Just an hour’s drive from historic downtown Charleston can lead you to about every kind of beach experience imaginable. From family spots with plenty of amenities to secluded coastlines where you’ll have to catch your dinner, there’s plenty of adventure to be had for those wanting to escape the humidity for some cool ocean breeze.

Isle of Palms

A cozy island resort surrounded by seven miles of coastline makes Isle of Palms a top family destination. Wild Dunes Resort has been perfecting summer vacations for generations offering private condos and beach house rentals, along with a variety of recreational activities. Two world-class golf courses are open to the public year-round, and families can take advantage of kayaking tours, fishing and sweetgrass basket sewing.

Barrier Island Eco Tours specializes in naturalist-guided excursions around the salt marshes and islands off Charleston. Catch the Dolphin Discovery Sunset Cruise from Isle of Palms Marina to see and learn about the bottlenose dolphin and loggerhead sea turtle. The second part of the 2.5-hour cruise includes a stop on Capers Island where visitors can explore “bone-yard beach,” an unspoiled, undeveloped treasure trove of seashells, driftwood, sea glass and more. You’ll go home with a newfound appreciation for marine life and plenty of random facts to impress your friends and family.

Kiawah Island

Regarded as one of the country’s most beautiful barrier islands, it’s no wonder a majority of the coastline is under private ownership. Day-time visitors can access the beach from Kiawah Beachwalk Park for a small fee ranging from $5 to $10, depending on the season. Beach bums aren’t the only thing you’ll find, Kiawah serves as a vital nesting beach for loggerhead turtles. Nesting patrols and monitoring efforts are carried out by a group of dedicated volunteers supported by the Town of Kiawah Island.

Turtles weighing as much as 350 pounds lug themselves up the beach during the nighttime hours to dig a nest and lay their eggs. Nesting activity typically begins in mid-May and will continue into early August. The best time to spot activity is during an early morning stroll when you can search for tractor-like marks in the sand made from the turtle’s large flippers. A large pile of sand near the shoreline generally indicates a nest. Remember not to approach or disturb nesting turtles and report sightings to a Kiawah Island Turtle Patrol member.

Sullivan’s Island

This sleepy beach community is the perfect spot for a sunrise stroll. Grab a cup of coffee from The Co-Op and pack a bag for the day. The beach is just a few blocks from a charming business district (complete with bathrooms) where you can find any forgotten accessories. The Sullivan’s Island Lighthouse holds a unique title as one of the most modern lighthouses in the country. Its unique, slim and rectangular structure is hard to miss when you’re on the beach.

Fort Moultrie is one of the oldest-standing forts along the Eastern Seaboard and popular spot for history buffs. Edgar Allen Poe was assigned to Fort Moultrie in November 1827 and served a short, 13-month stint before enlisting in the United States Military Academy. The island serves as the setting for three of his later stories.