8 Best Beaches In (And Near) Charleston South Carolina

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Few things can compare to the feeling of warm sand between your toes, and Charleston, South Carolina, offers up an array of glistening beaches for visitors and locals alike. Maybe you’re looking for somewhere to watch the sunset after a day of exploring the city, or perhaps you want a full beach day on one of the barrier islands outside the main downtown area. 

While the city is best known for its abundance of Victorian architecture, rich history, and good eats, it also serves up beautiful beaches in spades. Here’s the lowdown on the best beaches in Charleston. 

Folly Beach

Folly Beach is by far the most popular beach in Charleston. Its popularity comes mostly from its convenient location (just a quick jaunt from the main downtown area), but this sandy spot has some other redeeming qualities, too. 

There are about six miles of soft sand to play in or lay on, and the vibes here are overwhelmingly chillaxed. This could have something to do with all the surfers that flock to the shores, or it could be the epic views of the sunset that are best admired from the 1,045-foot fishing pier.

While “The Edge of the World” (as the beach is known locally) is no doubt a favorite, it has maintained the same small-town charm that Charleston is known for. You’ll find plenty of mom-and-pop restaurants lining the shore, with very few chains interrupting the local vibe.  

Kiawah Island Beach

Kiawah Island Beach is one of the best beaches in Charleston if your ideal beach day includes fewer crowds and more wildlife. This barrier island is located about 40 minutes from downtown Charleston, but the beach is absolutely worth the drive. 

Kiawah Island is regarded as one of the most beautiful in the area, and with 10 miles of pristine sand, a world-class golf resort, and plenty of bars and restaurants, it makes for one heck of a day trip,

If Kiawah Island sounds swanky, that’s because it is. Much of the island consists of private beaches, but you’ll be able to find your own slice of paradise on the southwestern tip of the island. 

Sullivan’s Island Beach

Perhaps the dreamiest beach in Charleston is Sullivan’s Island Beach, located north of the city’s main harbor. As you make your way to the beach, you’ll drive past old-school cottages and quaint local shops, which are all part of the charm of Sullivan’s Island. 

The beach itself is a fine stretch of sand, and thanks to the jetties and sandbar protecting it, the water is usually quite calm. You’ll get a great view of the Sullivan’s Island Lighthouse from the beach, and at low tide, you can venture out to the sand bar and search for treasures like shark teeth and sand dollars. 

You can’t mention Sullivan’s Island Beach without talking about Poe’s Tavern – a charming dive named for Edgar Allen Poe, who was stationed here during his military service from 1827-1828. The tavern serves up tasty burgers – perfect after a day on the beach! 

Isle of Palms Beach

Families searching for the best beaches in Charleston should make a b-line for Isle of Palms Beach – located about half an hour from the downtown area. This beach sits in front of a county park, which means you and yours will have plenty to keep you busy both in and out of the water. 

There are picnic tables, volleyball courts, and a playground, plus about six miles of stunning shoreline for all the classic beach day activities. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, you can make your way down the beach to find an assortment of bars and restaurants.

Seabrook Island Beach

For a more luxurious beach experience in Charleston, book a stay on Seabrook Island. This private community boasts four miles of secluded beaches, which are only available to residents and rental guests. 

The island sits about 30 minutes south of downtown Charleston and features two championship golf courses, an equestrian center, a tennis complex, and more for the discerning guest. 

The beach itself is amongst the widest and most beautiful near Charleston – perfect for a relaxing getaway without large crowds. Thanks to its position along the Edisto River, there are also opportunities for kayaking, wildlife watching, and fishing. 

Edisto Beach

If you want the secluded beach feel but you’re not staying on Seabrook Island, head to Edisto Beach. Located about an hour away from Charleston, this chunk of sand is a bit further than some of the other beaches, but its pristine shores make it well worth the trip.

Edisto Beach State Park is one of only beaches in that state that isn’t commercialized, providing an authentic feel that you won’t find elsewhere. After you’ve had enough fun in the sun, you can check out the park trails, search for treasures at Jeremy’s Inlet during low tide, or grab a bite at one of the nearby restaurants. 

Bull’s Island

Two of the best beaches in Charleston sit on Bull’s Island. You’ll need to take the 45-minute ferry out to this barrier island, which is a great deterrent for large crowds! 

North Beach is an unspoiled outpost with soft sand and very few visitors, while Boneyard Beach is littered with driftwood and felled trees poking up from the sand that indeed gives it a spooky feel.  

Caper’s Island

For an adventurous beach day, nothing fits the bill so well as Caper’s Island. Like Bull’s Beach, you’ll need to take a boat to get here – either a charter or a kayak (if you’re up to it) from Sullivan’s Island. 

This is certainly not the most convenient beach in Charleston, nor is it the closest. But it is one of the most stunning along the entire South Carolina coastline. Bleached palms dot the shoreline, and at low tide, the tidepools are brimming with little marine critters and predators looking for dinner (including dolphins and herons). 

If you’d like to learn more about this uncharted island, you can hop on a kayak tour where you’ll get to paddle past jellyfish and other marine life as you learn all about Caper’s Island.