Spring hasn’t fully sprung yet, but a few buds are starting to sprout and you can feel the hint of new life in the air. The longer days bring hopes of summer and, let’s face it; it’s never too soon to start planning your next beach trip.
While the throngs head to the Florida panhandle and other crowded, nightclub laden, teenage drinking meccas, the savvy beachcombers are seeking out more laid back, family friendly destinations. One such locale is the Charleston area barrier islands; Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island.
The wide beaches here may not match the pristine white sand of Pensacola, but they have a powerful charm of their own and the palmetto lined streets are more picturesque than any you’ll find in Daytona Beach. The commercialization on both islands is minimal and your senses are certainly not bombarded with usual noise and chain store clutter associated with many resort areas.
One major reason to plan ahead if visiting these beach towns, though, is the lack of hotel accommodations. Condos and house rentals are the order of the day on both of these islands. While it may require a bit more searching and pre-planning, sites such as Vacation Rentals by Owner (or simply, VRBO) make the leg work much more manageable.
Isle of Palms is the more developed of the two, in terms of modern notions of a beach resort. Sullivan’s Island has been inhabited since colonial times and still retains a more laid back, rustic feel to it. What few souvenir shops and beach bars you’ll find will be on IOP, while Sullivan’s Island has a small commercial district that offers some unique dining and drinking options.
Staying on either island gives you easy access to the offerings on either. The drive from the west end of Isle of Palms to the east end of Sullivan’s Island is measured in minutes, so you’re not far from anything. Possibly the biggest factor in choosing a place to stay, other than the money, is how important it is to have beach access. There are more beaches on Isle of Palms, so you have more options near the beach. On the other hand, the smaller beaches of Sullivan’s Island give you a more secluded vibe.
A quick shot across a bridge will put you on the mainland. The Shem Creek area is a quaint destination directly across from Sullivan’s Island. Mount Pleasant is Charleston’s primary residential suburb and you will have to go through it to get to the beaches. If you find yourself in need of anything that can’t be found on the islands, Mount Pleasant offers all of the usual conveniences and familiar store options you’d find anywhere in modern America.
If you’re looking for day activities, other than lounging on the beach, you won’t have to look far. Fishing charters, eco-excursions and paddle boarding are just some of the options at the Isle of Palms Marina. Historic Fort Moultrie is located on Sullivan’s Island and the world famous architecture and sites of Charleston are a mere 20 minutes, or so, away from the beach.
The Low Country, as it is known, has a distinctive character and the same applies to its beaches. Once you go, you may well find yourself making the trip an annual tradition. From many parts of the Mid-South, as well as the eastern seaboard, it is actually just as close as or closer than the popular Gulf Coast beaches that draw many vacationers.