With over 200 miles of coastline hugging the Atlantic Ocean and Intracoastal Waterway, South Carolina boasts some of the country’s best beaches. Whether you dream of relaxing on the sand, sailing the sparkling waters or simply enjoying coastal small town living, many charming communities provide the ideal spot for beachside living in the Palmetto State. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the top 10 best places to live in South Carolina near the beach.
The 10 Best Places to Live in South Carolina Near the Beach
1. Hilton Head Island
Setting the standard for upscale island communities, Hilton Head has earned its reputation as one of the nicest beach towns in South Carolina. With 12 miles of pristine coastline and meticulously landscaped golf courses and neighborhoods, living here feels like a permanent vacation. You’ll pay a premium for housing near the beaches, golfing and downtown Harbour Town, but amenities and quality of life make it highly desirable.
Located just across Port Royal Sound from Hilton Head, historic Beaufort retains the charm and beauty of the Old South. Spanish-moss draped trees line streets with antebellum homes, parks and scenic waterfront. While more affordable than its island neighbor, being minutes from beaches and the growing local scene make it a top pick. Great schools and a revitalized downtown add to its appeal.
3. Isle of Palms
If you love being right on the beach without the high prices of some Hilton Head areas, look at Isle of Palms. This skinny barrier island near Charleston packs 12 miles of coastline and wide, sandy beaches into just 3.5 square miles. Simple living and family-oriented vibe draw many plus access to the city while maintaining a small-town feel. Traffic in summer tries patience, but otherwise, it’s a favorite Lowcountry locale.
4. Folly Beach
Authentic boardwalk atmosphere and local charm make funky Folly Beach a magnet. Families, water sports fanatics and those seeking casual beach relaxation have flocked here for decades. Colorful cottages dot the island along with surf shops and fish joints that encapsulate its laidback surfer vibe. Real estate sees steady increases, but prices still reasonable compared to “tonier” beaches further south.
5. Murrells Inlet
Nicknamed the “Seafood Capital of South Carolina”, fishing village Murrells Inlet provides a scenic transition zone between Garden City’s more built-up areas and the natural splendor of Huntington Beach State Park. Mid-century marsh-front homes complement new waterfront builds, and proximity to the business of U.S. 17 Bypass doesn’t override its serene coastal setting and amenities. Wonderful spot for families and nature lovers.
6. Garden City Beach
Located along the northern entrance to the Waccamaw Neck, Garden City retains the look and feel of an Old Florida beach town. Low-density zoning prevents overgrowth while marsh and soundside parks offer space to roam. Bridging the gap between built-up Myrtle Beach and more rural McClellanville and Murrells Inlet, it’s ideal for nature and outdoor activities with access to beaches, waterways, and trails plus amenities. Growing in popularity as a more affordable alternative to pricier destinations further north.
7. Edisto Beach
Referred to as “South Carolina’s Secret Beach”, Edisto Beach State Park lines 9 miles of uninterrupted coastline on an island accessible only by crossing the bridge. Limited development fosters a more laidback pace and families coming for generations love the natural landscape and sense of community. Summer home prices head-turning, but many reside year-round and commend the friendly vibe and healthy outdoor pleasures of living near recreation areas and natural treasures. One of South Carolina’s best kept secrets.
8. Pawleys Island
Charming small-scale living and history immerse visitors to Pawleys Island, located halfway between Georgetown and Myrtle Beach. Stately plantation homes alongside traditional clapboard cottages house summer visitors and full-time residents. World-class shelling and fishing, eco-tours and acreage devoted to outdoor recreation draw nature lovers. With under 1000 year-round residents in the face of rising property values, its character and natural integrity remain intact for those seeking an authentic Lowcountry experience close to the coast.
9. Kiawah Island
Rated among the most exclusive residential barrier islands in the U.S., high-end Kiawah Island is home to world-class resort amenities, golf courses, and residential building restrictions that protect its tranquility. Gated communities overlook wide beaches and expansive marshland offering high-quality living in balance with nature. Recreation abounds from beach sports to equestrian trails and boating, with the nearby town of Johns Island providing everyday services. Purchasing here requires significant resources but the reward may be pristine coastal living in one of South Carolina’s most beautiful settings.
10. Harbour Town, Hilton Head Island
While technically part of Hilton Head Island, Harbour Town deserves its own mention for its distinct charm and individuality. Built around the golf course where a PGA Tour event takes place each spring, its classic Lowcountry design and location alongside Calibogue Sound make it an idyllic place to call home. Scenic walking paths, restaurants and proximity to the beach make it popular among vacation homeowners and retirees alike seeking a lifestyle centered around leisure activities and coastal living. Like elsewhere on Hilton Head, real estate carries premium.
Here are answers to common questions about living near the South Carolina coast:
Which areas flood more frequently? Communities closer to barrier islands and waterways like Isle of Palms and Pawleys Island experience more periodic tidal and storm flooding. Inland places avoid this but trade beach access.
What is the job market like? Hilton Head and Beaufort have solid healthcare, tourism, and administrative sectors. Charleston provides a bustling economy including seaport businesses. More rural towns rely on seasonal tourism. Many residents commute to larger cities.
What about hurricanes? All coastal regions face hurricane risks to varying degrees. Homes built to newer codes withstand storms better. Insurance rates remain reasonable, and evacuation routes efficiently guide residents inland when needed.
What is the culture like? The Lowcountry blends coastal influences with Southern charm, seafood, and grits. Areas like Edisto maintain a slower pace. Hilton Head caters to affluence while others find that perfect mix of serenity and amenities to suit varied tastes.
What’s the cost of living in these beach communities? The cost of living varies by location, with Charleston and Myrtle Beach generally offering a range of affordability options.
Are these areas hurricane-prone? South Carolina coastal areas are susceptible to hurricanes, so it’s essential to have a hurricane preparedness plan in place.
Can I find employment opportunities in these communities? Some areas, like Charleston and Myrtle Beach, offer diverse employment opportunities, while others may have fewer options.
I hope this guide helps you discover the top places to experience coastal living while calling South Carolina home. Please let me know if you need any other details planning your potential move to Palmetto Paradise.