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Charleston SC Beaches

Charleston Beach Guide


Isle of Palms Beach-  The Isle of Palms Beach attracts the endangered Loggerhead turtle to its shores.  Every year, you will find the Loggerhead turtles making nests along the sand dunes.   Afterwards, the Loggerhead Turtle Team (local area residents) will devote their nights and days to protecting the endangered Loggerhead turtle nests. The loggerhead turtle nests are designated and staked off by bright orange tape.  The Loggerhead Turtle Team is responsible for monitoring the lights out after dark policy as well as making other important decisions regarding the baby turtles nests.

The Isle of Palms received the 2004 Blue Wave designation.  This Clean Beach Certificate is given out by the Clean Beaches Council.  The certificate is awarded to the beaches that meet high standards in areas like water quality, beach erosion and habitat conservation. The Clean Beaches Council is a non-profit organization located in Washington, D.C. and is devoted to increasing public awareness and volunteer participation in beach sustainability.



Our guide to Lowcountry beaches


Of The Post and Courier Staff

Many people would argue that if it has sand, water and crabs, it's a beach. Others would argue that's the community pool. But whatever your definition of "beach," different people have different needs when choosing a local beach destination.

Laddie Keelan, a 27-year-old College of Charleston graduate and obsessive surfer says, "When I go to the beach, I have one thing on my mind: waves. And girls ... I guess that's two things." Then there's 41-year-old Justin Lake. Unlike Keelan, Lake has all the chicks he can handle. In fact he has four of them -- his wife and three daughters. So while Keelan is looking for a beach with good surf and single women, Lake is looking for a spot where he can take his family to "get some peace and quiet" (if that's possible with two 6-year-olds and a 9-year-old).

That said, there are many factors to take into account when choosing your favorite strand of sand -- waves, crowds, age, water sports, animal laws, parking, alcohol laws, you name it. And you thought going to the beach was as simple as grabbing a towel and sunblock. Well, it isn't. (You need a swimsuit.)

So if you have kids like Lake, we'll suggest the ideal beach. If you want to surf like Keelan, we've got that covered, too. Want to take the dog for a walk? Some beaches are more canine-friendly than others.

But whatever your needs are, we'll highlight the good, the bad and the sandy and get you headed in the right direction (which is east, essentially).


If you're into surfing, this part of our beach guide is a no-brainer: go to the Washout at Folly Beach.

According to Tim McKevlin, whose family started McKevlin's Surf Shop in 1965, it's "the best spot in South Carolina."

While Folly isn't exactly a heavyweight with the international surfing community, it has made the pages of several international surfing magazines and even a few well-known surfing videos.

And it's easy to find. At the traffic light take a left and the small strip of beach is almost two miles down. When the houses disappear and rocks line the beachfront, you're there. When it comes to wave action, the determining factor is wind. Unlike good surfing spots in Hawaii or California, the waves here usually depend on it.

While most true surfers will head to Folly, some who live closer to Sullivan's Island and Isle of Palms would rather take their chances east of the Cooper. So here are a few alternate locales 22-year surfing veteran Sean Schwartz said surfers should try, including "near the pier at Isle of Palms and behind Bert's Bar on Sullivan's."

"Right now there's a sandbar (near 25th Avenue) on the Isle of Palms that makes for some surprisingly good waves," Schwartz said. Also, a place he claims is a fairly well-kept secret (at least it was) is "The Point," which is located at the very end of Wild Dunes.

"There is a great short right and left that can dump there," he said.

"What does that mean?"

"Just tell surfers that and they'll understand," he added.

But just because Schwartz has revealed some of his favorite spots, doesn't mean he isn't protective of them.

"Just be sure to tell beginners that when the waves are good, stay home. All it does is stink up the lineup."


If you're idea of going on a date involves getting an online password or anything inflatable, you need to get out more. And we have just the beach spot.

The best beach for young singles is Folly. If you're on the market, or even "just looking," Folly will rarely disappoint.

Hayes Gordon, a longtime College of Charleston "attendee" (in his own words), loves coming to Folly just to check out the ladies.

"Girls don't generally go for guys like me, so I've just decided to stop worrying about impressing them. I pretty much just go to the beach and stare," he said.

Other beach locations that feature "talent" include the beach behind the Windjammer, Banana Cabana and Coconut Joe's on Isle of Palms.

All feature boardwalks that head out to the beach, keeping you in touch with the sand and the bar at the same time.

And if you happen to be on Sullivan's, hang around Dunleavy's, Bert's and Poe's Tavern. All located in the heart of the island, they feature a mixed crowd and aren't too far from the beach.

"I love Poe's because I can get a burger and just sit and watch people come and go. And while there are plenty of ugly people in this world, there are still some attractive ones, too," said 29-year-old Steve Peters.

While all beaches have their spots for singles, Folly is best for the younger crowd (and those desperately hanging onto youth), while Isle of Palms and Sullivan's have a more diverse set of generations.


On the other hand, if you already have kids and can't find anyone to sell them to, we have the right spot for you. The Isle of Palms and Sullivan's Island are unquestionably the winners of the family beach award. (Note: This is not a real award.)

Trial lawyer Ward Wilson visits the Isle of Palms every year the week after the Fourth of July. He comes with his wife and two kids from Iowa. They stay at Wild Dunes and for Wilson, "it's a chance to unwind." For one week out of the year, his biggest concern isn't persuading a jury to find his client innocent, it's getting his 5-year-old out of the water at the end of the day.

"Now that's a chore," he said.


If you're looking to crack into a case of warm PBR, Folly Beach is your best bet.

"We're one of the last beaches you can carry a cooler on," said Folly Beach Chief of Police George Tittle. "However, no cans or bottles (are allowed) on the beach. But as long as you keep it in your cups or cooler ... you can have it on the beach," he said.

On the other hand, if you're going to IOP or Sullivan's, be warned: Alcohol is prohibited on both beaches.

"No alcohol is allowed on the beach or on the roads," said Janet Mauldin, city clerk for the town of Isle of Palms. That's right, drinking and driving is out of the question.

"You can't even drink and walk," she said.


If there's one thing that cracks up Folly Police Chief Tittle, it's thongs.

The man who once said "The buttocks showing is not proper" will reluctantly admit there aren't any specific laws against wearing thongs, "butt" he'd rather if people didn't.

The bottom line is: "As long as they're not up parading around, it's OK," he said.

As far as Isle of Palms and Sullivan's Island go, the rules are fairly similar.

"We do have a clause where people can't have any of their private parts showing," said Mauldin about the Isle of Palms' stance on indecent exposure.

"The police will go out and tell them to put clothes on and if they don't, they'll be ticketed just like anybody else," she said.

In case you're wondering, police code for illegal possession of crack is "11357."


If you're one of those people who can't even go to the bathroom without your dog by your side, listen up. Here are the rules for the local beaches concerning man's best friend.

Leash laws are in effect at all three beaches. When you can have your canine on the beach and when you can take him off the leash (if at all) differ at Charleston's public beaches.

At IOP -- the most dog-friendly of the three -- dogs are allowed on the beach at all times, but they must be leashed. The only time dogs can run free is 5-8 a.m., and the owners must be with the dog(s) and have a leash in hand.

On Sullivan's Island, no dogs are allowed on the beach 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Dogs must be leashed 6 p.m.-5 a.m. Between 5-10 a.m. dogs can be free, as long as the owner is with the dog(s) and carrying a leash.

Folly is the least dog-friendly. From 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, dogs can't be on the beach, period. During the other times, dogs must be on a leash.

And don't think local law enforcement isn't serious about the rules.

"I think we've warned enough," said Chief Tittle.

"We've got enough signs up all over the place, so people should know."

The fine for breaking the leash law is pretty hefty on all three beaches. If you don't follow the rules, a fine can be as much as $500.

However, for other animals, the rules are a bit more hazy.

According to Sullivan's Island Chief Danny Howard, the other day somebody called to tell him that there was a different kind of animal on the beach -- a ferret.

"To be honest with you I'm not really sure what the law is in regards to ferrets. The law specifically says dogs. I hope the Ferret Owners Society doesn't decide to have a conference down on the beach," he said.


There is nothing more annoying in the Lowcountry than trying to find a parking place. And the beach is no different.

On Folly the problem is obvious -- the island is small, and there are more people than there are places to park. The beach has a couple of lots and some mini-parking lots and, of course, parking is legal all along the streets as long as you don't park on someone's property and keep your tires off the road.

On the Isle of Palms, where parking is the most plentiful, there are a couple of municipal lots where people can pay a flat rate ($5) and park all day. These lots are located around the front beach area (Palm Boulevard) near many of the beach's stores, restaurants and bars. Isle of Palms also has metered spaces around the newly renovated front-beach area.

Sullivan's has no parking lots, and it can be tough to find a spot to park when the beach is busy. You can explore any of the "stations" (each block on Sullivan's has a station number) to look for parking, you just never know which road will yield the best results.

Folly and Isle of Palms asks that when you do find a spot, get all four wheels off the road to avoid a ticket or being towed.

"Unfortunately, a lot of our streets are difficult to get four tires off," said Sullivan's Island Chief Howard. "We just ask that you get as much off as you can."


If you don't like lying on a towel and reading a book, there are plenty other activities to enjoy at the beach.

For instance, you can rent a power ski. Sun & Ski (588-0033) on Folly Beach rents power skis for a half-hour and hourly. Rates are $45 for half-hour, $75 for an hour (and $10 more for an extra rider). Or try Tidal Wave Water Sports (886-8456) on Isle of Palms. The company's rates are $75 for one person for an hour. For two people, it's $95 and for three, $105. To rent one for an half-hour, it is $20 less ($55 single, $75 double, $85 triple). Just be sure to call for reservations.

If you want to check out the beach from a slightly different angle, try parasailing. Also known as skydiving for wimps, it can be just as fun. The City Marina (853-4386) offers parasailing through Tidal Wave Water Sports on the Isle of Palms. Prices are $55 for 600 feet high or $75 for 1,000 feet high.

Each ride generally lasts between 8-14 minutes. If that sounds too daunting, take a friend up for the same price and share the terror/experience.

If you like volleyball, the place to be is the Isle of Palms. In fact, it is the only beach that features several volleyball courts. With courts in the general vicinity of the Windjammer and Banana Cabana, there's always a game to be found.

And if you prefer the more grounded sport of fishing, you can head out to the Edwin S. Taylor Fishing Pier on Folly.

For Charleston County residents, it is $5 for adults to fish and $3 for children. For noncounty residents, it is $8 for adults and $3 for children.

No matter what your reason for going to the beach, this much is a constant: Melanoma and dehydration are for real, kids. So pack some sunscreen and some water.


This idiot-proof chart will explain which

beach is best for you.












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Isle of Palms, SC. 29451


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