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10 Best Places to Live Near the Beach in South Carolina

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I walked at my local beach this morning and was astounded. The warm sand morphed around my feet, the sun beaming overhead. The salty beach air breezed by, and I felt at peace. It was perfect.

I’ve lived along the Atlantic coastline for over twenty years and still can’t believe it. I can be at the beach in less than five minutes. It’s a wonder that many people don’t get to experience.  

When the beach is in your backyard, it’s easy to take it for granted. You forget how wonderful it is. Every time I step on the beach, I wonder why I don’t go more often. It’s a beach paradise. 

I’ve been able to experience different beaches along the coast, and it’s always the same feeling.

If you’re looking for your own beach paradise, here are the best places to live in South Carolina near the beach. 

10 Best Places in South Carolina to Live Near the Beach, By a Local

Whether you want to move or buy a second home, South Carolina is an excellent option. Check out some of these wonderful beach towns. You might find a new place to call your home. 

Photo by Maggie Kelly

Myrtle Beach

If you’re looking for a beach town, Myrtle Beach is one of your best bets.

You may think I’m biased because this is the place where I live. Well, maybe a little bit. However, Myrtle Beach is abundant with outdoor activities.

Not to mention, travelers come from all around the world to experience this coastal paradise. It’s more than just a tourist hubspot; it’s a place many people are proud to call home. 

Myrtle Beach welcome sign
Photo by Maggie Kelly

The soft, sun-kissed beaches offer a fantastic landscape for sunbathing, beachcombing, or indulging in watersports. Myrtle Beach’s oceanfront boardwalk is chock-full of shops, restaurants, and the iconic SkyWheel.

Jump on the 187-foot SkyWheel to get an incredible birds-eye view of the beach.  You can buy the tickets in advance on their official website.

Myrtle Beach is committed to entertainment and recreation. With a plethora of attractions ranging from world-class golf courses to theatres hosting various shows, this town has something for everyone. 

While you’re here, check out Broadway at the Beach. It has a diverse array of shops, eateries, and attractions like Ripley’s Aquarium, where you can meet their penguins.

Children can also meet and get to know the resident mermaids.

Children of all ages are sure to love it in Myrtle Beach. Savannah’s Enabling Park Playground in Market Common is a fully interactive playground designed with special needs children in mind. There’s also no shortage of attractions and activities. 

If you like walking, be sure to check out the Conway Riverwalk, Murrell’s Inlet Marshwalk, and Vereen Memorial Gardens.

Myrtle Beach’s real estate offers a range of options for those considering a more permanent stay.

From upscale beachfront condos to quaint inland homes, the town seamlessly blends modern living with its timeless coastal ambiance.

Folly Beach

Often known as “The Edge of America,” Folly Beach has a rich history. The earliest record of Folly Beach dates back to 1696, when it was deeded as a royal grant. 

Folly Beach was known for its shipwrecks, like the brig Amelia, and was a favorite destination for pirates. During the Civil War, Folly Beach became a stronghold for Union Soldiers.

The 12-square mile barrier island has been through a sordid history, but today, it stands tall with many wonderful features. 

The beach is a pristine stretch of soft sand and gentle waves, and the shoreline is punctuated with the iconic Morris Island Lighthouse. The lighthouse stands just north of Folly Beach and makes an excellent landscape for photographers. 

Find the Folly Beach Pier, which stretches 1,000 feet into the ocean. Visitors can enjoy six miles wide of beaches. The terrain is perfect for surfing, fishing, biking, kayaking, boating, and eco-tours. 

Downtown Folly is known for its eclectic energy. Wander down Center Street, and you’ll be greeted by a medley of quirky shops, colorful murals, and cozy cafes. 

Folly boasts several places of interest, and locals recommend visiting:

  • Morris Island Lighthouse
  • Folly Fishing Pier
  • Porgy & Bess House
  • Folly River Park
  • Charleston County Park
  • Bark Park
  • Pirate Park

When you’re not on the water, you can enjoy the myriad of offerings on the island. Rent a bike to explore the island’s parks and nature trails, or grab a bite of fresh seafood or a juicy steak. 

If you’re looking for a new home, Folly Beach is a great contender. 

Hilton Head

Hilton Head Island, often referred to simply as Hilton Head, is part of the Lowcountry region of South Carolina. It’s a lush barrier island nestled right off the coast of South Carolina, mixing small-town charm with coastal elegance. 

One of their defining features is their commitment to preserving the environment. As you explore the island, you’ll find an abundance of maritime forests, salt marshes, and lagoons. The island is also home to diverse wildlife, from graceful herons to playful dolphins.

Hilton Head is home to some of the world’s best golf courses, created by legendary designers and framed with scenic views. And if you’re a tennis enthusiast, Hilton Head is the right place for you. 

If you want to play, practice, or improve your tennis game, look no further than Hilton Head. You’ll love Palmetto Dunes Resort, with 17 clay tennis courts, or any of the other resorts and clubs. 

For those keen on walking trails, you can explore the island’s extensive network of walking and biking trails. The trails weave through forests and other historic sites. 

Speaking of history, the island is rife with it. The Coastal Discovery Museum is a learning center with programs and walks on 68 coastal acres. The museum has events, exhibits, tours, and experiences for anyone to dive into. 

Be sure to check out the Harbour Town Lighthouse and immerse yourself in the local Gullah culture. The Gullah are descendants of African-Americans who were enslaved on Southern cotton and rice plantations. The Gullah-Geechee culture continues to live on in Hilton Head. 

Pawleys Island

Located 70 miles north of Charleston and 25 miles south of Myrtle Beach, Pawleys Island is known as one of the oldest summer resorts on the East Coast. Pawleys is less then four miles long and one house wide. 

Pawleys Island has a storied past. The earliest inhabitants of the island date back over 10,000 years – the Wacammaw and Winyah. When the Europeans arrived in 1521, it was devastating for the Native Americans. 

Pawleys Island was settled in the early 1700s and has long been recognized for its relaxed, laid-back atmosphere. It’s separated from the mainland by a beautiful salt marsh and is accessible by two causeways. Many beach cottages date back to the early 1800s.

Lowcountry rice planters would escape to Pawleys Island to flee from the malaria during summers of the early 1700s. 

The main activities of the day consist of swimming, fishing, and sunning. Once the sun goes down, you can expect dining out, long conversations on screened porches, and strolling along the beach.

It’s a short drive to Brookgreen Gardens, one of the country’s premier outdoor sculpture garden. Brookgreen Gardens is an outdoor sculpture and wildlife preserve. It’s been ranked in the top 10 gardens in the US by TripAdvisor. 

If it’s sea creatures you’re looking for, try out Blue Wave Adventures in nearby Murrells Inlet.

A licensed U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Marine Officer will take you out on a boat so you can see the dolphins. In addition, they offer a Pirate Island Adventure Tip, taking explorers on a trip to Drunken Jack Island. 

Cherry Grove 

Cherry Grove Beach, sometimes just Cherry Grove, is tucked away in the northernmost part of North Myrtle Beach. It’s much quieter than its neighbors, as its away from many of the neon lights you get closer to Myrtle Beach.

It’s way easier to find a secluded spot to enjoy the white sand and ocean view. 

One of Cherry Grove’s best features is the iconic Cherry Grove Pier. Stretching 985 feet into the ocean, anglers flock to its edges in hopes of reeling in fish. The pier has been a beloved landmark since the 1950s. 

Locals swear by the best seafood joints: Filet’s, The Shack, and Duffy’s Street Seafood. 

Cherry Grove boasts several state and national fishing records, including the world’s largest tiger shark to be caught at 1,780 pounds and 16 feet. Cherry Grove serves as a hot place for fishing, surfing, kayaking, and paddleboarding. 

One of the most unique parks in the area has to be the Heritage Shores Nature Preserve. The land is preserved in its native state and is accessible through a series of elevated boardwalks and observation docks. 

The preserve is ideal for fishing, hiking, kayaking and birdwatching. Birdwatchers can rejoice at the variety of bird species they will find here. 

While you can’t fish inside Heritage Shores Nature Preserve, you can walk to the dock in the parking lot and fish there. 

Cherry Grove makes a wonderful home for those searching for a quieter beach. You get to enjoy all the benefits of Myrtle Beach without living in the hustle and bustle. 

Photo by Maggie Kelly

Mount Pleasant

Mount Pleasant is located just across the Cooper River from Charleston. The town embodies the Lowcountry charm, providing an idyllic setting for both visitors and residents. It’s slower and more relaxed than its adjacent neighbor. 

Initially inhabited by the Sewee tribe, Mount Pleasant was later settled by Europeans in the early 1700s. Mount Pleasant became a key location for plantations, especially after the cultivation of rice and indigo in the Low Country. 

There is also great history in Mount Pleasant. Boone Hall Plantation was established by Major John Boone in 1681.

It’s been open to public viewing since 1956. Boone Hall has been recognized as the #1 Plantation in the Charleston Area by USA TODAY 10BEST. 

Mayor Boone’s son planted live oak trees in evenly spaced rows in 1743. It would take two centuries for the trees to meet overhead, draping the space in massive Spanish moss.

You can explore the Gullah culture in depth as Boone Hall is the only place in the Lowcountry to present a live presentation of this unique culture.  

Visit Shem Creek where you can see all kinds of marine creatures. Shem Creek is both a working creek and hub of recreation. It draws many outdoor enthusiasts to its boardwalks.

Take some time to enjoy amazing view of the creek at Shem Creek Park. There are long boardwalks and short trails, making it easy to go for a simple stroll. 

Get out on the water by renting a kayak and you just might be lucky enough to see their resident dolphins in the creek.

Shem Creek also staked a claim to television fame, as the popular Netflix show “Outer Banks” was largely filmed around Shem Creek.  

Surfside Beach

Surfside Beach has roots tracing back to the early 19th century. Nicknamed “The Family Beach,” Surfside acts as Myrtle Beach’s smaller and quieter little sister. It has two miles of pristine coastline that are cleaned and monitored daily. 

Initially called “Roach’s Beach,” it served as a farming community with sparse inhabitants. Post-World War II, it gained prominence as a desirable beach destination. The name “Surfside Beach” became the official name in the mid-20th century.

Surfside is only two square miles, but it packs a lot in. There are 36 public beach access points, so you’ll be able to visit the beach at any time. 

The Surfside Beach Fishing Pier, built in 1953, used to be a staple in the community. It wasn’t until 2016 when Hurricane Matthew came rolling in, destroying over 50% of the pier. It was a devastating blow, but luckily, it’s being rebuilt. 

Hankering for a good bagel? Then pull up a seat at Benjamin’s Bagels. These New York inspired bagels will whet your appetite and fill up your tummy. 

Living up to “The Family Beach” name, Surfside Beach is an excellent place for children as well. All Children’s Park is an enclosed community space with swing sets and play equipment. It includes shady trees and picnic tables. 

Surfside Beach doesn’t forget your furry friends either. Surfside has a Bark Park, where all dogs go to play and have fun.

It’s separated into two areas for large dogs and small dogs. Be sure to check out the park rules before you go to ensure safe play.

Isle of Palms

The Isle of Palms is nestled just east of Charleston, South Carolina. The barrier island spans roughly seven miles and celebrates everyone who visits. It features a beautiful beach, championship golf & tennis, a marina, and endless recreational opportunities. 

The island was originally inhabited by the indigenous Sewee tribe, who called the island “Huntoon,” translate to “Dark Water.” Eventually, European explorers arrived and claimed the land. 

In the early 20th century, Isle of Palms transformed into a bustling resort area. Try out any of their popular activities, from kayaking to golf to photography. 

There’s no shortage of activities to do and places to see. Apart from the pristine beachfront, there’s the Wild Dunes Resort.

The gated resort boasts premier golf courses designed by Tom Fazio, top-tier tennis facilities, and picturesque vies. It even has a spa for those who want to go straight into relaxation. 

The Isle of Palms County Park makes for a great day at the beach. It’s the perfect spot to unwind and enjoy the island’s natural beauty. The park offers up boardwalks, sand volleyball, and a children’s playground. 

If you’re a nature lover, don’t miss out on seeing the sea turtles. Every year, between May and August, Loggerhead turtles come ashore to lay their nests. The sea turtle patrol team is dedicated to proteching the sea turtles. 

The purpose of the sea turtle patrol team is to:

  • Find and protect nests
  • Relocate eggs
  • Identify and mark nests
  • Educate the public about sea turtles

The Isle of Palms Marina offers numerous opportunities for adventure. Charter a fishing boat, rent jet skis, embark on an eco-tour, or paddleboard amidst the tranquil waters and marshland.

Sullivan’s Island

Sullivan’s Island is steeped in history. It was first discovered by Captain Robert Sandford in 1666 and named for one of South Carolina’s first colonists, Captain Florence O’Sullivan. 

Sullivan’s Island served as a major port of entrance for enslaved Africans brought to North America.

It was the largest slave port in North America, with over 40% of the estimated 400,000 enslave Africans passing through it. It’s estimated that nearly half of all African Americans can trace an ancestor who passed through Sullivan’s Island.

One of Sullivan’s Island’s most historic landmarks is Fort Moultrie. The first fort was originally crafted out of palmetto logs, inspiring the state’s name “The Palmetto State.” 

When the Royal Navy attacked Fort Moultrie in 1776, the palmetto logs didn’t crack underneath the shots; instead, the logs absorbed them. The fort witnessed the Revolutionary War’s first decisive victory. 

The Sullivan’s Island Lighthouse, also known as the Charleston Light, holds a unique title as one of the most modern lighthouses in the country. While unavailable for public tours, it’s a fan favorite for photographs. 

Famed writer, Edgar Allan Poe, was stationed at Fort Moultrie in the 1820s, inspiring some of his works. His piece, “The Gold Bug” was set on the island. Sullivan’s island’s library is named in his honor. 

Taking a stroll through Sullivan’s Island is like taking a journey back in time. Many homes on the island have retained their historic charm, and plaques denoting their significance can be found throughout the community. 

Photo by Maggie Kelly

Kiawah Island

Situated 25 miles southwest of Charleston, Kiawah Island is a barrier island merging its past with natural wonders. 

The history dates back thousands of years to when the Kiawah Indians were its first inhabitants. In the 17th century, English settlers arrived and established plantations. Over the centuries, the ownsership changed hands multiple times. 

Nearly 20% of Kiawah Island is made up of water. The tidal creeks, salt marshes, rivers, and ocean waters are home to wildlife and have endless opportunities to enjoy the surf. 

The Kiawah Island Golf Resort is your destination for luxury golf and beach vacations. The golf resort is renowned for its golf courses, most notably the Ocean Course. Having hosted multiple PGA Championships, the Ocean Course provides a challenge for avid golfers. 

The designer’s wife suggested raising the entire course to give golfers an unobstructed view of the coastline. The challenge that comes with that is the course is exposed to the Atlantic Ocean’s unpredictable breezes. 

The Kiawah Island Nature Center offers guided tours for nature lovers to explore the island’s diverse ecosystems. The Kiawah Creatures Nature Walk is perfect for children and adults alike, giving them the chance to explore the island’s wildlife up close. 

There are dolphin encounters, where guides will search the waterways for pods of dolphins playing and enjoying the water.

Birdwatchers can also rejoice as there is a a wide variety of birds throughout all seasons. There are hummingbirds, chickadees, herons, pelicans, and more to see. 

The island has over 30 miles of biking trails that weave through the various landscapes. Rent a bike and explore the island at your own pace. 

Your Beach Home Awaits

There’s nothing like living near the beach. When it’s only a short drive or walk away, there’s no way you don’t take advantage of the sandy beaches. 

South Carolina offers a handful of towns that anyone would be lucky to live in. All up and down the coast, the warm beaches beckon you to come and stay for a while. 

So pack up your beach chairs and belongings and bring the family over. The beaches are spectacular and you can guarantee you fall in love with them. 

You’ll fall so in love you’ll be making plans to move here in no time. 

The beach awaits.

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