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South Carolina is chock full of nature-based attractions, including beautiful beaches and barrier islands. What’s remarkable is the ability to have either a wildlife enriched eco-trip or a more touristy, waterpark infused adventure when visiting this particular part of the east coast. The Atlantic may not be as blue as the Gulf or the Pacific, but beaches surrounding the waters overflow with southern charm, spectacular natural habitats and vibrant towns with plenty to see and eat.
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Myrtle Beach is a lively area, and likely one of the top choices for vacationers when the warm months roll around. It’s a lot like Panama City—there are numerous attractions such as Ripley’s Museums, impressive shopping venues loaded with specialty shops, restaurants like Hard Rock Cafe, and a killer nightlife scene. A new climate controlled Ferris wheel allows visitors to peer toward the ocean and around town, while there are stretching piers perfect for fishing and family-friendly resorts with water parks. If a hustle and bustle kind of vacation is what you’re looking for, Myrtle Beach has plenty to keep you busy.
Hilton Head houses many beaches, like Coligny Beach, which is rated as one of the top stretches of sand in the entire United States, thanks to free amenities like showers and changing stations along with a list of places to shop and eat. Driessen Beach Park has a beautiful boardwalk, and Burke’s Beach is perfect for surfing—needless to say, at Hilton Head, you have plenty of options that tailor to your wants and needs, including beautiful oceanfront resorts. Ride on a pirate ship, take a Segway tour, see the surrounding dolphin or stay at a luxurious resort. Hilton Head is a true gem.
Pawleys Island is known as the more chill choice versus Myrtle Beach, where the Spanish Moss trees sway over shopping venues, and golf courses span over countless acres. See the castle, go out on a fishing charter boat or soak into the historic district—it’s so close to many popular beaches, yet so different. High-end restaurants from Italian to quaint bistros are at your disposal on the island, and you can get one heck of a Rueben sandwich with homemade chips, on a dime, at the Village Deli and Creamery.
Edisto Beach has managed to hang on to its raw charm with the absence of big chain hotels or an overflow of tourist attractions. Here you’ll find unspoiled marshes and beaches where you can take an eco-tour to see native wildlife. Restaurants serve up local catches like crab and oyster, and the scenic byway into the east coast paradise is simply stunning. Booking a cottage on the uncrowded beaches is a way to truly escape from loads of folks that flood to more well-known spots. And good news for dog lovers, the beaches are pet-friendly year round, and off leash during the winter.
Huntington Beach is a place where you can see wildlife such as birds and alligators (obviously, don’t get too close), lagoons, wetlands, and even an early 1900s castle in which the family the island is named after lived in. Remarkably serene, a day wandering the nature trails is a great way to wind down. Lots of palms and shading southern foliage make the state park a nice place to roam, and you can even hit the interweaving waters via kayak.
Kiawah Island sits 25 miles below Charleston, bundled closely with Folly Beach. Just a few lavish accommodations like The Sanctuary Hotel at Kiawah Island Golf Resort and Andell Inn dominate the lodging scene. A pier, golf course, nature parks and restaurants from upscale dining to barbecue joints make this little slice of land quite an attractive option. And of course, the beaches are perfect.
Nicknamed “the family beach” because of its versatility and accessibility to those with disabilities, particularly autism, Surfside Beach also features seven public parks and all the needed amenities like restrooms. Mermaid classes and a waterpark with plenty of slides are among the things to do in this beach town, not to mention the beach experience is convenient and relaxing. Comfort food cafes and restaurants are abundant, so get ready for some seriously good fried fish, waffles and omelets enjoyed separately of course.
Just south of Charleston, Folly Beach sits on a barrier island and is largely untouched, appearing pleasantly like a blank canvas. Driftwood accents the sand, there’s a nice pier extending over the water and the sunsets are unobstructed, reflecting a golden hue across the quaint homes and hotel. Cute little cafes, grills and crab-shacks on the island always offer something fitting for a vacation by the ocean.
Isle of Palms, Folly Beach, Morris Island—Charleston is a stellar home base when visiting the wealth of surrounding beaches. Southern charm oozes from quaint restaurants and historic inns in town, and it’s totally normal to see horses and carriages trot town the walkways. A short drive will lead you to inlets and wetlands, and striking beaches. Together with the beach, Charleston is an exciting destination with tons to see and do and a great place to experience true southern food and culture.