20+ Amazing Beaches in the Southeast

Looking for the best beach for a vacation? Did you know that three beaches in the Carolinas were named to an annual top ten list for 2021? The list is published by DR. Beach a man who prides himself in knowing what it takes to make a beach the greatest. Some of those beaches are in North Carolina and right here in South Carolina! The number one beach of 2020, Grayton Beach State Park in Florida, is even within your reach from the Upstate!

We’ve included information on these three beaches, plus other locations that were recommended by other beach experts – Kidding Around Readers!

Some beaches are perfect for a day trip if you get an early start, and some will require a long weekend commitment. Whichever you prefer, this list is a great place to start if you are planning a beach trip anytime soon.

This article includes:
Top Beaches in South Carolina
Best Beaches in North Carolina
Favorite Beaches in Florida
Top Beaches in Georgia
Reader Favorite Beach in Alabama

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Beaches in South Carolina

Myrtle Beach Area Beaches To Visit

The Myrtle Beach area is approximately 4 hours from Greenville.

Myrtle Beach, SC

Myrtle Beach is the classic boardwalk scene. There is no shortage of activities to keep your family busy even when it is raining.

Check out our recommendations for other things to do at Myrtle Beach!

North Myrtle Beach, SC

The north end of town is popular with families for a slower pace and a more family-friendly atmosphere.

Garden City, SC

  • Public beach access and parking open
  • No lifeguards
  • Shading devices are not permitted on the beach (year-round). Garden City does allow circular umbrellas with a circular shade no greater than seven feet six inches (7’6”) in diameter and small pop-up/blow-up cabanas no larger than 4′ x 3′ x 3′ for infants and very small children.

Garden City Beach is close enough to the touristy Myrtle Beach to spend some time sightseeing, while far enough away to distance yourself from the crowds.

Charleston Area Beaches To Visit

The Charleston area is just a little over 3 hours from Greenville.

Boneyard Beach, SC

Bulls Island outside of Charleston, SC is home to Boneyard Beach, an otherworldly driftwood forest right on the ocean. Kristina and her kids explored the island and let us know why it should be on your bucket list.

Beachwalker Park, Kiawah Island, SC

This Charleston Area beach made it on the 2021 Dr. Beach Top Ten Beaches List for A SECOND YEAR IN A ROW!

This beach is located on the southern edge of Kiawah Island. It’s open to the public and is a great place to visit for nature lovers. If you own a kayak or a paddleboard, you should bring it on the trip!

  • Boardwalk and handicap-accessible ramp
  • Lifeguards
  • Beach chair and umbrella rentals
  • Dressing areas
  • Restrooms
  • Snack bar
  • Picnic area with grills (first-come, first-served)
  • Outdoor showers
  • Beach-accessible wheelchairs available
  • Shade tents permitted

Named #9 on Dr. Beach’s Top Ten Beaches List for 2021 | #10 on Dr. Beach’s Top Ten Beaches List for 2020
Read The Kidding Around Review of Kiawah Island’s Beachwalker Park

Folly Beach, SC

Check out our full Kidding Around Guide to Folly Beach, SC with information on public beach access points and places to grab something to eat.

  • Public restrooms
  • Outdoor shower area
  • Boardwalk
  • Full-Service restaurant
  • Gift Shop
  • Beach Chair Rentals
  • Picnic table area under the boardwalk

Pro Tip: Park further out from the Folly Pier Structure for huge savings in parking fees.

Isle of Palms, SC

Pro Tip: Get there early to find parking. This is a popular spot with tourists and metered parking is not abundant.

Edisto Island, SC

Edisto Island is beautiful but there are no public bathrooms or showers, so you’ll be running to your accommodations for potty breaks and changes.

Other South Carolina Beach Options To Check Out This Summer

Huntington Beach State Park, SC

Part of the South Carolina State Park System, Huntington Beach has more than just beach activities to enjoy. Visitors can even set up and camp at the beach. Check out the Kidding Around Review about Huntington Beach State Park in Murrells Inlet, SC

Pawleys Island/Litchfield Beach, SC

About 30 minutes south of Myrtle Beach, these islands were recommended by Kidding Around readers for a quieter beach experience.

Hilton Head, SC

A little under 4 hours from Greenville, Hilton Head is a big hit for parents in our area. One reader says that everything can be reached via walking or biking. Here are our favorite things to do on Hilton Head Island.

Small girl walking on a sandy beach with grasses.

Daufuskie Island, SC

South of Hilton Head, this is the last island before Georgia and the only way to get to it is by boat or ferry. The effort to reach it makes it the perfect place to enjoy some peace and quiet with your family.

Fripp Island, SC

Also located near Hilton Head, Fripp Island was called “a wonderful place for families” by one reader. Read why one mom says Fripp Island is the Perfect Getaway for Children that Love Animals.

Beaches in North Carolina

Sunset Beach, NC

Just north of the state line and a little over 4 hours away, Sunset beach is said to be a very family-friendly destination.

Ocean Isle, NC

The shores of Ocean Isle are another reader favorite for a family-friendly beach trip.

Holden Beach, NC

In the string of beaches along the North Carolina coast, you’ll find Holden Beach just past Ocean Isle. Holden Beach offers small-town charm and unspoiled beauty.

Named best family beach a previous year by Dr. Beach!

Carolina Beach, NC

Near Wilmington and under 5 hours from the Upstate, Carolina Beach makes a great weekend destination. One of our KAG contributors tells us Why Carolina Beach is the Perfect Destination for Upstate Families.

Emerald Isle, NC

Emerald Isle lies east of the Jacksonville/Camp LeJeune area and is a little under 6 hours from Greenville.

Surf City, NC

Local Mom Jennifer spent some time at Surf City, NC, and shared her experience with us. This quiet coastal town offers tons of family fun, great places to eat, peaceful beaches, and more.

Beaches in Outer Banks, NC

Beaches at the Outer Banks of North Carolina have a cozy feel with smaller crowds and mainly vacation rental homes for lodging plus long skinny islands with huge lengths of beautiful beaches. Check out our review of Outer Banks, NC.

Evening skies at a beach in Outer Banks, NC

Ocracoke Lifeguarded Beach – OBX, NC

Named #3 on Dr. Beach’s Top Ten Beaches List for 2021 | #2 on Dr. Beach’s Top Ten Beaches List for 2020

Lighthouse Beach, Buxton – OBX, NC

Named #5 on Dr. Beach’s Top Ten Beaches List for 2021 AND 2020

Beaches in Florida

Florida spends tons of taxpayer and tourism revenue on maintaining its beachfront attractions and it is apparent. Silky, powder-like sand, free parking, and more await you on the beaches of the Sunshine State. Check out our guide specifically on the Beaches of the Florida Suncoast!

Looking for somewhere to stay on the beach in Florida? We put together a list of Florida beach vacation rentals with private pools!

Siesta Key, FL

Regularly appearing on national and international top beach lists, Siesta Key is unlike most beaches. The sand is like talcum powder, and the parking is free!
Check out our guide to Discovering Sarasota, Florida

Named #1 on Dr. Beaches Top Ten Beaches List for 2017

Sunset at a beach with a sign "Siesta Beach Florida #1"

Caladesi Island State Park, FL

On the shores of Tampa Bay, this Florida State Park is just a ferry ride from Clearwater Beach.

Named #7 on Dr. Beach’s Top Ten Beaches List for 2021

Amelia Island, FL

Just past Georgia, Amelia Island is a 5-6 hour drive from the Upstate. Our readers recommend it if you’ve got more than a weekend!

Grayton Beach State Park, FL

  • kayak launch
  • Picnic pavilion
  • Cabin rentals
  • Restrooms
  • Handicap accessible beach

The Beach is located in a state park and reviews speak of its white sands and emerald waters. At just about 7 hours from the Upstate, our nation’s top beach is totally within your reach!

Named #1 on Dr. Beach’s Top Ten Beaches List for 2020

Daytona Beach, FL

Daytona Beach not only has a gorgeous beach area, it is also close to lots of fun family experiences. KAG contributor Kristina has some wonderful ideas for families to check out in the Daytona Beach area.

Beaches in Georgia

Jekyll Island, GA

  • Multiple public beaches within the state park
  • Restrooms, changing rooms, and showers

Just under 5 hours from the Upstate, Jekyll Island offers an island full of adventures from exploring driftwood, playing in the ocean, seeing sea turtles, and finding shark teeth.

Beach at Jekyll Island

Beaches in Alabama

Orange Beach, AL

While eight hours away, Orange Beach near Pensacola was also recommended by KAG readers.

See also our Day Trip Guide for even more day trip suggestions!

We recommend that you contact any beach you are interested in visiting. Regulations are changing constantly.
Last updated April 2022.

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