Isle of Palms

The slender barrier island that is the Isle of Palms (IOP) is best known as Greater Charleston’s most popular public beach for tourists and families with small children, but it is also home to the Wild Dunes Resort, Marina, and its amazing golf courses. Sitting off the Mt. Pleasant coastline just north of its Sullivan’s Island, IOP has everything an island visitor could ask for… great beaches, great beach rentals, golf courses, tennis facilities, yachting water sports, shops, quaint restaurants, and instant access to the Mount Pleasant Towne Centre via the Isle of Palms Connector, and to Sullivans Island via the bridge at Breach Inlet. The IOP public beach is also home to the famous Windjammer, the oceanfront live music venue that helped make Hootie & The Blowfish, Charleston’s all-time favorite home grown band, and also the famous little Sea Biscuit Café, an exquisitely shabby breakfast and lunch joint so laid back that it closes at 1PM on weekends… even if crowds continue to line up at around the porch.

While the beaches are long and popular, the vast marsh views from the IOP Connector are unrivaled, especially at the crest of the bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway where views of water-locked Goat Island and the Wild Dunes Marina make for breathtaking land & seascape, especially with the sparkling Atlantic Ocean dominating the eastern horizon just a couple hundred yards away.  You’ll have to be on foot or on bike to truly take in the views from the top of the connector, so we encourage you to get out and just do it. It’s a definite Must See. But if you’d rather tour the island in your car, the connector is still an incredibly scenic drive as it seems to plop you right on the beach with the clearest unobstructed view of the Atlantic Ocean you will find anywhere in Greater Charleston. And if you continue your drive by looping across Breach Inlet into Sullivan’s Island you’ll see unique vistas and charming island living in every direction.

The Isle of Palms and Breach Inlet also played tremendous roles in American military history. Breach Inlet is the location of one of the most important battles of the Revolutionary War, the Battle in defense of Fort Sullivan (which many historians point to as a frontrunner for modern defensive tactics), when IOP was called Long Island. If you remember from U.S. history class the battle where many of Lord Cornwallis’ men drowned while trying to cross a seemingly shallow creek, all while under siege from the Patriots  (dubbed “Sandlappers”) who fired their weapons while laying prone in the sandy soil, this was the spot. Breach Inlet was also the launching point of the Civil War vessel CSS Hunley, the first submarine in world history to successfully sink an enemy ship, the USS Housatonic on February 17, 1864.

From a tourism perspective, the true gem of the Isle is at the northern tip where you find the Wild Dunes Resort. It’s a gated community, so you’ll have to jump a few hoops to visit, but once behind the gate you’ll see why it comes so highly recommended, even if you simply drive its curvy canopied avenues and glimpse its massive white sand beaches from a distance. Everyone should stay at Wild Dunes at least once, and many locals use it as their in-town resort getaway. IOP is just about 25 minutes from downtown Charleston when the traffic is light.

Where is it?

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