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7/2/2011 Post and Courier: Beach Guide 2011
By David Quick
The beaches of Charleston are like a set of siblings that have little in common besides proximity.
Folly Beach is as laid back as the surfers, hippies and good ol' boys and girls who flock there.
Across Charleston Harbor lies a bit more upscale brother, Sullivan's Island, which offers plenty of space for Mount Pleasant and downtown Charleston to spread out or play, whether it's kiteboarding, stand-up paddleboarding or playing bocce.
A short skip from Sullivan's Island over Breach Inlet is the Isle of Palms, where families tend to gravitate to lifeguards at the Isle of Palms County Park and large houses that act as gathering places.
As if that's not enough sand, other venues just a tad farther afar, or harder to reach, offer more options.
On mostly private Kiawah Island, the public Beachwalker County Park is ranked among the top 10 beaches in the United States by Florida International University professor Steven "Dr. Beach" Leatherman. Meanwhile, many Charleston residents have a dual citizenship as "Edistonians" -- escaping for summer weeks or weekends at slow-paced Edisto Beach.
And if you have the privilege of owning a boat or, better, befriending someone with a boat, then venture to Morris, Dewees, Capers or Bull's Island.
This distinct, quirky brood actually works to our benefit because we can mix it up if we want, depending on our mood and the amount of time we have. For locals, many choose how close they live to each beach, which, in turn, reinforces its characteristics.
On this Fourth of July weekend, we offer a primer on the sandier side of the Lowcountry.
Dewees, Capers and Bull's islands
Known for: Accessible only by boat, this string of islands to the north of the Isle of Palms are known for boneyard beaches (named for the sun-bleached trees on beaches, wildlife and pristine beauty). Dewees is a private residential island, but the beach is public. Capers and Bull's are part of Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge.
Who goes: Nature lovers, campers (Capers) and daytime partiers.
No boat?: Barrier Island Eco Tours runs a boat to Capers Island. Coastal Expeditions is the exclusive provider of ferry service within Cape Romain to Bull's Island.
Be prepared: For bugs. If you surf on Bull's, don't surprised to see a few sharks.
Lifeguards, dogs, restrooms: Are you serious?
Within 30 minutes (or so) by car
ISLE OF PALMS
AKA: IOP; historically, "Long Beach."
Known for: The Windjammer and "front beach," or the commercial district on Ocean Boulevard between 10th and 14th avenues, Wild Dunes Resort, Isle of Palms County Park.
Who goes: Music lovers, golfers, families, tourists, East Cooper surfers who don't want to battle Folly traffic, and people from North Charleston, Daniel Island and central and northern Mount Pleasant.
Special events: Windjammer Bikini Contests, Piccolo Spoleto Sand Sculpture Contest, Carolina Coast Surf Club Reunion, Isle of Palms Connector Run, beach runs, Isle of Palms Half Rubber Tournament, Independence Day Fireworks Show.
Pros: Plenty of beach. Isle of Palms, which originally was known as "Long Island," is seven miles long, easiest to reach from North Charleston. Generally plenty of parking.
Cons: The beach between 10th and 21st avenues can be crowded, especially on summer holiday weekends and at high tide.
Happening bars: The Windjammer, The Boathouse at Breach Inlet and Morgan Creek Grill.
Hubs of activity: Front beach and Isle of Palms County Park, fair surfing at 7th, 25th and 30th avenues, the Grand Pavilion at Wild Dunes.
Dog policy: Not allowed during summer.
Lifeguards: Yes, at Isle of Palms County Park.
Public restrooms: Isle of Palms County Park at 14th Avenue and Isle of Palms city restrooms on Ocean Boulevard.
Parking: Fee at the Isle of Palms city lots on Ocean Boulevard and at Isle of Palms County Park. Otherwise, park along streets, but look for no-parking signs and pull comletely off the road.
AKA: Sullivan's or Sully's.
Known for: Low-key locals, an array of activities other than surfing (except during Nor'easter storms), such as kiteboarding, stand-up paddleboarding and walking dogs off-leash in the mornings and bars that also serve food.
Who goes: Professionals, 20-somethings, dog lovers during off-leash hours, residents of Mount Pleasant and people from downtown Charleston wanting to avoid the traffic and ruckus of Folly Beach.
Special events: Dunleavy's Pub Polar Bear Plunge, the Sullivan's Island Fire & Rescue Fish Fry and Oyster Roasts, Carolina Day, Fireworks on the Fourth and the Charlie Post Classic 15K.
Pros: Even with the swing-span bridge, the least amount of traffic of the "urban" beaches, relatively easier parking and mostly a spacious beach. Least rowdy with the exception, currently, of the lighthouse area.
Cons: Police are stricter about alcohol and dogs.
Happening bars: Poe's Tavern, Home Team BBQ and Dunleavy's Pub.
Hubs of activity: Stations 28-30 for an array of activity, Station 22 for families, lighthouse for Saturday revelers and sunset family photos, Fort Moultrie.
Dog policy: You must have an official town dog tag, which costs $35. During summer months, dogs are allowed off-leash 5-10 a.m., not allowed 10 a.m.-6 p.m., and allowed on leash 6 p.m.-5 a.m.
Public restrooms: Fort Moultrie Visitor Center.
Parking: Free parking along streets, but watch out for no parking signs and pull completely off the road.
AKA: The Edge of America.
Known for: Surfing, drinking and beach bars, and pier fishing.
Who goes: College kids, surfers, residents of James Island, West Ashley.
Special events: Folly Beach Sea & Sand Festival, Governor's Cup of Surfing, Wahine Surfing Classic, Moonlight Mixers on Folly Beach Pier, Man of the Sand Half Rubber Invitational and Save the Light Half Marathon.
Pros: Fun, laid back, funky, with a live-and-let-live attitude.
Cons: Traffic, crowds and a tad touristy.
Happening bars: Sand Dollar Social Club, Rita's, Surf Bar and Taco Boy.
Hubs of activity: The Washout is the premier surfing location in Charleston. Edwin S. Taylor Folly Beach Fishing Pier. Folly Beach County Park.
Dog policy: Allowed but must be leashed. Dogs are not allowed on the beach between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. May 1-Sept. 30.
Lifeguards: Yes at Folly Beach County Park and the Edwin S. Taylor Folly Beach Fishing Pier.
Public restrooms: Folly Beach County Park and Edwin S. Taylor Folly Beach Fishing Pier.
Parking: Fee parking at Folly Beach County Park and Edwin S. Taylor Folly Beach Fishing Pier. Also free parking along streets, but be prepared for a hike.
Farther afield by car
KIAWAH BEACHWALKER PARK
Known for: While Kiawah is primarily private, this county park on its west end is public and perennially gets national attention by being selected as a top 10 beach.
Who goes: Older people, residents of Johns Island and tourists seeking a quieter, more convenient beach experience.
Dogs: Allowed on leash.
Known for: Boneyard beach, amazing shells, sea turtle nesting (of rare types), bicycling, natural habitats for wildlife, bird-watching, catch-and-release fishing, unspoiled, undeveloped beach.
Who goes: Nature lovers, those who love to kayak, fish, canoe and hunt.
Special events: Seasonal hunting, ecotours available at different times of the year.
Pros: A really beautiful beach on a wildlife preserve managed by the Department of Natural Resources. Accessible sunrise to sunset.
Cons: You have to park your car and walk about a half-mile to the beach. It's about 50 minutes from downtown Charleston. No shelling.
Happening bars: None
Quirky facts and features: A beautiful drive via a National Scenic Byway; left on Botany Bay Road, the preserve is on Botany Bay Plantation (4,000 acres), just recently opened to the public; also located within the ACE Basin. It's a little walk to the beach. Pack light.
Dog policy: No dogs allowed on beach.
AKA: Mayberry by the Sea.
Known for: Quiet vistas, uncrowded shoreline, great shelling, surf fishing and local produce.
Who goes: Edistonians, plus those seeking a getaway not far from home (Charleston, Walterboro, Orangeburg, Columbia) and way beyond, too. Families flock to Edisto.
Special events: Edisto Fish & Shag Fest; fishing tournaments in May, July and September; Edisto Day Bazaar; Tomato Open Golf Tournament.
Pros: A great escape not far from town, virtually no traffic other than golf carts, free parking.
Cons: A handful of choices for dining and drinking -- pack some of your libations. No hotels.
Happening bars: Whaley's, Dockside, Thirsty Fish, Grovers, the Pavilion.
Hubs of activity: Access near the Pavilion and Edisto Beach State Park across from the Piggly Wiggly, Waterside Restaurant, McConkey's Jungle Shack and Sea Cow are all open for lunch and dinner.
Quirky fact: No traffic lights on Edisto, anywhere.
Dog policy: Dogs must be on a leash between May 1 and Oct. 31.