I am definitely an ocean girl. By far, the beach is my happy place. Moving to the Charleston area two years ago, I was excited to explore the many beaches around. I wondered which ones are the most secluded, which ones attract the most tourists, and which ones, if any, to avoid. After careful review, and consulting with some experts (i.e.my kiddos), here is the nitty gritty on our sandy shores.
A review of Charleston beaches
Just about a twelve-mile car trip from Charleston, you will find six miles of beach on Folly. The only hotel is The Tides, so if you are looking for some people watching and busier crowds, this is the place to do it. If you are looking for a quieter space, just walk about a mile or so for fewer crowds. There are lots owned by the county parks at either end of the beach that cost $7 for the day.
For parking, along the road are beach access points that have metered parking (just remember to put more money in the meter as needed.) There are bathrooms near the county park access, but no showers. This can make for an uncomfortable ride home for the kids. Dogs are allowed on the beach as long as they are leashed. Center Street on Folly is the main road you’ll drive in on, and there are some fantastic restaurants, especially if you like seafood. There are also souvenir shops galore. If I plan on spending the entire day at the beach, I enjoy Folly for its people-watching and food options.
Isle of Palms
Fourteen miles from Charleston is another six miles of beach. Isle of Palms is very different than Folly Beach. It is much busier, but also has more amenities. Parking is $10 for the day at the County Parks lot. There are also metered parking spaces to the left of the lot. Umbrellas and chairs are available for rent during the summer season. There are multiple places to rinse off when you are ready to leave, and bathrooms with changing stations as well. Isle of Palms does have some areas in which lifeguards are on duty
From a mom’s point of view, Isle of Palms is my favorite beach, simply because of being able to rinse off and not take half of the beach home in my minivan. Dogs are allowed on the beach, as long as they are leashed. The food options are more limited at Isle of Palms, however, a quick trip down the connector and there are plenty of restaurants in Mount Pleasant.
From Charleston, Sullivan’s Island is the closest drive at nine miles. This beach has the best views and is the least crowded. The downside is that there are no restrooms and parking is minimal. You just need to go early to try and snag a parking spot. When we come here, we usually have our own little spot on the beach and can enjoy some peace (at least for the day!)
Last, but definitely not least, is my favorite beach, Kiawah Island. Kiawah is ten miles of the most beautiful beach I have ever seen. For the most part, this is a private island, but the County Parks allow public beach access for $10. I promise you, it is worth the hour you may spend driving there.
In terms of amenities, Kiawah does have a place to rinse your sandy toes as well as restrooms. Pack a cooler for the day with food and drinks. Once you arrive, you will head down a walkway lined by bushes and trees and at the end of it is the ocean. The beach is usually not crowded, and the dolphin watching is amazing here. If you are looking to escape the busyness of the public beaches, Kiawah Island is definitely is worth the drive.
*Tip- In between Sullivan’s Island and Isle of Palms is a waterway called the Breech, or Breach Inlet. Do not swim here! This is a very dangerous stretch of ocean. Each year the local news covers at least one drowning in this area. With so many beaches around, there is no reason to risk it. (Mom rant over!)
We are very lucky to live in such close proximity to so many different beaches. The beach is one of the few places that my kids get along for the entire day, and that’s certainly a win in my book. There are always things to explore at the beach, and it’s relatively inexpensive. I am so happy that beach season is upon us, (as long as I remember the sunscreen!)