Arts & Culture, Discovery

Beat the Heat: Charleston’s Best Beaches

No Lowcountry vacation is complete without a trip to one of Charleston’s beautiful nearby beaches.  Each beach has its own distinct charm, but all are guaranteed to make a great day trip and memory.  Folly Beach, Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island are all barrier islands located about 15 minutes from the downtown area.  The popular summer days and even the months surrounding it offer perfect temperatures for swimming.  Even in the winter, you can find people sun bathing and combing the sand.  The waters are known for being fairly mild with extremely gradual slopes.  Water coverage does, without a doubt, vary on the low and high tide times so check your charts.  If you fear little space to move and high-rise hotels, then you can breathe a sigh of relief; all three beaches, like the rest of downtown, pride themselves on staying laid back and local.

Folly Beach is a great example of the classic beach town.  The surfer-esque style is home to some of the best riding in the area and great for those who enjoy some lively company.  The beach stretches six miles and has plenty of space to find a more secluded spot. While your heading north away from the crowd, you will arrive at what is called the Washout, named for the damage struck to the area from Hurricane Hugo in the late 80’s.  If you brought your surfboard, then this is the place to use it.  The area is most consistent in producing solid waves for more experienced riders.  Just outside of Folly Beach the area is dotted with fun restaurants and bars, perfect for post beach drinks and appetizers. For dog owners, Folly does require a leash during the summer months for most of the day.

Concierge Tip: Visit the Folly Beach County Park at the west end of Folly Beach.  It features dressing areas, outdoor showers and a swimming area with lifeguards on duty.  Perfect for kids!

The Isle of Palms, also known as IOP, boasts beautiful white sand beaches and luxurious waterfront homes.  The beach area is about the same size as Folly, and has great places to rent kayaks, boats, stand up paddleboards and even charters. One major convenience of IOP are the public bathrooms and rinsing areas, great for cleaning off after a sandy day.  A different, friendly crowd occupies the IOP beaches at night, local sea turtles.  Turtle traffic in the summer is at a peak and trash and dug out holes can disorient the wildlife.  Because of this, Isle of Palms is a little stricter on leash laws and littering.  Although visitors do not need a permit for bringing their dogs, they still must be leashed at all times.

Concierge Tip: Keep up with the Isle of Palms Turtle Team for updates on where to search for nests and tracks.  Take a look at the photo gallery as well to see the most recent turtle hatchings.

Sullivan’s Island is the smallest and most natural of the surrounding beaches, with a few great restaurants.  This beach is more secluded, perfect for a little rest and relaxation.  The views of Fort Sumter, Morris Island Lighthouse, and the Battery are unparalleled and the occasional meandering cruise line is always a spectacle. Dogs at Sullivan’s are required to be leashed, and all owners must carry a permit.  Sunday mornings, however, is a doggy free-for-all.  Just be sure to clean up after your pet.

Concierge Tip: Visit Fort Moultrie on the eastern end of Sullivan’s Island for an unforgettable American history lesson.

All three beaches are sure to please any visitor, with their laid back Southern attitude, and beautiful Charleston sun.  Just remember to leave the alcohol at home and be mindful of your pets, and you are sure to have a great time.

Although parking is easy at all three locations, if you are staying downtown and would like transportation to and from your beach destination at your convenience, our recommendation would be the Life’s A… Beach shuttle service.  With your ride, chairs, towels, a cooler and sunscreen are included, perfect for a carefree vacation.

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