8 Dog-Friendly Beaches In South Carolina For You And Your Pup

Trying to find dog-friendly activities in the human world is not as easy as it should be. Only specific beaches can truly provide the best experience. South Carolina vacation spots like Folly Beach and Tybee Island beach have a strict No Dogs Allowed policy. This means that bringing your best friend during the daytime or even at all is prohibited. Fortunately, not all beaches are as restrictive. 

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What are some dog beaches in South Carolina?

There are several beaches that do not prohibit dogs. Although they are considered dog friendly, the exact rules are up to the beach. The following SC beaches have some rules that allow dogs:

  • Myrtle Beach
  • Hunting Island
  • Kiawah Island
  • Alder Lane Beach
  • Edisto Beach
  • Isle of Palms
  • Fish Haul Beach Park
  • Sullivan’s Island

If you decide to bring your dog to a non-dog-friendly beach in South Carolina, there may be unforeseen consequences. The maximum fine can reach up to $500 in the Charleston area. Before bringing your dog, it’s important to know whether you should bring a leash, skip the afternoon, or leave your dog at home.

As the proud owner of a Portuguese Water Dog, I try to look for vacation spots with at least some form of water. The ocean is preferable because of its endless waves and long stretches of running area. In South Carolina, there are a few special places I will always associate with doggie time. 

What Beaches Are Dog Friendly in South Carolina?

Pet-friendly beaches can be found throughout the United States regardless if you’re visiting the ocean or a local lake. In South Carolina it is up to the beach, not the state, to decide whether dogs are prohibited. 

Myrtle Beach

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Myrtle Beach is one of the most popular beaches in South Carolina. It’s also one of the friendliest. All types of dogs are allowed to frolic without a leash before 10 AM. They can also “go free” after 5 PM from May 1st through Labor Day.  

Although the main beach is dog friendly throughout the entire year, dogs must be leashed during the late morning and afternoon. Their leash regulations are strict and they do not supply leashes of the designated size. The ideal size for a Myrtle Beach leash is 7 feet.

Pet owners must use doggie bags to remove waste. Luckily there are public trash cans available, but it’s wise to bring your own scooper. 

Hunting Island

Hunting Island State Park provides five miles of beach for you and your dog. The island is unique because of its environment. In addition to sand, marshes and forests are available for your dog to explore. Unlimited access to the entire island is offered to dogs.

This is a fun island for humans as well. There’s a saltwater lagoon that is fully accessible as well as an ocean inlet. Dogs may join their owners while they swim. 

The indoor areas are off-limits for dogs. This includes the lighthouse, the Visitor Center, and the gift shop. Unfortunately, all dogs will have to be leashed at all times. This is non-negotiable. The leashes cannot exceed 6 inches. If the leash rule is not followed, fines are a very realistic outcome. 

Kiawah Island

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Kiawah Beachwalker Park is a dog-friendly beach approximately 30 minutes from Charleston. The west end of the island is available for dogs to swim and run on the beach. 

One of the reasons I like Kiawah Beachwalker Park is that dogs are allowed all year round. Even if swimming isn’t an option, it’s a nice change of scenery during the late fall. Another bonus about visiting during the off-season is the lack of crowds. There’s a lot more room for your dog to play during November.

All dogs must be kept on a leash regardless if it’s afternoon or night. They do not seem particularly picky about the length of the leash, but it must be fastened securely at all times. Like most beaches in South Carolina, you are responsible for cleaning up after your dog. They do not always have waste bags available, so it’s wise to bring your own.

Alder Lane Beach

Alder Lane Beach is located in Hilton Head near South Forest Beach Drive. Unlike a lot of other beaches, it’s relatively quiet even during the summer months. Dogs have free range of the beach until 10 AM when they must be leashed. During the off-season, they are allowed to run free regardless of the time. 

After playing in the water, most dogs are covered in wet sand. This is fine while on the beach, but once they get in the car it can be difficult to clean. Luckily Alden Lane Beach does provide outdoor showers for both you and your dog.

Trained dogs of all varieties are all welcome. The keyword is “trained”. Dogs must be able to obey voice commands so they are kept safe as well as other beach vacationers. Puppies are not prohibited from the beach, but they must be able to understand basic commands such as “no” and their name. 

Edisto Beach

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Edisto is a hidden gem in South Carolina. It’s very remote and over an hour from the city of Charleston. Because it’s so quiet, there’s ample room for dogs to play without getting in the way of other vacationers.

Dogs do not have to wear a leash after October 31st as long as the dog responds well to commands. “Leave it” is an especially important instruction as wildlife is rare and should not be disturbed. 

There are a few places that are off-limits. These spots are prohibited for both dogs and adults. The dunes are protected by the beach community and are not to be visited at any time. Sea oats are also off-limits. Trying to pry an 80lb dog away from them is a bit tricky. Prevention is the best method.

Isle of Palms

The Isle of Palms has beaches that stretch on for miles. Dogs are welcome here throughout the entire year. However, even during the off-season, there are specific hours to follow.

Dogs are free to roam the beach from 5 AM to 8 PM during the summer months. These months extend from April 1st to September 14th. They are very particular about the times. During the chillier months, dogs are welcome from 4 PM to 10 AM. Off-season officially starts on September 15th.

Leashes are mandatory. This is true regardless of what time you’re on the beach. Even during the winter months, you may face a fine for neglecting to follow the rule. There are local patrol officers that periodically inspect the Atlantic.

Fish Haul Beach Park

Fish Haul Beach Park is located on Hilton Head Island. The beach is clean and depending on what time of day you go, it can be fairly quiet during the summer. It is the only public beach in Hilton Head where dogs are welcome at any time of the year.

Fish Haul Beach Park does have specific hours for dogs. They do not allow dogs of any breed from 10 AM to 5 PM. This is true for weekdays as well as weekends. Dogs must be leashed at all times, even during the off-season.

The beach itself is quite clean. The expectation is that dog owners clean up after their dogs and it seems as if everyone follows that rule meticulously. There is also little trash which makes the beach even safer for dogs. 

Sullivan’s Island

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Sullivan’s Island is a less populated beach located in Charleston. Many locals love this area because it’s quiet and clean. Dogs are allowed on the beach, but there are a few hoops to jump through.

Before taking your dog to Sullivan’s, a dog permit needs to be issued by the town. This is not a difficult process, but it does require paying $50. If you’re a resident, you can get away with only paying $35, but it is still a necessity to enter the beach with any pet.

A permit does require proof of rabies vaccination. In addition to the fee, you will need to fill out an application. This does not need to be filled out in person, but it is required by the town of Charleston. 

Which Breeds Are “Water Dogs”?

Not all dogs love the ocean. Sometimes the sound of waves can feel overwhelming to a small dog, and for those who prefer to stay dry, beaches are an unpleasant vacation. Fortunately, there are many dog breeds that take to the water like fish.

The American Water Dog is Wisconsin-bred and a strong swimmer. This is in part due to its combination of retriever and spaniel. If you have an American Water Dog, they usually love small boats due to their size. 

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever is another beach lover. Their coats are unique because of an oily coat that is actually waterproof. 

The reason its name is the Chesapeake Bay Retriever is that it has enough protection to swim through icy waters. 

Most people don’t think of the English Setter as a water dog, but it’s extremely athletic. With an abundance of energy, the beach allows them to run and play in the water for hours. An English Setter will need to be trained before it can swim, but it’s a fast favorite for outdoor exercise.

Labs are what most people think of when they picture dogs running on the beach. Labs are bred to retrieve and can chase tennis balls in the ocean for an entire day if you let them.

Unlike some breeds, labs are also family-friendly which makes them great for public beaches.

Of course, I’m partial to the Portuguese Water Dog. These dogs were originally bred for fishing trips to retrieve lost equipment. Like Labs, they are family-friendly and easy to train. Because they have webbed feet, Portuguese Water Dogs do well in all types of water as long as they are trained.

There are plenty of other dogs that enjoy the beach. Even if a dog isn’t interested in long swimming sessions, the beach itself may be just as fun. Dense sand is ideal for running long distances and quiet beaches provide the right amount of space to play.

Can All Beaches Issue Fines?

In South Carolina, if you do not follow the rules of a specific beach, you may face a fine. Depending on the town, these fines may be set at different rates.

In Hilton Head, not following the rules can potentially cost up to $1,087.50 per offense. The Beaufort County Sheriff’s Department in addition to the Town Code Enforcement officers, regularly patrols the beaches. 

Folly Beach allows dogs all year round, but only at certain times. If you bring your dog to the beach between 10 AM and 6 PM, you can face a maximum fine of $500. This can be issued to anyone who does not comply with the rules. 

According to the Town of Kiawah Island, pets are not allowed to roam free without leashes. Dogs must be leashed when they are on the beach or in any outdoor setting without a fence. Leash laws are enforced by the Kiawah Island Beach Patrol. If a beach on Kiawah Island specifies that dogs are allowed, they can override this rule. Fines can be up to $465.

Taking Your Dog to the Beach

Before going to the beach with your dog, preparation is essential. You’ll want to make sure your dog has a name tag on its collar just in case it runs too far. Although many dogs now have microchips implanted under the skin, an ID tag will help you find your dog faster on the beach. 

Short-haired dogs such as Staffordshires, Boxers, or Dalmations may be more sensitive to the sun. Even in South Carolina, a beach may not provide the ample shade needed for hot dogs in the summer. Bringing a pair of “doggles” (dog goggles) can help protect their eyes. This is true even during the off-season because of the brightness of the sand.

Untrained dogs should not go to the beach unless they are always on a leash. The basic commands of “sit” and “stay” are crucial. Without knowing their name or the right safety commands, they may end up swimming too far or getting into trouble with other vacationers. Even if you trust your dog, voice commands are essential. 

Most dogs love the beach. Even dogs that don’t enjoy the water can still benefit from the experience. Beaches offer new smells, different wildlife, exotic creatures, and long stretches of sand to run. South Carolina has some of the most beautiful beaches along the East Coast.