People from across the world visit Charleston for her cobblestone streets lined with 18th- and 19th-century homes, copper gas lanterns, hitching posts and horse-drawn carriages. However this deep seeded history told from antebellum mansions, quaint old inns, and a rich culinary landscape is only one highlight of what Charleston offers.
Charleston is an historic port city, but is also a world -renown beach destination with barrier islands on the Atlantic Ocean reachable within 20 minutes of the historic downtown. With multiple islands offering distinct cultural experiences, there is a beach for everyone in the greater Charleston area. So without further ado, here is a sampling of some of the best beaches in the Lowcountry.
Isle of Palms
Seven miles of beautiful Atlantic coast await you at Isle of Palms beach. It’s a popular place for the family crowd, but there is a good mix of singles and couples as well. If you’re not one to just sit around on the sand, you can check out other available activities, including water sports, boat tours, fishing charters and even golf in the gated Wild Dunes community. Of course, you’re welcome to relax on the gorgeous white sand as well! You might even spot sea turtles during the egg-laying season, and if you keep a sharp lookout on the water, it’s not unusual to spot pods of dolphins swimming just offshore. Restaurants and shops line the street leading to the beach, where you can hang out with a fruity drink, play beach volleyball or listen to live music.
Head out of downtown Charleston across the Arthur Ravenel Bridge to this scenic barrier island. The beach is pretty quiet in the off-season but come spring and summer, it’s buzzing with activity. The panorama here can’t be beaten — not only do you have the sun and sea, but you get a great view of the Sullivan’s Island lighthouse. The beach is generous, with wide swaths of sand and plenty of room for everyone. Cafés, taverns and restaurants here are aplenty, so you can always find great food and drinks to suit your mood and taste.
Known as “The Edge of America”, this barrier island is just 20 minutes from downtown Charleston, but it feels like it’s a million miles away. The island has somehow managed to retain its small-town ambiance, and you’ll love the virtual absence of chain stores and restaurants — most establishments are locally owned, and each has its own personality and vibe. The beach itself reflects the island’s character — laid-back and friendly, and fishing is popular from both the shore and pier. Since there is nothing to see but thousands of miles of Atlantic Ocean, Folly Beach offers some of the best surfing on the East Coast and is a mecca for surfers looking for some bragworthy wave action. Both surfboard rental and lessons are available. Paddleboarding and kayaking are also popular water activities.
With its 10 miles of spectacular coastline, Kiawah Island is a beach lover’s Utopia. Beautiful white-sand stretches for as far as the eye can see on one of the most picturesque barrier islands on the entire East Coast. At just 45 minutes from Charleston, it’s easy to spend a morning, afternoon or all day in this lovely setting. Dig your feet into the soft sand or head to the Kiawah River to observe the wildlife. Since this community has strict protections and regulations in place to protect wildlife, you’ll see lots of birds, and you may even spot a whitetail deer, bobcat, sea turtle or even an alligator. The island also boasts five championship golf courses. Most of the coastline is privately owned, but you’ll find a public access beach at the island’s southwestern tip. The island is a gated community open only to residents and guests.
If you’re looking for a quiet, laid-back place to hang out and unwind, look no further than Seabrook Island. Since it’s a private, residential beachfront community, it doesn’t suffer under the tourist crunch like so many other places on the coast. There are lovely amenities including a newly renovated ocean club, and with more than three miles of sandy beach, horseback riding, kayaking, a lovely marina, a marine forest and peaceful marshes, you’ll find plenty to see and do on Seabrook. The community offers both golf and equestrian opportunities including horseback riding on the beach! Another gated community, you must obtain a pass from a resident or guest on the island for access.
Edisto Island is truly one of the very few surviving unspoiled beach communities in the entire country. So if you want to avoid the kitsch and tourist traps that have invaded so many other beachside locales, Edisto is the place for you. Embrace the casual, relaxed atmosphere as you enjoy four and a half miles of beautiful, pristine coastline. You can simply lie back and soak up the South Carolina sun or putter around Jeremy’s Inlet at low tide looking for seashells, fossils and shark teeth that have been left behind. Once you get a taste of the peace and serenity of Edisto, you won’t ever want to leave.
So enjoy everything Charleston has to offer. Walk the historic streets, breathe the rich cultural atmosphere and take in one of America’s most charming cities. But don’t forget to make time to head for the coast, where sun, sand and surf await you on one of Charleston’s spectacular beaches!