If you’re looking for that beach you’ll love coming back to year after year, you can stop looking. Isle of Palms beach is that beach. This barrier island, located just outside of Charleston, SC, IOP isn’t crowded, has a small town feel, wonderful restaurants and yes – beautiful beaches.
When the Circus was five months old, we crashed my in-laws vacation with them to the Isle of Palms in South Carolina. I had never been there before and Grunt hadn’t been since he was in middle school or high school. My in-laws though had been practically every year. We had a great time.
The next summer, Grunt Labor and I thought it would be fun to try out a beach / resort in Florida.
We were complete idiots. Grunt Labor and I, not the in-laws. We should never have strayed from their yearly vacation plans.
The Circus had a good time, but the rest of us not so much. The entire resort was too crowded, too loud and the traffic was ridiculous. Before the trip was over, we were all in agreement that all future beach vacations would be at the Isle of Palms.
We go at least twice a year in the spring and summer and if we can, in the fall. The Isle of Palms has quickly turned into one of my favorite places in the world and while it can’t top New Orleans, it comes a close second. In fact, our master bedroom design and makeover was inspired by the Isle of Palms. If you haven’t been before, I highly recommend it. Here’s where we stay, places to eat and things to do while your in IOP.
Where to Stay on Isle of Palms
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Wild Dunes Resort
We always rent a condo for a week at Wild Dunes Resort on the island. This is what my in-laws had been doing for years before Grunt Labor, the kid and I crashed their vacations. We’ve went through both VRBO and Island Realty to rent a condo in the past. For the last two or three years, we’ve stayed at the same one for our beach trips, which is this one. It’s ocean front with a great view and there’s a pool just right outside the condo as well.
If you don’t want to go the condo route, Wild Dunes also has a hotel and many houses you can rent there as well. If you don’t want to go through a rental company, you can book through the Wild Dunes website.
If you’ve got someone in your party who loves golf, then Wild Dunes also has great golf courses. If you’ve got kiddos, there is a great playground for them there as well. We usually also rent bikes to get around the resort area while there. There are wonderful little bike paths all around.
There are also lots of beach houses you can rent on the Isle of Palms that aren’t within the Wild Dunes resort. There are a few hotels as well right along the ocean.
Places to Eat on Isle of Palms
I love to eat. Seriously, eating at great restaurants every night is one of my favorite things about vacation. Luckily for us, my in-laws had been scoping out all the best restaurants on the Isle of Palms and nearby in Mt. Pleasant for the last decade, so they know where to eat. We do breakfast and lunch at the condo every day and dinner out. Mama whips us up an amazing breakfast every morning and I am like the worst daughter-in-law ever because she’s always done cooking by the time I drag my butt outta bed. These are our go-to restaurants on the island and it’s always a good idea to make reservations at them:
Long Island Cafe
The Long Island Cafe is on the Isle of Palms right beside Harris Teeter. It’s a small restaurant and I wouldn’t have given it a second look the first time I saw it, but my in-laws knew better. It is so good. In fact, when back home and asked what I want to eat, I have told Grunt Labor She Crab soup from the Long Island Cafe. I have no idea why he wouldn’t just run and get it for me. 😉 I don’t think you can go wrong with anything there, but we love the She Crab Soup obviously, the Filet Mignon, the Crab Cakes and Crab Stuffed Shrimp.
Acme Lowcountry Kitchen
Acme Lowcountry Kitchen is also on the Isle of Palms. We just found this one a couple trips back and fell in love immediately. For starters, the Lowcountry Eggrolls are awesome. I’ve gotten the Lobster each time we’ve been and never been disappointed. Grunt Labor had The Hunley Trio I believe the last time and he loved it. My father-in-law got one of the nightly specials the last time and liked it as well.
The Boathouse is also on the Isle of Palms and one of our staples. Most of us always get some sort of fish here and it’s always good. I got the Lobster Tail and Filet Mignon combo last time and it was delish.
Morgan Creek Grill
Morgan Creek Grill is on the water and has spectacular views. There were a few years where we quit eating here because the food wasn’t that great, but we tried on it again on our last trip and were happy to discover that they once more have spectacular food. On top of that, they will often have live music going on outside, so it’s a really fun environment.
The Refuge is in the same shopping center as The Long Island Cafe. It’s a newer restaurant and we tried it for the first time on our last visit and it was absolutely divine. Grunt and I split the lobster ravioli and it was more than enough for the two of us.
Places to Eat on Nearby Sullivan’s Island
Sullivan’s Island is connected to IOP by bridge and it’s a 20 minute or less drive there depending on where you’re staying on the island. Sullivan’s Island has a wonderful small town feel and there are lots of great places to eat there.
Sullivan’s is a cozy little casual restaurant with wonderful seafood. It’s been on the island forever, so you know it’s good.
While I haven’t been here yet, Poe’s Tavern is on my list. People have raved about this one in the comments before and it’s just never worked out for us to get in while we’ve been there.
Home Team BBQ
If you’re in the mood for BBQ, then you can score some at Home Team BBQ. This is a newer restaurant on Sullivan’s Island. We tried it the last time we were there and it was really good!
Places to Eat in Nearby Mt. Pleasant
Mt. Pleasant is just about a 20 minute hop across the bridge from IOP. It’s a great little town, with some great restaurants too. We often frequent these there…
Shem Creek Bar and Grill
Shem Creek Bar and Grill is over the bridge in Mt. Pleasant (about a 15 – 25 minute drive depending on traffic). It’s a fun, casual spot with good food.
For us, it’s always custom to take the kid’s picture in this sign just outside the restaurant. We have one from when she was five months and on up from every vacation. Shem Creek is known for their oysters, but we aren’t oyster people. We opt for any of the fish specials, crab cakes and the seafood stuffed flounder. Also, they have fun cocktails. 😉
Water’s Edge is also in Mt. Pleasant. My absolute favorite (and Grunt Labor’s) here is the Yellowfin Tuna. Anything else we’ve ever had though has always been good as well – you can’t go wrong!
Page’s Okra Grill
Page’s Okra Grill is always packed and deservedly so – it’s delicious. It’s southern cuisine meets coastal seafood and it’s delicious. They also have a phenomenal breakfast and brunch.
Things to Do in Isle of Palms SC
The beach of course…
We spend a lot of time at the beach. The Circus could play (and has) in the water when it’s 100 degrees or 50 degrees out. Her Pa will let her do and get away with just about anything while at the beach.
As my husband said, Pa is not an adult in charge when he is with The Circus, he is just her play companion who also happens to have car keys and money. Nothing is off limits. Gaia (Grandma, but the Circus calls her Gaia) gets onto both of them equally as needed.
On our last trip to the beach, we finally started renting the beach umbrellas and chairs – best decision ever.
We just called the Isle of Palms Beach Chair Company, set it all up and they had our chairs and umbrellas out by the time we got to the beach everyday. No lugging all the chairs and umbrellas down with you!
There is also a pool just outside our condo that we spend a little time at. I think most all the condos in Wild Dunes have a pool that you can swim at.
We all read a lot at the beach. I love reading anyway and I think at the beach, it just relaxes you even more.
You can’t go wrong with Pat Conroy for beach reading. I read Beach Music while there and loved it. Also, picking up a plastic South Carolina cup at the local grocery store and filling it up with a margarita is a must. 😉
It’s just about a thirty minute drive into Charleston from the Isle of Palms. If you’ve never been to Charleston before, then you must try and go one day. It’s another favorite city of mine and one of these days I’ll have a post on just it. For now though, don’t miss:
• City Market (has been around since the early 1800’s)
• King Street (lots of shopping)
• The Battery (right along the rivers with beautiful jaw dropping homes)
• Carriage Rides (you can really get a good quick history of the city and see lots of things by doing one of the carriage ride tours)
Mt. Pleasant is just about 15 – 20 minutes outside of the Isle of Palms and is a fun little town. My family could stay at the beach all day every day, but this girl has to get out and go exploring at least one day. I often go to Mt. Pleasant and Charleston to do just that. I’ve found a few little great little shops I hit up on each visit…
Mt. Pleasant Mall
Mt. Pleasant Mall is an antique mall with many different vendors. This mall doesn’t seem to have those really old “stuffy” pieces if you know what I mean. Expect to find lots of bamboo, rattan, some lucite, brass – the good stuff as I call it – here.
I just discovered the Indigo Market in Charleston in the spring. They also have multiple different vendors with a mix of new and vintage pieces. Again, you’ll see mid-century pieces, bamboo, rattan, leopard prints and bright colors.
And as I said earlier, if you stay at Wild Dunes, you can rent bikes and ride all over the resort, which is really fun to do. There are also playgrounds and pools for the kids too.
Have you ever been to the Isle of Palms? If so, please add any suggestions you have for where to stay, eat and what to do in the comments!
Need more great Southern cities to explore?
The Must Do’s of New Orleans – (Also, the time I went in a whorehouse).
Things To Do In Nashville – in my top three favorite southern cities.
Things to Do in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee – it’s where Dolly’s from!
A Fried Green Tomatoes Road Trip – Yes, you can visit the Whistle Stop Cafe!
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