The secret is out. The Isle of Palms, a barrier island near Charleston, is a gem.
There’s plenty to do on the island, with great cafes and restaurants, shopping, and outdoor activities. In fact you can have a complete, fun-filled IOP vacation without ever leaving the Isle. With so many things to do within minutes of your Isle of Palms vacation rental you won’t have to worry about getting bored.
Here are the top 5 things to do on the Isle of Palms.
- Hit the beach.
The beach at the Isle of Palms is truly beautiful – peaceful and pristine. The weather is temperate, the waves gentle, the sand smooth, and the pace pleasantly southern.
The Isle of Palms is roughly seven miles long, and you can roam along the entire length of the island. No private beaches here. There’s plenty of coastline to explore and find your favorite section.
Man’s best friend is welcome too, as the IOP beach is dog friendly. Certain hours are off leash, depending on the season. You should have your dog vaccinated and under voice control, and you are asked to always clean up after your pet.
You have several options for parking. First, free parallel parking is available along both sides of Palm Boulevard from 21st Avenue toward 41st Avenue. Note the chalk guidelines which indicate you must park four feet off the pavement. Second, check out the Isle of Palms County Park. They have parking and basic facilities (bathrooms, changing rooms, showers) available for an entrance fee, or free for Gold Pass members. It’s located at 1 14th Avenue, across the intersection as you come off the IOP Connector.
Third, there are paid parking options, either street parking (pay by kiosk) at Front Beach, or in municipal lots behind the shops across from the beach.
Fourth is probably your best option. Many of the vacation rentals on Isle of Palms are oceanfront where you just have to walk out the door to the sand. With the ocean as your backyard you can’t wrong staying on the Isle.
If you don’t want to carry your own chairs and umbrellas to the beach, there are rentals available. In fact, they’ll set them up in your designated spot on the beach, then take them away at the end of the day. IOP Beach Chair Company is a good option and is located right here on the island.
- Play on/in the water.
With all the water around the IOP, you really ought to get out on or in it. There are a couple great options, both of which are based at the Isle of Palms Marina. It’s located on the Intracoastal Waterway, at the end of 41st Avenue.
For an active outing, check out Tidal Wave for watersport options galore. They offer in-season waverunner safari tours, jet ski rentals, parasailing, wakeboarding, tubing and boat rentals. They also provide bachelor and bachelorette parties, Grey Bay and Hamlin Sound dolphin watching tours, gift certificates, and a free shuttle if you’re staying on the IOP. Michael and staff will make sure you and your whole group have the maximum fun possible on the water around the Isle of Palms.
For a slightly less strenuous outing, book an EcoTour. These are superb boat trips that take you out on the water around the IOP and other nearby barrier islands. Barrier Island EcoTours are led by trained naturalists. They narrate the sights, share their knowledge with hands-on specimens, educating and entertaining at the same time. Take your pick from among these options – Sunset Dolphin Cruise, Blue Crabbing Excursion, Capers Island Wildlife Exploration, Marine Biology Day Camp, or even a fun Beachside Cookout. Barrier Island EcoTours can also provide private tours and fishing charters as well. EcoTours are great for all ages and activity levels and are perfect for intergenerational outings with the grandkids.
- Ride bikes or golf carts around the island.
The Isle of Palms is ideal to explore via alternate means of transportation.
It’s natural for biking. Get off the main street of Palm Boulevard to discover quieter routes with little traffic. Ride along the dedicated bike trail along Waterway Boulevard and the Intracoastal Waterway, which runs along the back of the IOP. Explore neighborhoods on the interior of the IOP, and be on the lookout for wildlife. Herons and egrets occasionally stroll down the streets, along with clusters of deer and other creatures. If you’re near waterways, see if you can spot an alligator in the water or sunning itself on the bank.
Of course, be sure to ride bikes on the beach itself. Tip: Riding at low tide on the hard sand is best. So is riding along with (not against) the prevailing winds. A good rule of thumb is to ride down/up the beach with the wind, then cut inland and return along the roads.
If you don’t have your own bike, you can easily rent one. IOP Beach Chair Company also has beach cruisers in various sizes along with accessories like tagalongs, child seats, helmets and more.
Another fun option for touring the IOP is by golf cart. The Isle of Palms is golf cart heaven. You can rent those, as well. Lightning Bugz offers golf carts and LSVs (low speed vehicles with seat belts and lights).
One important note: you may drive golf carts on any road except the main straightaway of Palm Boulevard. You are allowed to cross this section of Palm Blvd. but not ride down it. There is golf cart parking at the beach access at 25th Avenue as well as at 42nd Avenue.
- Enjoy fresh seafood.
When at the beach, you have to eat some seafood. To buy some fresh and fix it yourself, check out Simmons Seafood, located at 1400 Palm Boulevard in Ocean Park Plaza. It’s a local business that’s been on the IOP for ages. Simmons will hook you up with the latest catch, plus give you helpful tips on how to prepare it. Or, Harris-Teeter across the street also has lots of seafood options and friendly staff.
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 34 years and has amassed a loyal following. Even folks who don’t normally like fried food rave about their fried seafood. They’ve also recently opened the Raw Bar next door if you’re craving oysters and such.
Another good spot for fresh seafood is The Boathouse. Perfectly positioned at Breach Inlet, you can watch dolphins catch their own dinner as the ocean flows into Hamlin Creek. Be sure to grab a drink first on their Rooftop Bar and watch the sun set.
- Check out some live music at the beach.
Front Beach on the Isle of Palms is a happening place, especially at night and on weekends. The Windjammer anchors the fun, having hosted concerts, festivals, special events, stage shows, fundraisers, beach volleyball tournaments and much more for decades now.
Check out their live “Jammer Cam” webcams to see what’s happening at this very moment. In fact, they have four Jammer Cams: the Deck Cam, Volleyball Cam, Surf Cam, and Band Cam.
The Windjammer is best known for their live music. A slew of bands have played there over the years. You just never know who might show up and perform on stage. After all, this is where Darius Rucker played his famous pop-up gig not long ago. Check out their event calendar to see what’s scheduled. Or just show up, and be surprised.
The Isle of Palms makes an ideal getaway. There’s plenty to do, or you can opt to do nothing at all, other than just relax. You never even have to leave the island.