The Best Beach Resorts In The Carolinas

The Best Beach Resorts In The Carolinas

The Tar Heel and Palmetto states are known for their natural beauty, from craggy mountains to the windswept edge of the Atlantic, but their wide and welcoming beaches are particularly splendid. From the unspoiled dunes of the Outer Banks to the enchanting wetlands of the Lowcountry, from small beach towns to buzzing seaside cities, the Carolina coast is something spectacular to behold. 

The best beach resorts in North Carolina and South Carolina possess serene seaside settings, top-notch accommodations, and boatloads of Southern hospitality. Whether you’re looking for a family-friendly vacation with activities for kids or a romantic retreat with top-shelf dining, spas, and places to unwind, there is a coastal Carolina escape that’s perfect for you. Now it’s just a matter of choosing which one.

Sanderling Resort

Sanderling Resort

Duck, North Carolina

Anchored between the Atlantic Ocean and Currituck Sound, unpretentiously elegant Sanderling Resort is positioned for 360-degrees of waterfront bliss. With uncrowded beaches and a convenient basecamp for exploring the bewitching Outer Banks in Duck, North Carolina, Sanderling Resort is a beach lover’s paradise. From Corolla’s wild horses and Bodie Island Lighthouse to Jockey’s Ridge State Park, outings from the resort stretch north and south along the island, but we wouldn’t blame you if you stay put on the stunning property. When the need for nourishment strikes, Kimball’s Kitchen prepares high-caliber, local catch with sunset views over the sound, while Spa at Sanderling’s menu offers classic and signature massage, body, and facial treatments.

Sea Ranch Resort

Holly Gladd

Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina

This laidback hotel is right on the beach and offers balcony rooms with sweeping ocean views. An indoor swimming pool and gym, on-site beachfront dining, and local YMCA fitness center access, are a bonus for visitors drawn to Kill Devil Hills’ famous beaches. Sea Ranch Resort is an easy walk or drive to local restaurants and other significant Outer Banks sites, like the Wright Brothers National Memorial and Jockey’s Ridge State Park. 

Outer Banks Beach Club Resort

 Bryce Davey with Cubix Aerial; Courtesy Outer Banks Beach Club Resort

Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina

With pristine Outer Banks beaches and a slew of on-site activities to keep you busy, the Outer Banks Beach Club has something for everyone. This collection of beachfront condos features shuffleboard, tennis, and racket ball courts, indoor and outdoor pools, hot tubs, a sauna, golf, and local YMCA fitness center access. A kids club with two pools designed specifically for little ones makes Outer Banks Beach Club Resort ideal for families, as does its accommodation options of one-, two-, and three-bedroom layouts. The resort is within walking distance to several restaurants, the Wright Brothers National Memorial is just up the street, and various outdoor activities are in close proximity, from the Dare County Arboretum and Teaching Garden to hiking at Nags Head Woods Preserve

Shell Island Resort

Dara Newberry

Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina

Its prime location on the far northern end of the island of Wrightsville Beach means Shell Island Resort is hugged by a crescent of soft, white sand. If you’ve got to have a waterfront view, you can’t go wrong here, since each of the resort’s 169 rooms not only face the sweeping Atlantic, but features a balcony, living room, and kitchenette. With a wide-open beach at your door, as well as two pools, you’ll probably want to stick close to home, but adventurers can explore the quaint town of Wrightsville Beach and the charming port city of neighboring Wilmington.

Blockade Runner

Suzannah Franklin | Blockade Runner Beach Resort

Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina

With the brilliant blue Atlantic on one side and the sparkling intracoastal waterway on the other, it’s impossible to get a room without a view at Blockade Runner, a Wrightsville Beach mainstay for 60 years. With colorful, retro-chic interiors, a sprawling, beachfront lawn and garden, and of course the rollicking surf, Blockade Runner is a true escape. Add to this allure the resort’s many activities for kids and grown-ups alike: an ASA-certified sailing school, eco-paddle tours, surfing lessons, kids’ summer camps, and poolside cabana and beach chair and umbrella rentals. Grab a meal at EAST, the resort’s award-winning restaurant, a cocktail at Sea Escape Pool Bar & Cafe, or wander into downtown Wrightsville Beach for an in-town bite.

Marriott Myrtle Beach Resort & Spa at Grande Dunes

Courtesy of Marriott Hotels

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Just six miles north of buzzing downtown Myrtle Beach, Marriott Myrtle Beach Resort & Spa at Grande Dunes lives at a slower pace. The resort was renovated in 2017 and features guest rooms in a soothing neutral palette. A sprawling outdoor pool with lounge chairs galore and a beachfront lawn full of hammocks is the only thing between you and the short boardwalk to the shore. There’s an indoor pool, a fitness center, and the Hibiscus Spa, with massages, body scrubs and wraps, facials, manicures, and pedicures on the menu, as well as a sauna, steam room, and whirlpool for spa guests. For beachside meals, visit Ocean’s on 82nd for all-day dining, Ocean Blu Restaurant and Lounge for cocktails and light bites, Ocean Blu for casual poolside lunch and dinner, and The Cove, where the vibe is casual and the views are oceanfront.

Wild Dunes Resort

Wild Dunes Resort

Isle of Palms, South Carolina

At Wild Dunes Resort, less than 20 miles northeast of Charleston, there are accommodation options aplenty. Sweetgrass Inn, the resort’s newest addition, offers contemporary interiors with a coastal accent. All king bedrooms feature trundles, so families can bunk up easily, and one-bedroom suites provide even more room to stretch out. At The Boardwalk Inn, choose from queen and king guest rooms and junior or presidential suites. Vacation homes and condos are also available within the Wild Dunes complex for larger groups. With its perch on the northeast end of the Isle of Palms, Wild Dunes enjoys the perfect mix of community feel and dreamy seclusion. Three Tom Fazio-designed golf courses and a golf school, multiple pools geared toward both families and kid-free adults, a fitness center, and of course the sweeping Atlantic, keep visitors coming back year after year.

The Beach Club at Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina

Courtesy The Beach Club at Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina 

Mount Pleasant, South Carolina

With views of Charleston Harbor and the Holy City skyline across the sweeping Cooper River, The Beach Club at Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina is worth a visit for the vista alone. The resort’s 92 guest rooms feature wrap-around porches and one- and two-bedroom layouts–for a trip-for-two or family-friendly getaway–with calming, coastal interiors. Outside, a private beach and multiple pools wrapped in a 30,000 square foot deck–with a bocce court, private poolside cabanas, and Charleston’s only Tiki bar–beckon. The Fish House serves modern, Southern fare, but when the foodie city of Charleston calls you to dine, it’s just a free, 15-minute trolley or water taxi ride away. For days when further unwinding is a must, book a treatment at Estuary Spa. During summer months, pint-sized guests aged 5 to 12 can partake in the resort’s Mini Mariners Children’s Program, with weekly themes like science adventure, weather watchers, and Lego land. 

The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort

Photograph by Michael Cyra/Courtesy of Kiawah Island Golf Resort

Kiawah Island, South Carolina

Designed in the image of a historic coastal estate, The Sanctuary at Kiawah Island Golf Resort is a serene, luxury-forward haven for golfers and beach lovers alike. Each of its 255 guestrooms and suites feature expansive balconies with beautiful island views. Inside, Lowcountry coastal decor and plush bedding give guests a splendid landing pad to recharge after a round of golf on one of five courses; a day at the beach, where a concierge will arrange lounge chairs, umbrellas, and towels; or a dip in one of two pools–an adults-only and family-friendly option. Indulge in a custom spa treatment–or full day of them in between dips at The Spa at the Sanctuary’s aqua-themed retreat: whirlpool, steam room, sauna, repeat. The fitness center offers private and group yoga, pilates, and bootcamp classes, and a fleet of Volvos is at the ready for off-property exploration. The Sanctuary is home to three restaurants–a steakhouse, a Lowcountry cuisine-forward restaurant, and a poolside grill–as well as a cafe, ice cream shop, and bar. 

The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa

Courtesy of The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa

Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

With a $10 million renovation unveiling in early 2023, The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa is looking better than ever. The 419-room hotel offers seven suite options, including many family-friendly choices, each with ample balconies and light and soothing interiors. With 12 miles of pristine Hilton Head shore steps away, access to Port Royal Golf & Racquet Club, zumba and cardio classes and a Peloton studio in the state-of-the-art fitness facility, and access to Outside Hilton Head’s fresh-air excursions, including kayak and paddleboard tours, boat rentals, and family adventure packages, it’s nearly impossible to run out of things to do. When it’s time to recharge, book a beach- or poolside cabana at one of three pools, or indulge in the Himalayan salt ritual treatment, featuring a salt scrub and salt stone massage, at the Heavenly Spa by Westin.

Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort

Courtesy of Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort

Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort fronts three miles of beautiful Atlantic coastline, and with two freshwater lakes and an 11-mile lagoon system, there is seemingly endless water to explore. Across the main entrance is Shelter Cove Harbour & Marina, where boat rentals, tours, and fishing charters are launched. Palmetto Dunes features beach house rentals with three to six bedrooms, vacation villas with one to four bedrooms, and condo rentals. Many residences have their own pools, and you can choose from ocean, lagoon, marina, resort, and golf view options. With three golf courses, a tennis and pickleball center, bike rentals, and kayaking or fishing on the lagoon system, a non-beach day is as dreamy as one spent in the sand and surf. Palmetto Dunes dining choices are abundant, with Alexander’s Restaurant & Wine Bar featuring upscale seafood and a great wine list; The Dunes House, where laidback oceanfront dining is the focus; and Big Jim’s BBQ, Burgers, and Pizza, the perfect place to grab a bite and watch the big game. 

The Inn & Club at Harbour Town

The Sea Pines Resort / Rob Tipton

Hilton Head Island, South Carolina

If a round–or three–of golf is number one on your resort must-have list, The Inn & Club at Harbour Town, surrounded by The Sea Pines Resort’s renowned courses, will not disappoint. The luxury, 60-room boutique hotel is situated just a 10-minute walk from the red and white Harbour Town Lighthouse, but more importantly is snuggled up to a golf-lover’s wonderland: three courses, a learning center, and a clubhouse. Tennis courts and a relaxing pool are also on deck. A stay at the inn includes butler service for reservation assistance and access to a beach concierge who will set up an umbrella, chair, towels, and a fully-stocked cooler for you at Sea Pines Beach Club. Jump on a complimentary hotel bike to explore more of Hilton Head’s splendor, and when hunger strikes, settle in for dinner at Links, an American Grill. 

Montage Palmetto Bluff

Courtesy Montage Palmetto Bluff

Bluffton, South Carolina

Nestled between Hilton Head and Savannah, Montage Palmetto Bluff is a Lowcountry dream come to life. Three-quarters of the 20,000-acre community, situated along the ambling May River, is a designated nature preserve. With accommodation options including inn rooms and suites, cottages, and residences, there is a stripe of stay for every visitor. Activities include exploring the vast property’s maritime forests, riverbanks, and lagoons by bike, golf cart, on foot, or with a paddle in hand via kayak, canoe, and paddleboard. Playing a round at the Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, indulging in the world-class spa or one of two pools; playing a game of bocce, croquet, or tennis at the Wilson Lawn and Racquet Club; and testing your aim at the Palmetto Bluff Shooting Club will keep guests occupied for days. The inn itself is modeled after the South Carolina mansion of Richard T. Wilson, a New York multimillionaire, and its ruins still stand on the property today. Delicious dining options are numerous, with fine dining at Octagon, Lowcountry fare at River House, craft cocktails at Hush, and caffeine boosts at Buzz.