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, what we eat and do while we’re there.
Isle of Palms Beach Vacation
Affiliate links may be contained in this post.
Where to Stay
Wild Dunes Resort
We always rent a condo for a week at the 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 typically go through VRBO to rent our condo. 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. (P.S. If you rent that one, please tell them the LaFevors sent you and maybe we’ll get a free week or discount on a much needed vacation sometime!)
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 VRBO, you can book through the Wild Dunes website.
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.
Where to Eat
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 ass outta bed. These are our go-to restaurants 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.
Taco Mamacita is on Sullivan’s Island, which you can easily get to by bridge from the Isle of Palms. Our favorites there include the Salsa Sampler for appetizers, The Memphis, Baja Fish Tacos and Sloppy Jose Tacos with Mexican Street corn, and the Peruvian Chicken.
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!
What to Do
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.
Charleston Revisions is complete eye candy. There are two locations – one in Mt. Pleasant and one in Charleston. Expect to see mid-century pieces, bright pops of color and sheer gorgeousness. Each store has some different pieces, so check out both if you can. Even if you don’t buy a thing, you’re sure to find loads of inspiration 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.
Have you ever been to the Isle of Palms?
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?