South Carolina is known for its wide sandy beaches, coastal marshes, and historical significance as one of the original 13 colonies. To truly experience everything South Carolina has to offer would take a lifetime. But in just three days driving the coast you can see some of the best kept secrets and most pristine beaches in the state. You can drive the entire coast in under four hours, so this road trip is all about the stops with limited time in the car.
Start your day off in Myrtle Beach, the state's very first state park.
Prepare for a relaxing day in the “Sun Fun Capital” by hitting the beach for sunrise. You’ll beat the crowds and can explore the pier before going to grab breakfast. Myrtle Beach State Park covers 1 mile of the 60 miles that is Myrtle Beach, and it includes an easily accessible pier that beachgoers can fish from. This is the perfect place to take the family to play bocce ball or just be lazy in the sun. After the beach you can check out one of the renowned seafood restaurants in Murrell’s Inlet. Drunken Jack’s and Nance’s are two local favorites. At the end of the day pitch a tent in the Myrtle Beach Campground and make s’mores in the fire pits.
Wake up and hop in the car for a short drive to Huntington Beach State Park. The beach is a wide, 3-mile stretch of sand that is one of the most visited in the state, so it’s best to get there early! After the beach, take a self-guided tour of Atalaya, the historic home of Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington. There are several short trails you can take through the park to view wildlife such as the Kerrigan Nature Trail and the Boardwalk. The park brings together the main components of the coast in one central area, showcasing the salt marshes, beaches, and coastal forests like few other places do in such a compact area.
After exploring at Huntington it’s time to load back up in the car and head an hour south to Bull’s Island. This is one part of the weekend that will need to be planned beforehand because the only way to access the island is by ferry or by kayaking. Once on the island you can sit beneath huge live oaks for a picnic and bird watch as you walk to the north end of the island to see the infamous Boneyard Beach, a favorite for photographers. Bull’s Island is part of the Cape Romaine National Wildlife Refuge, which encompasses nearly 22 miles of barrier islands and marshlands. It has remained untouched by developers, and birds and other wildlife flock to the island. Alligators, deer, foxes, bobcats, raccoons, and black fox squirrels can all be found here as well as dolphins fishing in the surrounding waters.
After a day of sightseeing and hiking you’ll probably be ready to relax. Head to Folly Beach for the evening to check in at the Tides Hotel and grab some dinner at one of the local restaurants like Taco Boy or Rita’s Seaside Grill. Stroll out to the pier for sunset and maybe even grab some ice cream before tucking in at the hotel.
Folly Beach has one of the best surfing spots in South Carolina, known as the Washout. Sign up for an early morning session with Charleston Surf Lessons near the hotel and they’ll have you riding waves in no time. Grab breakfast and shower at the hotel before heading to Fort Fremont for a guided tour.
On the tour you’ll learn of the historical and military significance of the fort, and afterward you can take a walk to a public beach with a view across Port Royal Sound to see Parris Island, one of two locations for Marine Corps Basic Training. Take a moment to smile because you are currently standing on a beach and not enduring boot camp. Then hop back in the car for the final leg of the trip.
One of the southernmost beaches in South Carolina is Coligny Beach, and as such, it’s the last stop on this epic journey down the coast. Conveniently located to most of Hilton Head's rental properties and shopping, this is a perfect spot to bring a cooler full of soda (alcohol isn’t permitted on South Carolina beaches, sorry), rent chairs and an umbrella, and lounge the rest of your day away before walking off into the sunset.