Best all-around beach: Sullivan’s Island
Few beaches in the world bear the weight of history more than Sullivan’s Island, which served as an entry point into North America for nearly 200,000 enslaved Africans. Situated at the mouth of Charleston Harbor, its location was also integral to the defense of the city during the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, and the well-preserved Fort Moultrie still stands at the island’s southwest terminus. But apart from those who visit the fort (where the story of South Carolina’s distinct palmetto flag has its origins), most day-trippers come to Sullivan’s for the broad beach, one of only a few in the state where accretion is outpacing erosion. This means there are tide pools aplenty, and an offshore sandbar that blocks some wave action for peaceful swimming (and creates a kiteboarder’s paradise in the lagoon at Station 28.5). Add a concise, charming restaurant district (anchored by Poe’s Tavern, named after the poet who was stationed at Fort Moultrie in 1828) and a 15-minute commute from downtown (without traffic), and it’s easy to understand why a tiny cottage on Sullivan’s Island sells for over $1 million. Fortunately, there’s no charge to enjoy the beach.