Scenic Charleston Beaches
There are plenty of good reasons to make the trip to Charleston, South Carolina: Historic homes make for colorful photo ops, the restaurant scene is fresh and inventive, and locally owned stores and boutiques make for unparalleled shopping. Some of the Holy City's greatest assets, though, aren't actually within the city limits. Here, our guide to 5 sun-drenched beaches that are just a quick drive from the Charleston Peninsula. They're worth the detour.
1. Folly Beach
Just 12 miles from downtown, the "Edge of America" is the grooviest of Charleston's nearby beaches. It's a popular hangout for surfers, who frequent "The Washout," a stretch of coast known for having the area's best waves. Center Street, the bohemian beach town's colorful main thoroughfare, is lined with surf and souvenir shops and good eats, like Taco Boy and Rita's Seaside Grille, and is just steps away from Folly's 1045-foot fishing pier.
2. Kiawah Island
While the 23-mile drive from the peninsula out to Kiawah Island takes about 40 minutes on a good day, the pristine stretch of sand at Kiawah's public Beachwalker Park is well worth it. It's quiet, especially for a public park, fronts the ocean, and also offers views of the Kiawah River. Beach chair and umbrella rentals are available seasonally, and dogs are welcome, as long as they're on a leash. Explore Kiawah Island's private beaches by renting a house or villa on the island or booking a stay at the Sanctuary, the island's luxurious oceanfront hotel.
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3. Isle of Palms
The oceanfront county park on this barrier island has picnic tables, a sand volleyball court, and a playground for the littlest beach bums, making it a great place to take the whole family. Venture a little further down the beach, beyond the park, to discover a number of fun beachfront bars and eateries, like family-friendly Coconut Joe's Beach Grill and The Windjammer, a classic dive bar and music venue that's as salty as they come.
4. Seabrook Island
Though the island's nearly 4 miles of unspoiled beaches are private to residents and rental guests only (book your stay here), Seabrook is still worth a stop if you're already making the trip out to Kiawah's Beachwalker Park, which is just a few miles away. Head to Bohicket Marina for a sunset stroll by the water, then plop down at an outdoor table at Red's Ice House for creek views, Carolina peel-and-eat shrimp, and a cold beer or two.
5. Sullivan's Island
When it comes to old-school cottages, small town charm, and a spotless beach to boot, you won't find a dreamier destination than Sullivan's. While neighboring Isle of Palms has a lively resort feel, 3.3-square-mile Sullivan's tends to fly under the radar – and the locals like it that way. Be sure to stop by Poe's Tavern on Middle Street for a killer burger before you head back towards town … flip flops and salty hair are always welcome on the front porch.