If your perfect vacation day includes soaking up the sun, playing in the sand, or swimming in the ocean, then our Charleston guide is just what you need. Our 10Best list highlights the best places to soak up the sun, with Folly Beach County Park being a favorite of our editors and readers. Turn off the laptop, pack your beach attire, and get ready for a relaxing day of taking in rays.


Sullivan's Island
Sullivan's Island
Photo courtesy of Clare Sweeney

Head North out of downtown Charleston on US 17/US 1-26 N, keep to the right when crossing the Ravenel Bridge. Follow the signs to Sullivan's Island, passing expansive marsh and wetlands during a 15 - 20 minute drive from the peninsula. Sullivan's Island, one of three area beaches in Charleston, offers a quiet, more relaxed and less touristy setting than nearby Folly Beach. Sullivan's Island is known for its impressive beach homes, smooth sand beaches, and popular restaurants on its main streets. Each beach access, or beach station, is numbered by a grey stone marker. Alcohol, dogs, not allowed.

Local Expert tip: Head toward the higher numbered stations for the giant sandbar and tidal pool, a favorite spot for local kids.

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Folly Beach

You can't talk about Charleston area beaches without including Folly Beach! Besides the sand and waves, Folly is known for its growing restaurant scene, state park, and water sport rentals. Folly Beach is the ideal choice among Charleston's many nearby beaches, (Sullivan's Island, Isle of Palms, Kiawah Island, and Edisto Beach), due to the variety of lunch and dinner options, local watering holes and outdoor bars, and rental beachfront homes and bungalows. Stay at the Tides Hotel, which is located just steps from the shoreline and boasts a popular in-house restaurant, Blu. While you're visiting Folly, grab some breakfast at Lost Dog Cafe, and head to Taco Boy for a midday shrimp taco break from the heat!

Recommended for Beaches because: Folly Beach is ideal for every type of beach goer, from families with young children, to couples, and any travelers who enjoy a less crowded beach and water sports such as surfing and kayaking.

Clare's expert tip: There's only one main route to Folly Beach from downtown Charleston, and traffic regularly forms on weekends and holidays. Head to the beach early to beat the backups!

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Folly is without question one of the most iconic spots in Charleston. The beach park itself boasts over 2,500 feet of ocean frontage speckled with amenities like dressing areas, outdoor showers, restrooms, boardwalks, picnic areas and a snack bar. Boogie board and surfboard rentals are also on hand for visitors who want to take advantage of some of the best surfing north of Florida on the East coast.

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South of Charleston, Kiawah Island Public Beach is consistently ranked as one of the country's top beaches. Whether you're dropping by for a day-trip to sunbathe and relax on the pristine sandy strands, or visiting to enjoy one of the many golf courses or historic plantations in the area, the 10 miles of idyllic beaches and dunes are definitely a must. Consider renting a bike and hitting some of the island's many trails.

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One of the more upscale Charleston, SC beaches, Isle of Palms maintains a longstanding reputation as a family-friendly, noncommercial site that truly represents the best of South Carolina's beaches. Featuring a range of leisure and sports activities, from beachside bars to numerous volleyball courts, as well as accessible showers and bathrooms, this beach and the surrounding community are characterized by a quaint, small-town vibe even in the height of the season.

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In the Charleston, SC area, noncommercial beaches are few and far between. Edisto Beach is one of these rare gems, ideal for day-trips and long-term campers alike. It offers some of the best shelling around for both casual and die-hard collectors, and the labyrinth of trails that stretches through its maritime forest will satisfy the most devoted nature lovers and intrepid hikers. Be sure to drop by the Education Center for a history lesson, too.

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Located in Awendaw, SC, just a few short miles outside of Charleston, Bull Island Beach offers a secluded day-trip for wilderness lovers and history buffs alike. Once a haven for pirates, then later the site of Martello Tower (destroyed by Union troops in the Civil War,) this undeveloped barrier island was incorporated into the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge in 1932. It offers everything from idyllic woodland trails to hauntingly beautiful beaches.

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