Charleston area beaches are some of the best in the southeast. Islands such as Kiawah, Isle of Palms, and Seabrook have always been known to attract the resort crowd. Folly Beach, on the other hand, is one of those best-kept secrets. It's a quiet beach town just 15 minutes east of downtown Charleston. Surfers, locals, and those who know the two, have the inside track on Folly, and can probably list more than ten reasons why it's such a great beach town.Beach homes line the sand — Photo courtesy of Kyle James
My first introduction to beaches in the Charleston area came with Folly Beach. On a visit to the James Island home of my in-laws, we ventured to this nearby beach. The five-minute drive from the house to the shores of Folly was convenient and quick, perfect for my ten-month old at the time. As a New Yorker accustomed to crowded debris-ridden Northern beaches, Folly was a welcoming site: spacious, uncrowded and clean. We always find free street parking within moments of pulling into the town and usually have our pick of real estate for planting our feet in the sand.
Though Folly Beach is a laid-back beach town, it's one of the more popular East Coast surf havens. Locals refer to this seven-mile long barrier reef as the "Edge of America." You can spot a sign marking the area's nickname along the main road. There are characteristics of Folly Beach that often remind me of Venice Beach in California: relaxed beach bums casually walking through town, seemingly enjoying their beach town way of life.View from the pier — Photo courtesy of Ron Cogswell
Unlike the other Charleston-area beach towns, Folly Beach is populated by vacation homes rather than resorts and hotels. You'll only find two hotels on Folly Beach: the Holiday Inn, built in 1985 and, the Water's Edge Inn, a boutique hotel built in 2007. But there's no shortage of beach rentals.
Listening to my husband's memories of growing up near Folly Beach, one thing is apparent: Folly Beach is resilient. Throughout the years, Folly has lost a restaurant, hotel, and the pier (a few times) to fire. In 1989, the town faced Hurricane Hugo and survived. He recounts an old restaurant where his cousin worked, the Atlantic House, that was destroyed and swept away. Driving into Folly Beach and through the town, you'll notice that most of the homes are built above sea level on pilings. Home construction is just one of the many details that add to this coastal town's characteristics. Here are ten other reasons why Folly Beach, South Carolina is a great beach town:
Day at the beach — Photo courtesy of Kyle James
1. Laid-Back and Quiet
Locals and visitors stroll through town at a slower pace. You'll be hard-pressed to hear a horn honked.Low-Country Food — Photo courtesy of T. Browne Smith
2. Fresh Seafood
What the area lacks in numbers, it makes up in quality. Unlike downtown Charleston, Folly has less than two dozen restaurants; the few in which I've dined have served some of the freshest and tastiest seafood I've had in my life.
3. Wide Uncrowded Beach
Sandy real estate is aplenty. With seven miles of beach, you have your pick of where to set up camp and enjoy the surf.
4. Minimal Retail Stores
One of the best characteristics of Folly Beach is that it's not overrun with dozens of stores. On Center Street, you'll find just a few surf shops and a few places to grab a quick bite to eat or drink.
5. Conveniently Located
Folly Beach is only fifteen minutes away from Historic Charleston and an array of gourmet restaurants.
6. The Folly Beach Pier
This long and wide pier is great for soaking in the sun and the scenery, whether you decide to get your toes wet or not.
Folly Beach Pier — Photo courtesy of T. Browne Smith
7. Great Fishing
The pier is a great place to fish or you can make arrangements for a boat to take you out from the beach.
8. Beautiful Beach Homes
You'll find plenty of rental and vacation homes on Folly Beach that add to its coastal appeal.
9. Historic Setting
Folly Beach is the site of the battle fought by the 55th Regiment at the end of the 1989 movie "Glory", depicting African American soldiers' role in the Civil War.
10. No Traffic!
There are only two hotels on Folly Beach and a handful of stores and restaurants. These factors help to keep traffic and congestion down in the area, allowing the town to maintain its laid-back feel.