Charleston's Coastal Villages

Cross the river to explore a charming, more casual side of this iconic city.
Annette Thompson

Beyond the steeples of Charleston, South Carolina, the silvery span of a new bridge leads to Mount Pleasant, Sullivan's Island, and Isle of Palms. You'll find the same hospitality here as in neighboring Charleston but with a breezier style. Leave the seersucker image behind on King Street, and change into shorts and sandals to enjoy shady sidewalks and sand-between-your-toes places.

Up the Creek

As the day winds down on the Cooper River, locals head to Shem Creek. This meandering stretch of water reaches into the heart of Mount Pleasant. Once a watermen's area, the creek holds as many pleasure boats as shrimpboats parallel-parked these days. If you don't have a boat, it's no problem. You'll find ample parking off Coleman Boulevard.

Settle into a creekside table at Red's Icehouse. Rustic and casual, it dishes up seafood and knockout sunset views. On Wednesday evenings, Red's offers party cruises. Or you can make your own meal with fresh shrimp from C.A. Magwood & Sons Seafood.

The Village Vibe

Pitt Street in Mount Pleasant's Old Village feels as serene as ever. Oak-shaded streets embrace neighborhoods cozied up to the river. Cute boutiques and eateries fill old storefronts.

Stop by the timeless Pitt Street Pharmacy, and slide onto a well-worn stool at its soda fountain. Order a cherry Coke to wash down a homemade chicken salad or pimiento cheese sandwich. Afterward, walk to Out of Hand, a gift store with handbags, jewelry, handmade accessories, and stationery. Next door, check out the stone sculptures from Zimbabwe in Utonga Gallery. Sweet temptations fill the Village Bakery nearby. For a more substantial meal, try the Old Village Post House. Owned by the folks who run High Cotton and Slightly North of Broad in Charleston, this restored inn serves lunch and dinner of equal quality to its big-city brethren.

The four lanes around town are rich with strip malls worth mining for treasures. If you can only shop in one, go to the corner of Johnnie Dodds Boulevard (U.S. 17) and Houston Northcutt Boulevard to Gwynn's. This local department store excels in designer clothing and old-school service.

 

Mount Pleasant Room and Board

When a juicy burger topped with pimiento cheese fits your cravings, drop by the Boulevard Diner on Coleman Boulevard. Barbecue lovers should sample the vinegar-based 'cue from Momma Brown's. Taste the local flavors from the buffet at Gullah Cuisine.

The best place in Mount Pleasant to lay your head is in the cottages at The Belvidere Club and Resort on Charleston Harbor. Tucked into a lush corner of Patriots Point, 10 two-bedroom, three-bath cottages sleep up to six people. Each frames the panoramic view of Charleston Harbor from its screened porch. At night, relax in a rocking chair and watch the moon rise in the inky sky over Fort Sumter. The cottages boast full kitchens, fireplaces, and luxury furnishings, such as Frette linens, Waterford crystal, and Bose sound systems.

A concierge provides groceries upon your arrival, as well as a welcoming cheese platter with wine and soft drinks. She'll even deliver breakfast to your door each morning in an antique picnic basket.

Make Your Own Beach Music

Sullivan's Island feels like a sleepy beach town. At noon, you'll find almost everyone at Poe's Tavern. Tucked under umbrella tables, spread along the porch, and perched inside the cottage's rooms, girls in flip-flops sit next to businesspeople in suits to enjoy the burgers and pub food. Dig into a platter of fish tacos and hand-cut fries and read about Edgar Allan Poe, who spent 13 months stationed at Fort Moultrie.

At night, sample the comfy dishes at Station 22, home to a great jukebox and historic photos of Sullivan's. You can also savor the fancy fare at the elegant Atlanticville.

There are no hotels; if you want to overnight here, you must lease one of the few rental cottages. But don't let that stop you from exploring the miles of quiet beaches, marked by a lighthouse and old Fort Moultrie.

 

Live the Resort Life

When daybreak warms the cool sand, you'll want to walk barefoot at Wild Dunes Resort. It's the perfect moment at this Isle of Palms full-service escape.

You'll find lodging options to fit most any kind of group. The Boardwalk Inn offers 93 rooms and suites and a private tropical pool. Boardwalk homes feature shady beachfront sites. Villas, cottages, and vacation homes nestle into lots on golf courses, a marina, and an endless marsh.

The activities set Wild Dunes Resort apart. In addition to a spa center, it offers a links golf course with oceanfront holes and a harbor course that hugs lagoons and the Intracoastal Waterway. A tennis academy spreads across 17 courts, while kayaking and bicycling give you a different perspective of the barrier island.

Some of the best fun happens under the stars. Locals teach the official South Carolina dance--the shag--on Tuesday and Friday. With a little practice, you, too, can move with the sea breeze and the moon shining overhead.

For More Information

Charleston Area Convention & Visitors Bureau: www.charlestoncvb.com or 1-800-868-8118

The Belvidere Club and Resort on Charleston Harbor: www.belvidereclub.com or 1-866-901-2688. Rates from $660 to $770.

Wild Dunes Resort: www.wilddunes.com or 1-888-845-8915. Boardwalk Inn rates from $225 to $525.

 

Tuesday Delights

Wind through the crowds on Tuesday afternoons at the local farmers market. It spreads across a lawn in front of the middle school on Coleman Boulevard in Mount Pleasant. Area growers stack fresh fruits and vegetables on tables alongside chefs in booths with prepared meals and handcrafted breads. Nearby, watermen sell the day's catch. You can get a small bag of kettle corn to munch while you peruse the tents.

Win a Dream Vacation

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Charleston's Coastal Villages" is from the June 2007 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.