"Which way to the beach," you ask? (imagine the 'Flexed-Bicep-Emoji, here) This way...!
Ok, so within a ~20-25 minute drive of your Charleston stay, there are three main beaches to choose from. We've also included a list of a few others that track about a 50-minute drive from the city-proper. Each beach has their own special vibe, so read on to help you decide where to post up...!
Things all of the beaches have in common:
Park your car in the direction of traffic and with all of your wheels off the pavement.
For the most relaxed walks and parking, arrive before 9AM and after 3:30PM.
Be patient and open to "island time," aka, delays, especially if you're on your way to wedding or reservation. Traffic standstills can be unpredictable with drawbridges, and simple bottlenecking, due to one way in/out of each island.
Read and Follow all parking signs carefully: the ticket-ers are vigilant and very much on their job. Save your $35+ dollars by taking an extra 1-2 minutes to consider or consult someone!
If you're bringing your pup, please cross-check your beach's official page with what we've shared here. We try to stay on top of this, but if 2020 has taught us anything, it's that things are subject to change.
Re: If you bring your Pets, be alert to coyote notices and signages on the beach.
Folly Beach | The Brief: Come as you are - Anything goes here! Gritty in the Best Way, with Chillaxed Surfer Vibes and Bungalows.
Visit: Bert's Market, a grocery, convenience shop, and Charleston-institution with great merch!
Eat: Rooftop at Snapper Jack's, Wiki Wiki Sandbar (Spam Sliders, anyone?), Chico Feo (imagine your cool Aunt and Uncle's dream Tiki backyard), Shorefront at Tides Hotel - their Shrimp and Grits are puh-rett-y good!
Pets: Not allowed on the beach from May 1st thru Sept. 30 in the hours between 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. When pups are allowed, they must be on-leash at all times, and owners must pick up after their pets.
Recreation: For Surfing - The Washout (not the restaurant, but a stretch of beach on the East Side, very left-end of the beach when driving in from town). Yoga - Serenity Tree, beachside! Check their calendar for dates and locations. Additional activities: Various Surf Lessons, Fishing Charters, Paddleboard Tours.
Isle of Palms | The Brief: Manicured Resort-Land for Families and the Glam.
Visit: Barrier Island Eco Tours for authentic and unique/specific Lowcountry experiences: Boat to Capers Island, go Blue-crabbing, and have a Beachside Cookout featuring Lowcountry Boil. Eat: For fine Italian dining, try Coda del Pesce. For a homestyle breakfast before or after your sunrise walk, Sea Biscuit Cafe (cash only!). Drink: Coconut Joe's (great food, too!). The Windjammer for Live Music and Cold Drinks, Beachside! Pets: We recommend checking out the City of Isle of Palms' Page. Briefly: all dogs must have their rabies vaccine and owners should have ready at all times, the certificate(s) proving so. Dogs are allowed off-leash: April 1st - Sept. 14, from 5 a.m. - 9 a.m.; then Sept. 15 - March 31, from 4 p.m. - 10 a.m. Dogs are required to be on-leash, even in the water, at all other times. Recreation: The Links and The Harbor Golf Courses at Wild Dunes Resort. For the active and adventurous, go Parasailing, Tubing, Jetski-ing and more via Tidal Wave Water Sports.
Sullivan's Island | The Brief: Bougie and Beautifully Wild, Explore Historical Sites.
Visit: Walk the exterior grounds of Ft. Moultrie for free, and a $10 admission fee gets you into the various structures. Attend various Church Services: Stella Maris (Catholic), SI Baptist Church, and Church of the Holy Cross (Anglican).
Stay: Castle Mugdock, for one of the most unique design and decor for lodging in the Lowcountry!
Eat: All restaurants rest amidst four blocks along Middle Street. Burgers at Poe's Tavern. The Obstinate Daughter for a nice, sit-down meal featuring local food and bev producers. Beardcat's Sweet Shop for coffee and gelato!
Pets: The most exclusive among the beach offerings listed here: all dogs on Sullivan's Island, including day-visitors and vacation renters much have a town-issued dog permit with proof of rabies vaccine to visit. The application is located at the Town Hall, 2050-B Middle Street, costs $35, and requires a notary signature. From there, Off-Leash Dogs are permitted 5 a.m. - 10 a.m. On-Leash Dogs: 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. Dogs are not permitted on the beach between 10:00 am and 6:00 pm. Recreation: Take a short and sweet hike through The Station 16 Nature Trail and Maritime Forest, located at Station 16 x Atlantic Ave. Kiteboard, Surf, and Paddle Board with Sealand Adventure Sports.
Surrounding Beaches and Shores | The Brief: Scenic Drives through the Lowcountry.
Edisto Beach - Wild and Jungle-y, and Winner of the Most Casual among all of these offerings -- I mean, one of the attractions is The Mattress Tree!
Visit: the Serpentarium, and wild, untouched Botany Bay Beach. Dine: at the Sea Cow for a super casual, super cute, and truly Edisto vibe. For finer sit-down and dressier dining, try Ella & Ollie's. Classic Shops: Quick Convenience Store at the Edistonian, the Food Lion on the Island. Shop for Gifts and Clothing at Edisto Surf Shop and Curly Girl -- both stores share the same deck with the Sea Cow. Local Markets: Tomato Pies and Produce at King Farmer's Market, Produce at George and Pink's. Seafood Markets: B&B Seafood at Bennetts Point (it's fun to boat and dock there to shop!) and Seafood at Flower's.
Pets: From May 1 to Oct. 31, all dogs must be on-leash at all times. In the off-season, dogs should be on a leash, although it isn’t a requirement. In all cases, owners are required to clean up after their pets; there are waste bags available on the beach.
Kiawah Beachwalker Park - County park, and the Only beach access on Kiawah Island. arrive early as spaces fill up fast!
About: Kiawah Island is famed for its luxury gated community and Ocean Golf Course - host of the 2021 PGA Tour.
Visit: Kiawah Beachwalker Park's Hours and Fees Vary by Season. Visit their site for more info on hours.
Parking: Parking rates vary by season and by size of vehicle. For vehicles, you can expect to pay between $5-$15 depending on day and season. Walk-Ins and Bicyclists are Free. Buses/RV's/Campers incur their own rates. Check here for more parking rate info.
Eat: The Snack Bar at the County Park is open seasonally (see above for hours). On your way to or from, check out Freshfields Village for Shopping and Dining. If you'd like to dress up a li'l more, dine and drink at the Ocean Course Clubhouse and enjoy the spectacular view!
Pets: Dogs must be leashed at all times.
Recreation: Campsites are available but not always guaranteed. Beach umbrella and chair rentals are available.
Seabrook Island - Private beach community with Venue and Condominium Rentals available for Weddings, Group/Corporate Events.
About: Seabrook shares the same access as Kiawah. You'll go left for Kiawah, and right for Seabrook!
Visit: Book a stay on Seabrook Island to access the beach.
Eat: Map yourself to the Bohicket Marina & Market and dine at their three offerings: Fischer's Sports Pub & Grill, McCann's Irish Pub, or the Salty Dog Cafe. These are all open to the public. Recreation: Children's Camps, Equestrian Center, Golf. Fishing, sailing, paddle boarding, kayaking.
Pets: Seabrook Island is Pet friendly. Pay attention to the three different marked areas where pets are and aren't allowed. Pets may be off-leash if they obey commands, are under competent control by their owner. In all cases, pets must be picked-up after. Violation of any of these codes can ensure a fine of ~$1000. Click here for Seabrook's Pet details.