South Carolina is known for its southern hospitality, rich history, unique food, and slower-paced lifestyle. You may have heard of this area referred to as “Low County,” which is a nod to the typography as most of the state sits below sea level. What you may not know about South Carolina is that just off the coast lies a long chain of 34 barrier and tidal islands. The Sea Islands are a chain of tidal and barrier islands on the Atlantic Ocean along the South Carolina, Georgia and Florida coastline.
There are over 100 islands, meaning about one-third belong to South Carolina. These islands have a sorted history of producing Sea Island cotton through the use of slaves. But, following President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, more than 5,000 slaves on the islands gained freedom.
Since then, the islands have grown to develop their own personalities. Some have five-star resorts, luxe amenities, historic downtown villages, and vibrant nightlife options, while others require transportation by boat and are only inhabited by more animals than people.
These are the top 20 islands off the coast of South Carolina. It’s time to slow down and experience life low-country style.
- South Carolina Islands
- 20 Islands in South Carolina
- 1- Kiawah Island
- 2- Hilton Head Island
- 3- Edisto Island
- 4- Folly Island
- 5- Bear Island
- 6- Daufuskie Island
- 7- Isle of Palms
- 8- Saint Helena Island
- 9- Fripp Island
- 10- John’s Island
- 11- Seabrook Island
- 12- Port Royal Island
- 13- Callawassie Island
- 14- Deveaux Bank
- 15- Capers Island
- 16- Goat Island
- 17- Hunting Island
- 18- Harbor Island
- 19- Lady’s Island
- 20- Spring Island
- 20 Islands in South Carolina
South Carolina Islands
20 Islands in South Carolina
The beauty and peaceful atmosphere of the Islands in South Carolina can compete with those you would find in the Caribbean, which makes them a great vacation spot.
Whether you are looking for an amenity-filed, action-packed vacation or looking to nestle in somewhere secluded amongst the native wildlife, the islands of South Carolina can deliver.
1- Kiawah Island
Kiawah Island is a top vacation destination for those in and around the Charleston area 25 miles (40 km) southwest of Charleston, so it’s an easy day trip.
The luxurious island is primarily taken up by a large, upscale beach and golf resort with plenty of amenities to keep you busy.
Luckily, this resort is open to the public for use, so you don’t need to be a guest to take advantage of this stunning coastal paradise.
If you’re looking for great views, the best way to see the island is to view the Marsh Island Lookout Tower in Marsh Island Park.
This tower gives you views of the river, marshes, and an incredible sunset.
The calmness of Kiawah Beachwalker Pier offers the perfect spot for families to soak in the sun, while The Heron Park Nature Center allows you to get in touch with the wildlife on the island through guided tours and observation walks.
Kiawah Island is at Kiawah Island Pkwy, Kiawah Island, SC 29455.
Stay at: Andell Inn.
2- Hilton Head Island
Hilton Head Island is another one of the top tourist destinations in the state, bringing in over two million visitors each summer looking to enjoy the miles of beautiful coastline.
This barrier island is in Beaufort County, South Carolina.
It takes about 40 minutes to get to Hilton Head Island from the busy, fun-loving city of Savannah, Ga.
This island offers 12 miles (19 km) of coastline with white-sandy beaches such as South Beach, Coligny Beach Park and Burkes Beach.
Besides the beach, Hilton Head Island has restaurants, golf courses, tennis courts, art galleries and local events.
The abundance of activities is what makes this such a popular island.
Hilton Head Island is at William Hilton Pkwy, Hilton Head Island, SC 29926.
- Hilton Head Island Dolphin Boat Cruise – best for nature lovers
- Parasailing Adventure at the Hilton Head Island – best for an adrenalin rush.
Stay at: Marriott Hilton Head Resort & Spa
3- Edisto Island
As you drive over the McKinley Washington Jr Bridge, you will find yourself on Edisto Island.
This serene and secluded island provides a slow-paced lifestyle that would make Charleston seem like Manhattan.
If you want to take it easy, this is your perfect destination.
Edisto Island is inhabited by just over 700 close-knit residents dedicated to preserving the island’s natural beauty, charm and simple lifestyle.
You will not find malls, fast food chains, or even stoplights on Edisto.
Much of the excitement of this island is experiencing the wildlife at places like the Edisto Island Serpentarium, Botany Bay Heritage Preserve and Wildlife Management Area and Driftwood Beach.
Edisto Island is at SC-174, Edisto Island, SC 29438.
4- Folly Island
Folly Island provides a quintessential beach town vibe 11 miles (18 km) from downtown Charleston.
It is a great place to experience all that South Carolina has to offer.
Folly Island is one of the most popular surf spots on the East Coast and is also an excellent spot for other watersports such as kayaking, paddle boarding, boating, and fishing at the Folly Beach Pier.
Besides beaches, Folly Island’s main street has shops, bars and local restaurants such as Taco Boy, Sand Dollar Social Club, and Snapper Jacks.
Folly Island is at Center St, Folly Beach, SC 29439.
Top tour: Get Out of Town! Lighthouses, Beaches and Forts Tour! Folly to Sullivan’s Island.
5- Bear Island
If you want a secluded nature lovers’ dream just outside Charleston’s bustling city, look no further than Bear Island.
This undeveloped island is like travelling to another period and was once a rice plantation, but it is now part of the ACE Basin estuarine reserve area and managed by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources.
Bear Island provides some of the most natural and exciting biking, hiking, fishing, hunting, and bird watching.
Avid bird watchers can expect to find waterfowl, wading birds, shorebirds and songbirds.
Bear Island is at 42 Ti Ti Rd, Green Pond, SC 29446.
6- Daufuskie Island
Dafuskie Island is the southernmost inhabited South Carolina Sea Island, between Savannah and Hilton Head Island.
This old-world island is accessible only by boat or ferry.
The island has very few paved roads and is home to a Gullah community, who makes up most of the 400-person population.
While this island offers some interesting historic monuments and wildlife areas, you can opt for a little more civilization and amenities at the Haig Point Club, a private residential club that takes up most of the island’s north side.
Daufuskie Island is at Daufuskie Island, SC 29915.
Top tour: Daufuskie Island Guided History Tour from Hilton Head.
7- Isle of Palms
Isle of Palms is another excellent spot to spend a weekend.
The island is nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and Intracoastal Waterway, just 12 miles (19 km) from the historic district of Charleston.
The Island of Palms has many great places to stay, from resorts hotels and house rentals.
When it comes to activities, you can kayak, parasail, or browse through the business district filled with shops and delicious, award-winning restaurants.
Isle of Palms is at SC-517, Isle of Palms, SC 29451. Book your Charleston Airport to Isle of Palms Private Transfer.
- Top tour: Isle of Palms Scavenger Hunt.
- Stay at: Wild Dunes Resort – Sweetgrass Inn and Boardwalk Inn
8- Saint Helena Island
Saint Helena Island is part of the Beaufort Sea Islands, just a few miles away from the city of Beaufort.
The island has a diverse population, including many African American Gullah people.
The island of Saint Helena is known for its rural and traditional Low Country life.
But, it also has a rich history – it’s for being the place of Napoleon Bonaparte’s exile and death and where Martin Luther King, Jr drafted his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.
Saint Helena is a slower-paced lifestyle filled with plenty of farms and fishing camps but also offers some fun things such as Downtown Frogmore, an equestrian centre, fishing charters, and Fort Fremont Preserve and History Center.
Saint Helena Island is at Sea Island Pkwy, St Helena Island, SC 29920.
Stay at: 187 Beach Club Villa
9- Fripp Island
This small barrier island is about 21 miles (33 km) off the coast of Beaufort.
Fripp Island is a common vacation destination with many year-round residents, giving it a great community feel.
Because the island is so tiny, many people get around using a golf cart.
The most popular resort on the island is the Fripp Island Golf & Beach Resort, which has many amenities, including plenty of sandy beaches, tennis courts, golf courses and a water park with a kid’s pool, alligator slides and a frog fountain.
Fripp Island is at Tarpon Blvd, Fripp Island, SC 29920.
- Top tour: Beaufort’s #1 Horse & Carriage History Tour.
- Stay at: 530 Sunsuit
10- John’s Island
South Carolina’s largest island is also one of the largest islands in the United States, just a few behind Manhattan.
The most famous attraction on John’s Island is the ancient Angel Oak, a live oak tree around 500 years old!
When it comes to staying on John’s Island, you will not find many hotels or resorts.
Your best option is to stay in an Airbnb or home rental.
Staying in a charming southern bungalow gives you the true Southern experience and plenty of space for the whole family to spread out.
John’s Island is at Maybank Hwy, Johns Island, SC 29455.
11- Seabrook Island
Seabrook Island, formerly known as Simmons Island, is a private and gated oceanfront community that provides the natural beauty of being on a secluded preserve along with the amenities and exciting events you would find at a world-class resort.
Residents and guests can explore two championship golf courses, a tournament-grade Racquet Club, an Equestrian Center, a fitness and aquatics centre, oceanfront pools, a marina, a shopping village and great dining options.
The island is nestled snuggly between Kiawah Island, Wadmalaw Island, and Edisto Island along the Atlantic Ocean and Wadmalaw River.
Seabrook Island is at Seabrook Island Road, Seabrook Island, SC 29455.
12- Port Royal Island
Port Royal Island is located in Beaufort County and is the most populated island in the county.
Many residents are employed at the Naval Hospital Beaufort and the Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort.
The island can be accessed by the McTeer Bridge or the Beaufort Memorial Bridge from Lady’s Island or via Shell Point.
While they are many year-round residents on the island, visitors come from all over to enjoy beautiful beaches, scenic walking trails, boat tours, and tons of opportunities for birdwatching.
Port Royal is also an excellent spot for fresh local seafood at places such as Fishcamp on 11th Street and Madison’s.
Port Royal Island is at Ribault Road, Port Royal, SC 29935.
13- Callawassie Island
Callawassie Island is a private, gated island like a few others on our list.
The island is about 10 miles (16 km) inland from the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by tidal creeks and salt marshes, which residents diligently preserve.
Although a highway runs to the island, the most popular way to get here is by boat.
Residents and guests can enjoy lagoons, a butterfly garden, parks, rookeries, and a 27-hole golf course.
Callawassie Island is at Callawassie Dr, Okatie, SC 29909.
14- Deveaux Bank
If you have a bird watcher in the family, Deveaux Bank is the place for your next vacation!
This island is a 215-acre (87 ha) bird sanctuary located just off the coast from Edisto Island and Seabrook Island, making it a great day trip if you are staying at either of the neighbouring islands.
Bird spottings have included the stunning eastern brown pelicans and black skimmers, but there are thousands of other species to see.
Fun Fact: the island’s shape constantly changes with the currents and tides.
Deveaux Bank is at Deveaux Bank, South Carolina, 29455
15- Capers Island
This tiny slice of heaven is an undeveloped South Carolina barrier island about 15 miles (24 km) from Charleston, accessible by boat only.
Capers Island is owned by the federal government and protected from any future development, which allows the wildlife and natural beach, salt marshes, maritime uplands, and wetlands to flourish.
Capers Island is famous for a beach called the “bone-yard,” which earned the nickname because of the old tree stumps and skeletons that have been bleached by the sun.
Because of the dedication to preservation, visitors also come to view the loggerhead turtles, deer, and many species of birds that reside here.
Capers Island is at Capers Island, South Carolina, 29429.
16- Goat Island
Goat Island is a small island between Mt Pleasant and the Isle of Palms.
It’s so tiny that it’s no bigger than a street in the average neighbourhood.
The island is also only accessible by boat.
It got its name because of a local who frequently set his goats free to roam the island to control vegetation.
Watching goats from the Marsh Walk or Drunken Jack’s is one of the most popular tourist pastimes.
You can also frequently see peacocks, ducks, and pelicans roaming around occasionally.
Goat Island is at Buccaneer Rd, Isle of Palms, SC 29451.
17- Hunting Island
Hunting Island is a secluded barrier island between Harbor Island and Fripp Island, the ACE Basin Estuarine Reserve manages that.
The island is sandwiched between the Harbor River and the Atlantic Ocean.
In 1935, this island was declared a state park and continues to be the most popular state park in South Carolina.
The main attractions of this island are the beautiful beach, camping sites, and historic lighthouse.
Hunting Island is at Sea Island Pkwy, St Helena Island, SC 29920.
Stay at: Secluded Tiny House by the Marsh with Hunting Island Beach Pass.
18- Harbor Island
Harbor Island is one of the many Carolina Sea Islands. It is just north of Hunting Island, separated by Johnson Creek.
The Sea Island Parkway connects these islands.
Harbor Island is also connected to St Helena Island by the Harbor River Drawbridge.
Most of the island is covered in preserved marshes, but a small part is home to a private resort with residents and guests from all over to enjoy the pristine beaches, scenic spots and luxury amenities.
Harbor Island is at Sea Island Pkwy, St Helena Island, SC 29920.
19- Lady’s Island
Lady’s Island is a sea island in Beaufort County, South Carolina.
The small island has some portions that fall into the city of Beaufort, but most of the island is unincorporated.
The island is located just north of Port Royal, which the McTeer Bridge connects.
Lady’s Island is mostly residential, but there are a few great places, such as the Secession Golf Club, Beaufort Yacht & Sailing Club, and Whitehall Park.
The island also offers miles of beautiful coastline and boat ramps, perfect for spending the day on the waters.
Lady’s Island is at Lady’s Island Drive, Beaufort, SC 29902.
Stay at: Country Inn & Suites by Radisson, Beaufort West, SC.
20- Spring Island
Spring Island is a 3,000-acre (1,214 ha) South Carolina coastal Sea Island just east of Callawassie Island.
Like its sister island, Spring Island is a private, residential community.
The gorgeous island is surrounded by sprawling live oaks and waterfront homes.
There are no hotels on the island, so renting a vacation home is the only way to enjoy this Low Country gem.
Residents and approved guests can enjoy amenities such as clubhouses, restaurants, golf courses, an equestrian centre, deep water docks, 300 hiking trails, a sports complex, and swimming pools.
Spring Island is at Spring Island Drive, Okatie, SC, 29909.
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