The Charleston area is definitely known to tourists for its history and old southern charm. Many tourists, however, come with the sole purpose of hitting the beach. Our Charleston beaches are quite beautiful and known for their magnificent oceanfront homes. There aren’t many hotels in and around the beaches, so rental homes are by far the most popular accommodations among tourists when staying at the beach. We attempted to break down the differences and similarities of our area beaches so you can visit the one – or two – that best fits your vacation style.
Isle of Palms - The Isle of Palms is located east of Mount Pleasant, joined by the Isle of Palms Connector bridge. The Isle of Palms has a popular public park where visitors can pay to park. It’s a good choice because parking is limited on the Isle of Palms. There is also a small strip of shops right on the beach. Probably the most popular hot spot in that area is The Windjammer – home to small concerts, beach volleyball and happy hour specials. There are a couple of nice restaurants along that same commercial strip. The Palms Oceanfront Hotel and the Seaside Inn are hotels located oceanfront at the Isle of Palms. They book up quickly so if you want to stay in a hotel there, rather than a home, book the hotel early.
Wild Dunes – Wild Dunes is a beautiful private resort located adjacent to the Isle of Palms. It is a gated community with a Links Course and a Harbor Course. The Boardwalk Inn there provides a four-diamond experience. Guests at Wild Dunes also have the option of staying at The Village at Wild Dunes in a guest room, studio, one- or three-bedroom suite or a penthouse. They can also rent a vacation home or condo elsewhere on the property. Guests at Wild Dunes can relax on the beach or in one of the many sparkling pools, rent a bicycle, or play tennis. Guests can also check out all the services offered at the Sand and Sea Salon or dine at one of the resort’s six restaurants. Wild Dunes is great place for those that want the real resort experience.
Sullivan’s Island – Sullivan’s Island has a pristine coastline along with magnificent beachfront homes and is located next to the Isle of Palms. This beach is known as more of an upscale area closer to Charleston. There is a small strip of restaurants and shops on Middle Street that many locals and tourists flock to for the nightlife. Poe’s Tavern, Sullivan’s Island Restaurant, Dunleavy’s Pub and Fiery Ron’s Home Team BBQ are just a few of the main hot spots. There aren’t any hotels on Sullivan’s Island, but there are plenty of homes for rent. Fort Moultrie is a great place to visit if you are looking for a historic attraction. Meander through the fort and visit the museum to learn all about this historic gem.
Folly Beach – Folly Beach is located on the other side of James Island about 20 minutes from downtown Charleston. Folly Beach has a laid back vibe. It is known for its surfing and casual atmosphere. Folly Beach is a slightly larger community with one large hotel and several small inns and many homes for rent. There is a strip of shops and restaurants on Center Street that is very popular with tourists and locals alike. Many of the restaurants turn into bars at night making the nightlife at Folly Beach quite entertaining. The Folly Beach Pier is a common fishing spot, hosting many fishing tournaments throughout the spring and summer. Folly Beach is also home to the Folly Beach County Park. There are 200 parking spots there and restrooms for people who want to spend the day at the beach. Parking is limited at Folly Beach and strictly enforced so parking in the public areas may be your best option. Morris Island, which is right off the coast of Folly Beach, is a popular island for boaters to visit. The Morris Island Lighthouse is on the National Register of Historic Places as it was built in the late 1700s. It is one of the most photographed lighthouses in South Carolina.
Edisto Beach – Edisto Beach is about an hour from downtown Charleston. The beach itself is more secluded than some of the other beaches in the Charleston area. There isn’t a hotel, but there are many reasonably priced homes to rent. There are campgrounds and cottages at the Edisto Beach State Park. Campers can set up right on the beach by the dunes. Edisto definitely has that small beach community atmosphere that is quite appealing. There are only a few restaurants and one grocery store so visitors should come prepared.
Kiawah Island – Kiawah Island is located on the other side of Johns Island so it is about a 45-minute drive from downtown Charleston. Kiawah Island is a private community. Visitors cannot enter without a pass at the gate. Kiawah Island is home to nine golf courses, two of them being private for Kiawah Island Club members only. Tennis is very popular on the island as well with two large tennis facilities. There are several miles of trails on the island for visitors to walk or bike and a nature center where guests can register for paddling, walking, or fishing tours, and many other activities. Dining is not hard to find on Kiawah Island. The Sanctuary, which is the island’s five-star hotel, according to Forbes, has four dining options within the hotel itself. There are several other options at the other golf course clubhouses and at Freshfields Village, which is an upscale shopping center at the entrance to the island. We should also mention the spa experience at Kiawah. The Sanctuary Spa has some great options for anyone who wants to completely relax. In addition to the hotel, Kiawah Island has villas and private homes for rent. There is also a public beach before the gate. Visitors to the public beach, called the Kiawah Island County Park, do have to pay for parking, but once inside they have access to public bathrooms, showers, a snack bar and lifeguards.