Beaches, history, shopping and fine dining blend with championship tennis and a national forest in the diverse area east of the Cooper River.
Surf and sun lovers are drawn to the Isle of Palms with its rental beachfront homes and boardwalk, nightclubs and restaurants. The IOP Connector offers sweeping views of the island and the Atlantic Ocean as the driver descends from the highest point of the bridge.
Military history buffs have plenty to enjoy at Fort Moultrie on Sullivan’s Island and the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum in Mount Pleasant. The fort has been restored to portray the major periods of its history. A visitor moves steadily back in time from the World War II Harbor Entrance Control Post to the site of the Palmetto-log fort of 1776. At Patriots Point, the Congressional Medal of Honor Museum aboard the aircraft carrier Yorktown offers a plethora of military history.
Further north on U.S. 17, the tempo relaxes into the vast expanses of the Francis Marion National Forest and Cape Romaine National Wildlife Refuge. This is prime country for fishing, wildlife watching, picnicking, and wilderness hiking and biking.
Closer to home, try a stroll on the towering Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge and its ever-popular pedestrian path offering spectacular views of Charleston Harbor. Joggers and runners flock to the bridge to stay in shape. The structure, which opened to traffic in 2005, is billed as the largest bridge of its kind in North America.
Next to and underneath the Ravenel Bridge is Mount Pleasant’s Memorial Waterfront Park with its stunning views of the bridge. The park features the longest pier in the area built atop lopped-off pilings of one of the old bridges that spanned the harbor. From the park, the aircraft carrier Yorktown, Fort Sumter and Charleston are visible. The pier offers up-close views of giant ocean-going ships.
Once a sleepy village, the town has grown to a bustling place of 65,000 residents that touts its low crime rate, highly-rated schools and upscale shopping epitomized by the sprawling Towne Centre on U.S. Highway 17.
The town has been in the process of massive improvements to U.S. 17 that include widening the highway to six lanes from the Ravenel Bridge for more than five miles to Darrell Creek Trail.
Off Coleman Boulevard, shrimp boats line Shem Creek, the picture postcard tidal tributary of Charleston Harbor that is home to restaurants, inns and the town’s new Shem Creek Park, where a boardwalk stretches through marsh to the creek toward the harbor.
The town is home to the Charles Pinckney National Historic Site, the Palmetto Islands County Park and Boone Hall Plantation, one of America’s oldest working plantations. It has been continuously growing and producing crops for more than 320 years.
The scenic Old Village has historic waterfront homes overlooking Fort Sumter and downtown Charleston. It is home to Alhambra Hall, which offers a beautiful view of the harbor.
Sweetgrass basketmaker stands line busy Hwy. 17. The African art of sweetgrass basket making has been practiced for more than 300 years in the Christ Church Parish of Mount Pleasant.
The island has about 2,000 residents who live in half as many households and a small business district on Middle Street that offers restaurants and pubs. In addition to some of the best beaches around, there is plenty to ponder here for literary and military historians.
The Edgar Allan Poe Library is housed in Battery Gadsden, a former Spanish-American War four-gun battery. The library is named for Poe, who was stationed on Sullivan’s Island as a private in the Army in 1827 and 1828. He used the island as the background for his famous story, “The Gold Bug.”
This island’s Fort Moultrie has a long military history of protecting the harbor from invaders ranging from the Revolutionary War to World War II. The fort bears the name of Col. William Moultrie, who repelled a British attack in 1776. The National Park Service manages the fort as a historic tourist attraction.
Isle of Palms
The Isle of Palms has 5,000 full-time residents and 20,000 to 50,000 investment owners and visitors who make it their home and destination.
Originally named Hunting Island and then Long Island, it’s thought to be at least 25,000 years old, and first inhabited by the indigenous Seewee Indians. Attorney J.C. Long developed the island after World War II as an affordable place where service people could buy homes and raise a family. Some of those original families and their descendents are still on the island today.
The island has a full service marina offering charters for offshore and inshore fishing. Kayaking, parasailing and jet skiing are available. Six miles of beach access for visitors makes the island a popular destination. A boardwalk offers a mix of bars, restaurants and retail outlets selling everything from ice cream to surfboards. Charleston County Parks and Recreation operates a beachfront park on the island next to the boardwalk.
The Wild Dunes resort occupies 1,500 acres on the northern end of the island and offers two 18-hole Tom Fazio golf courses, 17 tennis courts and numerous pools.
Just north of the Isle of Palms is Dewees Island, a residential community accessed only by boat and limited to homeowners and their guests.
The new part of Daniel Island is in Berkeley County, although it’s part of the city of Charleston.
It’s a community of perfectly landscaped lawns and fresh-faced homes, some of them large and spacious that feature porches and balconies and a uniformed look.
The Family Circle Cup puts Daniel Island in the national spotlight each year. Blackbaud Stadium, also on Daniel Island, is home to the Charleston Battery professional soccer team.
McClellanville, a picturesque village, is in northern Charleston County on Hwy. 17. It was ravaged by Hurricane Hugo in 1989 but bounced back to become a self-sufficient community of schools, homes, churches, shops and docking facilities with an economy largely dependant upon the sea.
On the way to McClellanville, check out the Sewee Visitor and Environmental Education Center and the Center for Birds of Prey in Awendaw. The center has flight demonstrations featuring hawks, falcons, owls, eagles and vultures. The center, which rehabilitates injured birds of prey, offers tours of aviaries housing more than 30 species of eagles, falcons, owls and other birds from all parts of the world.