Charleston, SC is a charming Southern city that sits along the coast of South Carolina. It’s known for its rich history and beautiful beaches.
Whether you live near Charleston or you’re visiting, this is the place to go for some of the best beaches in the state!
Best of all, many of these beaches are a short drive from Downtown Charleston. That means you can enjoy fun in the sun before heading back for food, drinks, and entertainment downtown.
Here are the 8 best beaches near Charleston, SC that you can visit for a day trip or weekend road trip!
Beaches Less than an Hour from Charleston, SC
The six best beaches closest to Charleston are all located in South Carolina.
Most of these beaches are a short drive away, ranging anywhere from 20 minutes to 45 minutes outside of the city.
1. Folly Beach
Folly Beach is 11.5 miles outside of Downtown Charleston which is about a 25-minute drive.
It’s actually a Johns Island beach, which is a neighboring suburban island in Charleston. There’s a ton of recreation, entertainment, restaurants, and more on Johns Island!
Folly is a laid-back beach with a small “surf town” feel to it. It’s one of the most popular surf spots on the East Coast! Besides surfing, visitors also enjoy boating and kayaking the Folly River.
Downtown Folly Beach is easy to get around and you can walk from the beach to shops, restaurants, and vacation home rentals.
There are plenty of eclectic shops in downtown Folly to explore, as well as some amazing local restaurants!
After a long day at the beach, you can take the short drive to Bowen’s Island for classic Southern seafood. Bowen’s Island is a waterfront seafood restaurant with a casual atmosphere and delicious fried seafood platters.
Distance from Charleston, SC: 11.5 miles (~25-minute drive)
Vacation Rentals at Folly Beach
2. Seabrook Island
Seabrook Island is 25 miles from Charleston which is about a 40-minute drive.
Seabrook Island is a private oceanfront community with miles of pristine beaches, marshes, and a maritime forest. It offers a more quiet and secluded beach experience.
This island truly has it all when it comes to amenities. Check out all Seabrook Island has to offer:
- Two world-class golf courses
- Equestrian center
- Wellness center
- Shopping village
- Award-winning dining
There are plenty of vacation rentals on Seabrook Island, so you can still visit and stay here even if you are not a residential member.
Distance from Charleston, SC: 25 miles (~40 minute drive)
Vacation Rentals at Seabrook Island
3. Morris Island
Morris Island is a small uninhabited island found right off the Charleston Harbor and is about 7.5 miles from Charleston. This is an island for those who like an adventure because it is only accessible by boat or kayak.
This island is best known for its iconic landmark, the Morris Island Lighthouse.
If you make the trek out to the island, you’ll be greeted by long stretches of beach. The beach here isn’t frequented as often as others nearby, so it is abundant with shells and fossils.
For those kayaking adventures, if you want to bring your own, here are some top picks from Amazon worth checking out too.
- Top inflatable kayak for 1-person: Intex Excursion Pro Kayak Series
- Top inflatable 2-person kayak: Intex Explorer K2 Kayak
- Best Budget & Sit-on-Top Kayak: Pelican Sentinel Sit-on-Top Kayak
The easiest way to visit Morris Island is through a guided kayak or boat tour. If you only want a great view of the Lighthouse, there are viewpoints from Folly Island.
Camping is available at the nearby James Island County Park.
Distance from Charleston, SC: 7.5 miles (accessible by boat only)
Vacation Rentals near Morris Island
4. Isle of Palms
The Isle of Palms is a coastal barrier island and a top vacation destination in South Carolina. It is 18 miles or about a ~35-minute drive from Charleston.
Fun fact: Isle of Palms is named one of Conde Naste Traveler’s Top 10 Islands in North America! There are six miles of beautiful, sandy beaches among other attractions.
There are many top-notch resorts to stay at on the island. A local favorite is Wild Dunes, which has family-friendly accommodations and resort amenities.
Other attractions and recreation at Isle of Palms include:
- Shopping at boutiques and eclectic shops
- Kayaking and canoeing
- Boat tours and eco-tours
- Golf at the Wild Dunes golf course
For the Trip: Don’t forget to bring plenty of sunscreen and a sturdy beach umbrella like this one that’s wind-resistant up to 34 miles per hour.
Distance from Charleston, SC: 18 miles (~35-minute drive)
Vacation Rentals at Isle of Palms
5. Sullivan’s Island
Sullivan’s Island is about 10 miles (~20-minute drive) from Downtown Charleston in the neighboring town of Mount Pleasant.
Sullivan’s has a small and relaxed beach town feel. It’s best known for its miles of pristine beaches, restaurants, and community events.
Although the island is only 3.3 miles long, there’s plenty of fun and recreation here.
Sullivan’s is the perfect spot for lovers of water sports. From kayaking to sailing, kiteboarding, and fishing, there is something for everyone.
There are also a ton of delicious dining options on the island. A classic spot is Poe’s Tavern, a gastropub known for its gourmet burgers, sandwiches and local craft beer.
Distance from Charleston, SC: 10 miles (20-minute drive)
Vacation Rentals at Sullivan’s Island
6. Kiawah Island
Kiawah Island is 26 miles outside of Charleston, about a 40-minute drive.
It’s best known for its 10 miles of pristine beaches, maritime forests, and world-class golf courses. Kiawah is also home to the award-winning and luxury Kiawah Island Golf Resort.
Other recreation at Kiawah Island includes:
- Biking trails
- Nature tours
Kiawah Island is the perfect place to go for a little play and peace.
Distance from Charleston, SC: 26 miles (~40-minute drive)
Vacation Rentals at Kiawah Island
Beaches that are a 1-2 Hour Drive from Charleston, SC
These beaches are a bit further from Charleston, but each offers something special! If you’re looking for a few more beach options near Charleston, check out the 2 beaches below.
7. Edisto Beach
Edisto Beach is about 47 miles from Charleston, which is about an hour drive.
Because Edisto Beach is less developed than other coastal communities in SC, it’s the perfect spot for a more laid-back trip.
The Town of Edisto Beach provides 37 public beach access points to along Palmetto Boulevard. Edisto Beach is best for nature lovers or couples looking for a quiet and relaxing beach trip.
There is a 1,255-acre state park (Edisto Beach State Park) that borders the town. It provides both camping and hiking trails. (You can’t beat the views of the marsh and Southern Lowcountry feel here!)
Distance from Charleston, SC: 47 miles (1-hour drive)
Vacation Rentals at Edisto Beach
8. Hilton Head Island
Hilton Head Island is one of the further beaches from Charleston on our list. It is 97 miles, or about a 2-hour drive to Charleston, SC.
This is one of the most popular beach towns in the Palmetto State. Every year, between 2 and 3 million folks visit Hilton Head Island, SC.
If you want a bustling beach town, Hilton Head Island is worth visiting!
Hilton Head is known for its pristine beaches, championship golf courses, and great shopping options. There is also the iconic Harbour Town Lighthouse at Hilton Head.
If you work up an appetite after spending the day at the beach, there’s some amazing casual and fine dining in Hilton Head. From pizza places to classic Southern seafood, there’s something for every appetite.
And if you want to try something a little different, try taking a camper to one of Hilton Head’s best RV parks for your beach vacation!
Distance from Charleston, SC: 97 miles (2-hour drive)
Vacation Rentals at Hilton Head Island
In short, you can see that there are many great South Carolina beaches that are just a short drive to historic downtown Charleston. They range from a few minutes to a 2-hour drive from the holy city, and each offers something unique and special.
If you’re looking for some great ways to explore Charleston besides visiting its beaches, check out the video below!