Best Charleston Beaches: Ultimate Summer Guide
Charleston is known for its waterside skyline, moderate climate and outdoor activities — especially the beaches. We lay claim to miles of soft sand and pristine water. The best part about Charleston beaches? They’re super easy to get to.
Discover the best Charleston beaches and how to get there
Know Before You Go
The best Charleston beaches are so easy to get to, there’s really no need for any massive planning. You’ll be close to plenty of local restaurants, public restrooms and stores. All you really need to worry about is getting there (and back).
The best time to visit Charleston beaches is during the late spring and early fall. Crowds won’t be as thick as they are in the summer, and you won’t get hit with so much direct sun.
Getting to the Best Charleston Beaches
The easiest way to get to Charleston’s beaches is by car. If you don’t have a car, you can still get to some of the beaches — just not as easily.
We recommend taking a rideshare, such as Uber or Lyft, to the beach to avoid traffic in the summer. You’ll also avoid the parking fee at public lots (up to $15 at all beaches except Sullivan’s Island, where there’s only street parking).
Just make sure to shake the sand from your towels before heading back to the city. You wouldn’t want your rating affected by loose sand.
If you want to be adventurous, you could always bike to a few of these beaches.
Food and Drink
You can always bring a picnic lunch on your beach adventure. Yet should you not want to schlep your food, you can always purchase food at most of the beaches.
Food trucks are becoming more and more popular at Charleston’s beaches. Why pack a lunch when you could order tacos made to order?
Restaurants are also plentiful near the best Charleston beaches. In addition to offering great food, they also give you a break from the sun and sand for an hour or so (and access to clean restrooms).
If you’re looking to go in the total opposite direction regarding food prep, you could always grill on the beach. It’s important to note that not all beaches allow you to grill — and some have some pretty strict rules when it comes to grilling. All just to keep the pristine South Carolina beaches clean.
Luckily, the city allows you to bring dogs to public beaches — but you need to follow the rules of each individual beach.
During the summer, many beaches have strict times when they allow dogs. Some beaches don’t allow dogs at all.
Best Charleston Beaches
You don’t need to travel far to get to some of the most stunning beaches in South Carolina. The city of Charleston claims five of the best beaches in the state for itself. Getting to Folly Beach, Isle of Palms, Kiawah Island, Sullivan’s Island and Seabrook Island are relatively easy.
Folly Beach is possibly one of the best Charleston beaches — and the most popular. Located just south of the city center on Folly Island, it offers visitors a break from the hustle and bustle of Downtown. Some of the attractions include shopping, restaurants and a 1,000-foot pier.
This beach is located on a barrier island, protecting Mount Pleasant from the Atlantic Ocean. Here, you’ll find another impressive pier, picnic areas and tons of restaurants. You’ll also never get bored here; one of the big draws of the Isle of Palms is watching the local wildlife, such as sea turtles.
If you’re feeling fancy, head to Kiawah Island. Here, you’ll find a high-end hotel that boasts five championship golf courses. You can head to the resort itself — or just stake your spot on the beach. You shouldn’t have any trouble finding a spot, as Kiawah Island has 10 miles of beach. To find the best Charleston public beach nearby, head to Beachwalker County Park.
Some people head to the beach to completely unplug and decompress; others head to the shore for water sports and activities. Sullivan’s Island has both.
If you love fishing, you’ll want to make a beeline for Sullivan’s Island. There are plenty of spots where you can cast your line and catch a little something for dinner on any given day. There’re also tons of water sports, including paddle boarding and kayaking here. One of our favorite Charleston boat tours is Nature Adventures kayak tours of Sullivan’s Island and Shem Creek.
Sullivan’s Island and nearby Shem Creek have so much to do that you could plan to spend an entire day here.
Though Seabrook Island is only a few miles from Downtown Charleston, it somehow doesn’t get the same attention that all the other nearby beaches get. We don’t mind because it means fewer crowds and even more pristine beaches.
This somewhat residential area is known for its golf courses, tennis center, equestrian center and (of course) its beaches. It’s also popular with fishing enthusiasts as there are several companies that will take you reef, near-sea or backwater fishing.
Best Beaches Near Charleston
Don’t want to stay local? There are several other beaches near Charleston that you can reach by car. A two-hour drive will get you to some of the most popular beaches on the East Coast. Need more ideas to get you out of town? There are plenty of day trips from Charleston that will help you see even more of Charleston and Georgia.
Hilton Head Island is home to possibly one of the most pristine beaches on the East Coast. It has 12 miles of pristine beach, 24 golf courses and 350 tennis courts. This island has won countless awards from Conde Nast, Southern Living and Travel and Leisure. It’s only a two-hour drive south of Charleston.
Only a two-hour drive north of Charleston is Myrtle Beach. While Hilton Head boasts high-end amenities and restaurants, Myrtle Beach is all about family fun in the sun. You’ll find a boardwalk, restaurants, museums and an amusement park here. There’s even a water park for revelers who love the water but not loose sand in their swimsuits.
When the heat starts to get to you? Check out our favorite indoor activities Charleston SC to beat the heat.