Ask any local about life in Charleston SC and throughout the conversation, you’ll likely hear about time spent at one of the area’s many beaches. No matter where you live in the Charleston area, you're never really more than 20 minutes from the water and beautiful, sandy shores, which is why hitting the beach is a staple of life in the lowcountry. Whether you’re pursuing fitness goals, unwinding after a long week, or spending time with family and friends, which beach is your go to spot?
With four main beaches, there’s a convenient way to get your toes in the sand from just about any part of town. Most locals frequent the beach closest to home (for obvious reasons), but with so many beautiful beaches it might be time to look beyond the nearest shore and explore other Charleston area beaches.
Isle of Palms (IOP)
Separated from Mount Pleasant by the Intracoastal Waterway, Isle of Palms is as famous among visitors as it is a favorite for locals. Charlestonians, especially those to the north of the downtown Charleston peninsula, love to visit Isle of Palms beaches for the family friendly amenities. With the Isle of Palms County Park offering convenient parking, beachfront lifeguards, public restroom and other amenities, IOP is the ideal beach for families of all sizes. And beyond lounging on the sand, you'll find countless fishermen on the pier just waiting to reel in the catch of the day.
Known for it’s laid-back vibes and eclectic local scene, Folly Beach offers that classic, casual beach experience. Local Folly Beach residents relish in the easy-going life that surrounds them on a daily basis - after all, when you wake up with the beach just a few steps away, how bad could the rest of your day really be? Famous for the iconic fishing pier, Folly has grown beyond the small surf town and offers countless restaurants, bars, beach shops and vacation rentals. A surfing hotspot, Folly’s ‘The Washout’ is among the top surfing destinations in South Carolina and you'll find amateurs and pro’s alike hanging ten and riding the waves.
The surrounding beach is a part of Folly Beach County Park, which offers amenities including lifeguard supervision, beach patrol, public restrooms, snack bar and equipment rentals (beach chair/umbrella, fishing tackle, etc.). The pier is home to new local eatery Pier 101, the perfect place to enjoy a meal or your favorite drink while taking in the panoramic ocean views.
Though it is the smallest of Charleston’s beaches, Sullivan's Island beach is among the most pristine. Less frequented than Folly Beach, the beach at Sullivan's Island remains unspoiled and is often uncrowded, ideal for locals' morning walks on the beach, or picnics on the sand. With nearly a dozen local restaurants right off the beach, whether it’s Mex 1 Coastal Cantina for tacos and margs or dinner at the eclectic Poe’s Tavern, it's no wonder Sullivan's is a favorite for local Charlestonians.
Visible from miles away, punctuating the skyline, the Sullivan’s Island lighthouse (commonly called “Charleston Light”) has the distinction of being among the country's most modern lighthouses. Fully operational, it serves not only to guide ships safely to shore but also as a reminder of Charleston’s role as a bustling seaport bringing in and sending out food, goods, and tourists daily.
A scenic drive just south of downtown Charleston, Kiawah Island is home to spectacular marsh views, majestic live oak trees and lush, coastal landscapes. Well known for the world-class golf courses, Kiawah Island is also home to 10 miles of pristine beach along the Atlantic Ocean. Part of an exclusive residential community, a large stretch of the beach is reserved for residents and resort guests, however public access is available via Beachwalker County Park and has everything you need from lifeguards, to changing rooms, showers and plenty of shade. After a long day in the sun, locals usually find themselves stopping at Freshfields Village on the way home with its convenient upscale, shopping and dining all in one place.
Note: Each beach in Charleston is unique and locals choose their beach for whichever lifestyle suits them best. Explore them all and discover a few of Charleston's treasures and secrets along the say. Whether you’re a local in search of a change from your regular sandy spot, or in town visiting, book at one of our luxury vacation rentals on Folly Beach and discover Charleston's beaches for yourself!