Charleston, South Carolina has most anything you could want from a city… and then it has beaches. In this article we’re going to look at five beaches near Charleston SC and decide which is the best beach in Charleston.
Factors we’ve considered: Beauty and Allure, Crowds, Vibe, and Proximity to Charleston.
If you would like to learn more about all the things to do, see, eat, and experience in and around Charleston SC, be sure to read our Complete Guide to Charleston.
Here we go!
Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve on Edisto Island (that’s a mouthful) is the most unusual beach we’ve ever visited and therefore earns the title of best beach in Charleston (map).
It would be easy to give the designation to Folly Beach or Isle of Palms, two popular beaches fronted by mansions and restaurants. However, we are drawn to distinct, one-of-a-kind places.
While Driftwood Beach isn’t the only dead tree sanctuary on the East Coast, it is the most haunting and spectacular of them all.
Spend the day climbing around the dead trees and picnicking with the kids. Be sure to walk northward to the bay, where beautiful shells adorn every branch on every tree.
Learn more about this incredible beach HERE.
If a day of sunbathing and boogie boarding fits your agenda, or perhaps a simple afternoon inspecting the swimsuits of fellow beachgoers, then Folly Beach is your kind of place.
This is our favorite Charleston SC beach to frequent because it reminds us of a California Beach (without all the Californians). We can say that because we’re self-loathing Seattleites who blame our neighbors down the road for all our problems.
The town of Folly Beach is terrific for shopping and eating foods. The vibe is summery. They have two fantastic surf shops for all your hat and t-shirt needs.
Everything here is clean and relaxed — an ideal scene for families and co-eds — making it an easy choice for best beach in Charleston SC.
On the North Side of Charleston Harbor is Sullivan’s Island (map). This is a wealthy corner of the city where the houses are extra large and the beach feels almost private, (but it’s not).
The north end of the island runs flush with Isle of Palms, and at the south end of the island is Fort Moultrie (of Civil War fame).
Sullivan’s Island has the locals-only feel in the best possible way: Lowkey crowd, a little bit of shopping, a couple of restaurants, nice house along the beach, and a whole lotta sand.
Here you can walk for miles and see very few people.
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Isle of Palms isn’t all that different than Sullivan’s Island — a small inlet is all that separates them (map). It’s a little closer to civilization and has more commerce, so it feels more commercial, (which is why we ranked it lower).
Nonetheless, the quality of beach and opulence of mansion are every bit as nice as Sullivan’s, and some consider this the best beach in Charleston SC.
We witnessed a baptism while we were here the day these photos were taken. A large group of African women wearing white were out in the ocean singing songs and looking incredibly conspicuous. It was amazing.
We would also recommend the Acme Lowcountry Kitchen, which is easy to find on Isle of Palms. They have excellent food.
Kiawah Island is a golf mecca of akin to Hilton Head Island to the south. Everything appears homogenous on the island, and honestly, we find Kiawah a bit dull.
The island is not without its merits, however. The beach is nondescript, but on the far south shore where the Kiawah River separates Kiawah Island from Seabrook Island you might find a flock of pelicans to harass. It’s a cool, remote corner of the island, but there’s something even better going on here.
Kiawah Beachwalker Park has a very interesting inhabitant, the river dolphin, and the river dolphin is up to some interesting things. The dolphins in these parts perform what is referred to as “strand fishing” to catch their meals.
It is a rare behavior where the dolphins swim in a circle to surround a school of fish before pushing them onto the beach with a “team-effort” wave of water. Once the fish are flopping on the sand, the dolphins beach themselves and feast like college students without any hands.
Charleston, South Carolina is a special place for many reasons. We lived here for six months and will return many times over the years. A big part of our love for the city are the beaches.
That said… this is not Florida. Temper your expectations of what a tropical beach looks like and enjoy the warm water and weather.
If you’re in town for a weekend to check out the historical plantations, a trip out to Folly Beach is a no-brainer for a pleasant afternoon. It is the closest beach to Charleston SC, 10 miles south of the city center.
Sullivan’s Island is the same distance, but on the other side of the city. Isle of Palms Beach isn’t much further north.
If you’re here a little bit longer, we would encourage you to make the hour-plus drive to Edisto Island for Driftwood Beach. It will live in your memories forever.
Some other incredible places to visit include:
Thank you for stopping by our website! We are the Hoffmann family, a full-time RV family that has split residence in Seattle, Washington and San Antonio, Texas. We have special needs children that we homeschool, and work travel assignments for the Veteran Affairs Hospital. If you would like to learn more about us, check out our Start Here and Biography pages. In the meantime, God bless and travel happy!
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