Did you know that Isle of Palms was once called Hunting Island nearly 25,000 years ago? It’s true! And it actually went through another name change. Before being called Isle of Palms, the island that sits to the southeast of Mount Pleasant and the east of downtown Charleston was called Long Island (in fact, there is a restaurant on the island that is called Long Island Café, which pays homage to the island’s old name!).
Before the English settlers landed on Isle of Palms, Seewee Indians inhabited the island, and some even speculate that pirates also inhabited the area.
To the west of Isle of Palms (now connected by a small bridge that spans over Breach Inlet) is Sullivan’s Island. The CSS Hunley submarine was actually launched between these two islands during the Civil War at which time it sunk the enemy USS Housatonic ship. And even though the Hunley eventually sank, it went down in Naval history as the first submarine to sink an enemy vessel.
The island soon became a popular spot for Charlestonians to escape from the heat of downtown Charleston and other parts of the Lowcountry. It wasn’t until 1899 that Long Island was renamed to Isle of Palms. But it would take another seven years before the very first hotel was erected on the island.
But hotels weren’t the only structures popping up on the island. Isle of Palms also had a Ferris wheel! Transportation via rail trolley car was even set up for individuals visiting the island from downtown Charleston and Mount Pleasant.
In 1929, Isle of Palms began seeing an even greater increase in visitors, thanks to the construction of the new Grace Memorial Bridge, which connected downtown Charleston to Mount Pleasant. This made access to Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island much easier.
As the 1970s came about, there was a major boom in real estate on the island and in 1975, Wild Dunes (which was then call The Isle of Palms Beach and Racquet Club) was built by the Sea Pines Company, which was famous for developments on Hilton Head Island. Today, many Isle of Palms residents called Wild Dunes home and it’s also a fantastic vacation spot and golfing destination.
Today, Isle of Palms not only features a handful of hotels and inns, but it’s also a popular place for groups to rent beachfront homes.