Sullivan’s Island is a 3.4-square mile island, located on South Carolina’s sandy coast. It sits just across the harbor from Charleston and offers visitors and locals a little break from city life, amazing views and outdoor recreation.
The area is home to an affluent community, and most of the sites and attractions on Sullivan’s Island are focused on history and nature. There are also plenty of activities for those looking for a little more excitement and adventure, including water sports like kayaking. If you need a little break from the 135,000 South Carolinians that call Charleston home, Sullivan’s Island and Shem Creek will offer you a little respite from the “big city.”
Sullivan’s Island Beach
If you’re looking to wind down, head to Sullivan’s Island Beach. Here you’ll find plenty of relaxing water activities to help you get out your anxieties — as well as plenty of plush sand on which to sit your derrière. This quiet oasis is off the beaten path and perfect for those wanting a more tranquil atmosphere than nearby Folly Beach (or Charleston’s many other beaches) can provide.
Kayak Shem Creek
On the way to Sullivan’s Island, you’ll inevitably pass by Shem Creek. One of the best ways to enjoy the creek is to kayak the waterway. Along the way, you’ll enjoy the quiet serenity of the area while getting up close and personal with manatees, sea turtles, dolphins and birds.
In addition to some of the natural sights and sounds, you’ll also come across shrimp boats, great views of the Ravenel Bridge and Sullivan’s Island Lighthouse.
One of the companies that offers one of the best boat rides in the area is Charleston Kayak Tours. The company offers a two-hour and three-hour tour of Shem Creek and Crab Bank as well as a full-moon kayak paddle on Shem Creek. In addition to enjoying the creek’s natural habitat, you’ll also learn about the area’s commercial fishing history as well as some of the history behind the War of 1812, the American Revolution and the Civil War.
If you’d rather explore Shem Creek from the safety of dry land, you’ll be able to do so via the network of boardwalks at Shem Creek Park. Wander through the wildlife sanctuary and get all the same great views you would from a vessel on the creek. You’ll find plenty of restaurants along the way should you become famished from your walk.
History buffs won’t want to leave Sullivan’s Island without a visit to Fort Moultrie. The fort offers information about the area’s role in the Revolutionary War and is located right on the beach, so you’re bound to snap a few Insta-worthy photos. The fort itself consists of several buildings that were built to protect Charleston. The original fort (Fort Sullivan) was built using logs from palmetto trees; this fort is the reason that South Carolina is known as the Palmetto State.
If you want to see more of the surrounding area, history and wildlife, head to Fort Sumter. Only accessible by boat, this island offers visitors a glimpse into history — specifically where the Civil War began in 1861. Visitors can tour the island, explore the fort and discover the stories behind the events that led up to the Civil War. It also happens to be one of the most family-friendly activities in the city.
Sullivan’s Island Restaurants
There are plenty of places to eat on Sullivan’s Island, so you don’t need to head back to Charleston just yet. Whether you’re looking for a casual meal or an upscale experience, there’s a restaurant that offers the price point, cuisine and setting you’re in the mood for.
Obstinate Daughter features healthy, New American cuisine in a stylish, Midcentury Modern setting. Menu items feature local cuisine and include Frogmore chowder, hog toast and baked clams. If you’re looking for something a little heartier, try one of the pastas, such as the pappardelle with sausage, the ricotta gnocchi or the eggplant penne. And you only need to head downstairs for dessert at Beard Cats Sweet Shop where you can find housemaid artisanal gelato made from locally sourced ingredients. In addition to offering cups of gelato, Beardcat’s also specializes in gelato sandwiches, popsicles and even gelato cakes for any occasion. Staple items, such as pastries and cookies, are paired with drinks from Cannonborough Beverage Company, house-made grab and go sandwiches, smoothies and fresh-pressed juices.
Edgar Allan Poe was stationed at Fort Moultrie, and the locals don’t want you to forget it — especially the owners of Poe’s Tavern. This low-key bar has a cozy décor and a menu featuring healthy comfort foods, like shrimp salad sandwiches, veggie burgers and fish tacos. Of course, no pub worth its salt would skimp on the beer, and Poe’s offers a large selection of local microbrews, imports and national favorites.
Sometimes you need to get a little dressed up on vacation. If you want to feel as upscale as this neighborhood, you’ll want to head to the Tavern & Table. Not only does this waterfront spot offer dishes like deep-fried deviled eggs, burnt end mac and cheese and a formidable seafood tower — topped with oysters, shrimp, a whole main lobster and Alaskan king crab — but there’s also dockside seating with a view.
If you’re looking for a more casual setting, head to Vickery’s Bar & Grill. You can sit on the back patio and enjoy scenic views of the marshes — complete with palm trees — while replenishing your energy with stick-to-your-ribs favorites, like the donut burger, shrimp penne, fried seafood platter and fried green tomatoes.
While it’s rare that you’ll want to take too long of a break from Charleston, Sullivan’s Island and Shem Creek are the perfect places to rest up for the second half of your vacation.
Want more great ideas on where to eat in the Charleston area? Check out our self-guided food tour of Charleston, or book a food tour with one of our partners in conjunction with one of our tours to save money.
Family owned and operated from the beginning, Walks of Charleston is passionate about the history, architecture and culture of Charleston and is dedicated to sharing it with you for a memorable experience on every tour.
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