I get asked a lot about which beach is “better” in Charleston and honestly I have no clue how to answer that question. They are all pretty special in their own way. About a year ago, though, we started going to Sullivan’s Island beach on Saturdays and like most humans we have become creatures of habit. We have our little routine that works for us and so instead of saying “hey we should go to the beach!” and then spending hours debating where to go, when to go, where to park, and what to bring, we can just wake up and go! So I thought I would share our Sullivan’s Island list of favorite things to do.
There are four main beaches in the Charleston area: Folly, Sullivans, IOP, and Kiawah. We started going to Sullivan’s Island last year when Liam was just a year old because we found they have the best tidal pools for him to wade in. Liam is still to this day not a big fan of the ocean and the waves breaking, but still likes to splash in the water. When I was 22 and first moved to Charleston I remember that all the cool kids went to “the washout” at Folly Beach. So Folly holds many sweet memories for me. But we have found that the sand at Folly is more shelly and the tidal pools are harder to find out there. But it is still a great beach! If you do go to Folly or Isle of Palms, we suggest paying the money to park at the county parks. Easy parking, showers, and bathrooms. But if you don’t want to front the cash to park, you can park for free on the street at any of these three beaches, but just know you may be circling for awhile for a prime spot and they won’t hesitate to give a parking ticket if your wheels are on the pavement. If you are heading to Sullivan’s Island and want to park near the lighthouse, head to Station 18 1/2. Headed the other direction, Station 28 1/2 has a really cool dome house if you’re into that kinda thing. Our favorite spots are Station 18 and the always popular Station 22 for great tidal pools. You can also continue down the road towards Station 12 and park at Fort Moultrie to view the Fort and the Battery. There is also a beach access down by the fort but it’s not for swimming due to the current on that end of the island. So you’ll have to walk a little bit if you want to swim. But we like to park here if we are going in the evening to catch the sunset. Even though we are on the east coast, if you are at the far end of the island (the Fort Moultrie end), the island curves and the beach is actually looking out into the mouth of the Charleston Harbor as opposed to the Atlantic Ocean. So the sunset views are as good as if you were on the California coast!What’s there to eat?
This crew of mine is a hangry one, so we always pack a breakfast picnic basket so we can eat as soon as we get to the beach. This past time Will even got up early and made hardboiled eggs and bacon so yes we were those people peeling eggs on the beach…but it was so good. On the days that we don’t get up early, we usually pick up bagels from Bagel Nation(on James Island) on the way out of town (you can call ahead and its ready when you get there). Or if you really can’t wait to get on the beach, call The Co-Op on Sullivan’s once you get there. They have a really good veggie sandwich and they will deliver it right to you on the beach! After the beach, our favorite spot for mid-day snacks is BeardCat’s for the best gelato I’ve ever had. And all of the ingredients are sourced from local farmers and artisans, which I think makes it a little more special too. Also, right above Beard Cat’s in the same building is Obstinate Daughter, which is one of our favorite brunch spots. On weekends and for brunch you would definitely need a reservation, and also this might be more of a “go home and shower first” place to eat, but totally worth the shower. We usually head home after we have covered our faces with gelato, but another favorite spot for lunch is Santi’s Mexicano, which is actually in Mt. Pleasant not Sullivans, but it’s right over the bridge and close enough that you don’t have to worry about the kid falling asleep in the car ride over there.