Perrone's after a day on one of the courses off Pawleys' Waccamaw Golf Trail. There are several vacation homes with ocean views for rent, but you can't go wrong booking a room at one of the small island's two historic inns, the Sea View or the Pelican.

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12. Murrells Inlet

Murrells Inlet
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With a backstory involving the infamous pirate, Blackbeard, and some of the best seafood in the state, this popular fishing village near Myrtle Beach is a great getaway with heaps of charm and history. Naturally, fishing is one of the biggest draws and there are a number of boat rental options and deep-sea excursions available. You won't want to miss the MarshWalk, which offers a wonderland of waterfront dining, live entertainment, and special events. And when you want to experience even more natural beauty, walk the Lowcountry Trail through Brookgreen Gardens, which features the world's largest collection of outdoor American sculptures. Choose from Murrells Inlet hotels or head to Myrtle Beach, less than 30 minutes away, for even more lodging options.

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13. Fripp Island

Fripp Island Hunting Island Bridge, Beaufort, South Carolina

Head to this small wildlife sanctuary for kayaking, golfing, and gorgeous natural views. Watch for some of the 175 species of birds that live along the ocean and Great Salt Marsh, or other local animals like gators, dolphins, and loggerhead turtles. You'll want to have your phone on hand for the island's ample photo opportunities amidst its natural landscape, made famous in films like Forrest Gump, The Jungle Book, and The Prince of Tides. Book a condo with a marsh view at Fripp Island Golf & Beach Resort and enjoy pools, on-site dining, and the bustling activity center.

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