A short drive from downtown takes you to one of Charleston’s island beach towns. Island life is a little slower and a little more laid back – it’s impossible not to relax while strolling along a sandy beach, listening to the waves crash against the shore.

Sullivan’s Island

Historically, Sullivan’s Island is known for its landmark place in Revolutionary War history. On the 28th of June, 1776, Commodore Sir Peter Parker’s fleet was repelled from Fort Sullivan by the revolutionary troops led by Colonel William Moultrie. Later renamed as Fort Moultrie, Edgar Allen Poe was stationed at this Fort in the 19th century. It was here that he wrote the story “The Gold Bug.” Osceola, fierce warrior of the Seminole wars, is buried at this site. Fort Moultrie is open to the public seven days a week. In the 18th and 19th century Sullivan’s Island also served as the primary place where enslaved Africans were brought after crossing the Atlantic.

Today, Sullivan’s Island boasts beautiful Victorian cottages, charming restaurants and shops and a 20th century lighthouse. Parking can be a challenge, so plan to arrive early and make sure your tires are off of the pavement!

Isle of Palms

Early on, the Sewee Indians occupied the Isle of Palms and by the time of the Revolutionary War it was known as Long Island. More recently, the Isle of Palms is known to have sheltered the CSS Hunley, in its green-grey waters. The Hunley, a submarine torpedo boat, under the Command of Lt. George Dixon, was successful in sinking the federal sloop of war, Housatonic. The Hunley disappeared on that same night of February 17, 1863, taking Commander and crew to a watery grave that would be discovered over 125 years later.

With its six miles of white, sandy beaches, the Isle of Palms remains as much a place of beautiful serenity for residents and visitors today, as it was for the Seewee Indians and the colonists who followed. Public parking is available, but is limited and parking rules are strictly enforced.

Folly Beach

Folly Beach is located west of the Ashley River and is referred to as the “Edge of America.” Excellent casual dining and recreational opportunities allow guests to choose from a myriad of activities or just relax soaking up the sun and listening to the surf. This island’s history includes tales of shipwrecks, pirates and buried treasure in addition to the tale of the 54th and 55th Massachusetts Regiment’s successes and failures besieging Charleston during the Civil War. It boasts the Morris Island Lighthouse, a late 19th century historic treasure. In the 20th century, George and Ira Gershwin would stay in a summer cottage as they worked with Dorothy and Dubose Heyward on America’s first opera, Porgy and Bess.

Folly Beach is also home to “The Washout,” where local surfers say you can experience the best waves on the South Carolina Coast. Hurricane Hugo was responsible for The Washout. Where a block of homes once stood, the wind now blows unimpeded across the beach, through the wetlands and then to the Folly River. This wind effect is what experts claim causes the water there to “roll” so well.

Once you decide which of Charleston’s beaches to visit, all you need to do is grab the sunscreen and enjoy a day at the beach!