Being from Myrtle Beach, I spent many days at the beach while growing up. I think that is why the beach is such a special place to me! Going to the beach is one of my favorite pastimes ever, which is one of the reasons why I enjoy living in Charleston so much. We are fortunate to have several amazing beaches in the area, each with their own ‘personality’, I like to say. To elaborate, you will have a completely different experience at Sullivans Island than you will at Folly Beach, and so on!
In this blog post, you’ll find that I’ve listed the different beaches in the Charleston area, and the unique appeals of each.
Sullivan’s Island – Mt. Pleasant Area:
I listed this one first, as it is the beach that we have been going to for the longest time since first moving to Charleston in 2010. My husband and I spent many of our early relationship days at this beach, meeting friends at Home Team BBQ before heading out to enjoy the sun and the water. We got engaged there in December of 2020, and so it holds so many special memories!
What I love about Sullivan’s is that it feels like the quintessential beach community. Much of Sullivan’s Island is residential, but there is a small commercial district at the foot of the bridge to Sullivan’s with several amazing restaurants, including Home Team BBQ, Mex 1 Cantina, Poe’s Tavern, Obstinate Daughter, High Thyme, and the brand new The Longboard. Visiting this beach will offer you plenty of great dining options for lunch or dinner!
We especially enjoy visiting Sullivans Island in the evening. Watching the container ships roll in while the sun is setting is truly a unique experience – it almost doesn’t look real! I find the sunsets on Sullivan’s are my favorite since you can walk towards the western side of the island towards the Charleston harbor.
Sullivan’s Island tips:
-Stock up on sandwiches and snacks at the Publix off of Ben Sawyer Boulevard before heading out to the beach! There is a gas station at the foot of Sullivan’s Island, but you’ll find much more of a variety of refreshments offered at Publix.
-Many of the “stations” on Sullivan’s Island offer street parking, just make sure to reference the “no parking zones”.
-Charleston Light, Sullivans Island’s lighthouse, is located off of Station 18.
-For a cocktail before or after the beach, try casual Home Team BBQ for their (in)famous Gamechangers. We also love stopping by Santis Mexican Restaurant on Ben Sawyer Boulevard for margaritas on the way leaving the beach. Obstinate Daughter offers a slightly more upscale dining experience (but still casual).
-Sullivan’s Island rules and regulations, including leash laws, are listed here.
Isle of Palms – Mt. Pleasant Area:
We live just a couple of minutes from Isle of Palms (IOP), so it’s the beach I’ve been frequenting most lately! The Isle of Palms is arguably one of the most popular beaches in Charleston, offering many vacation rentals, and several resorts catering to out of town travelers. It is also home to many residents, and you’ll find that the island is dotted with beautiful luxury homes, both beach and Intercostal Waterway-front. I really loving popping over to IOP for a quick beach walk with Beau.
For visitors, Wild Dunes Resort is one of the most popular beach resorts in our area, and then you’ll find a plethora of Airbnb/VRBO options on the island. Isle of Palms has a Charleston County Park area offering showers and restrooms, and access to the beach, which makes for a convenient beach experience.
The Windjammer is a well-known bar and restaurant offering a beach-front setting, often with live music, both day and night. A few other favorites are ACME Lowcountry Kitchen, the Boathouse, and then Coda del Pesce, which we have yet to try but have heard great things.
Isle of Palms tips:
-The town recently added many off-street parking spaces between 21st and 40th avenue. I find that it’s very simple to park on most days (excluding summer weekends and holidays).
-For access to beach-side showers and restrooms, purchase a day pass at the IOP Charleston County Park at 14th avenue.
-IOP rules and regulations, including leash laws, are listed here.
Folly Beach – James Island Area:
Michael and I lived on Johns Island for several years, during which Folly Beach was our go-to beach destination. Folly Beach, also sometimes referred to as “the Edge of America” has a laid back bohemian vibe, and is a true beach town. This beach also offers many vacation rentals, and one central resort – The Tides.
You will find plenty of dining options and beach shops lining Center Street, the main thoroughfare on Folly Beach. The nightlife on Folly is a bit more lively than the other beaches, with several venues offering live-music in a casual setting. A few favorites dining options are Ritas Seaside Grille (owned by the Halls Chophouse group), and Taco Boy. Folly Beach has a great pier where you can watch local fisherman wrangle in large fish (and sharks, occasionally!). I have found that shell and sharks tooth-finding are best on Folly Beach when compared to other beaches.
Folly Beach tips:
-Head to the beach early in the day or later in the afternoon to avoid beach traffic on Folly Road.
-Stop by Crosbys Fish & Shrimp Company, a local market offering fresh seafood, when leaving Folly Beach to bring home fresh fish to cook for dinner!
Beachwalker Beach – Kiawah Island Area:
During our time living on Johns Island, our favorite beach to visit was the Beachwalker Beach, the public beach on Kiawah Island. Beachwalker Beach is not as well-known as the other beaches in Charleston (except to Kiawah-goers) which makes it all the more desirable, in my opinion. A quaint and low-key beach destination, the Beachwalker Beach is one of the Charleston County Parks, which you do have to purchase a day-pass to park (or you can purchase a Gold Pass to use throughout the year at any park). With the limited parking, the beach never feels overly crowded. Day parking typically ranges between $10-$15, depending on the day.
Beachwalker Park offers parking, showers, restrooms, picnic areas, and a concession stand, which make for a very convenient and easy beach day. It is also one of the most beautiful beaches in Charleston, in my opinion!
One of my favorite aspects of visiting this beach is the drive… it doesn’t get more beautiful than the drive to Kiawah – either via River or Bohicket Roads – which are canopied with grand live oak trees and lined with horse farms. We love stopping by Freshfields Village on the way to the beach, which is a shopping village complete with a Harris Teeter and Starbucks a few minutes from the beach. We always grab sandwiches and snacks on our way to the beach, and then circle back to pick up groceries to cook for dinner on our way out!
Beachwalker Beach tips:
-Plan to arrive early on busy summer weekend days, as there are limited parking spaces and a line usually starts forming at peak times.
-Stop by the Harris Teeter at Freshfields Village to stock up on snacks and sandwiches for the beach!
-Plan to pay $10-$15 to park for the day.
-Beachwalker Park rules and regulations, including leash laws, are listed here.
I hope this post was helpful, whether you’re new to the Charleston-area, or if you’re planning to visit soon!
I’d also love to know – which of these Charleston beaches is your favorite? Tell me in the comments below!