We landed the state's freshest catch from Hilton Head Island up to Myrtle Beach.
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Big Shrimpin'
Overlook shrimp boats on Shem Creek as you dine at The Wreck of the Richard & Charlene, in Mount Pleasant.
| Credit: Squire Fox

Imagine overlooking a marina filled with fishing boats as you taste some of the freshest seafood in South Carolina. This dream is possible in the Palmetto State. Shrimp, oysters, and crabs are only a few of the Southern staples you'll find when visiting these establishments.

Standing the test of time and weathering a few storms, these eateries know best how to serve fresh foods and unique specials so tourists and locals will keep coming back. She-Crab soup, Frogmore stew, and brandy-infused gator sauce may sound wild, but they are just local favorites here. More catches-of-the-day from the ocean and local beers from South Carolina breweries help top this Lowcountry experience. From restaurants that serve seafood directly out of buckets to waterside decks with unobstructed sunset views, there is always a nautical experience awaiting you when visiting these 10 best seafood restaurants.

Sea Shack

The line for the Shack's grilled, fried, or blackened seafood begins long before the 40-seat eatery opens for lunch or dinner. It's worth the wait for the daily "Blackboard" special that features a choice of perfectly cooked fresh fish, including grouper, flounder, and snapper. Fish is served with two sides: collards, macaroni and cheese, cheese grits, and green beans.

Order: Hearty appetites should try the Shack Attack Combo ($17.95 for lunch, $19.95 for dinner), which combines a crab cake, fish, shrimp, scallops, and oysters on a giant paper platter. Homemade tartar sauce is the traditional accompaniment, but we think the brandy-infused gator sauce makes an even better platter slather. 

6 Executive Park Road, Hilton Head Island, SC 29928, seashackhhi.com

Bluffton Family Seafood House

Larry and Tina Toomer figured they wouldn't have to go far to get fresh fish and oysters—the couple also runs the Bluffton Oyster Company—so they opened this full-service restaurant in 2010. The dishes are unpretentious, but because the crabs, mussels, clams, and shrimp come mainly from the nearby May River. They need little in the way of endorsement.

Order: Share a bucket of steamed oysters ($20), then dive into a basket of fried shrimp ($16.50) with a side of stewed tomatoes and rice ($4).

27 Dr. Mellichamp Drive, Bluffton, SC 29910, blufftonoyster.com

Whaley's

Housed in a former gas station that was once the only place to get fresh water or make a phone call for 45 miles, Whaley's is still a popular gathering spot. Locals and visitors come for their platters, known as the "home of the ugly fish." Entrees include fried mahi-mahi bites with honey mustard tartar sauce, stuffed shrimp with a lemon dipping sauce, and beers pulled from the original soda cooler.

Order: The Flounder (18.95), a fried fresh catch, is a popular, down-to-earth dish with a heavenly twist.

2801 Myrtle Street, Edisto Beach, SC 29438, whaleyseb.com

The Crab Shack

You know you've finally reached the beach when you find steamed shrimp, crab legs, oysters, and corn on the cob served in tin buckets on a dog-friendly porch. The marquee bucket, The Charleston Steamed Seafood Bucket, includes two snow crab clusters, large domestic shrimp, and steamed oysters. Top the meal with a signature drink like the Crab-Berry Kiss, a vodka-based fruity cocktail.

Order: The creamy She Crab Soup ($7.99) is thick with sweet crabmeat, and the Grilled Seafood Platter will give you a taste of your favorites with shrimp, scallops, and a fresh catch ($24.99).

26 Center Street, Folly Beach, SC 29439crabshacks.com

Bowens Island Restaurant

This eatery has stood the test of time for over 60 years. First, the restaurant sources (very) locally by serving oysters caught just yards from where they're steamed or fried. Enjoy your fresh fare with hush puppies, Frogmore stew, and South Carolina-brewed beers. Second, this seafood establishment has a waterside deck, so if you come early, you can watch the sunset over the wetlands as the oysters arrive.

Order: You can't beat fresh Carolina Oysters, and this Fried Oyster Platter is terrific (price unavailable).

1870 Bowens Island Road, Charleston, SC 29412, bowensisland.com

The Wreck of the Richard & Charlene

When Hurricane Hugo blew the Richard & Charlene (a North Atlantic-style trawler) into their dock, Fred and Pat Scott had the wreck removed and then named their restaurant in Mount Pleasant's Old Village area after it. Although the couple initially served eggs and grits (at the time, breakfast was all they knew how to make), they soon found their sea legs. They serve combo platters overflowing with fried, grilled, or broiled shrimp, scallops, oysters, and fresh catch-of-the-day fish.

Order: The Deviled Crab ($20.95), a crab cake that tastes best sitting on the restaurant's screened porch and watching the fishing boats pass by on Shem Creek.

106 Haddrell Street, Mount Pleasant, SC 29464, wreckrc.com

Seewee Restaurant

It's like Sunday dinner at grandma's every day in this general store-turned-cozy restaurant. Rice and gravy, fried green tomatoes, and butter beans compete for your attention with just-caught flounder, fish stew, and local shrimp. The setting is rustic wooden beams lining the ceiling and silhouettes of Southern scenes rendered in iron by Lowcountry artist Thomas Smoak decorating the walls.

Order: "The Catch" ($25) a serving of Mahi, tuna, grouper, or whole flounder with two sides.

4808 N. Highway 17, Awendaw, SC 29429, seeweerestaurantinc.com

T.W. Graham & Co.

This McClellanville restaurant opened in the 1980s and in the decades since, it has gained a loyal following throughout the fishing village and beyond. Currently owned by Patrick Runey, the restaurant is known for its fresh seafood and welcoming spirit, and it still serves the kinds of dishes that keep people coming back for more. Stop by for lunch or dinner for fresh catch, great starters, and homemade chowders.

Order: A bowl of crab, shrimp, and corn chowder; a fried flounder sandwich; and an order of Gert's Famous Crab Balls.

810 Pinckney Street, McClellanville, SC 29458, facebook.com

Lee's Inlet Kitchen

MurrellsIt's tempting to load up on the hush puppies that arrive hot from the fryer when you sit down, but try to hold back. Wait for the seafood platters that will soon arrive with huge portions of fried, broiled, or grilled fish, oysters, and fantail shrimp. They come accompanied by sides of veggies and potatoes and homemade desserts such as Key lime pie and Cobbler of the Day.

Order: The Shrimp Salad ($12.95) is a house specialty.

4460 US-17 Business, Murrells Inlet, SC 29576, leesinletkitchen.com

The Original Mr. Fish Restaurant and Seafood Market

Grand Strand seafood lovers cheered three years ago when Ted Hammerman and his daughter, Sheina, saved this landmark restaurant and seafood market. Now fish fans flock to the inviting, art-filled building in a strip mall for Blue Crab Cluster Boil and crab rangoons (deep-fried wontons filled with cream cheese and crab). The eatery also offers favorites like fish tacos and crab mac and cheese. There's also a variety of steamed items like oysters, crabs, and shrimp.

Order: The fish tacos made with your choice of fish, chicken, or vegetarian ($15) topped with onions and sweet peppers.

6401 N. Kings Highway, Myrtle Beach, SC 29572, mrfish.com