For generations, families have been making the summertime pilgrimage to South Carolina, turning its top beaches into household names. And for good reason. The palm tree-lined sand stretches for miles on end, while the scent of gardenia and barbecue wafts over the boardwalks and historic markets. Even the outdoors adventures have a flair all their own. If it’s fun-in-the-sun you’re after, you won’t do better than this coastal cruise through the Palmetto State.
1. Hilton Head Island
Developed with the natural world in mind, you won’t find any tall buildings or garish hotels on this tiny barrier island. Instead, you’ll discover 12 miles of pristine, white sand beaches, meandering nature trails at the Audubon-Newhall Preserve, and serene estuaries begging to be explored by kayak or paddleboard. Lucky visitors who arrive between April and October can enjoy the thrill of offshore fishing with a charter trip to some off world’s best fishing grounds. The most tenacious anglers can land favorites like grouper, king mackerel and shark, while more family-friendly excursions are available for those new to the sport.
Drive 98 miles • 1 hour, 57 minutes
Brimming with endless old-world charm, this historic city delights visitors looking for a quintessential Southern experience. One of the best ways to step back in time is on a carriage tour through the downtown district. You’ll see Victorian-era mansions, picture-perfect gardens and the refined churches that give Charleston its nickname as the “Holy City.” No tour would be complete without a stop at City Market, one of the country’s oldest, where you can shop for art and crafts like the area’s famous sweet grass baskets. Round out your visit with an evening exploring the high-end shops, boutiques and hip galleries of King Street, one of the oldest blocks in town. It’s been named one of the “Top 10 Shopping Streets” in the country.
3. Myrtle Beach
Drive 95 miles • 2 hours, 3 minutes
Start your trip at this vacation mecca featuring 60 miles of sand and sun, an oceanfront boardwalk, amusement rides, a water park and more. For extreme thrills, Zipline Adventures offers an aerial amusement park filled with 50 heart-pounding elements, including a diabolical obstacle course. If you can drag yourself away from the fun-filled downtown, don’t skip the chance to spend a day exploring the eight long fishing piers jut out from the coastline. Rental gear is available, so anglers of all ages can try their luck at landing the abundant sea bass, snapper, grouper and wahoo that troll these waters. In addition to world-class fishing, the piers are known for the live entertainment that takes over on hot summer nights.