Book beachfront vacation rental houses, apartments, and more on Airbnb
Guests agree: these stays are highly rated for location, cleanliness, and more.
This tiny barrier island outside of Charleston, South Carolina, has a spirited history: In the 1940s and ’50s, live musicians drew big crowds to concerts on its pier. But in recent decades, Folly Beach has embraced a more mellow spirit. Days here revolve around the water, whether that means kayaking along the river or bobbing on a longboard waiting for a wave, with funky surf shops and crab shacks catering to the beach lifestyle. The famous pier is being rebuilt, but when it reopens in 2023, it will stretch more than 1,000 feet into the Atlantic, with benches for fishing and quiet contemplation.
Folly Beach is just 15 minutes from downtown Charleston and about 40 minutes from Charleston International Airport (CHS). The next-closest major city is Charlotte, NC, about 3.5 hours away. There’s just one road in and out of the island. The town’s main beaches, shops, and restaurants are within easy biking or walking distance of one another, though you’ll want to rent a car if you plan to explore nearby islands like Sullivan’s Island or Isle of Palms.
June through August brings prime beach weather, with highs in the 80s Fahrenheit and humidity that lasts into the evenings. Like other parts of the Lowcountry, it rains frequently in the summer, but showers are usually brief. Fall is typically peak surf season, as the waves get bigger but the temperatures stay warm enough, in the 60s and 70s, to be in the water. Winter brings average highs in the 40s and 50s and lots of wind, and spring temperatures climb back up to the 60s and 70s.
The waves at this beach on the western end of Folly are some of the gentlest on the island, making it ideal for boogie boarding and swimming (don’t worry about bringing gear; you can rent it by the shore). Keep an eye out for loggerhead turtles and brown pelicans, both of which have protected breeding habitats in the park. If you want to surf, head up to the beach around Folly Pier for lessons, or to an area known as the Washout for expert-level swells.
This park is your entry to Folly’s more tranquil side, the river that runs north of the island. Rent a kayak or paddleboard — or sign up for a guided tour — from an outfitter on nearby Center Street, and then spend the day slowly making your way around the marshes, accompanied only by seabirds (or, if you’re lucky, dolphins). You can also swallow up an entire day fishing or crabbing from the dock. Either way, stick around to watch the sunset over the river.
This lighthouse has suffered damage from a cyclone and an earthquake since it was built in 1876, but it still stands tall — albeit with a slight lean — a few hundred feet off Folly Beach’s shore. You can view the lighthouse, preserved as a historical landmark, by boat (tours often pass it as part of fishing trips) or by driving to the northern end of East Ashley Avenue and taking the 15-minute walk to the beach.