Many people who are looking to take a weekend getaway seek out coastal areas near beautiful beaches to enjoy the unlimited access to the ocean and water activities. Right now, one of the most popular coastal cities to visit is Charleston, SC because of its rich history, unique architecture, and, of course, the beaches.
If you’ve got Charleston n mind, there are dozens of great areas to explore. Folly Beach real estate is particularly popular for vacation rentals and those who want to be as close to the beach as possible, but, because Charleston is a relatively small city, it’s easy to visit some of the other great beaches and attractions in the area as well.
So, How Far Is Charleston from the Beach?
The short answer: not far. In fact, there are beaches in almost every direction from the downtown peninsula. If you head east toward the town of Mount Pleasant, you’ll find two popular beaches—Sullivan’s Island and Isle of Palms. Sullivan’s Island is only about a 20-minute drive from downtown, while Isle of Palms is a bit deeper into Mount Pleasant, making your trip from the peninsula to the beach about 30-minutes long.
Folly Beach is a favorite place for locals and visitors to frequent as well. Head west to James Island during a quick 15-to-20-minute ride out to Folly, where you’ll find a beach town with plenty of restaurants and shops.
Beaches in the Area
• Folly Beach
Known as “The Edge of America,” Folly Beach is known to have a bit more of a bohemian vibe, with many surfers heading here to a spot known as The Washout to catch some waves. Folly stretches for six miles, giving beachgoers plenty of space to spread out and enjoy the sun.
If you want to stick close to Center Street, the road that takes you right into Folly, you can check out some of the restaurants like Snapper Jack’s or Jack of Cups, or sip a cocktail while looking out over the ocean at the Tides’ Blu Beach Bar and Grill. Don’t forget to take a walk down the pier and maybe stop for another cocktail on your way back at Pier 101.
If you’re looking for a more private area of the beach, you should turn left at the end of Center Street and follow the road until the end. Here, you’ll discover a path that has been decorated in colorful graffiti over the years and which leads to an area of the beach known as the Lighthouse Inlet Preserve. You can relax among the beach’s driftwood trees and get a peek of the Morris Island Lighthouse from the shore.
• Sullivan’s Island
When you arrive at Sullivan’s Island, you’ll be greeted by a row of great restaurants and bars with outdoor patios, giving visitors plenty of options for places to stop for happy hour or a post-beach meal. Park near Station 18 if you want the chance to admire the beach’s unique, triangular lighthouse that has been in operation since 1962. The lighthouse was initially created as a replacement for the Morris Island Lighthouse because the former was at risk of suffering damage from the island’s erosion.
To get to a more private area of the beach, head down to Station 10, but be sure to check the tides first as sometimes the sand is covered by the ocean during high tide.
• Isle of Palms
Although Isle of Palms is the furthest beach from downtown Charleston, there are dozens of beautiful vacation rentals along the beach and other areas nearby. A favorite activity for those visiting the Isle of Palms beach is to head to the Windjammer, where they regularly hold live music shows and beach volleyball games.
The Isle of Palms tends to attract more of a family crowd, though it’s the perfect beach for any kind of traveler. Wild Dunes rentals are the perfect places to stay for a beach getaway because you have easy access to the beach as well as all the amenities in the gated neighborhood such as tennis courts and a pool.
Other Nearby Beaches
• Edisto Beach and Botany Bay
While Charleston county has three beautiful beaches to offer, there are a few other great beaches nearby that you can visit for the day. Edisto Beach is about an hour south of Charleston, but it has more of a sleepy, small-town vibe with a few great restaurants and cute stores.
If you decide to make the trip out to Edisto Beach, you absolutely must spend some time at Botany Bay. This nearby plantation has a gorgeous driving route that takes guests through avenues of live oaks before bringing you to a parking area for the Botany Bay Beach, which is truly one of the most unique beaches in the country. The sand stretches for nearly three miles and is covered in huge remains of driftwood trees. On any given day, you’ll see beachgoers posing for pictures on these beautiful beach decorations.
• Kiawah Island
Also about an hour from Charleston, Kiawah Island is one of the top destinations for golfers. You can spend the day on the beaches of Kiawah sunbathing and looking out for coastal creatures that dwell in these areas like dolphins and a variety of seabirds.
If you need a break from the ocean and sand, you can spend a day teeing off on one of the five professionally designed championship courses. Taking a day trip to Kiawah Island is the perfect way to explore more areas of the South Carolina coast while getting the chance to golf and still return back to enjoy all the city has to offer.
How to Find a Charleston Vacation Rental
Because the Holy City is such a hot travel destination right now, the options for Charleston, SC vacation rentals are abundant. While there are plenty of hotels in the area, most people prefer to stay in a vacation rental during their trip to Charleston because these types of properties provide more space, are closer to the beach, and give you the option to cook up your own delicious meal right where you’re staying.
If you’re looking for a vacation rental in the area, here are tips to keep in mind:
• Consider What Your Group Needs
The type of vacation rental you decide to book will have a lot to do with what kind of group you’re traveling with. If you’re taking a couple’s getaway, you won’t need as much space as an extensive group of friends or a family gathering would, so you might want to opt for something a bit more cozy and intimate.
For big groups, a beach rental is the perfect accommodation because you’ll have room for everyone, a place for people to hang out and congregate, and quick and easy access to whichever beach you choose to stay near; plus, you’ll have the downtown area within quick driving distance.
• What Activities Are You Planning?
Before you book a rental, determine what you want to spend your vacation doing. If you’re looking to lounge on the beach for days on end, you should stick with a beach rental, but, if you’re planning to spend your time exploring downtown, you may want to pick an area closer to the city and just plan to drive out or grab an Uber to one of the beaches during your trip. There are no shortage of water activities, so consider all the sports you may want to try from kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding, to jet-skiing and parasailing.
• Check the Dates First
Although there are tons of great rentals in the Charleston area, these properties do book up quickly, particularly in the spring and summertime, so be sure when you’re searching that you’re entering the dates of your trip. This will give you a better idea of what is still available and prevents you from getting your hopes up when you find a really awesome accommodation, only to learn it has already been booked for your planned time.
If you’re flexible with the dates of your trip, you can try plugging in a few different dates to see how the options for vacation rentals change and then pick the property that’s right for you.
Places to Stop at the Beach
While the beaches of Charleston are beautiful on their own, there are a few local spots you should definitely check out during your beach getaway. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite places to stop when we’re near the water.
● Bert’s Market: This 24-hour local grocery store is a must-stop little shop with everything from freshly made desserts and sandwiches to grocery items like snacks, drinks, and more. If you’re looking to grab a few things before you hit the sand, Bert’s is your place.
● Surf Bar: A very local spot, Surf Bar is just off of Center Street. While it may not have the gorgeous oceanfront views of the Tides hotel, it has a lot of local flavor. Stop in for a drink and sit by the fireplace on the patio or grab some food. The philly cheesesteak is cooked to perfection.
● Wiki Wiki Sandbar: This three-level restaurant and bar is kind of a newbie on Folly Beach, but it’s a great place to grab some fresh Hawaiian-inspired dishes and some fun, beachy cocktails. Head up to the third floor to sit at the fully decked-out tiki bar or on the outdoor patio.
● The Obstinate Daughter: Considered by many to be one of the best restaurants in the Charleston area, the Obstinate Daughter is owned by Chef Jacques Larson, the same owner of Johns Island’s Wild Olive, a highly recommended Italian joint. Pop into the Obstinate Daughter for a classy dinner of dishes like the Old Danger pizza, which features an egg, homemade pastas, and fresh oysters among other tasty options.
● Home Team BBQ: If you’re looking for a good time, Home Team is the place to be. Their barbecue is delicious and their frozen drinks are even better. Throw back just one of their game changers, and you’ll be good for the rest of the day.
● Mex 1 Cantina: Another great place to hit up for happy hour after a long day at the beach, Mex 1 Cantina has outdoor seating and delicious Mexican food and drinks.
● Dunleavy’s: If you’re the kind of person who loves a good dive bar, Dunleavy’s is for you. It’s not the divey-est dive bar, but this Irish pub doesn’t put on frills, with a cool interior covered in old license plates and photos of the staff. If you want a quick bite to eat, they serve up all the simple things like hot dogs, burgers, and fries.
● Poe’s Tavern: Inspired by the American writer and poet Edgar Allen Poe, Poe’s Tavern is one of the most popular places to dine while on Sullivan’s Island. Everything on the menu is named after one of Poe’s legendary stories. Select from a variety of burgers, chicken sandwiches, and tacos. And, don’t forget to ask about the time Poe spent in the area while stationed at Fort Moultrie.
● The Co-Op: Before heading out to the water, stop by The Co-Op to pick up a few sandwiches to enjoy in the sun. Don’t forget to order one of their flavored frosé drinks while you wait.
Experience Your Dream Getaway
When you come to Charleston, SC, you’ll be surrounded by the best of everything: beaches, bars, restaurants, and history. If you’re thinking about planning a trip, look for Folly Beach real estate available to rent and stay near the water, or find a vacation rental closer to the city to experience the heart of downtown Charleston while also being just a short drive from three of the best beaches in the state. While you’re in town, consider taking a day trip to one of the other beaches as well, like Kiawah Island or Edisto Beach, and have the vacation of a lifetime.