Searching for a place to settle down near Charleston, SC? You’ll be delighted with the convenience and charms offered by James Island. Located just five minutes from downtown Charleston, this large sea island is close to the best shopping, dining and amenities in all of Charleston County.
Easy access to historic downtown Charleston isn’t the only appeal of James Island. Boasting top-notch schools, outdoor amenities, as well as a rich, lively culture, it’s not difficult to see why so many families plant their roots on the beautiful sea island. Let’s explore more deeply why James Island is a great place to live, work and play.
History of James Island
One of Charleston’s most unique sea islands, James Island boasts a rich history that dates to the 17th century. First established as Jamestown in 1671 by English settlers, the island was previously occupied by native American nomads. They primarily hunted for their food, taking advantage of the plentiful seafood along the island’s waterways.
Early Settlement of James Island
As early as 1609, Spanish explorers documented their encounters with the Stono tribe, who occupied both James Island and Johns Island. In 1666, English settlers also recorded two different tribes — the Stono and the Kussoe — on James Island.
Although early settlers initially found the tribes friendly, tensions between the native Americans and the colonists came to a head in 1674. This resulted in the tribes coming together to fight against the European settlers. Their combined forces were no match for the colonists, who defeated them handily and took control of the island thereafter.
Early Military and Naval History
With its proximity to Charleston, James Island made for an ideal location to set up lookouts for pirates in the 17th century. Prior to early colonial settlement, pirates frequented the island to stock up on supplies before heading back out to sea.
In the early 18th century, the island raised its first militia. Led by Colonel William Rhett, the militia was born out of concern over a French and Spanish invasion in 1706.
In 1708, construction of historic Fort Johnson began. Located on the banks of the Ashley River, the fortification is named after Sir Nathanial Johnson, proprietary governor of Carolina. The fort remains a popular historical site on the island and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The American Revolution and the Civil War
James Island played critical roles in both the American Revolution and the Civil War. It acted as a defensive wall for Charleston in 1780, and later in 1862 through 1864. The island was the site where the last battles of the American Revolution took place, as well as the site from which many shots of the Civil War were fired from Fort Johnson.
Benefits of Living in James Island
Today, James Island is known for its laid-back, unpretentious vibe. The island’s picturesque views and relaxed atmosphere are just the beginning of the many benefits this island has to offer its residents.
Apart from living on the peninsula itself, James Island is the closest suburb to Downtown Charleston. Those who choose to work in the Holy City and live on James Island will find the commute much easier compared to Charleston’s other sea islands.
James Island boasts some of the best public schools in all of Charleston County. Because of this, many families choose to send their kids to James Island Charter High School because it is highly rated and provides great opportunities.
There are two middle schools and four elementary schools on James Island for parents to choose from as well. Of these schools, Fort Johnson Middle School and Harbor View Elementary School stand out with high ratings.
James Island provides a warm, welcoming and inclusive atmosphere. Because of this, residents here are generally not pretentious and fit the island’s laid-back vibe.
However, don’t mistake being laid-back for a lack of caring. James Island residents are passionate about preserving the natural environment. Many fight vigorously against large-scale development of the area. This is especially true when it comes to protecting trees like ancient live oaks.
Although families are serious about protecting the small-town feel of the island, the community is also welcoming to newcomers and visitors alike. If you want the best for your kids and do your part to make James Island a better place to live, you’re sure to fit right in with this welcoming crowd.
Minutes from the Beach
Living in James Island, S.C. means that you’ll have easy access to the beach. James Island is essentially Folly Beach’s neighbor, making it a convenient 5-15 minute drive to one of the most family-friendly beaches in all of Charleston.
Some homes on the island are within biking distance of Folly beach. If you’re looking for a home on James Island, chances are good that you’ll find an attractive home just minutes away from the sound of ocean waves.
For a modest island, James Island has a lot of history packed into it. When your friends and family visit your home in James Island, there are plenty of fascinating historical sites you can take them to.
One of the most popular historical sites in James Island is McLeod Plantation. Located along Wappoo Creek, the historic plantation was established in 1851. It was largely successful due to its production of Sea Island Cotton. The plantation played a significant role in the American Civil War is an important Gullah Geechee heritage site.
Another notable historical site is Fort Johnson. Located at the northeast point of James Island, the fort held military and political significance during the colonial era. It is also the site where the South Carolina state flag was first flown in 1775.
Lesser known is Secessionville Historic District, an area on the island that honors those who fought in the Battle of Secessionville. The district includes a few historic homes — one Victorian and two Antebellum Greek Revival homes — as well as the unmarked grave representing over 300 Union soldiers.
What to Do on James Island
James Island boasts a wide variety of fun activities for the entire family to enjoy. From live music and concerts at the Pour House to the family-friendly James Island County Park, you won’t have trouble finding things to do on this quaint sea island.
James Island County Park
Searching for fun, outdoor activities to do with the kids? Need ideas for date night in James Island? You can always count on James Island County Park to make lasting memories.
James Island County Park has it all: playgrounds, a water park, a dog park, open spaces, a climbing wall and a fun splash pad that your little ones will love. That’s not all the 643-acre park has to offer. The park also features plenty of activities like nature trails and paved trails, tidal creek fishing opportunities, volleyball courts, kayak rentals and much more.
During the holidays, the park is lit up with millions of lights as part of the annual Holiday Festival of Lights. A dazzling spectacle, this much-loved event is a delightful tradition for many Charleston families.
Catch a Movie at Terrace Theater
The unique Terrace Theater is a five-screen art house cinema with a funky, retro vibe. This James Island Movie theater is a fun place to catch both independent films and popular showings.
Serving both traditional and unique concessions, the theater is also a fun place for date night. With a huge variety of craft beers and fine wines, independent films and quality atmosphere, it’s not surprising that the Terrace is consistently voted the best movie theater by Charleston City Paper.
Terrace Theater is locally owned, and residents love to support this treasured cinema. The theater owners are known for giving back and are deeply involved in many charity events that aim to enhance the community.
Take in a Local Performance
If you’re interested in Charleston’s local music scene or simply want to take in a live performance, the Pour House in James Island is the spot to go. With eclectic street art, music and a fantastic bar, this no-frills tavern is a favorite hangout for locals.
Featuring local and national touring bands, the Pour House has earned its reputation for being one of the best concert venues in the Charleston area. This top-notch venue has incredible sound, relaxed atmosphere, great beer and exceptional eats.
If you’re more interested in a great dining experience with a side of live music, check out Kwei Fei the popular Chinese restaurant that opened next door to The Pour House in November 2018.
Get Outside with the Entire Family
If you’re looking to disconnect for a while and breathe in some fresh air, James Island has plenty of opportunities for you to do so. In addition to the massive James Island County Park, the island also features a host of quiet spots to explore.
The Fort Lamar Heritage Preserve is not only a cool historical site, but it’s also a nice little nature trail with trees providing ample shade. Melton Peter Demetre Park — aka, “Sunrise Park” — provides a fantastic view of downtown Charleston and a great place to cast a fishing line off the pier.
Get out with the kids and let them explore the playground at Pinckney Park. Or, take the older kids and walk along the beautiful nature trails.
Have Fun with Fido
When we say the entire family, we mean the dog too! James Island has no shortage of pet-friendly places to bring your furry friend.
Many of the places we’ve listed here are pet-friendly, including James Island County Park and the Pour House. But, there are also top-notch restaurants that welcome Fido.
For instance, Smoky Oak Taproom is renowned for having some of the best barbecue in all of Charleston. They also welcome dogs in the outdoor patio area. The Barrel features 33 taps of local and regional craft beer, has live music and food trucks and is perhaps Charleston’s most dog-friendly bar.
Want to get social with your dog? Take your pup to James Island’s Yappy Hour. This family-friendly social event features live music and beverages at the dog park located at James Island County Park. Most importantly, you’ll find plenty of other folks who love their four-legged friends as much as you do!
Attend a Festival or Annual Event
The Holiday Festival of Lights is just one example of the many fantastic events that James Island puts on each year. From cultural celebrations to savory food festivals, the island attracts visitors from all over the world for its lively festivities.
As a resident of James Island, you’ll have easy access to all the fun activities located on the island. Therefore, you’ll also be close to nearby Folly Beach and Charleston. Take the kids to the Lowcountry Cajun Festival at James Island County Park and let them enjoy the carnival. This will give you a chance to taste of the numerous Cajun and Creole foods.
The Charleston Outdoor Fest is another yearly event that takes place on James Island. It is the perfect time to try out stand-up paddleboarding or test your skills at archery.
Nearby on Folly Beach, there are always exciting events that the family will love. Check out FollyPalooza, a festival that raises money for cancer patients. Packed with activities, live music and food trucks, this fun-filled fest is a guaranteed good time.
An Outstanding Community
With its welcoming, family-friendly neighborhoods and easy commute to Charleston, James Island is no longer a well-kept secret. Today, families are flocking to this charming island to settle down and raise their kids.
Is James Island calling your name? From spacious lots and grand homes to smaller townhomes, there are James Island homes for sale that could be your new forever home. Get in touch with us! One of our James Island experts will answer any questions you might have about this wonderful, family-oriented island.