South Carolina’s beachfront border with the Atlantic Ocean has a lot to offer, whether you’re vacationing, relocating, or retiring to sand and sun. Looking at the best coastal towns SC has to offer, you’ll notice there’s a vast range of experiences available.
From historic to high-end, or family-friendly to tranquil, these beach towns along the South Carolina coast each have their own appeal. Just looking at a South Carolina beaches map, it’s difficult to discern which town best suits you. This quick, informative guide can help. First, let’s start with the best-known of South Carolina’s coastal towns: Myrtle Beach and Charleston.
Myrtle Beach is, for many, the only coastal town in South Carolina that matters. A major tourist attraction, Myrtle Beach consists of several long sandy beaches along the South Carolina coastline. Many are packed with tourists throughout the year. Kings Highway is a long stretch of road connecting seafood buffet restaurants to water parks and go-karting as well as outlet shopping and family entertainment areas. You’ll also never be too far from one of the city’s more than 50 mini-golf courses.
Charleston is also a big tourist draw, but for different reasons. Even taking the oceanfront out of the equation, Charleston would be a top contender for best town in South Carolina too. This is the oldest city in the state. Founded in 1670, this historic city along the waterfront was one of the country’s largest hubs into the mid-19th century. You may not be moving into one of the gorgeous plantation homes near the Battery, but you can still enjoy all of the innovative restaurants, exciting nightlife, and cultural events this city has to offer. Charleston’s Spoleto Festival USA is one of the biggest performing arts festivals in the world.
Folly Beach is its own beachfront town, but as it’s just 11 miles south of Charleston the two are typically lumped together. Home to the East Coast’s second-largest fishing pier, Folly is considered funky and carefree.
Best Beach Towns of South Carolina
Just a short drive north of Charleston, you’ll find several more beautiful beachfront towns. Isle of Palms and Kiawah Island are more upscale beach towns.
The Isle of Palms, just 12 miles from historic Charleston, fronts the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Intracoastal Waterway on the other. Along with a laid-back island lifestyle, Isle of Palms offers beautiful beaches and water recreation. The town is also home to championship golf and tennis.
There’s only one public beach among Kiawah Island’s 10 miles of beach, but this lovely island also offers maritime forests, marshes. and rolling sand dunes to explore. Island residents can enjoy spotting deer, alligators, seabirds, and sea turtles. Visitors can check out the Kiawah Island Golf Resort, a five-star accommodation with a world-recognized golf course.
Seabrook Island is another SC beachfront town just a short drive from Charleston. Along a four-mile stretch of the Atlantic Ocean, this barrier island has oceanfront communities of houses, townhomes, villas, condos, and more built for people to enjoy golf courses, equestrian activities, and water sports.
Pawleys Island, found between Myrtle Beach and Charleston, is another of South Carolina’s beachfront towns with history. Some houses in the town’s historic district date to the 18th century. There’s also a large outdoor zoo and garden of native plants. Plus, Huntington Beach State Park is one of the state’s few beachfront parks. This is a picturesque town with a small community of full-time residents, but it welcomes visitors throughout the year.
South Carolina’s Southern Beach Towns
Hilton Head is also ranked in the top of the best beach towns in South Carolina. In fact, it’s been ranked America’s Favorite Island four years running in Travel + Leisure Magazine’s rankings. With 12 miles of coastline, this island has long been a beachfront playground. So, it’s home to dozens of stunning golf courses as well as family-friendly entertainment and water sports. Part of the fun on Hilton Head is being able to bike all over on shaded paths. There’s also shopping and spacious parks for those times when you’ve had enough of the pristine beaches for the day.
Edisto Beach is one of the quieter beach outposts among these SC coastal towns. Still considered a “best-kept secret” this beach town doesn’t have any hotels or even traffic lights. Home to a gorgeous beach, Edisto Beach also has miles of bike paths. Building restrictions prevent overdevelopment, so this is the place to truly enjoy the natural landscape of South Carolina’s coastline.
Beaufort, the second oldest city in the state, is in the heart of the Sea Islands area. Named a Best Small Southern Town by Southern Living, this city has retained both its scenic location and historic antebellum architecture as its grown. Within an hour’s drive of both Charleston and Savannah, Georgia, this smaller city attracts people for history, fishing, arts. and more.
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