It’s nearly impossible to visit this enclave that’s steeped in history and swimming in style and not want to stay forever—or at least linger a bit longer. Facing the harbor, Fort Moultrie National Monument (https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/charleston/sum.htm) would be worthy of a trip even if it weren’t so spectacularly located. At the island’s heart is the charming commercial center along Middle Street. It’s also the rare barrier island where the beaches are accreting, meaning plenty of room to throw a Frisbee or go for a long run.
On the Water
Several hundred yards offshore at Station 28½, a perennial sandbar creates a unique inlet that’s been claimed over the last decade by the kitesurfing community. The shallow water and relative protection make it an ideal place to learn the sport. Sealand Adventure Sports hopes that you will and gives three-hour private lessons ($300) to get you riding and flying. Too intense? They also offer paddleboard rentals ($40/day) and can point you toward beginner waves or welcoming flat water. 2120 Middle St., www.sealandsports.com
At a time when many local beaches are facing significant erosion, Sullivan’s south end is growing. The result is a 90-acre maritime forest, accessible via a nature trail that begins at Station 16 and includes observation decks and benches. See a Lowcountry shoreline in its natural state by strolling through the forest and witnessing the transition from trees to dune habitat to tidal beach. It’s a peaceful respite.
Cool Off Indoors
Edgar Allan Poe was stationed here with the Army in the 1820s, and the local library bears his name. It’s a unique structure, built into a fort—Battery Gadsden—with an earthen green roof that helps keep temperatures cool inside. There’s a small exhibit on the poet, but it’s a working library, so duck in after lunch, select a book, and wait for the sun to cast more shade. The library also hosts regular history talks, toddler story times, and craft and poetry groups. 1921 I’On Ave., www.sullivansisland-sc.com
PHOTO: The island’s 4th of July golf cart and bicycle parade
Sullivan’s Island Farmers’ Market: Through June 28
One of the area’s smallest but most charming markets, this weekly gathering in front of the Poe Library includes 26 vendors, kids’ activities, and live music. Thursdays, 2:30-6:30 p.m. 1921 I’On Ave., www.sullivansisland-sc.com
Golf Cart & Bicycle Parade: July 4
Locals and visitors deck out their rides with creative themes for this patriotic community celebration. Participants line up at Sullivan’s Island Elementary School at 8:30 a.m. before the parade at 9 a.m. Wednesday, 9 a.m.
PHOTO: The Obstinate Daughter
Eat & Drink
The Obstinate Daughter: The wood-fired pizzas and creative local seafood at this airy, nautically themed eatery—the sister restaurant to John’s Island’s Wild Olive—immediately upped the ante for dining on Sullivan’s when it opened in 2014. 2063 Middle St., www.theobstinatedaughter.com
High Thyme: There’s not a bad restaurant on the island, but ask a resident where to eat, and they might reluctantly reveal this cozy café as their personal fave. Arrive early on a Tuesday to nab a patio table for Tapas Night, when you can indulge in seared scallops and tuna and lamb ragout linguini. 2213-C Middle St., www.highthyme.com
450 Pizza: If you’ve got an SUV full of hungry kids, this is your spot. The pizzeria serves two pie styles: thin New York crust and deep-dish Detroit. There’s also homemade ice cream with its own grab-and-go entrance—no pizza purchase required. 2213-B Middle St., www.450pizza.com
Beardcat’s Sweet Shop (pictured above): It’s difficult not to stop here after eating at The Obstinate Daughter upstairs—the locally sourced, house-made gelato is a worthy indulgence. If you need to keep up with the kids’ sugar buzz, note that it’s also a gourmet coffee shop. 2063 Middle St., www.beardcatsweetshop.com
PHOTO: “The Mound”
Next to Town Hall is a rare Lowcountry hill—earthen remnants of a pre-World War I fortification. For local kids, “the mound” is the island’s best feature, providing an excellent surface to slide down on a piece of cardboard. Pack that big Amazon Prime box in the trunk before heading out.
Traffic: Cars back up across the Ben Sawyer Bridge by 10:30 on weekend mornings, so arrive early or allow time to navigate onto the island. Remember, this is a residential neighborhood: drive slowly and be patient.
Parking: In 2017, Sullivan’s reduced its parking spaces from 4,500 to 2,800 by allocating parking to one side of each street. There is no municipal parking, which means finding a spot along a road can be frustrating (be sure to get all wheels off the asphalt). If you’re not bringing a picnic, park somewhere in walking distance of restaurants—you won’t want to move your car once you have a place.
Dogs: Sullivan’s Island requires all dogs (even those visiting for the day) to have a permit, available for $35 from Town Hall. Once Fido has his papers, he’s allowed on the beach—off leash before 10 a.m., on leash after 6 p.m., and no dogs between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.