Charleston offers charm, culture and fine cuisine in spades. But what make Charleston even more seductive are its beaches.
Charleston is a region surrounded by water, and whatever direction you drive in, you will find it. With such close proximity, Charleston is a paradise for sun-worshipers, boaters and fishermen, and offers a host of beach options designed to suit oneâ€™s taste and temperament. Each beach has its own unique point of view, along with full time residents who can't bear to be from the sea.
Calm and relaxed, Folly Beach is known as â€œthe edge of America,â€ Folly Beach is a seven-mile-long barrier reef located just eight miles south of Charleston and is the closest beach to the city. An ideal place to play in the waves, collect seashells, and walk to the lighthouse, its fishing pier and beautiful views give it a Key West feel. Folly Beach is also one of the best surfing destinations on the East Coast. If youâ€™re a history buff, Folly abounds with Civil War history. The Morris Island Lighthouse originally built in 1876 and rebuilt after its destruction during the Civil War, still stands today on Folly Beach. Initially constructed nearly 1,200 feet inland, due to shore erosion and rising seas, the lighthouse today is completely surrounded by water. Another interesting fact: George Gershwin hunkered down in Folly Beach to write â€œPorgy and Bess.â€
There isnâ€™t much in the way of shopping at Folly--thatâ€™s best left for jaunts into Charleston. Restaurants are beachy, down to earth and informal, with the exception of the restaurant, Blu which is in the newly renovated Tides Folly Beach hotel which sits on the waterfront at the very end of Folly Road.
Summer beach rentals abound in Folly Beach, but many-particularly retirees-have chosen to make Folly Beach their full time home.
Isle of Palms
The Isle of Palmsâ€™ seven sandy miles of seashore flanks Mt. Pleasant and is an all-in-one city with activities for everyone from families to couples to seniors. The city takes great pride in its environmentally-friendly atmosphere and even has several regulation councils designated for its award-winning beach. Its glorious public beach attracts natives and vacationers alike almost 12 months out of the year.
The Clean Beaches Council awarded Isle of Palms Beach with a Blue Wave Season Certification for 2007/2008, which recognizes the beach for its environmentally managed conditions. This is the sixth year in a row that the Isle of Palms has received the honor, and it will continue to fly the Blue Wave Flag as an indication of its pristine conditions.
The city is thought to have been first inhabited by the Seewee Indians of South Carolina. Isle of Palms was the site of battles during both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. In 1898, visitors to Isle of Palms came by way of water or a single railroad bridge.
More bustling than Folly Beach and Sullivans Island, Isle of Palms boasts some very impressive-and large ocean front homes.
Charming Sullivanâ€™s Island, which is adjacent and south of The Isle of Palms, is one of the areaâ€™s prettiest sites.
The Town of Sullivanâ€™s Island, a barrier island north of Charleston Harbor, is comprised of approximately 2,000 residents in half as many households. These are primarily full or part time citizens that enjoy the relaxed lifestyle of the Island. There are very few short-term rentals and no hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, or other transient lodging. Plentiful parking grants easy access to its glorious public beaches.
Started as a settlement in the 1790s for Charleston residents trying to escape the yellow-fever epidemic, the island is still marked by station numbers from a long-gone cable car system that ran on the island. The strong surf is ideal for windsurfers and kite-surfers, and the island offers many historic spots including Fort Moultrie National Park, a Revolutionary War artillery battery and the site of famed Civil War battles. Other former war batteries on three-mile-long Sullivanâ€™s Island have been converted into luxury private homes.
Sullivanâ€™s Island is more manicured than Folly Beach and does not have the resort feeling of Isle of Palms. The small main street is dotted with restaurants and small shops and galleries.
Kiawah and Seabrook Islands
Adjacent to one another, and only 23 miles from historic Charleston, Kiawah and Seabrook Island, South Carolina offer a serene settings with miles of undisturbed Atlantic beachfront. Many visitors come to Kiawah (pronounced KEE-a-wah) Island and decide to make it their home. Only 21 miles from historic Charleston, much of Kiawah, South Carolina is privately owned, but Beachwalker Park is open to the public.
Kiawah also has 3.5 miles of private beach on the Atlantic Ocean and an additional mile of soft sand along the North Edisto River.
Kiawah Island is widely recognized as one of the best beaches in South Carolina - or anywhere, for that matter. Brideâ€™s Magazine named the Charleston area, highlighting Kiawah Island, as one of the worldâ€™s best honeymoon destinations. National Geographic Traveler called Kiawah Island the "Second Most Romantic Beach in America," and the Travel Channel honored the island as one of the "Top Ten Beaches for Families".
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