Six+ hours of driving for seven hours on the beach isn’t exactly logical but, hey, neither are you.
You do what you want. You’re bad at planning ahead. You like to wait until the weather forecast guarantees a good cloudless day. Your schedule is unpredictable. You have calendar-related commitment issues. You’re desperate for a “vacation” even if it’s just for a day. Whatever the reason, if you want to declare you’re going to the beach no more than 12 hours before you leave for the beach, this trip is for you.
Start by packing up plenty of snacks but go light on gear.
Meal breaks will be a waste of precious beach time so a solid peanut butter and jelly stash is highly recommended. An ample water supply is also a must.
Since you’re going for such a short time, go easy on all the other stuff so you don’t have to lug it around. Towels, sunblock and a change of clothes are really all you need. Also a power pack for charging your phone, Kindle, etc.
You’re going to Isle of Palms because it’s the quickest, easiest coastal drive from Charlotte.
Myrtle Beach is geographically closer (177 miles) but IOP is faster thanks to a dead simple 4-step drive almost entirely on the interstate. Specifically, you’re mapping your way to Isle of Palms County Park at 1 14th Avenue, Isle of Palms, SC 29451.
It should take you a little over 3 hours. Leave between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. to avoid traffic and maximize your beach time.
IOP County Park is the ideal home base for a drive-by beach day thanks to ample parking, amenities and access to nearby shops.
Parking is $10/day on the weekend (and, yes, they take cards). Get there early during peak season (summer, hello) because by about 11 a.m. the lot was full and it was “one out, one in” for the rest of the day.
The park is fully equipped with restrooms, outdoor showers, changing facilities, picnic areas and even a playground.
These things are all very important when you don’t have access to a hotel or house for the whole day.
Chair and umbrella rentals are available in the park so leave that mess at home.
You can drag your own stuff there and struggle to set it up, or pay $25 for two chairs and an umbrella and have someone else do it for you. Single chairs and umbrellas are $10 each.
When you get to the beach, immediately head left and get as far away from the pier (and the crowd) as possible.
Prime towel space opens up considerably about eight houses down the beach. It’s easy to get there if you’re not dragging a bunch of stuff with you.
Settle in and soak it up. If you need a sun break, there are several shops and restaurants right off the beach.
Buy a gator head (do not do this). Meet Bubba the not-so-nice parrot. Hang out on the Coconut Joe’s patio.
When you’ve had enough, roll into Charleston for a late lunch/early dinner and a downtown stroll.
IOP is about 15 minutes (in good traffic) from downtown Charleston.
Dellz Uptown is an excellent casual meal choice but it’s kind of hard to make a bad food decision in Charleston.
That’s it. That’s your day at the beach.
We left around 4 p.m. but could have stuck it out longer in the city (or at the beach) if we didn’t have a dog to get home to. We scheduled two long walks for him with The Waggle Company (at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.) so he was covered until we got back.
And that, my friends, is how you take an illogical but enjoyable day trip to Isle of Palms because your fiancé has never been. Completely worth it.