Life in the South doesn’t get better than being close to the beach….and South Carolina boasts 180 miles of fabulous coastline. We decided to find the best places to live in South Carolina near the beach.
We really would have liked to pick the best beach towns by their beaches (Hilton Head for sure) but we know we had to do much more. If you’re looking to relocate to a beach town in South Carolina then read on.
To get started we developed a list of what we considered to be the most important criteria to determine the best beach town in South Carolina.
Unless you plan to spend all your time at home, you’ll want to know what to do in the area. We researched dining options, nightlife, shopping, cultural offerings, outdoor activities, and sporting events.
Quality of Life
We looked into cost of living, median home price, median rent, median household income, and student to teacher ratio.
A town’s crime rate will help you determine if the place you’re looking to purchase is in a safe area. Also, the extent of crime in a neighborhood can play a role in whether your home appreciates over time.
We looked at sales, income, and property taxes.
The unemployment rate will give you a sense of how strong the local economy is and the strength of the local job market.
How much time do residents spend getting to and from work? If you are not planning on retiring quite yet, this can be an important one to consider.
We considered both temperature and air quality.
We investigated 20 beach towns in South Carolina. Then, with the above criteria, we ranked each place from 1-20, with one being the best possible score. After that we averaged each ranking for an overall score; the lower the score the better a town fared. Here are the five best beach towns that we found in South Carolina.
1. HILTON HEAD (POPULATION 38,366)
Like we stated earlier, if this ranking was based on what beach town had the most beautiful white sandy beaches, Hilton Head would be the runaway winner. Even without 12 spectacular miles of coastline taken into account, this Beaufort County town still heads our list.
Hilton Head Island is located in the southern part of South Carolina just 40 minutes away from Savannah, Georgia, and 1.5 hours away from Charleston.
Hilton Head was at the top, or near the top, in our seven criteria and only Charleston was within hailing distance.
The median household income is one of the highest in the state at $84,575. In addition, the real estate was the most valued out of any beach town in our study, with a median home price of $500,800. Rent (median $2,310) was also an indicator of desirability.
Obviously, when a town finishes No. 1 in quality of life, No. 2 in amenities and crime rate, and 1st in unemployment and commute, you are getting a very high standard of living. Yes, there is that high median home sales price, but there is still some good value at a lower end.
If you like stunning beaches, waterfront villages, classic island residences, 250 plus restaurants, 29 shopping centers, numerous golf courses, plentiful water activities, and interesting public parks then Hilton Head might be the place for you.
2. CHARLESTON (POPULATION 135,257)
Charleston is the biggest city in South Carolina (a shade over Columbia) and provides a perfect blend of big city amenities with small town charm all while having easy access to the beach.
Outside of Hilton Head, this is the best beach town in South Carolina. A No. 1 in amenities and weather and a 2nd in unemployment coupled with a good school system and relatively low crime rate (6) makes this a great choice for young professionals, families or retirees. The only real concerns were in taxes (18) and commute (16).
Maybe the best part about Charleston is its location. It is only 2 hours away from Savannah and Columbia while its prime location near the shore allows you to choose from many beaches such as Isle of Palms, Sullivan’s Island, Folly Beach, and Kiawah Island….all just 20 to 40 minutes away.
3. MOUNT PLEASANT (POPULATION 71,875)
Mt. Pleasant is located less than 20 minutes from downtown Charleston and offers an easy-going lifestyle that is a perfect fit for beach lovers. However, it does not lack amenities and other things to do.
Mt. Pleasant ranked 6th on quality of life. Broken down, that means a median household income of $75,482 (one of the highest in the state), median house prices and rent at $363,000 and $1,203.
Mt. Pleasant is well named as its crime rate was the lowest out of the 20 towns. Low unemployment (4) and commute (6) contribute to a solid third place with only taxes (17) being a slight negative.
Mt. Pleasant’s strong economy (alongside the job opportunities in Charleston) has attracted many young professionals.
The beach is close by, also it is only 15 minutes to Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island.
4. BEAUFORT (POPULATION 12,770)
Beaufort, is the second oldest city in South Carolina and is a small, charming town just an hour from Savannah, Georgia. Beaufort was named the best small town in South Carolina by the magazine Southern Living.
It features a delightful downtown on the edge of the water that has been experiencing an influx of new residents in recent years.
Lovers of art are sure to appreciate this town for the numerous cultural festivals that are held throughout the year. If you love water sports, Beaufort is the place to be.
Beaufort ranked No. 3 for amenities based on the variety of businesses for a town with a population less than 13,000. Quality of life (5) consists of household income just below 50K and median sales price of around $300,000. A student to teacher ratio of 14 to 1 bolstered that ranking. Ranked very high in commute (2). The only troubling criteria was the crime rate (17).
Beaufort is also just 30-40 minutes away from major beaches in the area like Hunting Island and Pritchards Island making it one of the best quaint beach towns in South Carolina.
5. Murrells Inlet (population 9,137)
Murrells Inlet is not only rich in history but also culture. The area brings in hundreds of thousands of visitors each year to experience the beautiful beaches, art, atmosphere, and fishing village. In fact, the town is known as the “Seafood Capital of the South.”
Murrells Inlet ranked high in quality of life (4). In this case, a high quality of life meant a strong median household income of $59,500, a high median home price of $303,000 and a median rent of $1,000 indicating an area of high desirability. Additionally, a low unemployment rate (7), commute time (3), and crime rate (7) solidified a strong 5th place finish.
Away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Myrtle Beach (about 14 miles), Murrells Inlet offers a relaxed, fun, waterfront experience with plenty of shops, bars, and restaurants.
No matter how helpful a “best places to live” list may be, remember, rankings are ultimately subjective. Everyone is different so what seems best to you may not be the same for someone else. Therefore, you should use our ranking of the five best beach towns in South Carolina as a jumping off point for your own exploration.
When considering where to live in a South Carolina beach town or, for that matter, any other place in the US, be sure to use our seven criteria as a guideline. You will find these factors help make the search for your next home town easier.