Sand, Surf & Saltwater

07 May 2024

Charleston Area Beach Guide

By Holly Fisher

Millions visit Charleston each year, drawn to her history, culture, restaurants and good ol’ Southern charm. While the area’s beaches sit at the edges of this popular tourist destination, Charleston’s beaches and views of the Atlantic Ocean are a destination unto themselves. Many people flock to the sand and shore for fun in the sun.

Charleston is home to several small, distinct beach communities. Each has its own personality, amenities and allure. But all of them are incredible places to relax, splash and surf or cool off with a cold drink and a great meal. Loggerhead sea turtles lay their eggs on the shores of many of our beaches. Don’t disturb any marked nests and, if you’re staying on the beach during the summer, be sure to leave your porch lights off at night. You don’t want to confuse any turtle hatchlings using the moonlight to find their way to the ocean.

Now, slide on your flip flops and let’s go!


Grab your surfboard and head over to this laid-back beach the locals love. Shops, restaurants and bars line Center Street, giving Folly Beach a funky vibe. Have breakfast at Folly Beach staple Lost Dog Cafe. Grab a burger or lobster roll for lunch at Rita's Seaside Grill. End the day with a cocktail and fried shrimp plate at Pier 101 Restaurant & Bar or The Tides, both overlooking the ocean. Take a sunset walk to the northeast point of the beach for the best view of the Morris Island Lighthouse.

Enjoy the amenities of Folly Beach County Park with its boardwalk, seasonal lifeguards,

restrooms and outdoor showers. The park is located on the west end of the island. Note that parking on Folly Beach can get tricky. Public parking and spaces at the county park fill up fast in the summer, so plan to start your beach day early. For additional parking tips and rules, visit

Don't miss the new Folly Beach Fishing Pier that stretches more than 1,000 feet into the sparkling waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Rent a rod on-site for some of the area’s best saltwater fishing or simply enjoy the incredible ocean views.

If you’re traveling with pets, note that dogs are not allowed on the beach from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. from May 1 to Sept. 30. At all other times, dogs must be leashed.



Just a few minutes from Mount Pleasant, the Isle of Palms is a popular destination for families and those looking for a traditional beach vacation. You’ll have plenty to do on IOP. Walk the beach collecting seashells and sand dollars (leave the live critters on the beach please!) Keep your eyes peeled for ospreys, pelicans and dolphins playing in the surf.

Enjoy a variety of dining options from casual seafood and cocktails at Coconut Joe’s to Southern staples like shrimp and grits at Acme Lowcountry Kitchen. Take in the best sunset views at Islander 71 Fish House & Deck Bar next to the IOP Marina. Check out The Windjammer for evening live music with beach views.

Isle of Palms has plenty of local shops where you can pick up a souvenir T-shirt, boogie board, buckets for building sandcastles or gifts.

The Isle of Palms County Park is a great option if you’re visiting with kids. The park is centrally located with seasonal lifeguards, restrooms and outdoor showers. There’s also a playground and picnic area with grills.

If you’re not staying on IOP, plan to arrive early. Parking is limited and traffic quickly backs up on the IOP Connector from Mount Pleasant. Public parking is available and the county park has a number of parking spots (for a fee).



Sullivan’s Island is a quaint little beach town with about 2,000 residents. Its pristine beaches and delicious restaurants make it a favorite among Charleston area locals. It’s also conveniently connected to the Isle Palms by the sparkling waters of Breach Inlet.

Sullivan’s Island has few short-term rentals and no hotels, so you may want to stay in Mount Pleasant and plan a day trip to this beach. While you’re there, visit Fort Moultrie National Historical Park to learn about the fort’s storied history from 1809 to 1947. Rent bikes and explore the abundant natural scenery. Shop at Sandpiper Gallery with its selection of paintings, jewelry and pottery. And be sure to visit Goldbug for a selection of apparel, jewelry and accessories.

When you’ve worked up an appetite riding your bike or playing in the surf and sand, try one of the island’s favorite restaurants. High Thyme offers an eclectic mix of American fare in a laid-back atmosphere. Home Team BBQ is a meat-lover’s must. And, of course, there’s Poe’s Tavern, serving up burgers and fries amidst Edgar Allan Poe themed decor. Cool off with the popular frosé from The Co-Op, a café and deli on Middle Street.

If you plan to take your pup to Sullivan’s Island, note that dogs are not allowed on the beach

from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. May 1 through Sept. 30.



The only public beach access on this gated island is via Beachwalker County Park located on the west end of this 10-mile beach. Other areas of the beach are private and accessible only to property owners or renters.

Beachwalker Park offers ocean access and a river view. The park has a boardwalk, seasonal lifeguards, restrooms, outdoors showers and a picnic area with grills. Beach chair, umbrella and boogie board rentals are available seasonally. Dogs must be leashed at all times within Kiawah Beachwalker Park.

Plan to visit the nearby Freshfields Village, an outdoor shopping center where you can browse boutiques of art, clothing, souvenirs, books, candles and jewelry. While you’re there, dine on tacos, ice cream, pizza and more. Plus, the village hosts a number of outdoor concerts, special events and festivals throughout the year.

For a luxury vacation, book a stay at Kiawah Island Golf Resort with its five-star accommodations and world-class golf course.

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