Drive just fifteen minutes from downtown Charleston and you’ll discover one of the area’s best kept secrets: Sullivan’s Island. It’s a laid-back, low key beach town bordered by the Charleston Harbor, Cove Inlet, and the Intracoastal Waterway. There are no hotels, motels, or even B&Bs. But there are shops, restaurants, historic sites, and a beautiful beach.
Historically, it was the “African-American Ellis Island” as it was the entry point for a large percentage of slaves coming into North America. Edgar Allen Poe lived here when he was stationed at Fort Moultrie in 1817 and made it the setting for his short story “The Gold-Bug”. It was also the backdrop for the opening of the movie “The Prince of Tides”.
In the summer months, locals ride their golf carts around town alongside skateboarders and cyclists. The beach fills up with surfers, kiteboarders, and sunbathers. Off season, things slow up a bit, but the restaurants are still lively, the waters are still great for fishing, and the beach is a perfect setting for a glass of wine while watching the sunset.
Here are a few places for eating, shopping, and exploring recommended by Charleston insiders.
Named in honor of Edgar Allen Poe, they serve classic pub grub like burgers, fish tacos, and salads.
Pro Tip: “A really great pub with terrific burgers. It’s one of the only places in South Carolina where you can order a hamburger rare. State law mandates that if you serve a burger less than well-done, you have to grind the beef to order and most places won’t go to the trouble.” (Cookbook Authors Matt & Ted Lee)
2210 Middle Street, Sullivan’s Island, SC 29482
The Obstinate Daughter
No matter what time of year you come here, it is packed. You’ll see locals tablehopping and bar patrons jockeying for a prime countertop position to slurp oysters and sip cocktails. Opened by the crew behind Wild Olive, chef Jacques Larson and Doug Godley, they serve pizza, pasta, and seafood. The design is contemporary nautical with a large open kitchen.
Pro Tip: “It always feels so relaxed and beachy. The pastas and pizzas are perfect. I particularly love the pappardelle with mushrooms and greens.” (Pastry Chef Cynthia Wong of Lift Raft Treats in Charleston)
Pro Tip: “Have drinks and then go enjoy a walk on the beach afterwards. It's just awesome!” (Chef Nico Romo of Nico in Charleston)
2063 Middle Street, Sullivan's Island, SC 29482
Beautiful handcrafted jewelry designed by SCAD grad Ashley Reid Martin. Make sure to check out her sculptural earrings on the back wall.
Pro Tip: “This little store tempts me every time I go to Sullivan's. Ashley Reid Martin creates fun and innovative jewelry (expect a lot of compliments when you wear her earrings). Her store also carries other jewelry designers work as well as home goods/accessories and the nicest smelling candles (I think she makes those too!).” (Restaurateur Duolan Li of Xiao Bao Biscuit and Tu in Charleston)
2205-E Middle Street, Sullivan’s Island, SC 29482
Parks, Recreation, Sunsets
Built right on the Charleston Harbor, it is a series of historic forts that were active from 1776 to 1947 with views of the harbor and Fort Sumter. It is also an indoor museum, if you want to learn about the British attacking Sullivan’s Island in 1776.
1214 Middle Street, Sullivan's Island, SC 29482
The Grillage Fishing Hole & Beach
Beyond Fort Moultrie is an ideal spot for fishing or enjoying a glass of wine while watching the sunset.
Station 12 Street, Sullivan's Island, SC 29482