Summer vacation at the beach. For many families, it’s as much an annual tradition as burgers sizzling on the grill and watermelon chilling on ice.
In South Carolina, we’ve got our own culinary classics—fresh-off-the-trawler shrimp, sweet Silver Queen corn, juicy peaches and our official state snack—hot boiled peanuts.
Add to that 2,800 miles of sandy coastline and an array of beach town settings and it’s no wonder South Carolina is a favorite destination for summertime fun.
Ready to experience a classic South Carolina summer vacation at the beach? Here’s a guide to get you started.
Find Your Perfect South Carolina Beach
The hardest part of planning a beach vacation in South Carolina is choosing the beach for your coastal getaway. With more than a dozen different beach towns, it’s hard to narrow it down to one. Which you choose will depend on your interests, activity level and budget.
Myrtle Beach and Hilton Head Island are the most popular with families. If you’re looking for lots of activities and attractions, Myrtle Beach offers everything from zip lines and water parks to amusement rides and miniature golf. There’s plenty of nighttime entertainment, too, like Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament, Pirates Voyage Dinner & Show and Legends in Concerts. In contrast, Hilton Head Island is known for its stunning Lowcountry landscape and elegant lifestyle, offering a more relaxed experience. Among its most touted amenities is the network of paved pathways that crisscross the island, allowing visitors to park their car upon arrival and bike virtually anywhere.
Kiawah Island is also nature-centered with an even more upscale ambience. The centerpiece of the island is the AAA Five Diamond and Forbes Five Star Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort, a beautiful oceanfront hotel reminiscent of a grand seaside mansion. More family-friendly home and villa rentals are also available on the island.
If laid-back vacationing is more your style, try Edisto Beach, Folly Beach or Pawleys Island. All three are loved by visitors who appreciate a slower pace and kicked-back, come-as-you-are vibe.
To learn more about these beach towns and other lesser-known options, click here.
Beach Town Accommodations
Most of South Carolina’s beach towns offer an array of national brand hotels, from the higher-end Westin to the more economical Comfort Inn. But SC beach vacation regulars usually opt for renting a home, villa or condo where they have room to gather, cook meals and relax in their own private quarters. The lodging options range from cozy one-bedroom bungalows to sprawling oceanfront mansions able to accommodate multiple families. Wherever you choose to stay, you’ll want to book early as many rental favorites are reserved a year in advance.
Beach Town Attractions
Shopping and dining out are a great way to experience the local flavor of your vacation spot. Even small beach towns like Garden City and Surfside Beach offer a fun mix of restaurants and shops selling everything from beachwear and souvenirs to gifts and antiques. Each beach town also has its own unique attractions and amenities, from championship golf courses to historic forts to pristine wetland ecosystems to explore in a kayak or tour boat.
But to make it a truly classic SC beach vacation, you’ll want to experience these culinary musts:
- On your drive into town, pick up a bag of boiled peanuts from a roadside stand or local farmers market for a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon of shell-shucking on the porch. These salty little snacks are best in the summer when they are boiled up fresh from the field. Hot or cold, they’re delicious and go great with a cold beer or tall glass of sweet tea on a hot day.
- South Carolina’s highly fertile coastal waters provide an excellent habitat for some of the tastiest seafood that will ever grace your plate. Topping visitors’ favorite food list each summer is wild-caught local shrimp served fried, steamed or in any number of delicious recipes, including Frogmore Stew. Made with just four ingredients—shrimp, corn on the cob, new potatoes and smoked sausage—it’s easy to cook up your own pot of this iconic South Carolina dish.
- For the more adventurous, try catching your own seafood using the tried-and-true chicken-on-a-string method. A great activity for kids, shore crabbing is as easy as tying a stinky chicken neck to a string and tossing it in a calm shoreline with a flat sandy bottom. When a hungry crab latches on, scoop ‘em up in a net and dump them in a bucket. Voila! Dinner is served.
- Like locally harvested seafood, locally grown produce is a must on your summer beach vacation. This time of year, farmers markets and produce stands are brimming with field-fresh veggies and ripe, home-grown fruits. Take home a bounty of summertime favorites like corn on the cob, peas, watermelon and peaches. Enjoy!