Historic Downtown Charleston. The birthplace of Charleston in 1670, this
area sits on the peninsula formed by The Ashley and Cooper River. It’s accurate to say that
this area epitomizes the Charleston mystique. Thankfully, much of the Historic Area looks
much the way it did hundreds of years ago to the credit of the oldest historical preservation
society in the country. Quite simply, this area is the cultural, historical and artistic
center of the area.
Folly Beach. What began as a sleepy fishing village on a six-mile barrier
island has become one of Charleston’s most popular beaches along what is called the Edge of
America. The James Island Connector has helped link the downtown area to the
beach, making Folly the closest beach to the historic area and a magnet for tourists and locals
alike. The island features two Charleston County Parks, one of which is the state’s longest
Isle of Palms. Sitting just north of Charleston Harbor, Isle of Palms
(IOP to the locals) is another beach on one of the barrier islands. Although similar to Folly
Beach with its County Park, IOP has a much more laid-back atmosphere with plenty of local
restaurants and cafes along the beachfront.
James Island. Most of the island communities in and around Charleston are
surrounded by a combination of creeks and rivers, which is the case for James Island. Now an
independent town, James Island is the closest “suburb” to downtown Charleston and is a triangular
piece of land that sprawls for miles. The lifestyle is relaxed, with a mixture of long-time
residents and brand new transplants. James Island County Park is the largest of the wonderful
county parks system, and includes a dog park, splash area, walking trails and campground.
Johns Island. Believe it or not, this island is the second largest sea island
on the East Coast, bested only by Long Island, NY. Historically fertile farmland tended by
former slaves who settled there after the Civil War, Johns Island is losing its totally rural
atmosphere as more and more housing developments pop up all across the island. The Angel Oak,
said to be nearly 2,000 years old, sits in the middle of the island.
Kiawah Island. As you cross Johns Island, all roads lead to Kiawah
Island. This private resort features palatial homes and townhomes that are built to co-exist
with their natural settings. The resort fills the entire island, and features eight
world-class golf courses as well as the five-star Sanctuary Hotel.
Mt. Pleasant. What began as a sleepy fishing village across the
harbor from Charleston has grown into the fifth largest city in the state. Its explosive
growth is fueled by a number or large residential communities making Mt. Pleasant an important
bedroom community to downtown. Just getting there is a pleasure as you cross the Arthur
Ravenel Bridge, the largest cable-stayed bridge in the Americas. The conveniences are
numerous, as are the recreational activities.
North Charleston. The third largest city in the state begins just north
of where Charleston ends. For 12 years, the city has held the title as the largest retail
sales city in the state and the explosive growth in the area is sure to keep it there. Parts
of the city are undergoing a Renaissance, of sorts, including the Park Circle and Olde North
Charleston areas. North Charleston boasts the areas only Coliseum, and the airport
is within a mile of the Coliseum Complex.
Seabrook Island. Located just south of Kiawah Island, this island resort
community mirrors its neighbor in many ways. Seabrook prides itself on its natural
preservation and beautiful beaches, and features one of the nicest tennis facilities in the
Sullivan’s Island. From its location at the mouth of
Charleston Harbor, Sullivan’s Island has made a number of significant contributions to American
history. Ft. Moultrie, whose fortifications have become a national military park, was
instrumental in defeating the British during the War for American Independence. Today,
Sullivan’s Island offers a much calmer existence for its residents, and is one of the most
residential of all the barrier island beaches.
West Ashley. Seems like everything in Charleston is related to water in
some way, and so is the name of this area of Charleston that lies West of the Ashley River.
It served as one of the first suburbs of Charleston in the early 1950s, and still offers a wide
range of residential communities in addition to retail shops. As with much of the area, West
Ashley has its fair share of waterfront property on its numerous tidal creeks and marshes.