Ask any recent transplant to list their reasons for moving to Charleston, and you’ll likely find “THE BEACH!” somewhere in the top three. Whether you’re looking for a peaceful day away from the crowds, or hoping to meet new friends, I have the lowdown on which beach will best meet your needs. Here is the scoop on Folly Beach, which is known to Charleston locals as "the Edge of America."
Practically in Charleston’s backyard, and arguably the quickest beach to access from downtown, Folly Beach has a little something for everyone. With beautiful coastal views and a pervasive easy-going attitude, Folly is the perfect weekend getaway. Even the speed limit signs promote the city’s laid-back attitude, reminding motorists to, “Slow Down. Relax. It’s Folly.”
Upon arriving, you’ll have the choice to turn left or right. To the right, you can eventually make your way to the county park, where you’ll find both a lifeguard and less houses. To the left, you’ll find more populated beach accesses (we like 10th-12th streets), and a little further down, “The Washout,” the only beach in the Charleston-area deemed appropriate for surfing*. Folly typically draws a younger crowd, and the homes trend toward the bungalow style.
*Buyer Beware: If you’re looking to surf waves higher than your knees, you’ve moved to the wrong beach town. South Carolina is known for many things - but “killer” waves are not among them, brah.
Activities on Folly Beach:
Get your 10,000 steps in visiting the second longest pier on the East Coast: the Folly Beach Pier. At a modest 1,045-foot length, the pier is ideal for fishing, sightseeing or just for a stroll.
See Folly Beach and the surrounding islands by boat! An evening cruise gives visitors the opportunity to score a sunset pic for your Insta-story, and if you’re lucky, you might even see a dolphin or two out on the water.
Hunt for shells and fossils on the island: popular fossils to keep an eye out for are shark teeth, which can be millions of years old.
Visit the Lighthouse Inlet Heritage Preserve, which boasts some beautiful views of the inlet and a chance to see local wildlife. Some areas of the property are popular nesting sites for two varieties of threatened sea turtles, as well as endangered coastal birds. Bringing your camera is a must.
Seas the day and indulge in a shopping spree on Center Street.
Best Breakfast on Folly Beach: Lost Dog Cafe - People say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and the Lost Dog Cafe certainly pulls out all the stops to emphasize that idea. Although it’ll be hard to choose what to eat from the extensive list, check out their cinnamon rolls or the huevos rancheros. At the Lost Dog, breakfast is served all day, so you have plenty of time to enjoy the atmosphere and delicious food. Bonus: feel free to bring Fido! The cafe is, appropriately so, dog-friendly.
Best Lunch on Folly Beach: Chico Feo - Tacos, goat curry, rice bowls. This restaurant/bar epitomizes the Folly vibe, with outdoor-only seating, communal picnic tables, mismatched bar seats and overgrown tropical feel.
Best Dinner on Folly Beach: Jack of Cups - A regular entry on Charleston Eater’s 38 Essential Charleston Restaurants, Jack of Cups dishes out thoughtful, seasonal fare with a little something for everyone, including those with dietary restrictions and vegetarians. Grab a seat on the sidewalk and enjoy people watching while you dine.
Bert’s Market - Open 24/7/365, Bert’s is a Folly institution. From a gourmet sandwich counter to grab-and-go hotdogs and BBQ sandwiches, Bert’s is a fine choice for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Stop in for your last-minute beach essentials, too.
The Old Bay wings at Surf Bar. Enough said.
Parking on Folly Beach - Sharpen your parallel parking skills before visiting Folly. Parking spots are found on the numbered streets (each with its own beach access) which run perpendicular to the beach. Make absolutely sure that no part of your car wheels are touching the pavement, or else you will earn a hefty parking ticket. Even if you think, “There’s NO WAY I’ll get a ticket, only a tiny part of my tire is SORT of on the pavement,” think again. The city earns revenue from parking violations, and meter maids are extremely motivated to tag your vehicle.
Dogs on Folly Beach - Dogs are not allowed on the beach from 10 am to 6 pm from May 1st to Sept. 30th. At all other times they must be leashed and under control. Pick up your dog’s waste and remove from the beach. No pets are ever allowed on the pier.
Visit the city’s website for Folly’s Rules and Regulations.