Are you planning a beach vacation with extended family and want to ensure everyone has a great time? Perhaps everyone in your group has different interests- from toddlers to teens, parents, and grandparents. We all know the stress that can go into trip planning; the responsibility of making sure everyone leaves the vacation relaxed and happy usually falls on Mom and Dad. The beauty of South Carolina is that the entire coast is interspersed with coastal towns sure to delight all ages.
Whether you are looking for fun activities for the kids, a date night out with your spouse, or an afternoon of golf for the grandparents, there is no shortage of places in South Carolina that fit the bill. Below is a list of destinations that are sure to delight the young and old alike so you can have an amazing multi-generational family vacation!
Historic downtown Charleston is obviously a destination unto itself, but the best part about the city is that it is possible to explore the beauty and history of Charleston and have a wonderful beach vacation at the same time.
Charleston is known for its rich history, beautiful architecture, superb restaurants, and unique shopping opportunities. Children will love seeing the large ships from waterfront park, going on a horse drawn carriage ride, and exploring a real dungeon.
When choosing a beach town to visit, there are a few popular options that each have their own unique character.
Folly Beach is the quintessential beach town, offering a small town feel, wide clean beaches, and a short drive to Charleston. Check out the fishing pier, go on a boat tour, or grab some fresh seafood for dinner in town.
This area is great for renting a large house on the ocean for big family reunions so you can catch up and have an all around relaxing fun time.
Isle of Palms – Wild Dunes
Within the town of Isle of Palms is a popular gated resort called Wild Dunes. Though it is typically pricier to stay in this area, families return year after year due to the amenities on site as well as the proximity to Charleston, Mount Pleasant, and the rest of Isle of Palms.
Accommodations include vacation rentals (houses and condos), the Boardwalk Inn, and the rooms and suites at the Village at Wild Dunes. This is great for large or multi-generational families because everything you may need is on site and accessible by bike, so families can split up and do their own activities if they wish. Some amenities include:
- Bike paths throughout the resort
- Beach and bike rentals
- On site activities for kids
- Multiple restaurants
- Fitness Center
- Resort sponsored excursions and activities such as fishing, paddleboats, and workshops
Though you can book directly through the resort, it is possible to book vacation rentals direct with a property owner through sites such as homeaway.com, vrbo.com, and airbnb.com, as well as other property management companies.
A beautiful barrier island only 30 minutes from Charleston, Kiawah Island is sure to be a crowd-pleaser for your entire family. The island is full of bike paths and lush landscapes complete with stately oak trees draped with spanish moss. In addition to being close to Charleston, you can explore neighboring Seabrook Island.
Kiawah is known for its beautiful golf courses, but there are plenty of other activities to do. Similar to Wild Dunes, Kiawah is a gated community that offers direct bookings, and options include villas, condos, and a 5-star resort hotel. You can also rent directly with property owners.
Below are a few ideas of things to do, but check out the Kiawah Resort site for a more comprehensive list.
- Freshfields Village is the main shopping hub on the island. It includes restaurants (including a coffee shop and Ben & Jerry’s), cute boutiques, and a Harris Teeter.
- The kids will love Pirates of Charleston, a pirate themed boat ride on nearby Seabrook Island
- Looking for a break from the kids so you can have some adult time? Kamp Kiawah offers fun filled day camps for ages 3-15.
- The recreation department offers a multitude of activities for different age groups including teens & youth and seniors.
Hilton Head Island
Voted one of the best island in the US by Conde Nast Traveler, Hilton Head island blends family friendly fun and beauty into one package. The island has many different areas that you can stay depending on what type of vacation you are looking for.
There are three main “plantations” as they are called that are gated communities each with their own distinct feel. Additionally, there are plenty of areas to stay outside of the plantations, but they may not offer as many amenities or be as close to some of more active parts of the islands.
Two plantations sure to be a hit with the kids and the grandparents are below. Both plantations/resorts have the option to book direct through their websites. In some cases you may be able to find special deals or have access to more amenities. However, sometimes it is easier and more affordable to book directly through a vacation rental site.
Sea Pines Resort
Located on the far left side of the island, Sea Pines takes up a large portion of Hilton Head.
This resort was ranked in the Top 25 Best Family Resorts by Travel & Leisure magazine, and the golf course was NGCOA’s National Course of the Year.
Due to the amount of places to visit within Sea Pines, it is almost worth staying there just to avoid having to pay the $6 visitor fee every time you want to come and go. Some highlights of the area include the below list, but this is just a sampling of things to do:
- Lawton Stables provides multiple sources of entertainment. Bring carrots and apples to feed the horses, walk through the free petting zoo, and let the little ones go on a pony ride. For the older kids and adults, take a guided tour on horseback through the Sea Pines Forest Preserve.
- For some fun at night, head out to Coast restaurant or it’s upstairs neighbor, Ocean Lounge. One of the only restaurants directly on the ocean, these restaurants serve excellent seafood with nightly live music.
- Biking is almost synonymous with Hilton Head, and Sea Pines is no exception. Rent a bike and leave your car behind because you can access everywhere in the resort by bike alone.
- Golf fans will love playing on the same green as the greats, because this is the location of the RBC Heritage Golf Tournament.
- Harbourtown is one of the most famous spots in Hilton Head due to it’s charming lighthouse, but this also a great place to grab an ice cream cone, have a waterfront meal, listen to live music by Gregg Russell under the Liberty Oak, take the kids to the massive Gregg Russell playground, or explore quaint shops along the harbor.
- Don’t forget to pick up your iconic Salty Dog T-shirt over at South Beach! Besides being known for the Salty Dog restaurant, the ice cream and pizza is amazing, and you can also take a ride on a sunset dolphin tour.
Not to be confused with Wild Dunes above, Palmetto Dunes is another gated resort plantation in Hilton Head complete with golf courses, on site kids activities, and bike trails. This area was also ranked in the Top 25 Best Family Resorts by Travel & Leisure magazine. Onsite amenities and activities include restaurants, a spa, pools, and tennis courts. Shelter Cove Marina is also technically part of Palmetto Dunes, but this area is open to the public and not part of the gated area. Some things that set Palmetto Dunes apart include:
- 11 mile lagoon where guests can go kayaking or canoeing
- Award winning tennis center
- Shuttle service to Shelter Cove for shopping and Harbourfest (festival every Tuesday night with fireworks)
- Location of the Marriott and Disney’s Beach House
The Grand Strand
The Grand Strand represents Myrtle Beach and surrounding areas. If the touristy epicenter of Myrtle Beach is not your speed, there are plenty of lovely towns and beaches that are close enough to the action without being in the middle of all of the chaos.
North Myrtle Beach
Many of you may be familiar with North Myrtle Beach since it is a popular location, and the name is often used interchangeably with Myrtle Beach. North Myrtle Beach is actually a different town in a quieter area north of Myrtle Beach. Here you will find more privately owned condo buildings as opposed to resort hotels, less crowded beaches, restaurants, and shopping. You are also only a short drive away the NC state line and popular Ocean Isle Beach. Besides all of the fun activities for the kids in nearby Myrtle Beach, here are some other fun things to do:
- Explore Barefoot Landing, a popular boardwalk style shopping complex that houses boutiques, restaurants, and the Alligator Adventure.
- Take a drive to Ocean Isle Beach and go to the Museum of Coastal Carolina
- Ride horses on the beach via a horseback tour at Inlet Point Plantation or Wampee Stables
- For the wine lovers in the group, a tour of La Belle Amie Vineyard may be just the right escape from the sand and sun
Garden City & Surfside Beach
Garden City and Surfside Beach are neighboring areas that are about 30 minutes south of of Myrtle Beach. Full of attractions for the touristy types, plus plenty of places to explore for the nature lovers, this a fun area that is still close enough to visit Myrtle Beach but also enjoyable enough if you do not want to leave. Some notable attractions are listed below:
- Water parks may not be on the grandparents’ list of fun things to do, but the kids will surely love Wild Water & Wheels.
- The Murrells Inlet Marsh Walk is a nice boardwalk with live music and quaint eateries
- Head out for a round of mini golf at Gilligan’s Island Funland, Runaway Bay Miniature Golf, or Adventure Falls Golf
- Explore the natural beauty of the land and hunt for wildlife at Huntington Beach State Park
South Carolina is a beautiful state with breathtaking beaches, exciting attractions, and recreation options that are perfect for a multi-generational family vacation. No matter where you go, your family will be blown away by southern hospitality, beautiful landscapes, and plenty of activities to keep everyone busy!