Why You Should Add Folly Beach, South Carolina, To Your Beach Town Bucket List

The spirited island hamlet south of Charleston shakes off mainland sophistication in favor of flip-flops and cash-only dive bars.

It's only twelve miles south of Charleston's historic homes and manicured window boxes, but the salty little town of Folly Beach ditches the Holy City's refinement in favor of an easygoing, barefoot sensibility that feels a bit more California than Carolina. Known to locals as the Edge of America, Folly is everything a beach town should be. Surf shops line the main drag; cover-ups count as appropriate lunch attire; and nobody takes themselves too seriously (they drop a pair of LED-lit flip flops to celebrate New Year's Eve). Here's where to stay, eat, and play in South Carolina's super chill surf town.

Folly Beach, South Carolina
Riddhish Chakraborty

Where to Stay

Every single room at The Tides Hotel comes with an ocean view. Perched at the end of Center Street, the town's main thoroughfare, the hotel is steps from both the beach and an array of local shops and eateries. For families looking to stretch out a bit more, there are a boatload of rentals to choose from: Opt for ocean-front properties that will sleep a crowd or cozy cottages with marsh and Folly River views. And for people who wouldn't dream of traveling without their four-legged companions, there are plenty of pet-friendly rentals too.

Where to Eat

You won't go hungry on this island. Lost Dog Café is a local staple, serving coffee and all-day breakfast; don't miss the eggs Benedict, which they top with fried green tomatoes. Fish tacos, Vietnamese-inspired lettuce wraps, and Cuban sandwiches all have a place on the colorful menu at Chico Feo, where the vibe is equally colorful. Don't let the easygoing atmosphere fool you: Rita's Seaside Grille is serious about their food … and their cocktails. Try one of their Signature Crushes, fruity sippers with flavored liquors that pack a punch. End the night at Sand Dollar Social Club, a dive bar where you're invited to come as you are, so long as you're a member; membership costs $1, and bring your cash (you won't find a credit card machine here).

Where to Play

The island's six miles of beachfront are its main attraction, and it'd be easy to while away a week with no plans beyond putting your toes in the sand. But for those looking to build an action-packed itinerary, there are plenty of activities that highlight the destination's natural beauty: Book a guided kayak or standup paddleboard tour to explore the tidal creeks; stop by McKevlin's Surf Shop, South Carolina's oldest surfing outfitter, before catching some of the area's best waves at The Washout; and plan to make a return trip with your fishing poles to Folly in spring of 2023, when the beloved pier is set to reopen after extensive renovations.

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