Charleston has some great beach options for whatever your sandy pleasure. We recently wrote about Kiawah Island, a beautiful beach resort on the outskirts of downtown Charleston. Here we offer the low-down on the area’s public beaches.
Folly Beach is known for its laid-back, surfer vibe. You can hang out on the beach and then grab some lunch or dinner at one of the nearby causal restaurants on Center Street. Take note that alcohol is not allowed on the beach. We also recommend leaving your furry friends at home. Dogs are not permitted on the beach from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. May 1 through Sept. 30. At all times, they must be on a leash.
Parking can get tricky as there aren’t many options. Plus, the road on and off the island can get busy during the summer as well as on holidays. So you might want to head out to the beach early and beat the crowd.
Make sure you walk the beach toward Morris Island Lighthouse armed with your camera and a bucket for collecting shells.
Folly Beach County Park is located on the west end of the island and has restrooms, picnic areas, outdoors showers, beach chair/umbrella rentals and lifeguards. During the spring and summer, parking is $7 Monday through Friday and $10 on Saturday and Sunday.
More rules and regulations for visiting Folly Beach are available online.
Sullivan’s Island is a more residential beach, frequented by locals or those renting a beach house. The island does not have hotels, although plenty of hotels are available nearby on the Isle of Palms and in the Town of Mount Pleasant. Sullivan’s Island is also a more natural habitat so don’t expect to find public restrooms or showers on the beach.
Dogs are only allowed on the beach at certain times and all dogs must have a permit from the island so you might prefer to leave your pet at home or in doggy daycare. Sullivan’s Island has some particularly tasty restaurants, including Poe’s Tavern, Home Team BBQ and Dunleavy’s Pub. After lunch, explore some island history at Fort Moultrie, the only unit of the National Park System where the entire 171-year history of American seacoast defense can be traced.
The Isle of Palms is a great family friendly beach option with its public restrooms and outdoor showers as well as having several dining and shopping options (just in case you forget the sand castle shovel). Isle of Palms County Park has parking, restrooms, changing areas, outdoor showers, beach chair/umbrella rentals and lifeguards. Dogs are allowed on the beach only during certain times and must be on a leash. There is an off-leash dog park at 24 Twenty-Eighth Ave.
Parking is more abundant at IOP with metered spaces, lots, the county park and on-street parking. Be mindful of “no parking” signs and do not block driveways.
For lunch or a dinner with a view, head to Coconut Joe’s or The Windjammer for a completely laid-back beach feel and live music.