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Frolicking with free spirits on the Edge of America.
It’s hardly surprising that a spit of land with such a colorful scallywag history would anoint itself the “Edge of America,” a wink at its nonconformist spirit. What began as a marooning ground for both pirates and cholera-suffering passengers aboard boats bound for Charleston has morphed into a modern-day bohemia populated by nonchalant locals and tumbleweed surf shacks. Livin’ was easy on Folly in the 1930s, when George Gershwin and Dubose Heyward spent a summer lapping up the languid island lifestyle, which they wove into the lyrics and score of Porgy and Bess. The ’60s welcomed the creation of a Coney Island-style boardwalk complete with amusement rides, a pier, and a pavilion that saw many shagalicious summer nights beneath the stars. Although the Dancing Bear bowling alley is long gone, the hodgepodge of restaurants and businesses—most authentically beachy and untouched by fad—that line Center Street imbue the island with its checkered charm. Hurricane Hugo tried to sweep Folly completely off the map, but this hearty little island would not relinquish its dreadlocked hold on the coast. Instead, the fateful storm blew away a string of homes along a strip of beach known as “The Washout,” clearing the way for wave-hungry surfers who attest this to be the best surf spot in South Carolina.
The abandoned wooden boat—a World War II-era lifeboat displaced during Hurricane Hugo—on the causeway leading to Folly is a constantly evolving community billboard on which locals paint everything from marriage proposals to birth announcements.
Volunteer with the Folly Beach Turtle Watch Program, a grassroots group that keeps a watchful eye on loggerhead nests during the May to October season, and be there to witness the magic of hatchlings making their way to the sea. www.follyturtles.com
FIND YOUR SPOT
- Families: County Park, 1100 W. Ashley Ave.
- Surf: The Washout
- Sports: Beachgoers play bocce, Frisbee, and volleyball on the 10th block of E. Arctic
- Solitude: Eastern tip, near Morris Island Lighthouse
MAKE A SPLASH
- Coastal Expeditions: Explore the riverside estuary at a paddle's pace. 2223 Folly Rd., (843) 406-0640
- 4 Edwin S. Taylor Pier: Stretching more than 1,000 feet into the Atlantic, this is the best place to cast a line into the surf. 101 E. Arctic, (843) 588-FISH
- Shaka Surf School: (843) 607-9911, www.shakasurfschool.com
- Sol Surfers Surf Camp: (843) 881-6700, www.solsurfers.net
- Surf report: (843) 588-2261
EAT & DRINK
- Blu: Upscale, oceanfront dining. 1 Center St., (843) 588-6658
- Center Street Kitchen: Lowcountry meat-and-three. 11 Center St., (843) 588-2737
- Surf Bar: A chill vibe with wood-grilled burgers and bluegrass. 103 W. Cooper, (843) 588-2009
- Taco Boy: Top-notch tacos, margaritas, and people-watching. 15 Center St., (843) 588-9761
- Tokyo Crepes: Made-to-order crepes and falafel in the parking lot behind Snapper Jack’s. 110 East Ashley Ave.
- Bert’s: This market stocks groceries, drinks, and hot food, including Chester’s Chicken, and is open ’round the clock. 202 E. Ashley Ave., (843) 588-9449
- Folly Girlz: Flowing dresses and barely there bikinis stock the racks. 18 Center St., (843) 588-9311
- 2 McKevlin’s Surf Shop: 8 Center St., (843) 588-2247
- Oceansports Surf Shop: 31 Center St., (843) 588-9175
- Sand Dollar Night Club: Although it only costs $1 to join, you have to be a member to party at this local institution. 7 Center St., (843) 588-9498
- Snapper Jack’s: The rooftop deck is perfect for an after-beach sundowner.10 Center St., (843) 588-2362
BEACH RULES: PARKING
The commercial part of the island has metered spaces. When parking on grass or sand, tires may not touch any part of the paved road, or the vehicle will be ticketed.
Dogs must be kept on a leash at all times. From May 1 through September 30, dogs are not allowed on the beach between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.
No bottles on the beach. Pour contents of cans into a cup or face a $500 fine.