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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 fishing pier.

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 area.

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.