The idea of living just off the water in South Carolina brings to mind images of golden sunsets on the horizon and gentle blue waves lapping at the shore. The entirety of the state’s coastline is dotted with beautiful beach towns where you can settle down and live near the water. 

Whether you reside in Charleston, which overlooks the inlet harbor, or a beach resort town like Isle of Palms, you can be sure to enjoy everything this historic coast has to offer. For those looking to purchase a home near the water or anyone interested in a great place to visit while in town, check out the 15 best beaches near Charleston, South Carolina – in no particular order.

Sullivans Island Lighthouse and beach
Donnie Whitaker Photography
  • Sullivan’s Island Beach

Sullivan’s Island Beach features 2.5 miles of beachfront off the Atlantic coast. It is about a 30-minute drive from downtown Charleston to the beach, where you’ll find a laid-back, community atmosphere and residents who cherish the area’s natural beauty.

Sullivan’s Island Beach is ideal for practicing photography, finding sand dollars and doing other fun activities like kayaking, surfing or crabbing.

Just off the beach in the small, picturesque town of Sullivan’s Island is Middle Street, where there are beautiful homes and delicious dining options to explore. This town covers just 3.3 square miles, making it a great place to buy a home or rental property or to vacation.

  • Isle of Palms

The Isle of Palms Beach is about 36 minutes from Charleston and sits just north of Sullivan’s Beach. Regarded as one of the safest beaches for kids due to its calm waves and family-friendly beach set-up, the Isle of Palms is a great place to live or visit with your family. There are plenty of exciting water-based activities here to take part in like kayaking, surfing, paddleboarding and swimming.

When you move farther inland, you’ll find boutique shops and tasty restaurants to visit. The island’s residential area, Wild Dunes Isle of Palms, is located just off the beach and offers residents and visitors the Wild Dunes Links and Harbor Golf courses. These are well known by golf enthusiasts and are both designed by famous course architect Tom Fazio.

  • Folly Beach

About 20 minutes southeast of Charleston is Folly Beach. Known as a great swimming location by residents, the beach’s waves are calm and gentle, making it a safe spot for younger swimmers. Experienced swimmers and adults can partake in more intense water sports like kiteboarding, surfing and sailing. 

The Folly Beach Fishing Pier allows you to fish right off the dock, while the nearby maritime forest offers a place to admire the natural wildlife and plant vegetation. Folly Beach is genuinely a laid-back, family-friendly location popular with tourists and residents. 

  • Morris Island

Morris Island is a historic stretch of the South Carolina coastline. It sits about eight miles outside of Charleston and off the far eastern tip of Folly Beach. It is accessible only by boat. This island is uninhabited, but it is worth the visit if you live in the area or come from out of town. Not only is the beach on the island a lovely place to enjoy a daytime stroll and gather seashells, but the island played a significant role in the American Civil War.

History buffs can visit Fort Wagner on the northern section of the island, and then travel south to the famous candy-cane-striped Morris Island Lighthouse, which has been standing since 1876. 

  • Mosquito Beach

Just a short 20-minute drive south of Charleston is Mosquito Beach. Mosquito Beach has a fascinating history and is a must-visit spot for anyone interested in learning more about Black history and racial segregation in South Carolina. The “beach,” a strip of land made of a tidal creek and pluff mud, was one of the only beaches available to the black community during segregation. Due to this rich cultural heritage, it might not be the traditional “beach” but it’s an important part of the Black history of Charleston.

  • Seabrook Island

About 23 miles south of Charleston, Seabrook Island is a small oceanfront community surrounded by pristine natural scenery. There are marshes and maritime forests to explore that provide bird watchers ample opportunities for sightings of feathered wildlife. 

The island is an Audubon International Certified Sustainable Community that maintains a healthy native wildlife population. Some parts of this island are accessible to residents only, but many access points allow the public to partake in the area’s natural beauty. Of note are the beautiful orange sunsets at Pelican Beach, which you can’t miss when visiting Seabrook Island. 

  • Kiawah Island

Kiawah Island is a gorgeous, white-sand beach that sits about 40 minutes from Charleston. When you visit the beach, take advantage of the resort-like atmosphere for sunbathing, boating, fishing and swimming. 

The Kiawah Island Golf Resort hosted the 2021 PGA National Championship in May and offers golfers five world-class golf courses for those who enjoy the sport. The area also offers exciting natural scenery and wildlife to explore. Bird enthusiasts happily report seeing birds like the yellow-billed cuckoo and night herons during outings.

  • Bulls Island

Bulls Island is situated about 29 miles from Charleston. The area is only accessible by boat, but the trek is worth the effort. This island is a remote and serene spot where you can visit, not to play in the surf, but to take part in a one-of-a-kind nature experience. The estuary leading to Bulls Island provides rich food to wildlife, such as seagulls, oysters and dolphins, which you’ll be sure to see when you visit. 

Boneyard Beach, located on the coast of the 6-mile-long island, is a visually stunning location where fallen, bleached trees stick up through the sand like skeletons. Although you would not want to go swimming at this beach, the visual beauty of the beach and the common alligator sightings are enough to make this one of the best beaches in South Carolina. 

  • Pawleys Island

Pawleys Island is about an hour and a half north of Charleston and is one of the oldest tourist beach locations in the United States. Nestled between Myrtle Beach and Georgetown,  it is covered in old cottages and fascinating historical sites. These structures survived Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and exist amid the newer, fancier homes in the area.

Pawleys Island is quiet and secluded, containing a 3-mile stretch with just the bare minimum of amenities. This makes it a great location to visit for a quiet day trip from Charleston. Its proximity to Myrtle Beach and Georgetown means you can also visit these locations for a wide array of shopping, sightseeing and dining activities. 

  • Capers Island

Capers Island is situated near the Isles of Palm and is about an hour and fifteen minutes from Charleston. Accessible only by boat, Capers Island offers an otherworldly experience to visitors. The barrier island is also known as Capers Island Heritage Preserve and is home to marine and terrestrial wildlife. Those who visit can see bottlenose dolphins, bald eagles and other birds like ospreys. The beach itself is a boneyard of bleached trees and is an excellent place to hunt for sand dollars and shells. 

  • Edisto Beach

Edisto Beach is about 48 miles south of Charleston and boasts one of only four oceanfront state parks in South Carolina. Edisto Beach State Park provides visitors and residents with hiking and biking trails where they can enjoy the natural scenery of the beachfront. 

One major point of interest at Edisto Beach is the Environmental Learning Center that highlights the unique environmental heritage of the ACE Basin. The ACE Basin is one of the only wetland ecosystems that has remained undeveloped and is a vital part of maintaining this area’s wildlife. The Town of Edisto Beach is just off the coast and is known for its family-friendly atmosphere. 

  • Hunting Island

Hunting Island is about two hours south of Charleston. This popular island is home to the Hunting Island State Park, the most popular state park in South Carolina. More than one million people per year visit Hunting Island’s five miles of beaches and thousands of acres of saltwater lagoons, marshes and maritime forests. Hunting Island also boasts the only lighthouse in South Carolina accessible to the public. In addition to swimming, boating and fishing, outdoor fans can camp inside the state park at one of the over 150 campsites available in the area. 

Visiting Beaches in South Carolina

Before you go to one of these fabulous beaches near Charleston, there are a few things to keep in mind to help you pick the right one to visit. Here are a few factors to narrow down your choice of beach. 

  • Tourist Destination or Quiet Beach

Consider whether you want to visit or live near a beach that is a tourist destination or more of a natural, quiet area. Your personality, whether you’re introverted or extroverted, and the type of atmosphere you feel most comfortable in will dictate whether real estate in a busy area or somewhere more secluded suits you best. Whether you have children or pets you want to frequently socialize with others will also play a role. 

  • Beach Rules and Hours

For those visiting a beach near Charleston, it’s a good idea to check out the beach’s website. There you can view hours and regulations that might affect your trip. For those who plan to live near a beach, you may want to check on the beach’s availability to the public, along with any special housing requirements for those who live near the water. 

Head to the Coast

The beaches on South Carolina’s coastline are beautiful places to visit and live. Whether you are looking to buy a home or rental property or simply visit for a vacation, these 15 beaches provide gorgeous views, fun activities, learning opportunities and historical value. Reach out to a Charleston-based real estate agent with Dunes Properties to help you find the perfect waterfront property for your needs.