There are so many amazing beaches to visit in South Carolina, it’s hard to choose a favorite. From the gorgeous scenery to the endless activities, there’s a perfect beach for everyone in this coastal state.
There’s just something exceptional about South Carolina’s beaches keeps drawing me back. We usually enjoyed beach vacations in Maryland or Virginia when I was a child. They were great, and I didn’t think a beach could get any better until I was in my 30s and took a trip to South Carolina.
Here are a few of my favorite South Carolina beaches, in no particular order.
1. Surfside Beach
Surfside Beach is a favorite because it was the first South Carolina beach I visited. Considered the most affordable and family-friendly beach in South Carolina, Surfside Beach is located 10 miles southwest of Myrtle Beach and north of Garden City Beach. There are 36 beach access points along 2 miles of beach coastline.
It’s not as touristy as some of the other beaches in the state, and it has a laid-back vibe. It is rarely crowded. The sand is like white powder, the beach is always clean, and the water is warm.
When we visited, we stayed in rental properties. We plan to stay at the Holiday Inn Oceanfront on our next visit. It has gorgeous ocean views, and you benefit from a full-service oceanfront hotel, an outdoor pool, a fitness center, and newly renovated rooms without the hustle and bustle of more commercialized beach areas. It is ideal for a romantic getaway or a multigenerational family gathering. Plus, they have fun events happening, like “Date Night on the Beach,” and a communal fire pit at night around the pool.
The town area is a quiet beach town. You can find many family-friendly attractions like mini-golf, a water park, and delicious eateries within walking distance of most hotels and rental properties.
Surfside Beach is a short drive up the coast to the Myrtle Beach excitement, shopping outlets, the Coastal Mall, other fun entertainment, and the Myrtle Beach International Airport.
Surfside Beach is definitely worth visiting for a quiet and relaxing beach vacation!
2. Myrtle Beach
The most popular beach destination in the state, the Myrtle Beach area, is often referred to as the Grand Strand. It boasts 60 miles of beach and 1.2 miles of oceanfront boardwalk. Historical sites, outdoor adventures, and a mild annual average temperature of 73 degrees with 215 sunny days per year make the Myrtle Beach area a dream vacation spot.
This beach town has something for everyone to enjoy. From beachfront amusement parks to the Ripley’s Aquarium to shows at popular theaters, there is plenty to do and see in Myrtle Beach. It is the perfect destination for the 50+ traveler for many reasons. In fact, many people move to Myrtle Beach after vacationing there.
Myrtle Beach attracts more than 19 million visitors per year. It is a premier vacation destination with beautiful clean beaches, outlet malls, accommodations at every price point, scrumptious local cuisine, and more than 100 golf courses.
The gorgeous, powdery white-sand beach is the number one attraction in Myrtle Beach. You can enjoy mild waves and fun watersports, relax, and play in the surf. But there is so much more. There are many places to enjoy live entertainment with cocktails and great dining.
Head up to North Myrtle Beach, where you can enjoy great dance venues like Duck’s Nightlife and Fat Harold’s. In the north end of Myrtle Beach, there’s 3001 Nightlife, which is filled with the 50+ crowd.
They have several live theaters with great music shows, such as Carolina Opry Theater and the Alabama Theatre. Fun shopping experiences abound at nearby Barefoot Landing and Broadway on the Beach.
Calabash-style restaurants are prevalent along the Grand Strand, as well as Carolina/Lowcountry cuisine. In the area, you can find just about every kind of food imaginable, from steak to ribs to homestyle cooking and pizza.
Fun fact: Over 3.2 million rounds of golf are played per year in the Myrtle Beach area. That’s a lot of golf!
3. Myrtle Beach State Park
Just south of the busy Myrtle Beach is Myrtle Beach State Park. The thing I remember most about it was the beautiful flowers blooming all along the entrance road.
This state park covers 312 acres and has picnic areas, campground sites, a fishing pier, a nature center, equestrian facilities, surf fishing, nature trails, and nearly a mile of clean beach that is rarely crowded.
They have a large parking area and a beach concession stand for snacks or lunch. We often took a picnic lunch with us.
We usually spent at least two days on this beach to avoid the crowds when we were in the area. There is an entry fee per person to visit this state park, and they have a discount for seniors.
4. Huntington Beach State Park
If you enjoy history, wildlife, or fishing, Huntington Beach State Park is an ideal beach to visit, with more than 2,500 acres to enjoy away from the hustle and bustle of some of the more hectic beaches in the state. This state park boasts the 1930s-era Moorish-style Atalaya Castle, which is a national historic landmark. Over 300 species of birds live in the park.
Approximately 17 miles south of Myrtle Beach State Park, Huntington Beach State Park has a 3-mile-long beach and is a popular surf fishing location. There is a 2-mile hiking trail, picnic facilities, and campgrounds in the park.
There is a fee to visit the state park and an additional fee for visiting the castle.
Pro Tip: Brookgreen Gardens is nearby, and the gardens are gorgeous and well worth a visit.
5. Kiawah Island
Everyone loves an island experience. Many consider the private Kiawah Island in South Carolina to be paradise. It features 10 miles of spectacular beaches, sand dunes, maritime forestry, and lush marshes, providing gorgeous beach scenery that is simply unique.
While most Kiawah Island beaches are private, Kiawah Beachwalker Park has a public beach area. In addition to the beaches, there are waterfront golf courses, scenic trails, and some beautiful and luxurious resorts.
Editor’s Note: Really want to avoid the crowds? Our own Jeanine Consoli recommends these 9 Incredible Things To Do On Kiawah Island During The Off-Season.
6. Hilton Head Island
A step up from your average beach, Hilton Head is the perfect beach to visit when you want to indulge in a bit of luxury. Sitting approximately 30 miles from Savannah, Georgia, Hilton Head features gorgeous beaches, luxury spas, tennis, golf, and a leisurely-paced lifestyle. It is a huge draw for those seeking a touch of luxury.
Hilton Head is a 42-square-mile barrier island with 12 miles of beautiful sandy beaches. The most popular beach in Hilton Head is Coligny Beach Park. A scenic shoreline and a wealth of amenities make this park a favorite for beachgoers.
“Spa-ing,” golf, and tennis earned Hilton Head its elite reputation. But there are many other things to enjoy, including the Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge and the Coastal Discovery Museum.
Vacationers go to Hilton Head to relax. The nightlife consists primarily of leisurely sunset dinners and live waterfront music.
Pro Tip: Look before getting into the water. Jellyfish and stingrays are prevalent during the summer months.
7. Daufuskie Island
An oceanfront oasis, Daufuskie Island in South Carolina consists of primarily undeveloped conservancy land. This tiny island off the coast of Hilton Head is only accessible by boat or ferry. While it isn’t far from the mainland, its remote nature makes it feel like it is a world away. There are only about 400 residents on the island.
One could spend an entire week in Haig Point, the private community on the island, without seeing more than a dozen individuals. You have the beach to yourself.
The island is a historical hub and is on the National Register of Historic Places. There are self-guided tours and guided history tours.
Art studios and galleries and a rum distillery call the island home. The Daufuskie Island Distillery is one of only two island distilleries in the U.S.
Visitors enjoy a show of daily wildlife experiences: bottlenose dolphins leaping out of the water on the shoreline; loggerhead turtles nesting each spring on the shore; and the trotting sound of Marsh Tacky horses.
Horseback rides on the beach are offered year round, and golf lovers can tee it up with ocean views at Haig Point’s signature course.
The Daufuskie Island Ferry offers service every 3 hours to and from the island. Tour Daufuskie takes the stress out of a day at the beach with packages that include chairs, a tent, and beach items for the day, so you don’t have to schlep anything with you.
There are fun accommodation options for overnight visits on the island. Visitors can enjoy a secluded beach getaway by staying in a lighthouse dating back to 1873 or a 1910 mansion built as a summer retreat.
Pro Tip: Enjoy the island while exploring from your rented golf cart. There are no cars on the island.