Beautiful Beaches: All You Need to Know

Table of Contents

Charleston has three public beaches, each of which is about a 20-minute drive from downtown: Folly Beach, the Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island. Each beach has a different atmosphere and amenities but all offer a relaxing day with the sand and surf.

Folly Beach

  • Known as the “Edge of America,” this barrier island beach is laid back and often frequented by locals and surfers.
  • After an incident over July 4 weekend, Folly Beach instituted a 60-day ban on alcohol on the beach. A formal decision on whether to allow alcohol has not yet been made.
  • With just one way on and off the island, traffic can get heavy and parking can be a problem if you arrive after 11 a.m. during the busy season, so you may want to consider a morning beach visit.
  • Beach shops, restaurants and bars are within walking distance.
  • Head toward Morris Island Lighthouse and take a bucket to collect seashells plus your camera for some great shots of the lighthouse.
  • The Folly Beach County Park is closed to the public because of ongoing erosion problems. Lifeguards are on duty seasonally along the designated swimming area (daily through Aug. 17 and then weekends through Sept. 9).
  • Home to 1,045-foot Folly Beach Fishing Pier with some of the best saltwater fishing in the area.

 Isle of Palms

  • This is the most commercialized beach with a selection of shops, restaurants, bars and public restrooms.
  • It was certified as a Blue Wave Beach because it meets the criteria related to cleanliness, safety and access to the public for the tenth year in a row.
  • Parking is more abundant, at $6 or $7 per day. For access to picnic tables, showers, restrooms and a playground, you might want to park at the Isle of Palms County Park for $8 a day; park hours are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Labor Day. Lifeguards are also situated on the beach in front of the park daily through Aug. 17 and then weekends through Sept. 30.
  • Families frequent IOP because of the strict alcohol rules and tourist atmosphere.

Sullivan’s Island

  • This beach has a good mix of locals and visitors. Plan for a day trip to this beach, though, as it has very few short-term rentals and no hotels or motels.
  • Sullivan’s Island is best described as undisturbed and natural.
  • Parking can be a problem if you arrive after 10 a.m. There are no public parking lots; street parking only. Be sure to obey posted signs and don’t park in any private yards or driveways.
  • There are no public restrooms or showers, and alcohol is not permitted.
  • No lifeguards are on duty and visitors should be cautious of sandbars. Don’t walk or stand on the sandbars as you can be trapped in deep water when the tide comes in.

What about dogs on the beaches? Check out our previous blog post for rules about taking dogs to the beach.

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Charleston FAQ's

Choosing a hotel and where to stay in Charleston all depends on your budget and goals. Do you want to stay Downtown, at the beach or in the outer areas such as North Charleston where you have to drive to get everywhere? For more help on deciding:

Charleston has 3 main public beaches which are: Folly, Isle of Palms and Sullivans. Each beach has it’s own atmosphere. The most common beach that people visit is Folly Beach and then Isle of Palms followed by Sullivans Island. For more info on Charleston’s beaches visit:

Charleston, SC is full of historical things to do. Everything from museums, to public sites and free landmark sites such as Rainbow Row and the Battery can be seen. For more info on Charleston’s top historical sites visit:

There are many things that will keep the kids and family entertained and educated in Charleston. There are historic sites such as Fort Sumter, a Children’s Museum, Aquarium and the USS Yorktown…a WWII era aircraft carrier you can tour. For more info visit:

There’s so many  things you could do in Charleston it can be overwhelming. We recommend that first time visitors, checkout the ultimate first-time visitor guide here:

Spring in Charleston, SC is an amazing time of year to visit. The flowers are blooming and the weather is mild and sunny. For more info, check-out our spring guide to Charleston here:

Summer in Charleston is a great time to visit. There’s plenty of things to keep you busy and visiting the beach will probably….or should be on your short-list. Also water-based activities and tours are popular. Checkout this summer guide to Charleston for more info: 

Our 10 Favorite Summer Activities in Charleston

Fall is one of the best times to visit. The weather cools down a bit and the skies are typically blue and clear. In addition there are many great events, festivals and the large crowds of summer have gone back to school or work. For more info on visiting in the fall, checkout this article:

There are so many great things to do that it’s difficult to narrow the list down. This article does a great job with figuring out the must do things to do in Charleston

7 Can’t Miss Reasons to Visit Charleston, SC Now

The consensus is a minimum of 3-days is needed to settle in and experience Charleston. For instance, many people take 2 days exploring downtown and another day visiting sites outside of downtown such as the plantations, Angel Oak Tree or beaches. Checkout this page for a list of tours and attractions: 

Charleston’s Top Tours & Attractions | Things to do

Downtown Charleston was made for walking and for sure one of the best way to soak up and experience the history first-hand. This article goes over getting around Charleston with and without a car as well: 

Getting Around Charleston, SC

We’re of course partial to Charleston, but here’s the truth. There are many similarities however there are some differences in our opinion: 

  • Both cities are historic and beautiful. 
  • Both cities are extremely walkable. Savannah, with it’s park-like squares maybe more walkable than Charleston. 
  • Charleston has a more established and food scene with many more options. 
  • Charleston has better hotels and shopping.
  • Both cities have equally good tours.
  • Charleston has better beach options. Savannah has Tybee which is great, however it’s 1 beach vibe versus Charleston which has 3 beaches with different vibes. Checkout this Charleston beach guide article:
  • In Savannah you can walk with alcoholic beverages on the street. This is not allowed in Charleston. This can be good or bad depending on your stance. 
  • Savannah is more affordable.
  • TourPass offers all-inclusive passes in both cities:

There are always great and world-class events happening in Charleston. For a calendar of events and things to do in Charleston, checkout our online calendar of events:

Of course there are free money-saving coupons that you can use. Visit the coupons page for a bunch of ways to save:

Charleston has some fantastic can’t miss tours such as Fort Sumter, carriage, ghost, harbor, historic and culinary tours. For a full list with more info visit:

Checkout the Charleston Relocation Guide page which will guide you during your move:

Additional Places to Explore

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