What is your ideal day at the beach? A big umbrella and a good book? Boogie boarding and sand castles? Wading in the waves? Whether you are planning a day trip or a weeklong summer stay, the top beaches to visit in Charleston SC include these four easily accessible public beaches, each with its own unique scene and amenities. Locals tend to visit the beach closest to their home (for obvious reasons), which means the beaches often mirror the communities that border them, but no matter where you are staying in Charleston, you’re always just a few minutes from putting your toes in the sand.
Isle of Palms
Across the intercostal waterway from Mount Pleasant awaits Isle of Palms (lovingly referred to by locals as just “IOP”). Ocean Boulevard is home to a several local beachfront restaurants serving up tasty food with a view. With the Isle of Palms County Park offering convenient parking, beachfront lifeguards, public restrooms and other amenities, IOP is frequented by families of all sizes. And beyond lounging on the sand, you’ll find countless fishermen on the pier just waiting to reel in the catch of the day. Isle of Palms offers a lot for families to do and is one of the most popular beach destinations in Charleston.
Affectionately known by locals as “funky Folly” for its laid back vibes, Folly Beach offers a classic, casual beach experience. The iconic fishing pier, home to local eatery Pier 101, is the perfect place to take in the panoramic ocean views and look back at the island’s shore. The pier and surrounding beach are part of Folly Beach County Park, which offers amenities including lifeguard supervision, beach patrol, public restrooms, snack bar and equipment rentals (beach chair/umbrella, fishing tackle, etc.). A short way down the beach surfing hotspot ‘The Washout’ draws amateurs and pro’s alike with some of the best surf in the Carolina’s.
Though it is the smallest of Charleston’s area beaches, Sullivan’s Island beach is among the most pristine. Less frequented than other area beaches, it’s often uncrowded, ideal for morning walks on the beach, or picnics on the sand with views of the Ravenel Bridge. With nearly a dozen local restaurants right off the beach – from tacos and margaritas at Mex 1 Coastal Cantina or dinner at the eclectic Poe’s Tavern – it’s no wonder Sullivan’s is a favorite for local Charlestonians. The island is also home to Fort Moultrie and the iconic Sullivan’s Island lighthouse (commonly called “Charleston Light”), which has the distinction of being among the country’s most modern lighthouses. Fully operational, it serves not only to guide ships safely to shore but also as a reminder of Charleston’s role as a bustling seaport importing and exporting food, goods, and tourists daily.
Beachwalker Park Kiawah Island
A picturesque drive just south of downtown Charleston, Kiawah Island Beach is a tranquil and serene retreat complete with winding oak trees, marsh views, and coastal landscape. As Kiawah Island is a private, gated community, Beachwalker County Park is one of the best kept local secrets – it’s open to the public, with everything you need from lifeguards to changing rooms, showers, handicap access, and plenty of shade. If you’re heading out for a long walk on the beach, make sure you bring a bag or bucket to collect the many sand dollars you’ll find along the way.
Stay in luxury
Choose your favorite beach, or explore them all and discover a few of Charleston’s treasures and secrets along the way. Don’t forget to pack all the beach bag essentials for your fun day on the sand! Book a stay at any of our luxury vacation homes in the heart of Downtown Charleston or on Folly Beach, Isle of Palms or Sullivan’s Island and be that much closer to having your toes in the sand. The team at Luxury Simplified Retreats goes above and beyond to offer guests an outstanding experience with beautiful beach rentals and unparalleled concierge services. Browse our Experience Packages to consider making your trip especially unique, then sit back, relax, and leave all of the planning to us.
Isle of Palms is a charming beachfront town located on the slender barrier island of the same name. Located just off the coast of historic Charleston SC, and surrounded by the lush landscape of the South Carolina lowcountry, Isle of Palms is a vacation destination unlike any other. Just 7 miles long and 1 mile wide, Isle of Palms is known for its wide, sandy beaches, making it a popular destination for swimming, sunbathing, and water sports. Spend a day exploring the storied history of downtown Charleston, discover the beauty and awe of coastal birds of prey, paddle board with dolphins along iconic Shem Creek, or simply spend your days on the beach with nothing planned but to relax and unwind.
Every Vacation starts with Great Dining
In addition to six miles of beaches, Isle of Palms includes a quaint downtown retail and dining district along Ocean Boulevard. Popular restaurants and cafes along this stretch of the island offer a wide variety of delicious seafood and other local specialties, including Coda del Pesce, Coconut Joes Beach Grill, Acme Lowcountry Kitchen and the locally loved Sea Biscuit Cafe, that serves up only breakfast, but is well worth the wait.
You will find other upscale dining options dotted throughout the island, including Long Island Cafe which is located right beside Harris Teeter, The Boathouse, located on the water overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway and Islander 71. Situated on the point where Morgan Creek meets the Intracoastal Waterway, Islander 71 overlooks the water and has spectacular views. With dock access available for boaters, a waterside bar, indoor-outdoor dining, and an outdoor stage with live music, Islander 71 is an island vacation must do.
Something for Everyone
Isle of Palms proximity to Mt. Pleasant, Charleston’s fast-growing suburb just over the Isle of Palms Connector, provides easy access to some great family friendly activities. Boone Hall Farms offers strawberry picking, a farmers market, a pumpkin patch, and haunted house (seasonally). There’s nothing like a ordering a hotdog with all the fixings and a hand dipped shake at Jack’s Cosmic Dogs, or taking a drive to Mt. Pleasant’s Old Village for a picnic on the Pitt Street Bridge. Whether you just want to spend some time relaxing on the beach, or are eager to go swimming, fishing and try out some water sports, Coastal Expedition is a local company that offers kayak and stand-up paddleboard rentals, so you can explore the waterways and tidal creeks around the island. The island is also home to many kid-friendly attractions, such as the Wild Dunes Resort and the Charleston County Park and Playground.
Water Water Everywhere
For the water lover who seeks adventure, the island is surrounded by the Intracoastal Waterway, which offers opportunities for boating, fishing, and other water activities. At Breach Inlet, the sliver of water that separates Isle of Palms from nearby Sullivans Island, you’ll find the skies above the Atlantic are often filled with the colorful kites of kitesurfers, as this end of the island delivers a strong and consistent ocean breeze.
In addition to the some of the popular spots in and around Isle of Palms, your vacation wouldn’t be complete without booking an excursion with Coastal Expedition to the nearby nature reserve at Bulls Island, where you will see alligators, herons, and other wildlife. The largest of four barrier islands found within the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, Bulls Island is a 5,000 acre maritime forest with fresh and brackish water impoundments and a beach area. The six-and-a-half mile uninhabited island remains virtually untouched and is home to countless wildlife and endangered species. Just 45 minutes north of Isle of Palms, this makes for a great daytime outing to experience a breathtaking part of the coastal lowcountry. The Intracoastal Waterway and the tidal creeks around Isle of Palms also offer up some great spots for dolphin watching.
Music under the stars
When the sun sets and the night is heating up, head to the ever popular The Windjammer beachfront bar. Founded in 1972 and with a devoted following of locals and visitors alike, this longtime bar was the local home to Hootie & the Blowfish in the band’s early days, and with a reputation as a destination for great live music, the club has hosted other well know acts like Edwin McCain, Sister Hazel and the Zac Brown Band. Add in endless ocean views and The Windjammer will quickly become your favorite spot for enjoying bar bites and cold drinks while listening to live music at the beach.
Proximity to Charleston
It’s just about a thirty minute drive into Charleston from the Isle of Palms. If you’ve never been to Charleston before, with its wide variety of cultural and historical attractions and legendary southern charm, then spending a day in Charleston is a must. Explore cobblestoned alleyways, discover manicured gardens tucked behind intricate iron gates, browse the legendary shopping along King Street, dine at corner cafes along East Bay Street and experience harbor views from a scenic rooftop.
Start planning your vacation getaway to Isle of Palms, by booking a luxurious Isle of Palms vacation rental just steps from the beach. The team at Luxury Simplified Retreats goes above and beyond to offer guests an outstanding experience with beautiful beach rentals and unparalleled concierge services. Browse our Experience Packages to consider making your trip especially unique, then sit back, relax, and leave all of the planning to us. You’re going to love Isle of Palms laid-back, small-town vibe.
While Charleston, SC is known for its hospitality, it’s incredibly dog-friendly too! Whether you live locally or simply like to bring Rover along when you travel, the walkability and mild climate in Charleston make it a popular destination for spending time outdoors with your pooch. Charleston has a strict leash law in place, and good dog-manners are a “must have,” but if there’s a restaurant with a patio or porch, your dog is more than likely welcome — though it’s always a good idea to call ahead. But if you’re planning on bringing your dog to one of our beautiful beaches and giving your pup the full sun, sand and surf experience there are a few rules to know, and it starts with being a responsible pet owner and always cleaning up after your pet.
Folly Beach loves its pups! Many restaurants have outdoor spaces for you to dine al fresco with your dog by your side. However, if you’re looking for a fun walk on the beach, know that dogs are not allowed on the beach from 10am to 6pm from May 1st to September 30th. At all other times, dogs are welcome but must remain on the leash or under voice control.
If you’re looking for alternatives when the beach is too packed, there’s a dog park located on the island at 512 E Erie Ave!
Known as the widest beach in the Charleston area, Sullivan’s Island is a dog’s playground with tidal pools and expansive beach! However, all dogs, including those of both residents and visitors, must have a dog permit from the Town of Sullivan’s Island. Non-resident permits are $50 per dog annually and resident permits are $25 annually. Permits are issued at Town Hall at 1610 Middle Street. Make sure you have proof of your rabies vaccine as well!
Summer hours for dogs on the beach run from May 1st to September 30th. During that time dogs can be off leash from 5:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., on leash from 6:00 p.m. to 5 a.m. No dogs are permitted on the beach between the hours of 10:00 a.m and 6:00 pm. Winter hours for dogs on the beach run from October 1st to April 30th. During that time dogs can be off leash from 5:00 a.m. to noon and on leash from Noon to 5:00 a.m.
Isle of Palms
The City of Isle of Palms recommends you obtain a dog permit if you plan to have your dog on the beach. Permits are free of charge, and you must have proof of up-to-date rabies inoculation signed by a licensed veterinarian.
Dogs are allowed to be off-leash during summer hours, from 5am to 9am from April 1st through September 14th and then for winter hours, 4pm to 10am beginning September 15th to March 31st. If you’re on the beach during other hours, just make sure your dog is on the leash!
You can also visit the spacious dog park on Isle of Palms located behind the Recreation Department at 24 28th Avenue.
Pet Safety Beach Tips
Remember, if it’s hot at the beach for you, your dog will be extra toasty underneath all their fur! Limit the time your dog has on the beach and make sure you provide plenty of water throughout the day. Additionally, never leave your dog in the car. Within minutes, a car can reach dangerous temperatures.
If you’re planning a Charleston vacation and wonder if you should bring your dog, we’ve put together some tips to help you and your furry friends have the best vacation possible. Whether they’re sniffing their way through charming and historic downtown Charleston SC or splashing in the waves and digging in the sand on Folly Beach, your dog will be happy that you brought them along – after all, their favorite place in the world is wherever you are! So grab their leash and book one of our pup-friendly luxury vacation rentals today.