Charleston, SC and Its Neighboring Beaches: From Isle of Palms to Edisto Beach
The Charleston, South Carolina area is home to many Atlantic Ocean barrier islands. These barrier islands include the beach towns of Isle of Palms, Sullivan's Island, Folly Beach, Kiawah Island, Seabrook Island, and Edisto Island. Whether you are planning a family vacation, beach wedding, girls' or guys' weekend, or quiet couples' getaway, these beaches have something for everyone.
Charleston, South Carolina Facts
- Charleston was founded in 1670.
- Charleston was originally spelled Charles Towne.
- South Carolina was one of the original 13 colonies.
- Founded in 1736, America’s first theater, the Dock Street Theater, is in Charleston.
- Founded in 1773, America’s first museum, The Charleston Museum, is in Charleston.
- In 1776, the Battle of Fort Sullivan–the first decisive victory in the Revolutionary War–was fought on Sullivan’s Island right outside of Charleston.
- In 1860, South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union.
- On April 12, 1861 shots were fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. This marked the beginning of the U.S. Civil War.
- Charleston is known as “The Holy City” due to the number of churches and denominations found there, and the number of steeples visible in its skyline.
- Founded in 1977, Charleston’s annual Spoleto Festival is one of the world’s major performing arts festivals.
Charleston’s Major Beach Destinations
There are 6 beach communities with hotels or vacation rentals within an hour’s drive of Charleston, South Carolina. They are:
Isle of Palms
Isle of Palms is a nice blend of residential properties with a major resort hotel, smaller lodgings, and a variety of shopping and dining options. It’s very family oriented with a diverse mix of activities in, on, and off the water. Isle of Palms is about a half hour drive northeast of Charleston.
Sullivan’s Island is primarily residential with a small central business district. It’s a quiet and very family oriented community about 20 minutes’ drive northeast of Charleston.
Often referred to as “The Edge of America” by locals, Folly Beach has been a popular vacation destination since the early 1900s. It’s particularly well-known for surfing and has become one of the most popular surf spots along the East Coast. It’s the funkiest, but also the most touristy, of Charleston’s 6 beach communities. Folly Beach is approximately 25 minutes southeast of Charleston.
Kiawah Island is an upscale resort primarily known for golf. Most of the island is part of Kiawah Island Golf Resort with its 5 golf courses, tennis courts, lodging options, dining facilities, and other recreational activities. Kiawah Island is a little less than an hour’s drive southeast of Charleston.
Seabrook Island is a gated residential community that is only open to residents and renters. 2 golf courses, a tennis center, horseback riding, a brand new beach club and many more amenities are available to people staying on Seabrook Island. It’s approximately 45 minutes from Charleston by car.
Edisto Island is similar in character to Isle of Palms. In addition to the beach and its activities, there is 1 golf course and a state park, Edisto Beach State Park, on Edisto Island. Edisto Island is about an hour’s drive south of Charleston.
Hotels in Charleston and Surrounding Beach Communities
According to tripadvisor, there are 108 resorts, hotels, B&Bs, and inns in the Charleston area. (07/2012, http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotels-g54171-Charleston_South_Carolina-Hotels.html). Most of these lodgings are found in the city of Charleston. Some of Charleston’s better-known hotels and inns include:
- Charleston Place
- Wentworth Mansion
- French Quarter Inn
- The Restoration on King
- HarbourView Inn
- John Rutledge House Inn
- Planters Inn
- King Charles Inn
- Vendue Inn
- Kings Courtyard Inn
- Fulton Lane Inn
- Market Pavilion Hotel
- Andrew Pinckney Inn
- Francis Marion Hotel
- Mills House Hotel
Isle of Palms has 4 resorts/hotels/inns in addition to various vacation rentals. They are Wild Dunes Resort, Ocean Inn, The Palms Hotel, and Seaside Inn.
Sullivan’s Island has no hotels, but it does have vacation rentals.
Folly Beach has 4 hotels/inns/B & Bs and many vacation rentals. They are the Tides Hotel, Water’s Edge Inn, Holliday Inn, and Beachside Bed & Breakfast.
Kiawah Island has 1 resort and numerous vacation rentals. The resort is The Sanctuary.
Seabrook Island doesn’t have any hotels, but there are vacation rentals available.
Edisto Island has 1 resort, cabins and camping at the State Park, and a variety of vacation rentals. The resort is Wyndham Ocean Ridge.
Charleston Beach Community Vacation Rentals
As you’ve probably surmised, there are more rental homes and condos available in Charleston’s beach communities than there are resorts, hotels, inns and bed & breakfasts.
Another option is to contact local real estate agents. To find rental agents, search for real estate companies in the area where you want to travel. Most real estate companies in popular vacation spots have short-term rental agents too. Talk to a few different rental agents until you find one you like. Never pay a rental agent a fee. The owner pays them. If you are asked for a fee, don’t work with that agent and/or agency.
Whether you are booking your vacation rental online or through a real estate agent there are certain things you should determine before finalizing your plans. They are:
- Know your budget before looking at rentals.
- Think about how many people will be traveling with you since vacation rentals range from studios with one bath to family homes with multiple bedrooms and baths.
- Make a list of your “essentials” — the things you can’t live without in order to enjoy your vacation. These “essentials” can be amenities you will have access to, how far the beach house is from the shore, and so on. You may not be able to find a rental with everything you’d like that fits within your budget, but if you know what is most important to you, you can find something that you will be happy with.
- Do not just compare prices; compare quality and services too.
Things to Do in Charleston and Its Surrounding Beach Communities
Sightseeing – There are so many sights to see in Charleston and its surrounding beach communities. With Charleston’s long past as one of the oldest cities in the United States much of the sightseeing is historical in nature. The Charleston Museum, the oldest museum in America, provides a good overview of the area’s history. Then there are the many actual places of interest including the locations of historic military battles, old plantation homes, churches, lighthouses, historic mansions, and the defining places of the Gullah culture – the language and culture of the area’s first black inhabitants — among other things.
Dining – Charleston is a real “foodie” city with choices running the gamut from traditional southern (one of my personal favorites) to fancy continental food. Today many of Charleston’s best chefs are creating new southern food that can best be described as taking traditional southern recipes and updating them with fresher, locally grown ingredients. Some of these better-known restaurants are the Charleston Grill, Magnolia’s, Slightly North of Broad (SNOB), Husk, and High Cotton.
Shopping – As with every American city, chain stores and malls are present in the Charleston area, but far more interesting are the stores selling local goods. In the city itself, you can shop at Market Hall, a Greek Revival temple built in 1841 that now houses an open-air mall with a variety of vendors, and King Street. King Street is home to many of Charleston’s more upscale stores. Sweetgrass baskets, a traditional Gullah craft, are one product unique to the Charleston area.
Water Sports – Beaches and water sports go together like hamburgers and fries. Naturally with so many great beaches, the Charleston area is also a mecca for water sports lovers. Some of the water sports you can enjoy are…
- Boogie boarding
- Paddle boarding
- Fishing (on land or by boat)
- Jet Skiing
- Eco boat tours
Land Sports – The Charleston area has numerous sports that can be enjoyed on land too. They include golf, biking, and tennis.
Beach Weddings – If you love the beach, then you’ve probably thought of getting married on one of your favorites surrounded by your loved ones. As with any great beach destination, Charleston is the preferred location for many people’s beach weddings. Luckily, there are a number of companies that will arrange beach weddings for you and your loved ones in the Charleston area.
Planning Your South Carolina Vacation
Some things you may want to consider when planning your vacation to Charleston and its beaches are …
How much do you want to spend?
How do you want to book your South Carolina vacation?
Are you interested in vacation packages or do you prefer to look for independent vacation deals from individual hotels and airlines? Booking a package is definitely faster and may be cheaper, but booking independently provides you with more choices and — contrary to popular belief — can even be less expensive.
Where do you want to go while you are there?
When planning your vacation to Charleston and its neighboring beaches you will want to orient yourself. Use this map of the Carolina coast to locate the places you want to visit.
What time of year do you want to visit? / What’s the weather?
So, what are you waiting for? Plan your Charleston, South Carolina city and beach vacation today, and start savoring the time with your loved ones tomorrow.
To many joyful beach experiences!
— Lisa Dworkin
Photos courtesy of Lisa Dworkin. All rights reserved.