A Comprehensive Guide to the Most Popular South Carolina Coastal Towns

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Explore the different options you have if you’re looking to visit the coast in South Carolina!


Charming SC Coastal Towns

I can’t believe I’ve lived in South Carolina my entire life and never talked about it more in depth.


I’ve lived in multiple cities in the state and visited a lot of others, but if you’re looking for the pros and cons of South Carolina Coastal towns, especially if you have kiddos, you’re in the right spot! Let’s dive in….

See what I did there? Cuz of water and stuff?

Okay, fine, let’s move on.

Isle of Palms

The Isle of Palms is where I had my bachelorette party back in 2012.

Located just off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina, Isle of Palms offers plenty of things to do year-round, especially during the summer. From taking a boat tour to looking for sea turtle nests, there are many ways to enjoy the island.

south carolina coastal towns Charleston Isle of Palms

This small coastal city offers plenty of activities for families. From shopping to dining, there are plenty of things to do while vacationing here.

Ocean Boulevard runs along the island’s length and provides easy access to restaurants, shops, and even a public boat ramp. You’ll find many great places to eat, including delicious seafood options.

Benefits and Drawbacks

Tons to do with kids, including fantastic parks that have waterslides, a children’s museum, and an aquarium
Feels secluded
Great shopping and restaurants
Can be a bit pricey
Not really a “downtown” area, and Charleston is almost an hour away

Sullivan’s Island (Mount Pleasant)

Sullivan’s Island is one of the most popular destinations in South Carolina. Located just off the coast of Charleston, it offers visitors a unique experience and a wide range of activities. From fine dining to shopping, there are plenty of things to do at Sullivan’s Island.

The best way to describe Sullivan’s Island is as a place where nature meets man. Visitors can find themselves relaxing on the beach while enjoying the sounds of the ocean.

south carolina coastal towns lighthouse in Sullivans Island

If you’re a history buff, check out the Fort Moultrie National Monument, which dates back to 1776 during the American Revolution.

A hop over the Ben Sawyer swing bridge, and you are in the town of Mount Pleasant.

Whether you’re looking to enjoy the sights, sounds, and tastes of the area or want to simply retreat into solitude, there are plenty of things to do here.

Benefits and Drawbacks

Off the beaten path, so it’s less crowded and not “kitschy”
Mount Pleasant is a suburb of Charleston, so there are lots of things to do for families
Not a lot to do with little kids outside of the beach on the actual island

Myrtle Beach

Oh boy. Where do I start?

This is the most popular tourist destination in South Carolina, and to be quite honest, I have no idea why.

There’s a reason we locals call it Dirty Myrtle. But I digress.

Myrtle Beach is known for its beaches, boardwalks, oceanfront hotels, restaurants, and shopping areas.

south carolina coastal towns Myrtle Beach fairground

The main strip of Myrtle Beach offers tons of shops, food options, and kid-friendly fun. This is where people come to shop, dine, and take in much of what the city offers or take their kids for a visit to Ripley’s Aquarium.

With its massive size, Myrtle Beach has other coastal towns that make up part of it, which include Surfside, Garden City, and North Myrtle Beach, but for native South Carolinians, it’s all lumped into Myrtle Beach.

At least to me it is.

Benefits and Drawbacks

TONS to do with kids (waterparks, aquariums, outdoor activities, indoor playgrounds, etc.)
You can usually stay here pretty cheap
In the nicest way, it can be super trashy
Always seems busy
SUPER kitschy
Can’t use anything other than a small umbrella for shade in peak season

Hilton Head Island

south carolina coastal towns Hilton Head

This is where our family has gone every summer for the past 5 years, but as our family has grown, I have some thoughts.

Hilton Head Island is located off the coast of South Carolina, and this small town offers many activities for visitors to enjoy.

south carolina coastal towns Hilton Head golf

Hilton Head is a huge golfing destination. I mean our Airbnb that we stayed at this year was on a golf course and a driving range was in our backyard.

Regardless of where you go, there are bicycles everywhere which is great if you’re into that sort of thing.

There are plenty of places to stay on Hilton Head Island, ranging from hotels and resorts, Airbnbs, and even a Disney resort (spoiler alert: I think it’s super underwhelming.)

Coligny Beach Park is one of the most popular spots in the area. It features various activities, including volleyball courts, picnic tables, shops, and restaurants.

Benefits and Drawbacks

Beautiful and clean
Great for outdoor activities (biking, golf, kayaking, etc.)
An hour away from Savannah, so it makes a fun day trip
Not a lot of things for kids to do (no museums, no fun parks or waterparks, no attractions aside from a couple putt putt courses)
Feels a little “privileged”
Many things aren’t on the island, so you need to go back to the town of Bluffton

Edisto Island

Edisto Island is another one of those hidden gems in South Carolina. It’s beautiful but super small. Located off the coast of Charleston, it’s home to some of the best beaches in the state. You can spend hours walking along the shoreline and enjoying the beautiful views. This place offers plenty of opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts.

There are many things to do here, including hiking and biking on the island trails, fishing, sailing, and swimming.

south carolina coastal towns Edisto Island

This beautiful island offers visitors a relaxing break away from city life. You’ll find yourself immersed in nature, surrounded by lush greenery and wildlife, and far removed from anything that could disturb your peaceful surroundings.

The island itself is a haven for those looking to relax and unwind.

There is a serpentarium for the kids, but lemme tell ya – no chance you could catch me in there. It’d be like someone charging me to attend my worst nightmare. No thanks.

If you feel like you need more to do, take a day trip about an hour north and head to Charleston.

Benefits and Drawbacks

Not a lot of things for kids to do without leaving the island
Not a considerable nightlife if you’re visiting with adult friends

Surfside Beach

Surfside Beach is located in South Carolina, about 30 minutes south of Myrtle Beach. However, as I said in my blurb about Myrtle Beach, Surfside Beach is essentially Myrtle Beach.

south carolina coastal towns beach at Surfside Beach

The attractions here are similar to Myrtle Beach, like boating, fishing, walking, and biking. If you want to relax and unwind, several restaurants, bars, shops, and many hotels are nearby.

Huntington Beach State Park is located just south of Surfside Beach. Here you can fish, hike, or even participate in a geocaching scavenger hunt.

Brookgreen Gardens is a botanical garden located near Surfside Beach and was named one of the top 10 gardens in the US. It features over 9100 acres of gardens, and they have different attractions and features throughout the year.

Benefits and Drawbacks

Very family friendly
Lots of attractions and dining options, both local and chain restaurants
It’s basically Myrtle Beach, so this won’t be too different if you’re not a fan

Kiawah Island

Nestled just above Edisto Island is Kiawah Island. Whether you want to relax on one of the many beautiful beaches or enjoy various outdoor activities, you can have tons of fun outside.

A barrier island about 45 minutes off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina, Kiawah Island is a popular vacation spot for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. Kiawah Island provides visitors with plenty of opportunities for relaxation and recreation.

south carolina coastal towns bridge in Kiaway Island

The primarily privately owned island is host to several hotels, including the five-star The Sanctuary, a beachside luxury hotel offering guests access to the white sands of Kiawah Beach. Much like Hilton Head, golf is popular on Kiawah Island. The Ocean Course features three 18-hole courses designed by renowned architect Pete Dye.

In addition to the golfing experience, guests enjoy various amenities, including tennis courts, swimming pools, and fitness centers.

Nearby, Freshfields Village offers shoppers a wide array of boutiques, specialty shops, and restaurants.

Benefits and Drawbacks

Private and secluded
45 minutes from Charleston with tons to do for kids
Not a ton for littles to do on the island
Only 10 miles of beach so it’s pretty small

Other South Carolina Coastal Towns

There are tons of other coastal towns that you may want to check out and explore. Here are some other options for you if none of these tickle your fancy:

  • Folly Beach
  • Garden City
  • Litchfield Beach
  • Cape Island
  • North Myrtle Beach
  • Pawleys Island

South Carolina is home to various charming coastal towns that offer visitors a relaxing break away from city life. Each town has its own unique personality and set of attractions, so be sure to explore them all!

If you’re looking for a family-friendly town with plenty of things for kids to do, check out Isle of Palms or Surfside Beach. For a more secluded and private experience, try Folly Beach or Hilton Head Island. No matter what type of vacation you’re looking for, you’ll surely find it in one of these beautiful South Carolina coastal towns.

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