You'll find beautiful beaches all along the South Carolina coast. But if you want to get away to your own secluded stretch of paradise, try one of the hidden beaches on sparsely visited barrier islands.
Located all along the coastline from the southernmost point of the state to North Myrtle Beach, these sandy retreats offer a quiet place to walk by the seashore, search for shells or simply soak in the sun. Accessible only by boat, most of the islands remain undeveloped, leaving the beach as nature intended it to be.
Getting there offers its own rewards. Whether you take a ferry or boat cruise, paddle a kayak or ride a horse, the journey is as pleasurable as the destination.
Here are five of South Carolina's hidden beaches:
1) Bulls Island. The largest of four barrier islands in the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, Bulls Island lies along one of the most pristine spans of coastline on the eastern seaboard. Its seven miles of beaches include the famed Boneyard Beach, where the remains of surf-battered trees are littered across the sand. Coastal Expeditions offers a ferry to the island, along with various guided excursions that include a Bulls Island beach drop, sunrise tour, kayak trip and multiday expedition.
2) Waites Island. Just north of North Myrtle Beach across Little River Inlet, this three-mile island includes an ecological research facility owned by Coastal Carolina University. Several outfitters offer kayak trips to Waites beach from nearby Cherry Grove Beach. Once on the island, you'll have more than an hour to spend swimming in the ocean or luxuriating on the sand. Inlet Point Plantation offers another fun option - a horseback riding tour along the island's shoreline.
3) Capers Island. Take a scenic boat trip or kayak tour to this state heritage preserve located 15 miles north of Charleston at the southwestern end of the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge. Along with a pristine beach, you'll have the opportunity to enjoy a wide array of bird life from endangered brown pelicans to ruddy turnstones. Some 294 species of migratory birds have been spotted on the island. Like Bulls Island, Capers also has a "Boneyard Beach" created by years of erosion.
4) Morris Island. Famous for its historic 19th-century lighthouse, this 840-acre uninhabited island lies at the mouth of Charleston Harbor across Lighthouse Inlet from Folly Beach. After years of erosion, today the 150-foot brick tower stands in the water just offshore. The beach, however, remains as beautiful as ever and is a great spot to look for seashells, particularly sand dollars. You can visit Morris Island on one of the boat or kayak tours offered by area outfitters.
5) Daufuskie Island. Located just across Calibogue Sound from Hilton Head Island, Daufuskie will make you feel like you're a million miles from civilization. It's not unusual to walk along its white sand beaches and not see a soul. To visit Daufuskie, you'll need to take a ferry or water taxi from Hilton Head to the public dock at Freeport Marina and then rent a golf cart to drive across the island to the beach. While you're there, don't miss the chance to explore the rest of this secluded South Carolina sea island and its many historic landmarks.