South’s Greatest Beaches 2021
Locals know and treasure the beauty of the beaches of the Coastal South, but it's time the underrated coastline finally gets the widespread recognition it deserves.
Some folks travel halfway around the world seeking glorious beaches and the bluest waters. At home in the Southeast, however, there are countless breathtaking beaches that occupy the vast coastline, making for endless opportunities to explore the region’s boundless natural beauty.
Folly Beach, Charleston, SC
As the closest beach to downtown Charleston, Folly is a mecca for surfers, fishermen and all lovers of the laid-back beach lifestyle. More Folly-friendly activities include kayaking, sailing and paddle boarding. The picturesque scenes offer exceptional photo opportunities for visitors to capture a memento. Only about a 25-minute drive from downtown Charleston, Folly Beach is a favorite among locals and visitors alike. Make a trip of it and book a rental and dine at any of the seven barrier island restaurants. charlestoncvb.com/beaches/folly-beach
Atlantic Beach, Jacksonville, FL
Photo: Tono Balaguer
Atlantic Beach is only about a half-hour drive from downtown Jacksonville and is a high-rise free oasis on the East Coast shoreline—well, almost high-rise free, save One Ocean Resort and Spa. Known for beautiful homes, rolling dunes, swaying grasses and inviting white sands, Atlantic Beach is a stunning stretch of Northern Florida coast. Catching an early sunrise is worth the missed sleep, as the sun casts golden rays across the waves for an unforgettable view. Visitors can also enjoy all that the bustling-yet-pleasant town has to offer when they leave the sands. visitflorida.com/en-us/cities/atlantic-beach
North Beach, Tybee Island, GA
For a come-as-you-are vibe, North Beach is the perfect place to lie out and unwind. An unpretentious oasis, the northern shores of Tybee provide a light, sandy lounge as well as an opportunity for top-tier shell collecting. The warm, notoriously calm waters are great for cooling off or surfing some mild waves. Grab a bite at the North Beach Bar and Grill, explore the lighthouse, or head a few minutes up the road to more quirky shops and eateries. visittybee.com/article/north-beach
Coligny Beach, HHI, SC
The pristine beaches of Hilton Head Island are often number-one rated by national lists, and Coligny Beach is the most popular beach access on the island. Although the island has several access points to over 12 miles of soft, sandy beaches, Coligny Beach offers plentiful amenities to make any sun-soaked outing complete. The beach park offers ample parking, rental and bathroom amenities, Wi-Fi, and a retail and dining plaza; however, amenities aside, the beautiful beaches are the main attraction. hiltonhead.com/coligny-beach-park
East Beach, St. Simons Island, GA
Photo: Steve Thrasher
The expansive, pristine beaches of St. Simons Island are best experienced at East Beach, which boasts a variety of access points, depending on what activity you’re seeking. Gould’s Inlet has limited parking, but is a great spot for fishing and bird watching. Coast Guard Station Beach is the most popular spot and offers ample space to spread out. Massengale Park is the most secluded entrance and offers a quieter East Beach experience. There is no wrong way to enjoy St. Simons’ beaches, so the only mistake is not heading out! goldenisles.com/listing/east-beach/151
Pawleys Island, SC
Photo: James Hilliard
Pawleys Island is a barrier island less than four miles long and mostly one house wide, separated from the mainland by a beautiful salt marsh and accessible by two short causeways. Pawleys Island offers a distinct mix of shabby chic homes and cottages, well-preserved natural areas and historic landmarks. Pawleys is the perfect place for a low-key getaway or an enchanting island to call home—even if just for a day. Even still, its best feature may be the dog-friendly sands! townofpawleysisland.com
Isle of Palms, SC
Photo: Thom Morris
There is certainly no shortage of stunning beaches within a 30-mile radius of Charleston, SC. Isle of Palms is no exception. The Isle of Palms is both a residential and resort community with live music and beach volleyball at The Windjammer, ice cream and pizza along front beach, and families kicked back to enjoy it all. Fish at Breach Inlet, parasail, jump on a kayak or paddleboard, or simply curl up on a towel with a book. charlestoncvb.com/beaches/isle-of-palms
Edisto Beach, Edisto Island, SC
Photo: James Karner
Edisto Beach is one of the few remaining family-oriented, gently developed beaches on the coastline of South Carolina. Today, low-lying houses are situated along 4.5 miles of this uncrowded, pristine beach with plenty of public access. With a quiet, yet breath-taking, natural setting, this destination offers everyone a chance to enjoy the slower pace of days gone by. Part of the beach is a state park, with campsites, cabins and trails available for exploring the amazing scenery. Visit southcarolinaparks.com/edisto-beach for more information.
Sullivan’s Island, SC
Photo: Bryan T. Boyle
Sullivan’s Island is a consistent favorite of Charleston locals, thus attracting plenty of visitors throughout the year to experience the beach’s charm and beauty. In addition to the picturesque rolling dunes, rustling beach grass and plush white sands, Sullivan’s Island offers a highly recommended dining scene and family-friendly environment. Only about a 20-minute drive from downtown Charleston, Sullivan’s Island is a more easygoing alternative to Folly Beach. charlestoncvb.com/beaches/sullivans-island
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