Our Favorite NC And SC Beaches To Visit This Summer
From the Outer Banks to the SC beaches in the Lowcountry, the coast of the Carolinas offer up plenty of opportunities for summer vacations you won’t forget.
McClellanville is a quaint, Spanish moss-draped fishing town just far enough from the buzzing city of Charleston to provide guests with a quiet, relaxing experience. McClellanville was established in 1706 as a portion of St. James-Santee Parish, and today, its history of rice plantations, grand architectural homes and buildings, and rich culture remains woven throughout the area. With a population of less than 1,000, guests can enjoy a peaceful stroll through the fishing docks and piers, where bodies of water promise bountiful fish. The nearby Francis Marion National Forest offers even more beautiful scenery.
When you head east to famous Carolina destinations like the Outer Banks, visiting Duck Beach is a must. Duck is a thriving coastal community with an expansive stretch of beautiful beach. Kayak through its unique wetlands, then head back into town to visit the local hotspots. Free of the summer tourists, Duck’s calming waterside boardwalk and local shops will make you feel as if you’ve stumbled upon a hidden island ripe for exploration.
Edisto Beach State Park
Grab your leash and furry friend to go enjoy this dog-friendly beach located 50 miles south of Charleston. Get outside with a Botany Bay tour, fishing excursion, boat ride, picnic, swim, bird watch, bike ride, or hike. The park offers the state’s longest system of ADA
Ernest F. Hollings ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge
Grab some comfortable shoes and head to the 11,815-acre portion of the ACE Basin area in Lowcountry South Carolina. Try something new with archery, hunting, picnicking, fishing, canoeing, environmental education, or photography during your adventure.
Stop for a few hours in the town of Beaufort. Founded by the British in 1711, Beaufort, South Carolina boasts the amazingly conserved Gullah culture of Beaufort’s African-slave-descended citizens, and the various related historical sites that populate the quaint coastal town. Although Beaufort now offers exciting opportunities to golf, fish, bike, kayak, and soak in the rays of the sun along its ocean waters, the city’s defined history and its dedication to preserving the diverse wildlife make this unlike your typical coastal town.
Like Bulls Island, Capers Island attracts visitors with a penchant for natural settings and seclusion. Accessible only by boat, Capers is an uninhabited, state-owned barrier island and a lesser known one when it comes to Carolina destinations and adventures. In fact, visitors would never guess it was mere miles from Charleston, given the density of wildlife, such as alligators, white tailed deer, snakes, bottlenose dolphins, and many species of birds (including ospreys and bald eagles) that call this tiny island home. As on Bulls Island, boneyard beaches dot the shores of Capers, gleaming white in the bright sun. Spot them on one of the many eco tours that guide visitors through this gorgeous patch of land.
When it comes to Carolina destinations, Folly is one of the most famous. It’s hard to say what Folly is better known for: its legendary sunsets or its killer surfing spots. In fact, it seems Folly Beach has a little something for everyone. Home to several endangered species, including loggerhead sea turtles and Wilson’s Plover, naturalists will find something to delight in, while the more urban-oriented will appreciate the beach’s close proximity to downtown Charleston. Drop a fishing line off the Folly Beach pier or take in the sights from a beachside bar.
As the Gulf Stream crashes down the coast on its southward journey, it converges with the Virginia Drift. Beneath the swirling blue, the two forces of water have constructed a twelve mile long sandbar that was responsible for shipwrecks. It came to be known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic. Thus arose the need for the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, the tallest brick lighthouse in North America. This iconic structure perches amidst 70 miles of shoreline, watching over an island free from development, where the scenic drives are rivaled only by some of the best surf fishing in the world.
Francis Marion National Forest
Located north of Charleston, this 258,864 acre National Forest attracts recreationalists from all over the Carolinas. It is known for its hiking, camping, horseback riding, mountain biking, off-road motorcycling, and ATV-riding to name a few. Steeped in history, the forest is named after Revolutionary War officer Francis Marion and offers a unique experience to those who adventure through it.
On the sandy shores of Corolla, wild descendants of colonial Spanish mustangs roam freely, grazing in the saltwater cordgrass and galloping along the sloping shores. Visitors flock to Corolla to witness these majestic creatures in a natural habitat. This, in essence, is the magic of Corolla, where visitors come for the wild horses, but stay for the upscale and recently developed amenities.
Nags Head and Jockey’s Ridge
Nags Head is one of the Outer Banks’ most established tourist destinations; since the 1960s, this gorgeous destination has catered to guests with a wide selection of restaurants and conveniences. As comfortable as Nags Head proper is, you’d be remiss not to wander further afield to Jockey’s Ridge, the tallest living sand dune on the Atlantic Coast. There, in the center of towering dunes and sprawling sand, you’ll find spectacular views of both the ocean and the sound.
Bald Head Island
Bald Head is for the traveler seeking a serene retreat. Accessible only by a private water vessel or a 20-minute ferry ride across the Cape Fear River, Bald Head Island feels miles from its nearby neighbor of Wilmington, both in terms of geography and tempo. This remote getaway elevates beach life, boasting intimate vacation rental neighborhoods, beach, maritime forest, and marshland, and, remarkably, very few hotels or commercial developments looming over beachgoers.
There are a myriad of reasons to put Sullivan’s Island at the top of your Carolina destination list this summer. First discovered by English explorers in the 17th century, Sullivan’s Island was well established as a busy shipping port by the 18th century, when American troops fended off the British during an early battle in the Revolutionary War. The setting of this now famous battle, celebrated regionally on ‘Carolina Day,’ was Fort Moutrie. This structure, which would later house Edgar Allen Poe in the 19th century, has been carefully preserved and is a popular landmark for visitors and residents alike.
Kiawah Island Beachwalker Park
Kiawah Island is one of the Carolinas’ most exclusive beachfront destinations. Although known for its top notch golf courses—Kiawah Island Golf Resort hosted the 2012 PGA Championship. It is scheduled to host again in 2021—Kiawah is also a place of tranquility. Daytrippers to the island, after securing a car pass, should head straight to Kiawah Island Beachwalker Park. Ten miles of public coastline tempt park goers from within Beachwalker Park, along the western edge of the island. Visitors can also veer off the shores of Beachwalk Park for a gentle stroll through old oaks, pines, iconic palmettos, and yucca plants. When it’s time to take a break from the sun, head inland to Freshfields Village for top tier shopping and restaurants.
Wilmington is a bustling river town with a beach bum mentality. The city itself, located along the Cape Fear River, boosts a population of over 100,000. Many visit for its proximity to a handful of local beaches along the Atlantic Ocean and it’s great surf. Take a walk through the river district, aka the heart of Wilmington, and discover local eateries, scenic views, and charming Victorian-era homes and gardens.
Home to the birthplace of the famous soft drink, Pepsi, New Bern is a picturesque town rich with local history. The 310-year-old city has a thriving foodie scene. You’ll find everything from southern-style cooking to authentic Indian food. There really is a little something for everyone. New Bern offers many unique attractions, but perhaps the most iconic is the Shackleford Banks Wild Horses. Hop on the Island Express Ferry to get a view of the wild horses that live along the 56-mile long Cape Lookout National Seashore.
Georgetown is the third oldest city in South Carolina and the state’s second largest seaport. The town is situated conveniently at the halfway mark between Myrtle Beach and Charleston on the Winyah Bay. Take a stroll along the oak-lined streets of Historic Downtown Georgetown, visit one of the five museums the city has to offer, and shop downtown at the exclusively local retailers.
Topsail Beach/Surf City
This laidback, family-friendly beach town in Pender County, North Carolina boasts the unique combination of small-town charm while delivering gorgeous views. Enjoy the beach in its raw, unadulterated form and the freedom from crowds with a read, drink, or bite right on the water.
If your big summer plans had to be changed this year, pack up the car and head to any one of these NC or SC beaches: With these there’s a lot to love right here at home.