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While many southern tourists know Myrtle Beach and its boardwalk-style road, offering them every conceivable way to spend their money, just two hours south is the town of Charleston. Here, droves of tourists arrive in sun dresses and surfer shorts, not just for the shopping and art but also for the incredible beaches.

Empty beach chairs on the sand near Folly Beach pier outside Charleston, South Carolina seem to invite vacationers to come and relax.
Photo credit: Cvandyke/ Shutterstock.

Charleston, with its historic charm and a population of over 153,000 inhabitants, is a well-preserved town that welcomes approximately 7.5 million visitors annually, according to Travel and Leisure. The South Carolina coast is a huge draw for most of these tourists.

Charleston’s cobblestone streets and well-preserved architecture enthrall visitors at every turn. This town also has a thriving art scene and plenty of delicious food that entices tourists to spend their hard-earned cash, and plenty of it. Food and shopping aren’t the only things that draw visitors to this southern town. These are our recommendations for the best beaches near Charleston. 

The Best Beaches Near Charleston and Their Attractions

This area of the country has a beach to suit any vacation need. South Carolina has beaches for anything from family outings to solo sunbathing. Here’s what to know about each of these popular beaches and what activities they offer.

Folly Beach is the most popular and well-trafficked beach in the area. It’s the closest beach to downtown Charleston (between 12 and 15 miles, depending on where you are driving from) and the most populated beach in the area, offering approximately 6 miles of sandy beach to set up your beach chair. Please arrive early to get parking and remember some cash to pay for it.

Folly Beach Activities and Attractions

  • Surfing – Folly Beach is a renowned surfing destination for both beginners and seasoned surfers. Its consistent waves and laid-back atmosphere make it an ideal spot for those looking to ride the surf with Shaka Surf School.
  • Fishing – Folly Beach is a haven for anglers looking to catch everything from trout to sharks. The waters surrounding this picturesque beach offer a rich marine habitat, ensuring an exciting and productive fishing experience.
  • Cruising – Folly Beach offers a tranquil and enjoyable cruising experience with Sea Breeze Charters, perfect for those looking to unwind on the water. 
  • Watersports – This area is a hub for water sports enthusiasts, with FB Water Sports offering a wide range of activities such as kiteboarding, paddleboarding, kayaking, and jet skiing. The area caters to all skill levels and preferences.

The Best Beach for Some R&R – Kiawah Island Beach

The Sand Dunes of Station 18 Beach and Sullivan's Island Lighthouse, Sullivan's Island, South Carolina, USA

This beautiful beach is the least crowded of all South Carolina beaches. So if peace and quiet are what you yearn for, this is the beach you want. However, be willing to make the commute to get there. It’s about 28 miles from town.

Kiawah Island Activities and Attractions

  • Hiking – If more than ten miles of beach are needed, this one also offers thirty miles of paved trails for hiking and exploring for the hiking enthusiast. 
  • Bird Watching – Find your way to the Marsh View Tower, perfect for this activity. Bird enthusiasts will find every bird, from bald eagles to wood storks.
  • Nature Education – Try Heron Park Nature Center, where they teach about all the local wildlife in the area. You’ll learn about everything from bobcats to alligators. 

Most Charming Beach

Sullivan’s Island Beach is considered the most charming beach this area has to offer. You’ll have three miles of beach to play on. Remember to take advantage of seeing Sullivan’s Island Lighthouse. It’s a square-shaped lighthouse with free parking along the street before the bridge. It makes for a great, classic beach day with plenty of Instagrammable moments.

Sullivan’s Island Beach Activities and Attractions

  • Collecting Shells – Bring a bucket for collecting shells because this beach has sand dollars galore. Just be sure only to keep the white ones, as the gray ones are still alive. Nothing beats the thrill of finding a whole, unbroken sand dollar.
  • Water Sports – While most people tend to come to this beach to do less with their day, the area does offer water sports such as kayaking, surfing, and even crabbing.
  • Shopping – Find small, locally owned, in-town shops selling clothes and souvenirs. If you happen to be visiting between the beginning of April and the end of June, stop by the local farmers market for some local produce, and delicious baked goodies on Thursdays in the late afternoon.

The Beach for Families

Isle of Palms Beach is excellent for spending a day with family. It offers plenty of parking, restaurants, and shops, and even has a fishing pier for those who love to fish. The beach is about 6 miles long, so there will be room to spread your blanket over the sand.

Isle of Palms Beach Activities and Attractions

  • Water Sports – From jet skiing to parasailing or wakeboarding, water sports are a fun way to spend the day at Isle of Palms Beach. Check out Tidal Wave Water Sports for any water sports needs or supplies.
  • Take A Wildlife Tour – Prefer searching for wildlife? There are private tours to take, thanks to Barrier Island Eco Tours. To promote wildlife conservation, you’ll learn about bottlenose dolphins, loggerhead sea turtles, and numerous birds You’ll watch your guide pull crab traps and throw cast nets all so you can get up close and personal with the creatures that call this area home.
  • Play Golf – There are two golf courses to choose from; Wild Dunes Resort runs both. They are open to resort guests and visiting golfers alike, though plenty of local golfers frequent these golf courses.
  • Dog Life – If the family dog needs to live his best life at the beach, this is the beach to bring him to. Just be aware that any dog must always be on a leash. Dogs are welcome here year-round.

Most Private Beach – Seabrook Island Beach

This beach runs along a private, gated, residential community and will give you the seclusion you seek. It has about 3 miles of beach and is approximately thirty minutes from downtown Charleston. Try kayaking and horseback riding if the mood strikes. It’s a great place to get away from it all.

Seabrook Island Beach Activities and Attractions

  • Be A Pirate – If the kids are begging for something to do, turn them into pirates for an hour. Pirates Of Charleston offers cruises for the whole family on the Black Ghost. Kids can dress like pirates and even go on a treasure hunt.
  • Play Golf – The course here at Crooked Oaks Golf Course offers some fantastic views while you sink that hole in one. They even offer instructors for beginners or for those simply looking to improve their game.
  • Horseback Riding – This beach offers horseback riding for a day, riding through the North Beach Surf. Check out The Club’s Equestrian Center at Seabrook Island for more information.

For Pristine Surroundings and Wildlife – Edisto Beach

If getting back to nature is what you desire, Edisto Beach is the spot for you. This beach is about 45 miles from downtown Charleston, but it’s worth the effort. This area makes it easy to unplug, go fishing and boating, and enjoy the local culture.

Edisto Beach Activities and Attractions

  • Fishing – Go fishing with one of the many fishing charters in the area. They offer off-shore and in-shore fishing charters for beginners and experienced fishermen alike.
  • Shopping – Check out the small shops in the area for everything from clothing and crafts to gifts and home decor. This area might be smaller, but it will never leave you wanting for things to buy.
  • Wildlife Refuge – Explore the local wildlife at Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve. They offer everything from horseback riding to deer and dove hunting.

For Beach Camping – Capers Island

If camping on a beach sounds like heaven, Capers Island is the place to be. A free permit is all that is needed before pitching a tent. There are 214 acres to explore, which include salt marshes, hiking trails, and caves along the oceanfront.

Capers Island Activities and Attractions

  • Kayaking – This breathtaking area offers fantastic kayaking adventures, including overnight camping, day tours, and sunset tours. The sunset tours are spectacular.
  • Dolphins and Sea Turtles – Take a two-and-a-half-hour cruise with Barrier Island Eco Tours to spot these sea creatures in their natural habitat.
  • Crabbing – Take a crabbing excursion with Barrier Island Eco Tours. It’s three and a half hours, including time to see the island and enjoy some cooked seafood.

Visit Charleston

Exploring Charleston, South Carolina beaches allow tourists to enjoy the vacation of their dreams. The diversity of experiences makes this an area appropriate for people of all ages. With a wide array of activities available, there truly is something for everyone. 

A trip to Charleston is more than just a historical or cultural experience. It’s a rich experience of the senses. A coastal experience that everyone should partake of firsthand. From kayaking and jet skiing to cruising or just sunbathing, this area of the country is worth exploring. Start planning your trip today!

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This article originally appeared on Wealth of Geeks.

Karen Kelly

Karen Kelly is a freelance food and travel writer, health coach, and owner of Seasonal Cravings. She enjoys sharing her love of food and travel.

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