In addition to the charming town of Folly Beach itself, there’s the modest, county-run Folly Beach County Park (1100 West Ashley Ave., 843/588-2426, www.ccprc.com, daily 10 a.m.–dark, open 9 a.m. Mar. and Apr., $7 per vehicle, free for pedestrians and cyclists) at the far west end of Folly Island. It has a picnic area, restrooms, outdoor showers, and beach chair and umbrella rentals. Get there by taking Highway 171/Folly Road until it turns into Center Street, and then take a right on West Ashley.
On Isle of Palms you’ll find Isle of Palms County Park (14th Ave., 843/886-3863, www.ccprc.com, daily 10 a.m.–dark, open 9 a.m. summer, $5 per vehicle, free for pedestrians and cyclists), which has restrooms, showers, a picnic area, a beach volleyball area, and beach chair and umbrella rentals. Get there by taking the Isle of Palms Connector/Highway 517 to the island, go through the light at Palm Boulevard and take the next left at the park gate. There’s good public beach access near the Pavilion Shoppes on Ocean Boulevard, accessed via JC Long Boulevard.
On the west end of Kiawah Island to the south of Charleston is Kiawah Island Beachwalker Park (843/768-2395, www.ccprc.com, Mar.–Apr. weekends only 10 a.m.–6 p.m., summer 9 a.m.–7 p.m., Sept. 10 a.m.–6 p.m., Oct. weekends only 10 a.m.–6 p.m., closed Nov.–Feb., $7 per vehicle, free for pedestrians and cyclists), the only public facility on this mostly private resort island. It has restrooms, showers, a picnic area with grills, and beach chair and umbrella rentals. Get there from downtown by taking Lockwood Avenue onto the Highway 30 Connector bridge over the Ashley River. Turn right onto Folly Road, then take a left onto Maybank Highway. After about 20 minutes you’ll take another left onto Bohicket Road, which leads you to Kiawah in 14 miles. Turn left from Bohicket onto the Kiawah Island Parkway. Just before the security gate, turn right on Beachwalker Drive and follow the signs to the park.
For a totally go-it-alone type of beach day, go to the three-mile beach on the Atlantic Ocean at Sullivan’s Island. There are no facilities, no lifeguards, strong offshore currents, and no parking lots on this residential island (park on the side of the street). There’s also a lot of dog-walking on this beach since no leash is required November–February. Get there from downtown by crossing the Ravenel Bridge over the Cooper River and bearing right onto Coleman Boulevard, which turns into Ben Sawyer Boulevard. Take the Ben Sawyer Bridge onto Sullivan’s Island. Beach access is plentiful and marked.
© Jim Morekis from Moon Charleston & Savannah, 4th Edition