The secret’s out that the Isle of Palms is an exceptional place to visit. This barrier island near Charleston is peaceful and pristine. It’s a short drive to the historic peninsula of downtown Charleston, should you so desire.
But there’s plenty to do on the island itself, with great restaurants, shops and outdoor activities. It’s quite easy to have a terrific IOP vacation without ever having to cross a bridge or leave the Isle. There are great places to stay with an Isle of Palms vacation rental that put you close buy all the great things to do.
Here are some suggestions of the top 5 things to do on the Isle of Palms.
1) Go to the Beach, of Course
This almost goes without saying, and yet it doesn’t. The beach at the Isle of Palms is an extraordinary thing. People come from across the globe to walk along its sunny sands, to feel the splash of the Atlantic at their feet and settle into a slower southern pace.
There’s no such thing as private beaches around here. You are free to roam along the entire length of the island. The Isle of Palms is roughly seven miles long, so you’ll have plenty of beach to explore, stroll along or run.
A wise person once remarked, “The beach occupies the senses but doesn’t require any effort. You can do nothing very easily.” In other words, feel free to come to the Isle of Palms beach and just BE.
If you don’t want to bring your own gear, there are beach chairs and umbrella rentals available. They’ll set them up in your preferred spot, then take them away at the end of the day. IOP Beach Chair Company is a good option right here on the isle.
As far as parking, you have several options. There’s free parking available along both sides of Palm Boulevard from 21st Avenue down the straightaway toward 41st. Please note that it is parallel parking only, and you must be four feet off the pavement. There are usually chalk guidelines in place to judge the distance.
You may park at the Isle of Palms County Park and use their facilities for a fee. As you come down the IOP Connector, go straight toward the beach; the entrance is on your left.
There are also paid parking options at Front Beach, either street parking (pay by kiosk) or in municipal lots nearby.
Or perhaps the best option – if you’re staying in one of the lovely vacation rentals on isle of palms, you’ll have plenty of parking included. Many of the homes are oceanfront, so just step off your back steps into the sand.
2) Ride Bikes and Tour the Island
If you’re feeling a little more adventurous, bike the IOP. There are plenty of quiet streets along the interior of the island with little or no traffic. Explore the island neighborhoods, spot some of the abundant wildlife. Herons and egrets have been known to walk down the streets, along with clusters of deer. Keep an eye peeled for alligators in the water.
Ride along the dedicated bike trail along Waterway Boulevard and the Intracoastal Waterway, which runs along the back of the IOP. And of course, ride bikes on the beach itself. Riding on the hard sands at low tide is best, as is riding with the prevailing winds. You can ride down (or up) the beach with the wind, then cut inland and return on the roads.
You can either bring your own bike, or rent them. IOP Beach Chair Company also rents beach cruisers along with tagalongs, child seats, helmets, baskets and other accessories.
3) Get Out on the Water
With all the water around the IOP, it’s a shame not to get out in or on it. Here are a couple suggestions, both of which are located at the Isle of Palms Marina at the end of 41st Avenue.
Book an EcoTour. These are terrific boat trips that take you out on the water around the Isle of Palms and other barrier islands. Barrier Island EcoTours is based at the IOP Marina. Tours are led by trained naturalists, who narrate the sights, share their knowledge with hands-on specimens, educating and entertaining at the same time. Public tours include: Sunset Dolphin Cruise, Capers Island Wildlife Exploration, Blue Crabbing Excursion, Beachside Cookout, or a Marine Biology Day Camp. They can also provide private tours and fishing charters as well. EcoTours are great for all ages and activity levels.
If you’re game for a more active option, try Tidal Wave for your favorite watersport. Also based near the IOP Marina, they offer in-season parasailing, jet ski rentals, waverunner safari tours, wakeboarding, tubing and boat rentals. Michael and staff are ready to make sure you and your friends and family have the maximum fun possible on the water. They also provide bachelor and bachelorette parties, dolphin watching tours through Grey Bay and Hamlin Sound, gift certificates, and a free shuttle if you’re staying on the Isle of Palms.
4) Eat Seafood
When at the beach, you’ve gotta eat seafood. Of course you can buy some fresh and fix it yourself. Simmons Seafood, located at 1400 Palm Boulevard in Ocean Park Plaza, is a local business that’s been on the IOP for as long as most people can remember. They’ll hook you up with the latest catch and give you tips on how to prepare it.
Harris-Teeter across the street also has lots of seafood options along with friendly folks to help you pick the best.
Of course, the better option may be to just leave the cooking to someone else. It’s hard to beat the Long Island Café, located right next door to Harris-Teeter. The Long Island Café has been in business for over three decades (34 years, to be exact) and has a loyal following. People who don’t even like fried food rave about their fried seafood, which has a light and airy batter. They’ve also recently opened the Raw Bar next door if you’re in the mood for oysters on the half shell.
5) Listen to Live Music
Front Beach on the Isle of Palms is a great place to check out, and it cranks up at night. The Windjammer is an IOP institution that’s been hosting concerts, festivals, special events, stage shows, fundraisers, beach volleyball tournaments and much more for decades.
You can even check out their live “Jammer Cam” webcams to see what’s happening at that very moment – on the outdoor deck, on the beach volleyball court, in the surf, and on the band stage.
The Windjammer is particularly well known for their live music. A whole host of bands have played there, and you never know who might show up on stage. It’s where Darius Rucker played his famous pop-up gig a while back. Sister Hazel hosts their annual Hazelnut Hang weekend, Ed McCain is a regular. Check out their event calendar for who’s playing next and when.
So come to the Isle of Palms to get away. You can do as little or as much as you like, and you never even have to leave the island.