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Top Beaches in Charleston

From Kiawah Island to Folly Beach, here are the top destinations.

A Charleston beach in Golden Hour
Hi, I'm Lydia!

Lydia Schrandt is a writer, editor, and award-winning photographer currently based in Houston. She’s a contributor for USA TODAY 10Best and serves as the first chair of the Editors Council of the Society of American Travel Writers. Her work has appeared in Draft, Time Out Beijing, Travel+, USA TODAY, San Francisco Chronicle, and others.

The beach might not be the first thing that comes to mind when planning a trip to historic Charleston, but the shores of South Carolina’s Lowcountry are dotted with beautiful stretches of sand. Here are some of the best options for a day of sun, sand, and sea.

Kiawah Island

Kiawah Island at sunrise.
Waves at Kiawah Island.Foto: Jack Siman / Shutterstock

Situated about an hour outside of Charleston, Kiawah Island ranks among South Carolina’s top beach resorts. Visitors will find a public beach—considered one of the best in the country—at the southern end of this beautiful barrier island, as well as plenty of bike paths.

Folly Beach

Folly Beach and its lighthouse.
At the lighthouse.Foto: Cvandyke / Shutterstock

Perhaps the most iconic beach in Lowcountry, Folly Beach has a little bit of everything: waves for surfing, lifeguards for safe swimming, a fishing pier, food vendors, and even a historic lighthouse (Morris Island) at the mouth of Charleston Harbor. Folly Beach is also a popular jumping off point for stand-up paddleboarding trips along the Carolina coast.

Sullivan’s Island

Sullivan’s Island from above.
The island from above.Foto: George A. Kenna / Shutterstock

This largely residential barrier island north of downtown Charleston was once the stomping ground of poet Edgar Allan Poe. Today, visitors come for its broad beach where an offshore sandbar creates excellent conditions for swimming and kiteboarding.

Isle of Palms

Isle of Palms is a great day trip from the city of Charleston.
Isle of Palms is a great day trip from the city.Foto: Christian Hinkle / Shutterstock

Located just across an inlet from Sullivan’s Island, Isle of Palms attracts families with its lively beaches and collection of shops and oceanfront restaurants.Those with an interest in angling can head out to fish in the creeks of Charleston Harbor or out to sea to catch flounder and red fish trout.

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