Seaside playground

Colton Clark (right) and Kelsi Wilson from Columbus, Ohio, play near their beach-front rental on the Isle of Palms earlier this month.

Caressed by the sea breeze and kissed by the sun, Lowcountry beaches beckon visitors by the droves, especially during the summer.

For those looking for a place to rent for a few days lazing in the sun, rentals remain but options are limited.

With the improved economy and increase in jobs, island rental agencies report increased bookings this year from the Isle of Palms to Edisto Island.

Beachside Vacations, for example, projects Isle of Palms bookings are up 5 percent this year compared to the past three years.

The company offers 177 properties — all but 10 on the Isle of Palms — from one-bedroom bungalows starting at $1,500 a week to beach-side homes with several bedrooms and a pool that fetch around $25,000 a week.

Beachside doesn’t have to do much of a sales pitch for the Charleston area. It just needs more properties to rent, a spokesman said.

On the other side of Charleston Harbor, a rental agent there expressed similar sentiments.

“Folly Beach becomes more and more popular every year,” said Dee Bruggeman, director of property management for Avocet Properties.

The agency offers 160 vacation homes on Folly Beach, and Bruggeman said business is booming.

Most visitors hail from North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee, but there are plenty of license plates from Ohio, the Midwest and the Northeast.

“The majority of the guests coming to Folly Beach hop in their car and drive here,” Bruggeman said. “It’s a drive-to destination.”

Avocet said summer rates for the homes it represents on the island range from about $1,500 a week for a one-bedroom cottage to $7,000 a week for a large spread with multiple bedrooms.

When visitors book, they want to know how close the property is to the beach and what type of beds it has, she said.

While summer is high season, spring and fall are becoming more popular for beach rentals, too.

“They fill in more and more every year,” she said. “We have five times more occupancy in the shoulder seasons than we did five years ago.”

The increased off-pask demand is tied in part to the fact that Charleston’s profile has been climbing in travel circles. Also, the Lowcountry’s growing reputation as a wedding destination helps to fill beach houses after school starts, Bruggeman said.

Right now, the summer rental season is kicking into high gear.

This is the third time in recent years Patti McDermott and her extended family of 12 from Ohio have booked a house on the front row at Folly Beach.

“We love it because it’s not so big and commercial like Myrtle Beach,” she said. “It’s laid back with good food and good fun.”

McDermott and her relatives rented the six-bedroom house in January.

“We know we have to book early,” she said.

Kristin and Benito Ferro of Atlanta reserved their room and six others with family members in The Tides hotel at Folly in February.

The group of about 20 people decided to vacation at the beach, but were also in town to celebrate the 70th birthday of an uncle from Summerville.

“We’d definitely come back here,” said Benito, who was visiting for the first time.

At Carolina One Real Estate, which recently acquired an Edisto Island real estate agency that manages vacation homes on nearby Edisto Beach, weekly rentals are running “very strong,” said Michael Scarafile, president.

“Occupancy rates are up as well as rates per week because of demand,” Scarafile said. “It would be unusual for a quality property to have any occupancy available in June, July or August.”

The agency’s 220 rentals on the Isle of Palms, Folly Beach and Edisto primarily cater to the high-end boutique market. Prices range from a few thousand dollars to $6,500 a week for houses that are mostly oceanfront or second-row properties.

“The wonderful thing we have in the Lowcountry is the beach is your playground and there is no cost of admission,” Scarafile said.

Reach Warren L. Wise at 843 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.