South Carolina Beaches and Coastal Things to Do

September 1, 2022
Things to do on the Carolina Coast

From Little River, SC to the edges of Savannah, Georgia, South Carolina beaches highlight an assortment of incredible oceanfront points of interest.

The coastal Lowcountry region is steeped in culture and heritage not just from America, but from faraway parts of the world. From the European mansions of Charleston, to sea cotton plantations along the island shores; from the songs of the gullah-geechee peoples, to the first ringing shots of the Civil War; from the dramas of archival American figures, to the creature habitats that have endured for millennia; all things large and small imbue this territory with historical, emotional, and aesthetical value.

Unsurprisingly, to visit the Coastal Carolinas is to gush about what you’ve experienced. In this article we’re going to keep it simple: What are the very best, most gushworthy things to do on the coast of South Carolina. Here we go!

1. Historic Downtown Charleston

Things to do on the Carolina Coast

The cultural ambitions and tastes of Charleston’s founding families have been wonderfully preserved for Charleston visitors today. The streets are from another time, lined with stunning homes, grand cathedrals, old-time storefronts, weathered graveyards, military relics, and statues galore. Some of the streets have maintained their original cobblestone, and horse-drawn carriages are visible all throughout the day. All of it is splendid, a lived-in museum without admission.  Read more about Historic Downtown Charleston.

2. Driftwood Beach on Edisto Island

Things to do on the Carolina Coast
The most interesting of the South Carolina Beaches.

When you first set foot on Driftwood Beach you’ll think you’ve landed on another planet. It is the work of Medusa — the trees are dead and upright like your co-workers. Spend the day climbing around and picnicking with the kids. Walk northward to the bay and admire the assortment of large, beautiful shells adorning every branch of every tree. Driftwood Beach on Edisto Island is a true wonderland. Read more about Edisto Beach.

3. Brookgreen Gardens

Things to do on the Carolina Coast

One of the most highly regarded sculpture gardens in the United States is Brookgreen Gardens, SC. The sculptures are amazing and over 500 of them adorn the parked-out, 350-acre setting, making it is the largest and most comprehensive collection of American figurative sculptures. The breadth and talent of it all is profound. If you love sprawling botanical arrangements and/or spectacular sculptures this floral gem is an absolute must-do on the Carolina coast. Read more about Brookgreen Gardens.

4. Middleton Place Plantation

Things to do in South Carolina

Middleton Place is considered the oldest landscaped garden in America. Located NW of Charleston on the Ashley River, Middleton Place lives beside two other famous plantations, Magnolia and Drayton Hall. The botanical arrangements are exquisite, surpassed by no other plantation, and the expanse of the yard overlooking the river is awe-striking. Spend hours wandering between formal and informal gardens, beneath rows of moss-strung oaks. Read more about Charleston Plantations here.

5. Patriot’s Point

South Carolina Beaches

A top-notch military museum in Charleston, SC. The SS Yorktown II Aircraft Carrier is parked on the river just outside downtown. Walk all through the ship and learn about the daily life of sailors. The top deck has an assortment of planes and helicopters, and hosts incredible views of downtown. The other half of Patriot Point is a tribute to Vietnam, which is an incredible experience not to be missed.

6. Folly Beach

South Carolina Beaches
Folly Beach is one of the best of the South Carolina Beaches.

The town of Folly Beach is terrific for shopping and eating foods. The vibe is summery, the houses large and beautiful, and the streets stroll every bit as nice as the beach. Everything here is clean and relaxed — an ideal scene for families and co-eds. 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. Read more about SC beaches here.

7. Huntington Beach State Park

South Carolina Beaches
Located on Myrtle Beach, one of the best South Carolina Beaches

Atalaya Castle was developed by Archer and Anna Huntington in the early 1930’s. After Anna’s diagnosis of tuberculosis they decided the salubrious southern climate would be better for her health, and soon built their 9,000 acre getaway beside the ocean near Myrtle Beach, SC. Archer was a wealthy, New York philanthropist with a profound love of Hispanic culture, as well as Moorish architecture, and designed Atalaya Castle to reflect the style. Read our homeschool twist on Atalaya Castle here.

8. Hilton Head Coastal Discovery Center

South Carolina Beaches

The Coastal Discovery Museum is an all-encompassing, Coastal Carolina experience. Here you can learn about the plants, animals, ecosystems and geology of the region. You can also stroll through beautiful maritime forests and manicured gardens, indulge a butterfly house, tour the salt marshes beneath moss-strung trees, meet carnivorous plants, and spend time with horses. Read more about Coastal Discovery Center here.

9. Hunting Island State Park / Beaufort

South Carolina Beaches
Driftwood Beach on Hunting Island is one of the best of the South Carolina Beaches.

Located off the coast of Beaufort, Hunting Island is not only the most popular State Park in South Carolina, but one of the last undeveloped sea islands in the SC Lowcountry.  There are two incredible reasons that make Hunting Island worth a visit: 1. A 136′ lighthouse. Although no longer used as a functioning lighthouse, the tower is open to visitors. 2. A spectacular driftwood beach similar to that on Edisto Island. Read more about Hunting Island S.P. and other South Carolina Islands here.

10. Cypress Gardens

South Carolina Beaches

Cypress Gardens has been a crowd-pleaser for generations, and further increased in popularity after the release of The Notebook in 2004. The gardens were originally part of the 1750 Dean Hall rice plantation, were opened to the public in 1931. The central feature of the plantation is a self-guided rowboat tour through the black water swamp. It is a magical experience for couples or families, and by itself makes Cypress Gardens one of the best plantations in Charleston SC. Read more about Cypress Gardens here.

Other Worthwhile Things to Do:

Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge: Remote wildlife preserve with gators and birds near Hilton Head Island.

Wheels of Yesteryear: The best muscle car museum on the Southern Coast (in Myrtle Beach).

Fort Sumpter: The first battle of the Civil War was fought here on this Charleston island.

Savannah: A classic, southern city with romantic streets and history galore. Not technically in SC, but close enough (its on the border).

Tybee Island: Georgia’s premier beach town getaway. Again, not in SC, but just a few miles away.

An Honest Conclusion:

South Carolina Beaches

If you find yourself on South Carolina Beaches you’ve made at least one good choice in your life. Charleston is perhaps our country’s greatest city, and the surrounding cities and islands make for exceptional entertainment.

To learn more about all the things to do, see, eat, and experience in Charleston SC, be sure to read our Complete Guide to Charleston.

And if you want to cheat a bit, Savannah, Georgia, might as well join the party since its just over the line.

We hope you’ve found this list inspiring. It could have gone on forever 🙂 Feel free to leave a comment or ask a question. Happy travels and God bless!

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