With magazine-worthy beach houses, world-class golf at Wild Dunes Resort, and plenty of beachy activities, Isle of Palms is a great family getaway. This serene, seven-mile stretch of a beach is also a local favorite. Slightly less traffic (plus way more parking) and delicious yet non-overexposed dining and imbibing options make Isle of Palms a great alternative to the more rambunctious Folly Beach and eternally packed Sullivan's Island.
Pick almost any spot along Ocean Boulevard and you're guaranteed a laid-back, family-friendly beach experience. Continue east and you'll find a neatly tucked-away tourist trove of ice cream parlors, beach bars, cafes, and shops just beyond 10th Avenue. On Palm Boulevard and Wild Dunes Resort appears — the 1,600-acre property has two AAA Four-Diamond hotels, more than 240 rental homes and condos, and two signature golf courses designed by Tom Fazio. Many of its dining options are open to the public, and those staying at the resort can access its tennis facilities, bike rentals, kids' camps, and other amenities.
Coda del Pesce
1130 Ocean Blvd.
Charlestonians rejoiced the day Ken Vedrinski, a sweetheart of the downtown dining scene, announced he planned to open this seafood-focused upscale Italian eatery. By doing so, Vedrinski addressed a previously gaping culinary void, stuffing it full of fresh, local, sustainable seafood. The menu changes daily, but expect perfectly composed plates of fresh catches, such as braciole of local flounder, bucatini with calamari Bolognese, and an extensive wine list. Average main: $26.
The Boathouse at Breach Inlet
101 Palm Blvd.
This IOP standby has been dishing out classic Lowcountry fare and Southern seafood staples for almost two decades, and there's something here to please everyone. Keep it simple with a mixed plate of delicately fried shrimp and oysters or upgrade to the sesame-seared tuna served with sautéed bok choy, herbed pilaf, and an addictive hoisin glaze. Brunch showcases irresistible choices like the F.G.T. and crab cake Napoleon. Average main: $28.
Luke 'n Ollie's Pizzeria
1101-C Ocean Blvd.
Whether you dine in or opt for delivery, you won't be disappointed by the house-made tomato sauce on these New York-style pizzas. If you're feeling ambitious, attempt the Steak Bomb Challenge. Finish the one-and-a-half-foot-long sub, topped with more than a pound of meat and cheese, including Philly cheesesteak, hamburger, Italian sausage, and mozzarella, plus all the fixins' and a quadruple order of french fries, and the restaurant will not only pick up the tab but also post your mug on their Facebook page. Average main: $19 for a pie.
Acme Lowcountry Kitchen
31 J.C. Long Blvd.
Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Acme is a solid bet any time of day. Amongst the breakfast standouts are the eggs Benedict served seven different ways, including The Surf and Turf with a New York Strip and Carolina jumbo lump crab cake atop a fluffy English muffin, dressed in both béarnaise and hollandaise sauces. Dished up with either home fries or grits, it's highway robbery at only $12.99. During lunch, locals line up for the Carolina succotash. Average main: $22.
Coconut Joe's Beach Bar & Grill
1120 Ocean Blvd.
When you've been at the beach for hours with only a few handfuls of goldfish crackers down the hatch, you need nourishment faster than someone can say hangry. That's where Coconut Joe's saves the day. Their list of "zappetizers" are designed with speed in mind, and in the blink of an eye you'll be diving into crab dip and a frothy adult beverage. The King David's Perfect Margarita will have your blood sugar levels restored to acceptable levels in no time flat. Average main: $10.
21 J.C. Long Blvd.
Be sure to check out the blackboard daily specials at this quaint eatery, but you can't go wrong with the fat club sandwich on soft rye bread or the grilled cheese with sweet summer tomatoes tucked inside. Take yours to go and head to the beach for a picnic, but make sure you bring cash — no credit cards accepted! Average main: $10.
The Lettered Olive and Sea Island Grill & Lounge
5757 Palm Blvd.
One stop will lead you to several dining options at Isle of Palms' treasured resort, Wild Dunes. There are a few casual options great for to-go sandwiches and other quick food items, but the real magic happens inside The Lettered Olive and Sea Island Grill & Lounge. At the former, dine in the lounge and snack on steamed mussels served in a white wine broth with smoked tomato butter and artichokes with garlic crostini to soak it all up. If you're searching for a slightly more upscale evening out, head to Sea Island Grill & Lounge in the Boardwalk Inn. Here, Chef Jeff Miller treats diners to seasonal fare infused with Lowcountry heart, like the collard- and bacon-wrapped sous vide pork tenderloin. Average main: $28.
Long Island Café
1515 Palm Blvd.
Don't let the strip mall location fool you. Pan-fried flounder, Maryland-style crab cakes, and delicate handmade pastas will make up for the lack of curb appeal. The beautiful, and recently renovated interior provides a setting that would feel right at home in Provence and gives guests an escape from the typical island-themed local eateries and bars. Average main: $23.
Between 10th and 14th avenues
Head to Front Beach, located on Ocean Boulevard between 10th and 14th Avenues, for the area's most popular stretch of sand that has designated swimming areas, lifeguards, a snack bar, beach rentals, and plenty of shops.
Tidal Wave Water Sports
69 41st Ave.
You're never too old for a ride on a banana boat. Check out Tidal Wave Water Sports for all kinds of wave riding enjoyment, including waverunners, parasailing, wakeboarding, and more. It's easy to reserve online, and for $25 per person for a 30-minute banana boat ride, you'll have embarrassing photos that will last a lifetime.
Misty Lister of Ocean Fitness is a stand-up paddleboard guru and she leads early morning and early afternoon groups on the ocean for no-pressure classes. Call to schedule a lesson.
1204 Palm Blvd.
Olinah offers beginner and refresher courses in kiteboarding and windsurfing and is the best way to approach the sport from a novice standpoint. The shop will outfit and train you in safety precautions before you get out on the water.
Isle of Palms Marina
50 41st Ave.
If you were clever enough to avoid the airways and highways for your family vacation this year and arrived via yacht instead, this is your place. Slips are available for rent, and the marina is also the go-to resource for most water-themed activities. Book a fishing charter, rent a boat (for the yacht-less among us), or build a customized harbor cruise for dolphin watching, night fishing, or whatever else floats your boat.
Wild Dunes Golf Resort
5757 Palm Blvd.
Isle of Palms is a golfers paradise. Wild Dunes, a golf resort on the end of the island, offers 36 holes for both guests and locals on Tom Fazio-designed, ocean view courses.
Barrier Island Eco Tours
50 41st Ave.
Departing from Isle of Palms, Barrier Island Eco Tours takes visitors on naturalist-guided trips to explore the salt marshes and islands off Charleston. These excursions are perfect for families and come in a variety of options from exploring Capers Island's wildlife to spending a day creek fishing to going blue crabbing to searching for dolphins at sunset. Reservations are required for these tours, so call in advance.
50 41st Ave.
For anglers, charter fishing options abound, from offshore to inshore. Most captains will tailor the excursion to guests' desires, be it a hunt for redfish, Spanish mackerel, or others. Charleston Sports Fishing is one such option and has rates starting at $250. Captain Chuck Griffin sets sail from teh Isle of Palms Marina.
1008 Ocean Blvd.
With an ever-changing lineup of artists, the WindJammer is the go-to locale for beachside music entertainment. Drinks come in plastic cups, large decks provide salty cross breezes, and scantily clad beachgoers offer hours of entertainment on the volleyball court below.
Morgan Creek Grill
80 41st Ave.
This is one of the island's few venues where you can also catch live music several nights a week featuring a variety of genres, from folk rocker Aaron Levy to dance cover band Sissy Quinn and Southern Charm. The restaurant keeps their live music offerings updated online, so you can check out the options in advance, and they offer views of killer sunsets to boot.
1120 Ocean Blvd.
Coconut Joe's has a revolving cast of regular musicians who keep the beat alive daily throughout the summer. On weekdays the action begins around 6 p.m., but on the weekends you can escape the midday sun and jam out to live music as early as 12:30 p.m.
1130 Ocean Blvd.
This beach club gets busy during the summer, and that's in large part to variety of frozen drinks and live music on the back patio.
The Grand Pavilion Cafe & Bar
5757 Palm Blvd.
Wild Dunes' option for oceanfront dining, this restaurant and bar offers open-air dining with acoustic guitar musicians or steel drums. The Pavilion is technically for Wild Dunes guests, but if you're walking down the beach and happen to come upon it, they won't turn you away. Bonus: attire is beach casual, so swimsuits are not frowned upon.
Isle of Palms allows dogs but within strict limits. Dogs can be on the beach and off-leash from 5 a.m. until 9 a.m. April 1 through Sept. 14, and from 4 p.m. until 10 a.m. Sept. 15 through March 31. During these hours pups are allowed to run free; however, dog owners are required to have a leash in hand, have their dog under voice command, and clean up after them.
Wild Dunes Resort
5757 Palm Blvd.
Lauded by travel magazines year after year, the 1,600-acre Wild Dunes Resort has two AAA Four-Diamond hotel options and 240 rental homes, along with every resort activity a vacationer could want, including two Tom Fazio-designed golf courses and a world renowned tennis center.
Ocean Inn Apartments Motel
1100 Pavilion Blvd.
This 20-unit condo complex (which includes both one- and two-bedroom units) might not be swanky, but the price can't be beat for longer stays and some of the units are even dog friendly.
1004 Ocean Blvd.
The casual 50-room Seaside Inn is all about location — it's next door to the popular WindJammer and directly on one of the Isle of Palm's most popular stretches of beach. Be sure to head up to the rooftop pool and sundeck to take it all in.
The Palms Oceanfront Hotel
1126 Ocean Blvd.
Perched right on the beach, the Palms Oceanfront Hotel has 68 rooms that come with those necessary beach vacation extras, like in-room fridges and balconies, as well as complimentary breakfast and high-speed internet. Note that the property is currently completing a renovation, including an upgrade of the pool area that is due for completion this month.