Your Guide to the Top Closest Beaches to Charleston SC

Throughout my blog, I use affiliate links. If you make a purchase using one of my links or discount codes, I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Charleston, SC, with its cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages, and undeniable charm, is a magnet for travelers seeking a taste of Southern hospitality. But beyond the historic streets and enchanting architecture lies another treasure: miles of beautiful beaches bordering the Atlantic Ocean. I grew up in Ireland with the other side of the Atlantic Ocean on my doorstep.

For those seeking the perfect complement to their Charleston exploration, this guide to the best beaches closest to Charleston SC offers a variety of options, each catering to a distinct travel style.

There are many options when exploring the closest beaches to Charleston SC. These beaches offer something for everyone! Find calm waves for families, thrilling waves for surfers, and pristine shores for pure relaxation. Explore this guide to the top beaches near Charleston SC!

Whether you’re a family with young children, a thrill-seeking surfer, or a luxurious beach bum, there’s a perfect beach escape waiting for you within a short drive of downtown Charleston. Grab your swimsuit, pack your beach essentials, and get ready to experience the best closest beaches to Charleston SC!

The Best Closest Beaches to Charleston SC

Without further delay, let’s get into the top beaches near Charleston SC. Some are only a 20-minute drive away!

Sullivan’s Island Beach – A Calm Escape for Families

Just a short 9.5-mile drive from the heart of Charleston, Sullivan’s Island Beach beckons families with its calm waves. The perfect spot for little ones splashing in the shallows and building sandcastles.

This beach offers a quieter and more secluded atmosphere compared to some of the other beaches near Charleston SC. History buffs will be excited to explore Fort Moultrie, a Civil War fort guarding the entrance to Charleston Harbor.

Insider Tip: Keep your eyes peeled for nesting loggerhead sea turtles between May and October. Witnessing these magnificent creatures laying their eggs on the beach is an unforgettable experience.

Activities: Beyond swimming and sunbathing, enjoy paddleboarding, exploring the fort, fishing, or collecting seashells. I also went for a long walk in the sun when I was exploring the beach.

Food: The Obstinate Daughter, a popular spot for brunch, with beautiful contemporary decor, is the perfect place to fuel before or after a day at the beach. See some more of my best Charleston restaurants in this guide.

Amenities: Public restrooms and seasonal lifeguards are available. Parking can be a challenge, with limited designated areas. Metered street parking and paid public lots are also options.

Isle of Palms Beach – Upscale Escape with Family Fun

You’ll find Isle of Palms beach is just a 10 minute drive from Sullivan’s Island so you could do a little beach hopping.

If you’re looking for a touch of luxury with your beach experience, Isle of Palms Beach, 24 miles from downtown Charleston, won’t disappoint.

This upscale beach town boasts beautiful stretches of pristine soft sand, perfect for families seeking a relaxing and scenic escape. Take advantage of the water sports rentals and enjoy activities like parasailing, kayaking, or jet skiing. Explore The Palm Beach Market, a hub with various restaurants, cafes, and shops, or savor fresh seafood and water views at The Boathouse, a local favorite.

Insider Tip: Visit the Isle of Palms Marina for exciting boat tours, dolphin-watching excursions, or deep-sea fishing adventures Be prepared for slightly higher costs compared to other closest beaches to Charleston SC, as Isle of Palms offers a more upscale experience.

Activities: Swimming, sunbathing, parasailing, kayaking, jet skiing, dolphin tours, chartered fishing trips.

Food: The Palm Beach Market (restaurants, cafes, shops), The Boathouse (fresh seafood, water views).

Amenities: Public restrooms, seasonal lifeguards, beach rentals (chairs, umbrellas, water sports equipment), showers, and ample public parking (paid) are available.

Folly Beach – The “Surf City” Edge of America

There are many options when exploring the closest beaches to Charleston SC. These beaches offer something for everyone! Find calm waves for families, thrilling waves for surfers, and pristine shores for pure relaxation. Explore this guide to the top beaches near Charleston SC!

Folly Beach is the perfect beach near Charleston SC for surfers! Folly Beach, just a short 11.5-mile drive from downtown Charleston, is Charleston’s undisputed “Surf City.”

The beach has a laid-back, bohemian vibe and a lively fishing pier with shops and restaurants. Beach yoga classes are offered seasonally. Keep an eye out for bottlenose dolphins playing in the waves while you relax on the shore.

After a busy day at Folly beach, rest up at one of these top Charleston hotels or enjoy a drink at one of the top rooftop bars in Charleston.

Insider Tip: Rent a beach cruiser bike and explore the island’s hidden gems at your own pace. For more adventure check out Folly Beach County Park to explore the wetlands and saltwater rivers.

Activities: Surfing, bodyboarding, fishing, pier fishing, biking and beach yoga (seasonal).

Food: For a casual beachfront meal, Rita’s Seaside Grill offers delicious food with fantastic ocean views.

Amenities: Public restrooms, seasonal lifeguards, beach rentals (chairs, umbrellas, surfboards), showers, and a fishing pier are available. Paid public parking lots are plentiful.

Kiawah Island Beach – A Luxurious Getaway for Beach Bums

For an unforgettable getaway unlike any other, consider venturing 32 miles from Charleston to Kiawah Island Beach. This private barrier island boasts pristine top beaches and world-class resorts, perfect for travelers seeking an exclusive retreat.

Kiawah Island Beach beckons with more than just championship golf courses, it boasts ten square miles of uninterrupted coastline, offering ample space for beachcombing, sunbathing, or building sandcastles with the family.

Keep your eyes peeled for seashells and shorebirds while soaking up the sunshine and the calming sound of the ocean. For some adventure, try kayaking through the island’s waterways or embark on a guided tour to explore the delicate ecosystems and diverse wildlife that call Kiawah Island home. After a day of exploring the beach’s natural beauty, unwind with a delicious beachfront meal, toes in the sand, and the sound of the waves sending you into a state of pure bliss.

Sunshine, sand, and Southern charm await! Explore the closest beaches to Charleston SC with this guide, featuring pure relaxation and luxurious escapes. South Carolina beaches are beautiful!

Insider Tip: Kiawah Island is a gated community, so access to the beach may require a resort stay or property rental. Be sure to check beach access regulations before your visit.

Activities: Golfing, horseback riding, biking, kayaking, nature walks, guided nature tours (exploring the island’s delicate ecosystems).

Food: Fine dining options at Kiawah Island Resort (various restaurants), The Ocean Room (beachfront dining).

Amenities: Amenities vary depending on your chosen resort or vacation rental. Public access points have limited facilities.

Seabrook Island Beach – Family-Friendly Relaxation on a Private Island

Escape to Seabrook Island Beach, another private island paradise located 32 miles from Charleston. This island offers a relaxed atmosphere ideal for families seeking a slower pace and a chance to reconnect with nature.

Rent a vacation property and enjoy the beautiful scenery and miles of shoreline. Dining options are limited on the island itself but head to Bohicket Marina for restaurants with outdoor seating and water views to complete your perfect beach day.

Insider Tip: Visit the Seabrook Island Beach Club for a fun-filled family experience, offering swimming pools, tennis courts, and planned activities for all ages (seasonal). Seabrook Island is a private island, so similar to Kiawah, access may require a resort stay or property rental. Be sure to check beach access regulations before your visit.

Activities: Swimming, sunbathing, biking, fishing, kayaking, golf (championship courses at Seabrook Island Club).

Food: Limited options on the island itself. Head to Bohicket Marina for restaurants with outdoor seating and water views (The Salty Dog Cafe).

Amenities: Amenities vary depending on your chosen rental property. Public beach access points may have limited facilities. Public parking is available at designated areas.

My Overall Thoughts – Best Closest Beaches to Charleston SC

Sunshine, sand, and Southern charm await! Explore the closest beaches to Charleston SC with this guide, featuring pure relaxation and luxurious escapes. South Carolina beaches are beautiful!

No matter which beach you choose, Charleston’s closest beaches promise unforgettable memories. Pack your beach essentials, a sense of adventure, and get ready to experience the magic of the South Carolina coast.

With its beautiful beaches, charming towns, and rich history, Charleston offers the perfect blend of relaxation and exploration, making it a destination you won’t soon forget. I had an amazing time when I visited and am already excited to return to Charleston and the beaches nearby.

There is so much to do in Charleston! After a beach day, enjoy a special toast at one of the top rooftop bars in Charleston and a delicious dinner at one of the best Charleston restaurants.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the closest public beaches to Charleston SC?

The closest public beaches to Charleston SC are Sullivan’s Island Beach and Folly Beach. While Kiawah Island and Seabrook Island offer stunning beaches, these are private islands and require a resort stay or vacation rental for access. They are stunning and will be a memorable stay for sure.

Are there any beaches near Charleston SC with lifeguards?

Sullivan’s Island Beach, Folly Beach, and Isle of Palms Beach have seasonal lifeguards on duty. It’s always important to swim in designated areas and be aware of water conditions.

What are some fun things to do near the closest beaches to Charleston SC besides swimming?

Beyond swimming and sunbathing, the closest beaches to Charleston SC offer a variety of activities. Enjoy surfing at Folly Beach, explore the historic Fort Moultrie at Sullivan’s Island, or go dolphin watching or deep-sea fishing from Isle of Palms Marina.

Rent bikes to explore the charming streets of Folly Beach or Isle of Palms, or take a guided nature tour to discover the unique ecosystems of Kiawah or Seabrook Island.

Where can I find good food near the closest beaches to Charleston SC?

Each beach destination offers a variety of dining options. Enjoy juicy in-house ground burgers with a view at Poe’s Tavern near Sullivan’s Island Beach, or grab a casual bite at Rita’s Seaside Grill on Folly Beach.

The Palm Beach Market near Isle of Palms offers a variety of restaurants and cafes, while Kiawah Island boasts fine dining experiences. If you’re visiting Seabrook Island, head to The Salty Dog for a delicious meal with a beautiful water view.

What are some things to keep in mind when visiting the closest beaches to Charleston SC?

Parking can be challenging at some of the closest beaches to Charleston SC, especially during peak season (summer). Sullivan’s Island has limited public parking, while Folly Beach offers paid public parking lots.

Isle of Palms Beach also has ample paid public parking options. Kiawah and Seabrook Islands are private islands, so be sure to check on beach access regulations before your visit. If you’re on a tight budget, keep in mind that Isle of Palms Beach tends to have slightly higher costs compared to other Charleston area beaches.

While the beaches are undeniably the stars of this show, historic Charleston itself offers a vibrant tapestry of experiences waiting to be explored. After a day soaking up the sun and building sandcastles, head back to historic downtown Charleston and wander along cobblestone streets lined with charming shops and cafes. Here are some of the most famous restaurants in Charleston. Enjoy a relaxing stay at one of these luxury Charleston hotels.

If you have any more questions about the best closest beaches to Charleston SC, Charleston travel recommendations, or all things travel, please reach out via Instagram or my contact page. I would love to help you out!

About Lorna Ryan

Lorna's fashion & beauty journey began on runways, including NYFW, which sparked her love for all things chic. Lorna spent two years as a SephoraSquad ambassador, sharing hero beauty products. Lorna unveils coveted beauty gems, the latest fashion trends, and best-kept jetsetter escapes.

1