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Where To See Dolphins In South Carolina – 2024 Guide

There’s plenty of places to see dolphins in their natural habitat all over South Carolina from Charleston to Hilton Head.

I visited South Carolina for the first time recently and, of course, the main thing I really wanted to do was see wild dolphins out in the ocean!

I found that by far the best place to see dolphins in South Carolina is on Hilton Head Island where dolphin sightings are common.

I’d recommend joining this dolphin watching boat cruise for the best chance of seeing dolphins as your expert guide will know where to find the dolphins without fail.

In the rest of this post I’ll be revealing all of the exact locations where you can see dolphins in South Carolina.

Best Places To See Dolphins In South Carolina

Map showing where to see dolphins in South Carolina.

You can see dolphins all over the coastline of South Carolina. Here’s exactly where… 

1. Hilton Head Island

As I mentioned, the best place in South Carolina to see dolphins is at Hilton Head Island.

Hilton Head Island is a resort town and island in South Carolina known for its white sand beaches and wildlife.

Dolphin sightings are so common here that it’s hard not to see one. Due to Hilton Head’s mild water temperatures, dolphins can be found here all year round.

I was lucky enough to spot a large pod of dolphins when I visited! They put on a fantastic show by jumping up out of the ocean and splashing around.

Dolphins on Hilton Head Island.

There’s tons of activities available at Hilton Head which offer a glimpse of a dolphin.

I’d recommend this 90-minute dolphin watching cruise as it gives you the chance to get out onto the water and see the dolphins up close. This is the one that I personally did.

Here’s all of the best dolphin watching tours at Hilton Head:

As I said, I did the dolphin watching cruise and loved it! I saw a ton of dolphins and the guides were super knowledgeable about both the area and the dolphins.

You can see some of the dolphins of Hilton Head Island in the video below, spotted whilst out on a boat tour:

2. Myrtle Beach

Myrtle Beach is a vacation resort on the Atlantic coast known for white sandy beaches, amusement parks and one of the USA’s tallest ferris wheels.

One of Myrtle Beach’s main attractions is the bottlenose dolphins that live there.

You could join a dolphin watching boat cruise to get an up close view of the dolphins or for something more adventurous, try booking a surfing lesson!

You can also often see the dolphins from the beach itself as they tend to swim quite close to the shore. I actually managed to see 2 dolphins just from the shore which was pretty cool.

It’s common to spot the dolphin’s fins sticking out in the ocean when out dolphin watching on Myrtle Beach.

3. Charleston Harbor

The best place in Charleston to see dolphins is at Charleston Harbor.

Charleston Harbor is a small inlet of the Atlantic Ocean and a popular resort area.

Dolphin at Charleston Harbor.

Dolphin sightings are pretty common here. They are often seen swimming alongside boats, jumping out of the water and even surfing in the wake of passing vessels.

Whilst dolphin sightings are not guaranteed, many visitors to Charleston Harbor have reported seeing these amazing animals up close during their visit.

When I visited Charleston Harbor, I was lucky enough to spot several dolphins out in the water.

There are several tour operators that offer dolphin watching tours which can be a great way to increase your chances of spotting them.

This dolphin watching boat tour from Charleston Harbor is one of the best rated!

See how close you can get to the dolphins in Charleston Harbor in the video below:

4. Folly Beach

Folly Beach is a city located on Folly Island, just south of Charleston. It features a long pier that stretches over 1,000 feet into the ocean. 

Bottlenose dolphins live in the ocean around Folly Beach and it is common to see them playing in the ocean, especially when the waters are calm.

You can watch them from the shore or for a more up-close and personal experience, get out into the water!

The best way to get out onto the ocean and see the dolphins close up is to join a kayaking tour or try out stand-up paddleboarding.

You can see the dolphins feeding at Folly Beach in the video below:

Did you know you can also see dolphins in Texas?

5. Kiawah Island

Kiawah Island is a barrier island located 25 miles from Charleston. This island is famed for its natural beauty including beaches, trails, woodlands and more.

Dolphins can frequently be spotted in the rivers and creeks that surround Kiawah Island. I actually saw one within minutes of arriving.

One of the most popular places for dolphin spotting is at Captain Sam’s Inlet which is a body of water that separates Kiawah Island from nearby Seabrook Island. 

The dolphins are commonly seen feeding in this area. They do what is known as ‘strand feeding’ which is a rare feeding practice unique to the dolphins who reside in this area.

You can see some dolphins ‘strand feeding’ at this inlet in the video below:

6. Shem Creek

Shem Creek, located in Charleston, is a popular waterfront dining and drinking district close to Mount Pleasant. 

The waters of Shem Creek are a well-known dolphin waterway and it’s super common to spot a dolphin whilst out eating dinner or sipping on a cocktail at a waterfront bar.

Many people also get out onto the water itself on a boat or kayak for an even closer view.

7. Pitt Street Bridge

Pitt Street Bridge, located in Charleston, was once a trolley bridge that connected Mount Pleasant to nearby Sullivan’s Island. 

Today it is now a scenic public park where people relax, ride bikes, take walks and look out for animal life.

You can often see dolphins swimming close by from the bridge especially during high tide. One of the best times to visit is at sunset. 

8. Bulls Island

Bulls Island is a 5,000-acre remote barrier island located in Charleston. You can access it by ferry.

The island is made up of a series of creeks, wetlands, forests and beaches which are home to a wide variety of animals including dolphins.

Hop aboard a boat and you’ll be sure to spot a dolphin moving through the creeks of Bulls Island.

Best Time Of Year To See Dolphins

Dolphins can be seen in South Carolina all year round.

The waters surrounding South Carolina are of a mild temperature, meaning that dolphins can live there throughout the year and don’t need to migrate elsewhere during the winter. 

The entire coast of South Carolina is actually home to a significant population of resident bottlenose dolphins that live there all year round.

Did you know you can also see dolphins in North Carolina?

And that’s it!

I hope this guide has helped you discover some of the best places to see dolphins in South Carolina.

Whether you’re planning a trip to Hilton Head, Charleston Harbor or any of the other locations I’ve covered, there’s no doubt that seeing dolphins up close is an unforgettable experience.


Megan Jones is a travel expert and founder of Traveller's Elixir, who has been travelling the world full time since 2021. Megan's travel tips been featured in numerous media outlets including Metro, Timeout, Thrillist and more.

Learn more about the Traveller's Elixir Team.

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