The City Magazine Since 1975

Going to the Dogs: Beach Bums

(Left to right) Franklin loves Folly Beach; follow him at @picturesoffranklin. Three-year-old golden retriever Goldbug never gets enough of Sullivan’s Island; follow her adventures at @goldbugthegolden.

For dog lovers, there’s nothing like watching your fur baby frolic in the sand and surf. Happily, we’re blessed with a variety of beach communities where the joy of jumping waves and endless games of fetch make for a fun day and a tired pup on the ride home. Even better, with summer in the rear view, this is the time to go—the weather’s more temperate, there are fewer visitors, and the rules have loosened up a bit. 

Isle of Palms

With six-plus miles of sand and surf, this community lives up to its former “Long Island” name and provides lots of beach frontage for the furry members of the family to run, jump, and play alongside their humans. There are just a few rules: Dogs are allowed off leash from 4 p.m. until 10 a.m., September 15 through March 31, but you must keep the leash in hand and your pup under voice control.

Note: There are outdoor showers at the Isle of Palms pier and park (located on 14th Avenue between Palm and Ocean boulevards).

Sullivan’s Island

This beach packs a lot in it’s 3.3 miles. Although smaller than its sister beaches, locals know that at low tide it offers plenty of room to romp and play. It also boasts some of the tastiest beach dining around with “pet-side” seating available most places with outdoor tables.

Winter hours for dogs on the beach run from October 1 to April 30. During those months, dogs can be off leash from 5 a.m. to noon and must be on leash from noon to 5 a.m. And early mornings are when all the locals come out to play.

Note: Dog licenses are required throughout the island—all streets, private property, and beach areas. That means tourists too, not just residents.

Folly Beach

Hit the Edge of America for a little more laid-back vibe compared to area shores. It has a variety of dog-friendly restaurants and just a few restrictions for Fido. Beginning October 1 through April 30, they can cavort in the sand to their hearts’ delight. The general rule, year-round, is that dogs must stay on leash and under control while on the beach, but running, walking, and swimming are fair game.

Note: Dogs are not allowed at Lighthouse Inlet Heritage Preserve on the northernmost tip of the island as there are nesting sites for threatened loggerhead sea turtles, as well as migratory stopover areas for endangered piping plovers.

Kiawah Island

If you aren’t privy to Kiawah’s 10 miles of private beach frontage, no worries. For a nominal parking fee (ranges $5-$10), Beachwalker County Park provides public access on the west end. Regulars and their pups meet up daily for some R&R (romp and relaxation). The designated “dog use area” allows for off-leash but under-control playtime year-round from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and dog wash stations ensure a cleaner ride home.

Edisto Beach

With nearly five miles of shoreline and a bit more at the state park (fees apply at the latter), this relaxing family-oriented stretch of coast has more than 37 public access points giving you and your pup plenty of room to stretch your legs. Keep your pal on a leash through the end of the month, but come November and through the end of April, Spot can run free, except at the state park where pets must be leashed year-round. Note: The surf and undertow can be strong here, so be mindful as you play fetch or enjoy the waves.

Life’s A Beach - Pack for the day of fun in the sun

■ Plenty of water and portable bowl (Watch that your dog doesn’t drink too much salt water.)
■ Life vest
■ Tennis balls or Frisbees for fetch
■ Extra towel
■ Leash and collar
■ Treats
■ Umbrella for shade (Be careful of hot sand, if your feet are burning so are theirs.)



Photographs courtesy of @picturesoffranklin & @goldbugthegolden