South Carolina Beaches


South Carolina boasts nearly 3,000-miles of sandy white beaches.  If that’s not enough to lure you, then there are the historic cities with loads of charm. The hard part for a family can be deciding which South Carolina beach to visit. Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head are popular choices for East Tennesseans. While those are wonderful choices, there is a lot more to see and discover in the Palmetto State.   

Estimated Drive from Knoxville: 5.5-6.5 Hours

Cherry Grove—This small town near Myrtle Beach is a big draw for families. The beaches are natural and welcoming. When the kids tire of playing in the sand and surf, there are plenty of nearby attractions like Alligator Adventure and the O.D. Pavilion Amusement Park. But the real attraction in Cherry Grove is nature. There are lots of saltwater channels in and around Cherry Grove. Those channels are perfect for boating and wildlife viewing. Hiking is another popular pastime. The Heritage Shores Nature Preserve is the perfect place to do all three.

Cherry Grove North Myrtle Beach
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Edisto Beach—This South Carolina beach could be one of the last family-oriented and gently developed beaches in the Palmetto State. There aren’t a lot of crowds because it’s very residential, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t things to do. You can spend days exploring the shoreline. Then, you can head over to Edisto Beach State Park for hiking and biking. There are lodging options at the state park too. You can pitch a tent under the stars, get cozy in a cabin or stay at the lodge.

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Folly BeachFolly Beach is called “Charleston’s Beach Town,” but it has a personality all its own. It’s all about living life on the water whether you’re surfing, boating or just playing on the beach. There are lots of opportunities to try it all including surf lessons and boat charters. Some boat tours even give you an up-close view of the historic Morris Island Lighthouse. Folly Beach is also just minutes from downtown Charleston and all the activities and sights there.

Folly Beach
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Garden City—This gem offers a low-key family vacation near Myrtle Beach without the high-rise resorts. There are colorful cottage rentals, surf shops and a fishing pier giving Garden City a classic beach town feel. Year after year, families return often renting the same beach houses and condos. They come in all shapes and sizes and you’re sure to find one that suits you. The beach is the main attraction, but the fishing pier is a close second. The creek walk that spans the salt marsh is not to be missed either.

Harbor Island—If you want to unplug, venture just 15-miles outside of Beaufort to Harbor Island. The 1,400-acre barrier island is known for its dunes covered in sea oats and coastal grasses. The island, once a hunting ground, is now a private resort and residential community. That means there are lots of amenities including three pools, tennis courts and beautiful golf courses. While there is lots to enjoy on Harbor Island, it’s worth the short drive into Beaufort to stroll the historic and charming streets.

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Hilton Head Island—Considered one of the top 10 family beaches in the United States, Hilton Head Island checks all the boxes for a family vacation and then some. The gentle sand, warm water and sunshine-filled days make for perfect beach days. Depending on your family’s interests, you’re sure to find something to do. The littles will love The Sandbox Children’s Museum and the bigs will love adventure sports like parasailing. Parents will love a range of restaurants from seafood shacks to award-winning dining.

Hilton HeadIsle of Palms—IOP, as it’s called by locals, isn’t a big island at seven miles long and one mile wide, but it offers so much for a family to do. Front Beach is a popular spot on Isle of Palms where you can easily spend hours. Families love Palms County Park where you can rent chairs and umbrellas, there are outdoor showers and seasonal lifeguards. There are also two championship golf courses on IOP, which are open to the public. Water activities are also plentiful including kayaking, fishing and surfing. It’s not a visit to Isle of Palms without spending some time at the Windjammer, a popular oceanfront bar, restaurant and live music venue.

Isle of Palms
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Kiawah Island—This barrier island just 25-miles outside of Charleston is home to the private Kiawah Island Golf Resort. It has spacious beaches, acclaimed golf courses, a luxurious hotel and spacious villas. The wide beaches are perfect for bicycling, playing in the surf and building sandcastles. More activities families can enjoy surfing, skim boarding, kayaking and paddle boarding in the Atlantic Ocean or the saltwater marshes. There are plenty of dining options too. The Ryder Cup Bar with prime views of the famed Ocean Course is a must-do for dinner, even just a cocktail. Don’t worry, there’s a children’s menu!

Myrtle Beach—The Grand Strand, specifically Myrtle Beach, has been a popular vacation destination for decades. People keep coming back for the 60-miles of sandy beaches and the never-ending list of restaurants and attractions. There truly is something for everyone (and for every beach vacation budget) in Myrtle Beach. It’s not a trip to Myrtle without a visit to “America’s Boardwalk.” The historic attraction just recently underwent a facelift. The whole family can enjoy shopping, restaurants and attractions right on the beach. The Myrtle Beach SkyWheel is a must-see!

Myrtle Beach
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Pawley’s Island—Dubbed South Carolina’s “Hammock Coast,” Pawley’s Island embraces a laid back, carefree lifestyle. It’s been welcoming visitors since the 1700s. There are multiple vacation homes to rent or take a step back in time at The Pelican Inn or The Sea View Inn. Visitors can enjoy sunbathing, surfing, biking and collecting shells on the beach. You can crab off a dock and canoe or kayak through a salt marsh creek. There is no shortage of fishing too. After a fun day, head to the Pawley’s Island mainland for dinner. A surprising variety will mean there is something to please every palate.

Pawley’s Island
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Seabrook Island—This private gated community welcomes vacationers and sometimes turns them into residents! Seabrook Island feels like you’re getting away from it all, but Charleston is just 35 minutes away. There are more than three miles of sandy beach to enjoy. You can even go horseback riding along the shore. There are two championship golf courses, a tennis center and a fitness and aquatics complex. Seabrook also offers a children’s camp with certified counselors. Both fine and casual dining are available. The entire island of Seabrook is cashless so all guests must arrange for an amenity card. It acts as a credit card and access card to the facilities.

Sullivan’s Island—This barrier island near the entrance of Charleston Harbor may be small but it’s big on beauty and charm. Welcoming wide beaches are the perfect backdrop for your family beach day on Sullivan’s Island. You can also soak up Revolutionary War history at Fort Moultrie or visit the lighthouse. Then, hit Middle Street for lunch or dinner at one of the popular restaurants. For the adventurous, try kite boarding. It’s a popular water sport on Sullivan’s and incredible to watch even if you don’t want to give it a go!

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Surfside Beach—This coastal community is nicknamed “The Family Beach” and it’s easy to see why. The cleanliness and accessibility of the two miles of oceanfront certainly stand out. There are also seven public parks, including one designed for children of all abilities. Surfside Beach is also the first “Autism-Friendly Travel Destination,” which is more than just a proclamation. Local businesses have been trained to accommodate those with special needs. To learn more about the program, click here. There are dozens of dining options and activities too. Surfside certainly lives up to its nickname!

For more information on South Carolina’s beaches, click here.

Don’t miss our guide to North Carolina beaches and all beaches within driving distance of Knoxville


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