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Folly Beach is a quiet and quirky beachgoer’s paradise. Known as the “Edge of America” (a name coined long ago by two surf shop owners), this South Carolina town is one of the closest beaches to historic Charleston, and it has been a hidden getaway for decades. A prime spot for surfing, seashell hunting, and wildlife watching, Folly Beach is the perfect location for families who want an affordable beach vacation on the East coast of the United States.
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Why Are There So Few Folly Beach Hotels on the Oceanfront?
When searching for Folly Beach hotels, you’ll notice something strange – only one oceanfront hotel offers beachfront access. After the first large hotel popped up on Folly Beach, the town decided to preserve its coastline by outlawing additional waterfront towers.
The strict zoning has resulted in the town getting to keep its quiet beach in an idyllic setting. After visiting oceanside towns where traffic made walking across the main drag nearly impossible, our family loved being able to cross Folly’s oceanside street with help from a simple crosswalk and no stoplight.
Tides Folly Beach
That very first hotel is still on the beach, and it is still one of the most affordable places to stay in the area. Now known as Tides Folly Beach Hotel, the property’s location right next to Folly Beach Fishing Pier makes it a popular place for surfers, families, and couples looking for a romantic getaway.
A mid-range hotel, Tides offers beautifully decorated rooms, and their premium rooms have newly renovated tiled showers. Every room has an ocean view and either two queen beds or a king bed with a foldout sofa.
Most rooms at Tides have a tiny, standing-only balcony. When we recently stayed there, the balcony for our room desperately needed a fresh coat of paint, a sharp contrast to the modern, clean feel of the room itself. Guests who want a premium experience can reserve a room with an oceanfront patio.
The Resort Vibe
For the most part, staying at Tides felt like staying in an average beach hotel. However, the beautiful lobby filled with decorative lights, the heated outdoor pool surrounded by palm trees, and the beach service offering chairs, umbrellas, and bodyboard rentals gave the hotel an upgraded feel. We also appreciated that the staff texted us several times to see if we needed anything.
My favorite parts of our stay were the convenient restaurant options that allowed guests to charge everything straight to their rooms. We enjoyed the versatility of BLU, which serves three meals a day and offers indoor and outdoor seating. One evening we rolled straight in off the beach, sat by the outdoor tiki bar with our sandy kids, and enjoyed burgers and tacos as we watched the waves. The next night we all dressed up a bit for a sit-down meal and gourmet food in the posh indoor dining room.
Tides has a small coffee shop (Starbucks!) with grab-and-go breakfast items; this is also the best place to grab any forgotten essentials or souvenirs, like sand pails, sunscreen, or postcards. And just next door to the hotel is Pier 101, which offers seafood, salads, and burgers in a casual atmosphere. Although Pier 101 is not on hotel property, you can still charge your meal to your room.
Where Else to Stay in Folly Beach
If Tides isn’t your vibe and you want another place to stay, there are a few other options for beach lovers, including condos, private rentals, and luxury hotels.
Seaside Villas is just on the other side of the fishing pier from Tides and offers more of a condo experience, with a full kitchen and several bedrooms and private bathrooms per rental. Each unit is rented privately through sites such as VRBO and Expedia.
Charleston Oceanfront Villas is another oceanside condo complex; while the property does not open directly onto the beach (there’s a fence in the way), easy access to the beach is nearby, and there are two outdoor pools on the property.
The luxurious Regatta Inn is situated along the Folly River, which divides Folly Island from the mainland. This boutique hotel offers a screened-in porch and a daily free breakfast, along with free golf cart rides to the beach. However, children under 12 are not allowed at the property, so consider saving it for your next couples getaway.
Beachside Boutique Inn is a few blocks away from the beach and offers several cottages with fun, funky decor and interesting histories.
You can also rent private beach houses in the area, which is a great option for extended families traveling together.
If you prefer traditional mid-range or cheap hotels, consider staying on the other side of Charleston in the Isle of Palms area, which offers Hilton properties and several local hotels like the Seaside Inn, plus the beautiful Wild Dunes Resort.
Don’t Miss! Best Secluded Beaches on the East Coast
A prime spot for surfing, seashell hunting, and wildlife watching, Folly Beach is perfect for families who want an affordable beach vacation.
Things to Do in Folly Beach
Folly Beach is known for its excellent surfing conditions, and several surf schools offer lessons during peak season. Shaka Surf School books private and custom family lessons and provides all the equipment you need.
To see more of the island, drive down to the Lighthouse Inlet Historic Preserve to view Morris Island Lighthouse and watch for area wildlife in the waterfront park. Another option for exploring the surrounding area is Charleston Outdoor Adventures, which offers dolphin-seeking boat tours, paddleboard rentals, and even a special fossil-hunting tour to search for shark teeth and other prehistoric items.
Head to the Folly Beach Pier for fishing, public beach access, and a gift shop. If you have little kids, be sure to check out the nearby Pirate’s Cove Playground, which features a wooden ship built just for playground fun.
Where to Eat in Folly Beach
In addition to trying the restaurants at Tides, we recommend walking across the street to Rita’s Seaside Grill. My kids especially loved all the breakfast options at Rita’s, and the restaurant also offers hearty Southern food for lunch and dinner. If you’re a fan of Dole Whip at Disney resorts, be sure to check out The Pineapple Hut for the same vegan pineapple treat.
For a seafood craving, try Snapper Jacks’s, which offers rooftop dining along with sushi, raw oysters, and fried shrimp and fish. The Lost Dog Cafe has an expansive list of coffees and pastries available for breakfast, along with more significant fare for brunch and lunch.
Things To Do In the Folly Beach Area
While you are in Folly Beach, take a day to visit historic downtown Charleston. The Charleston area offers tons of activities for families, such as the South Carolina Aquarium, pirate walking tours, and the USS Yorktown at Patriots Point. Take a boat tour out to Fort Sumter and watch for dolphins swimming in the harbor.
Golf fans will want to drive 45 minutes to Kiawah Island to experience the area’s famous golf courses (and the rest of the family can take a bike tour around the island).
When You Go
Getting To Folly Beach From Los Angeles
The closest airport to Folly Beach is Charleston International Airport, which offers nonstop flights from Los Angeles on Jet Blue and connecting flights on all major airlines. The airport is about a 40-minute drive from Folly Beach.
An excellent discount site for flights (and cars and hotels) is Expedia!
If you stay at Tides or other properties close to Center Street, then you’ll be within walking distance to shops, restaurants, and beach access. If you plan to drive to Charleston for a day or visit the Folly Beach County Park or Lighthouse Heritage Inlet Preserve at either end of the island, you’ll want to rent a car to help you get around.
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