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Best South Carolina Beaches

With 2,876 miles of tidal coastline, South Carolina is filled to the brim with some of the best beaches on the East Coast. Though with miles and miles of coast available, travelers may find it hard to settle on just one beach destination for their next vacation. To help, U.S. News considered natural beauty, cleanliness, nearby amenities and expert and traveler sentiment to determine the best South Carolina beaches. Have a favorite? Vote below to influence next year's list. (Note: Some of the below destinations may be affected by the coronavirus outbreak. Check with the CDC and the U.S. Department of State before traveling.)


Best South Carolina Beaches

  • Kiawah Island
  • Hilton Head
  • Sullivan's Island
  • Pawleys Island
  • Huntington Beach State Park
  • Folly Beach
  • Edisto Beach
  • Isle of Palms
  • Litchfield Beach
  • Surfside Beach, SC
  • Cherry Grove
  • Myrtle Beach
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    Kiawah Island

    #1 in Best South Carolina Beaches

    The closest you'll come to paradise in South Carolina is Kiawah Island. This private island features 10 miles of beautiful beaches backed by sand dunes, lush marshes and maritime forestry, translating to beach scenery that is simply unmatched. Most of the island's beaches are privately owned, making them only accessible to property owners, guests and renters. However, Beachwalker County Park features a public stretch of sand with amenities like seasonal lifeguards and outdoor showers. Kiawah Island's landscape also yields several scenic trails, waterfront golf courses and some pretty sweet digs thanks to the luxurious Kiawah Island Golf Resort.

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    Hilton Head

    #2 in Best South Carolina Beaches

    Hilton Head is the perfect place to go if you're looking to enjoy the beach and indulge a little, too. The barrier island, which sits about 30 miles northeast of Savannah, Georgia, features beautiful beaches galore, including popular spots like Coligny Beach Park and Alder Lane. The island also specializes in recreational activities, such as golf and tennis, plus it's home to many spas, making the destination a particularly big draw for those seeking a little luxury.

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    Sullivan's Island

    #3 in Best South Carolina Beaches

    Despite being only 3.3 square miles in size, Sullivan's Island is one of the top vacation destinations for Charleston residents. Located about 10 miles east of downtown, this barrier island features glistening white sand beaches that offer calm waters and plenty of opportunities for water sports activities like paddleboarding and kayaking. The island is also chock full of historical charm, including serving as the inspiration for Edgar Allen Poe's short story "The Gold-Bug."

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    Pawleys Island

    #4 in Best South Carolina Beaches

    One of the oldest resort areas on the East Coast, Pawleys Island is still largely devoid of commercialism. The area is remote in feel, offering up a short list of things to enjoy aside from its white sand beach and picturesque Pawleys Island Creek. If you're into nature, though, this is your haven: Brookgreen Gardens is just a short drive away. Plus, golfers will want to reserve a tee time at Pawleys Plantation Golf & Country Club.

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    Huntington Beach State Park

    #5 in Best South Carolina Beaches

    An ideal option for wildlife lovers, history buffs and anglers, Huntington Beach State Park features more than 2,500 acres to explore. Along with its pristine 3-mile-long beach, the park boasts more than 300 species of birds and a National Historic Landmark, the 1930s-era Atalaya Castle. The park is also a popular surf fishing spot and offers an easy 2-mile-long hiking trail. What's more, picnic facilities and campgrounds are available on-site.

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    Folly Beach

    #6 in Best South Carolina Beaches

    Along with Sullivan's Island, Folly Beach is a popular beach destination for Charleston residents. Located a little more than 10 miles south of Charleston on Folly Island, this beach town acts as the perfect daytrip for Charleston visitors when the weather's right. Notable stretches of sand here include Center Street Beach and Folly Beach County Park. Come early to catch a sunrise, surf or stretch out on the sand under the sun for the day, then meander to one of the many bars that line the beachfront to enjoy a drink at dusk.

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    Edisto Beach

    #7 in Best South Carolina Beaches

    Edisto Beach bills itself as one of the last family-friendly beaches in South Carolina thanks to minimal development. With fewer than 600 residents year-round, Edisto Beach is very residential and as such, devoid of the crowds that descend on other South Carolina beach spots. Explore the shore that snakes along Palmetto Boulevard, or head on over to Edisto Beach State Park for hiking and biking trails and a nearly 2-mile stretch of seashell-covered sand.

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    Isle of Palms

    #8 in Best South Carolina Beaches

    Situated northeast of Sullivan's Island, Isle of Palms is a small community that features one long beach, providing seemingly endless space for fun in the sun. In addition to Front Beach, the island offers two championship golf courses (both of which are open to the public) and loads of water sports activities, including kayaking, fishing and windsurfing. Compared to Folly Beach, Isle of Palms is known to attract more families.

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    Litchfield Beach

    #9 in Best South Carolina Beaches

    Travelers in search of a quiet stretch of sand will love Litchfield Beach, as it sees fewer crowds than nearby Myrtle Beach, which sits about 20 miles northeast. Along with its laid-back atmosphere, Litchfield offers three top-notch golf courses that draw golfers in droves. Meanwhile, runners, walkers and cyclists can make use of the 26-mile-long Waccamaw Neck Bikeway, which extends from Murrells Inlet to Huntington Beach State Park.

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    Surfside Beach, SC

    #10 in Best South Carolina Beaches

    Surfside Beach enjoys the reputation of the most family-friendly (and affordable) beach in the state. Situated about 10 miles southwest of Myrtle Beach, Surfside Beach boasts 2 miles of coastline with 36 beach access points. Plus, the town is home to the Ocean Lakes Family Campground, which offers a variety of accommodation options for families. There are also multiple kid-friendly attractions in the area, including mini-golf and a water park.

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    Cherry Grove

    #11 in Best South Carolina Beaches

    This small town near North Myrtle Beach is an excellent low-key vacation spot for families. Cherry Grove features several vacation rentals that line its namesake, white sand beach. Plus, the saltwater channels that weave in and out of the community offer superb boating opportunities. And if the kids tire of the beach, many family-friendly attractions can be found within driving distance of the area, including Alligator Adventure and the O.D. Pavilion Amusement Park.

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    Myrtle Beach

    #12 in Best South Carolina Beaches

    Myrtle Beach is easily the most popular beach destination in South Carolina. In addition to 60 miles of beach, the town features activities the whole family can enjoy. Kids can get an adrenaline rush at the beachfront Family Kingdom Amusement Park and look for critters at Ripley's Aquarium of Myrtle Beach. Meanwhile, families with older children can catch a minor league baseball game at Field at Pelicans Ballpark or watch a show at one of the town's famous theaters, including The Carolina Opry.

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