Folly Go Lightly

Beach Bums unite! Folly is a favorite.

Some say Folly Beach is South Carolina’s best beach and a growing number of people agree. Just 8 miles south of the Holy City, the “Edge of America,” as Folly Beach bills itself, is indeed a special place. I grew up in eastern Georgia far from the coast and one of the great places in my Hall of Fame is Folly Beach. I spent summer vacations there as a boy and “Folly” (one-word status like Elvis!) has reigned special ever since. Nothing’s worse than growing up landlocked once you’ve had a taste of the sea.

Well you can get a taste of the sea and more by making a 153-mile drive to Folly Beach. Yes, not quite three hours of travel will take you to a 7-mile-long barrier reef that offers much to people of varied interests: super waves for surfing, an old lighthouse, a great restaurant for the health conscious and a place popular with pet lovers. I know because a highly reliable but secret source emailed me: “One place I’ve newly discovered and just love because it is extremely dog friendly is Folly Beach. It totally embraces dogs (in the hotel, on the beach, etc.). There are dogs everywhere and wonderfully behaved.”

There’s even a Lost Dog Café in this place referred to as one of the last real American beach towns. That and more. My source continued, “There’s this little beach shop area close to the hotel that reminds me of Five Points in Columbia. Plus I am a vegetarian and there is a wonderful vegetarian place there, Black Magic, with about 50 kinds of fresh fruit smoothie combinations. They mix the fruit as you wait.”

My journalist from the field points out that you’ll find “many good eateries in the little five points place.” Those who prefer more formal eateries will find those, too; plus Charleston is close. My source loves Folly because it “has everything a big beach resort has” so don’t be surprised if you don’t make it to Charleston.

Now about that name, “Folly.” We all know about Seward’s Folly, that foolish purchase that gave us Alaska and its wonderful resources. Like Alaska, neither is Folly Beach bedeviled by a “foolish” perception. When early settlers in their creaking ships first saw the pristine, tree-lined coast here, it was their first sight of trees in a long, long time. Rejoicing, they christened their newfound Eden “Folly.” Why? Because “Folly” is an old English word meaning cluster of trees or thicket. So there.

No, there’s nothing foolish about Folly Beach. In fact it’s just the opposite. It is the new cool place to go. You can relax and take in nature. You can spend a dog day afternoon on the beach, surf, catch a glimpse of loggerhead turtles, bicycle, kayak or drop a line from the fishing pier. Just be sure you go earlier than later. It’s good to beat the crowd when you’re headed to the Edge of America.


If You Go …

• Official Website of Folly Beach:

Learn more about Tom Poland, a Southern writer, and his work at Email day-trip ideas to him at [email protected].

Contact us: (803) 767-5711 | P.O. Box 675, Blythewood, SC 29016 | [email protected]