Folly Beach, SC: The Ultimate Guide to What to See and Do

folly beach sign

Looking for the perfect beach vacation this summer? Then look no further than Folly Beach, SC!


This charming coastal town has something for everyone. From pristine beaches and watersports to local cuisine and nightlife, this is a perennial favorite among the Charleston beaches.


So whether you’re looking to relax or explore, read on for the ultimate guide to what to see and do in Folly Beach.


Trust us, you won’t be disappointed by a day trip or weekend getaway!

Read more: Folly Beach, SC: The Ultimate Guide to What to See and Do


What’s so special about Folly Beach, SC?

piers over the marshes

This beach is only 15 miles from downtown Charleston and is accessible via James Island and Folly Road. Although biking from Charleston to Folly Beach is technically possible, I would not recommend it.


This island is a world unto itself, offering a tranquil atmosphere to both locals and tourists. Its diverse beachside communities and locally owned restaurants make it an ideal location for relaxation and rejuvenation. Locals even hold a theory that Folly has its own climate: rain clouds seem to circle is and pass it by.


Hurricanes aside, of course.


Surfing is also rated some of the best on the East Coast.


A brief (promise) history of Folly Beach, SC

man surfing on an overcast day at Folly Beach, SC

“Folly” is an Old English word that means “dense foliage.”


The Colonial era

Pirates frequented the South Carolina coast. And they made their hideouts in the numerous inlets, sounds, and bays formed by barrier islands and sea islands such as Folly Island. Two of the most notable were Edward Teach, also known as Black Beard, and Stede Bonnet.


If you’re curious to learn more about the area’s swashbuckling history, head to Charleston’s historic district. Stede Bonnet was later:


Looking for the seedy underbelly of Charleston’s historic past in the more genteel neighborhoods is a personal hobby.


Folly Island was known as Coffin Island for a time. And not for the reasons you’d suspect, like deaths or burials. Rather, it was because the island the Coffin family, plantation owners in Beaufort and Charleston counties, owned it.


While plague and cholera victims were dropped off on barrier islands to avoid contamination, they weren’t dropped here.


The Civil War

On May 10, 1863, Confederate forces attacked Union forces in the island’s only Civil War-related conflict. In August 1863, the Union Army took over Folly and used it as a camp and supply depot for troops besieging Charleston.


To this day, the Charleston County Bomb Squad is called in to discover cannonballs, especially following severe storms. The biggest haul was after Hurricane Matthew, which resulted in the discovery of 16 cannonballs.


More recent history

In the summer of 1934, DuBose Heyward and George Gershwin traveled to Folly Island to work on their American folk opera Porgy and Bess. You can see the piano on which they worked at the Charleston Museum. The bungalow in which they worked was destroyed by one of the many hurricanes that have hit Folly Beach over the years.


Is Folly Beach a hippie town?

People from all over the country have fallen in love with the area because it is, more than most, a beach for the people. Folly Beach,  just outside of genteel Charleston, is the perfect beach town for everyone. It caters to:

  • Surfers
  • Early risers
  • Those looking to spend the night under the stars
  • And every other category of visitor in between

This tiny island town is the state’s most carefree, laissez-faire locale.


Why is Folly Beach, SC so popular?

morris island lighthouse at sunset

Folly Beach, SC is an idyllic destination for beach-goers. It offers up stretches of pristine Atlantic Ocean coastline for water sports, strolls, and more. Located a little over 10 miles away (as the crow flies) from downtown Charleston, the rustic coastal charm and mild waves here make it perfect for:

  • Surfing
  • Swimming
  • Fishing
  • Kiteboarding
  • And other activities on the Atlantic

Whether you’re looking to take a dip in its gently rolling surf or laze around at one of its unique restaurants, Folly Beach has something for you.


What is there to do on Folly Beach, SC?

If you’re seeking outdoor activities and adventure during the day, Folly Beach is the spot for you. Take in some fresh air with a picnic at one of the many picnic areas. Test your skills surfing waves at some of the best surf spots in South Carolina. If you’d prefer something less intense, kayak through the estuaries and marshes surrounding Folly Beach.


Get up close with nature

marshes at Folly Beach SC

Folly Beach, located between the Atlantic Ocean and the Folly River, is more than just a great place to relax. It is home to dolphins, loggerhead turtles, bald eagles, seabirds, and other endangered species. The trail to the remote beach with views of the Morris Island Lighthouse and the Folly Beach County Park at the opposite end of the island are two excellent places to enjoy nature on the island.


Folly Gras

One of the main draws to The Edge of America, as Folly Beach is affectionately known, is Folly Gras. Folly Beach is at its most eccentric, distinctive, and relaxed every year on the weekend before Ash Wednesday.



Folly Beach offers an unparalleled experience – a diverse selection of coastal attractions to explore and enjoy! Some of this writer’s favorite spots on the island include:


Morris Island Lighthouse

The iconic Morris Island Lighthouse stands forlornly over the waters to the east. Watching the sunset, spotting a dolphin or two, makes this one of the most romantic things to do in Charleston, SC.


Downtown Folly and the beaches

Boats crowding the harbor and colorful houses give the town a backdrop with a unique tropical beach feeling all its own. For beach enthusiasts, there’s no place quite like Folly Beach Pier or Folly Beach County Park.


surfers walking along the beach at Folly Beach SC

A surfer’s paradise

Surfers come from around the country to enjoy some of the best waves on the East Coast, while avid fishers revel in their haul from nearby waters. So if you’re looking for a coastal paradise full of surprises, be sure to check out all that Folly Beach has to offer!


There is something here to get everyone up and going!


Are the beaches on Folly Dog Friendly?

It is very dog friendly, you’ll find many restaurants and bars that welcome your furry friend.


That said, from May 1 to Sept. 30 and between 10 am and 5 pm, dogs are not permitted on the beach. Other times of the year, dogs are welcome, but they must be kept on a leash. 


Having been bitten on Folly by a surprisingly vicious little (unleashed) dog, this makes sense to me.


Please keep your dogs leashed.


The local cuisine is a must-try, with unique specialties

sunset over the pier

Folly Beach, SC is a delightful destination for anyone looking to get away and enjoy the coastal charm. With its laid-back vibe and beautiful beaches, it’s the perfect place to relax and take a break from life’s hustle. A big draw is the local cuisine – seafood being the specialty – with plenty of Folly Beach restaurants to choose from on or near the water. Options vary from:

  • Delectable dinner items like stuffed flounder and lobster mac & cheese
  • To delicious breakfast favorites like crab cake benedict

All while taking in gorgeous views of Folly’s beaches. What many visitors don’t know is that there are also plenty of dog-friendly options so even your furry companion can join in on the fun!


Does Folly Beach have a Nightlife?

pier at dusk

If you are looking for a night out in Folly Beach, SC, you are in luck! This beloved coastal destination offers a wide range of evening fun. From live music and nightclubs to rooftop bars and dive bars, there’s something for everyone. First, check out the best local bars such as:



Take it slow, or pump up the volume when visiting these laid-back spots to experience the chill nightlife Folly Beach has to offer.


Can you drink alcohol on Folly Beach?

Absolutely not.

After a couple of fights broke-out on the beach, years ago, the town clamped down on alcohol on its beaches.

The use and possession of alcoholic beverages is prohibited on the beach, as are:

  • Glass
  • Styrofoam
  • Balloons
  • Or plastic bags


Is Folly Beach a nice place to stay?

under the beach pier

Folly Beach is one of the best places to stay in the Charleston, SC, area! It offers visitors a wide selection of rustic coastal charm and great waves, making it perfect for water sports, hiking, and lounging by the water.


All these features make it an ideal spot for vacationers seeking a peaceful getaway!


Options for Folly Beach hotels range from waterfront high-rise hotels to rustic homestays tucked far away from the main drag.


Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway or a fun adventure with family or friends, you’ll find it all in one place. Be sure to take time to explore the unique sights and beauty that this beloved coastal town has to offer. From stunning beaches to fishing charters and stunning scenery, the fun never stops at Folly Beach!


And the best part is, Folly Beach is only minutes away from all the attractions of Charleston, SC, including:




So no matter what your plans are, you’re sure to have a memorable time on your visit. So go ahead and keep exploring more islands near Charleston, SC!

Leave a Reply