The Isle of Palms- Sand, Sun, and FUN!

The Isle of Palms and Charleston areas are one of those few places where we have no problem visiting again and again. The beaches are great. There’s plenty of activities for all of our various interests.  And the food is FANTASTIC!

We have been visiting The Isle of Palms and Charleston for over ten years. We have stayed in Charleston. We stayed on Sullivan’s Island. We have stayed in the Isle of Palms. Between the three, we truly don’t have a preference. It mostly depends on the time of year we are planning to visit and what our budget is. 

When we come to the area in the Summer, we almost always stay in the Isle of Palms. Spring, Fall, and Winter takes us to historic Charleston. If we are on a bit of a budget, but still crave that Charleston vibe, we will stay on Sullivan’s Island. Regardless of location, we always have an amazing time! We just love the history and beauty of this wonderful area. 

In this review, we will go over some of our favorite things to do when visiting the Isle of Palms and Charleston areas. We will go over some recommended lodging options in all three areas. Of course, our reviews wouldn’t be complete without talking about our favorite places to eat!

Let’s jump right in!

The Isle of Palms and Charleston Things to Do!

There is so much to do here! History buffs, sports fans, architecture admirers, fishing enthusiasts, and nature lovers will all be in awe with the amount of activities. The list that follows will include not only things we have done with the whole family, but activities without the kids also. 

  • Charleston RiverDogs Baseball– We LOVE baseball and will catch a game anywhere we go. It’s an added perk when the team is co-owned by one of the greatest actors ever, the honorable Bill Murray! RiverDogs baseball games are incredibly fun for the entire family. 
  • Fort Sumter Entry Ticket and Ferry Ride– The ferry departs from either Liberty Square or Patriots Point. Along the way, you will enjoy the picturesque scenery of Charleston Harbor. You will often see dolphins swimming next to the ferry. Once the ferry arrives at Fort Sumter, you get to tour the grounds of the fort where the first shots of the Civil War were fired. 
  • Historic Residential Horse and Carriage Tour– There is no better way to soak up the absolute beauty of Charleston’s historic (and often very colorful) homes than a horse and carriage tour. The guides are friendly, informative, and always willing to give tips and recommendations for other things to do and where to eat.
  • Boone Hall Plantation– The Charleston area is home to many plantations. Middleton Place often gets all of the recognition, but we enjoy Boone Hall and Drayton Hall much more (and they are much cheaper than Middleton Place). The entire property is over 700 acres, and your access ticket gets you self guided access to much of it. Make sure you have your phone charged, because you will be taking plenty of photos!
  • Patriot’s Point– This is a favorite attraction for our boys. When you purchase your admission ticket you get access to the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier. You tour the inside of the ship and can even walk on the flight deck among several fighter jets. The views from up here are fantastic. Several times I have seen dolphins swimming and jumping in the harbor below. You also get to tour the USS Laffey battleship. 
  • South Carolina Aquarium– Overlooking Charleston Harbor, the South Carolina Aquarium is home to more than 5000 species! They have two touch tanks that allow you to get hands on with several of the aquatic species! Our boys loved touching the star fish and stingrays! They thought it was the coolest!
  • The BEACHES! There are many great beaches up and down Sullivan’s Island and the Isle of Palms coast. 

Where to Stay in Charleston and the Isle of Palms

There are SO many lodging options in this area. Historic boutique hotels. Luxury hotels. Tried and true standard hotels. Rental beach homes. Rental historic homes. We will highlight some of our favorites. 

Charleston Lodging

  • Francis Marion Inn– We stayed here during Christmas time one year and it was pretty perfect. The hotel was filled with poinsettias and other Christmas decorations. The rooms were large and well appointed. Directly across the street is Marion Square, which was full of holiday decorations and a huge Christmas tree. 
  • The Meeting Street Inn– Located just a few blocks from Charleston’s famous City Market. The rooms are spacious with beautiful canopy beds. Some rooms offer private balconies. Breakfast is included.
  • Hilton Garden Inn Waterfront/Downtown– On the Ashley River, this hotel offers free parking, which is a perk in Charleston. Rooms are roomy and there is an outdoor pool.

Sullivan’s Island Lodging

  • Harborside at Charleston Harbor Resort– We have stayed here several times. You can see the USS Yorktown right from the hotel. This hotel always has very aggressive pricing, but is clean, quiet and comfortable. There’s an outdoor pool, two restaurants, sand volleyball, and more. 
  • Shem Creek Inn– Shem Creek is a pretty cool area on Sullivan’s Island where local fishing boats come and go. There are several restaurants and bars in the area that serve fresh seafood and ship right as it comes off the boat. Shem Creek Inn is situated right in the area. They offer marsh side and creekside rooms. They have a large pool and deck where you can watch the fishing fleets come and go. 
  • Tru by Hilton– We have mentioned in previous reviews how we love the Tru brand. Rooms are no nonsense, but appointed just right. As such, their rates tend to very very aggressive compared to similar properties. This is a newer hotel. Breakfast is included. There is an outdoor pool.

Search for all Charleston/Isle of Palms hotels here:

The Isle of Palms Lodging

  • The Palms Oceanfront Hotel– Located right on the beach. You are also right in the heart of the Isle of Palms shopping and entertainment district. My wife and her parents stayed here and absolutely loved it. After their first night, they opted to upgrade to an oceanfront room and it was so worth it. 
  • Wild Dunes Resort– Located on the far end of the island away from the hustle of the downtown area. Located directly on the beach. Guests have access to several pools, tennis courts, golf courses and more. 
  • Sand Castle– Ready to splurge? This is one of the few ocean front homes available to rent. Most rentals in this area are condos. If you have a larger group and want to be right on the ocean, then check out this three bedroom home that sleeps 7.

There are plenty of other homes for rent in the Isle of Palms, but very few are waterfront. Check them out below:

Places to Eat Around Charleston and the Isle of Palms

There is so much amazing food and restaurants in this area. Some of the best and freshest seafood I have ever eaten has been from Charleston area restaurants. The first time I tried authentic South Carolina “lowcountry” cuisine, I was hooked. Here are some of our favorites:

There are SO MANY other great options, but these are the locations we try to hit when we visit!

Plan Your Trip and Pack Your Bags!

By now you are probably shaking in anticipation to plan your trip to the Isle of Palms and Charleston area. And frankly, we don’t blame you. It is a beautiful city, with tons of history, with plenty to do, and some of the best dining in the country. We typically don’t repeat vacations, but the Isle of Palms and Charleston area is a definite exception. If you have been here before…you get it. If you have never been here before, there is no better time than now to find out what you are missing out on.

For other beach trip ideas, read our reviews of Santa Rosa Beach, FL and Biloxi, MS.

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