Unrefined Island To Coastal Oasis

By January 12, 2016 September 29th, 2016 Around Charleston

An Unrefined Island

There was a time when Sullivans island was considered unrefined and rural compared to the developing city of Charleston. Its early history revolves around the strategic importance of the fort that was built on its south west end. Fort Moultrie was a key defensive position in both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. After its closure in the 1940’s a small island community began to fill the void.


The remains of Fort Moultrie today.

The island at that time was said to be unrefined, overgrown and rustic, but the few locals that lived there preferred it that way. In the 1960’s and 1970’s, a graveyard of historical shipwrecks was found by a longtime island resident. Over the course of a few years, 6 Civil War blockade runners and a number of other ships were found along the shores of Sullivans Island. For outsiders, the island appeared rough around the edges and out of the way, while for locals, it encompassed everything one could want in a quaint beach paradise.

The residents fought to preserve their simple and quiet way of life for decades. They succeeded in that regard and now it seems like people have found out about it all over again. Once considered a rustic, outlying island-town of Charleston in the 1960’s and 70’s, Sullivans Island has slowly made its way into the spotlight as a small, coastal oasis.

The Happiest Seaside Town

Despite its jump in popularity, surprisingly little has changed. The island remains as relaxed in nature as it was in the 1960’s. There are still no traffic lights on the island, you still have to wait for the Ben Sawyer swing bridge to open and close for sailboats, and the Charleston Light (Sullivans Island lighthouse) still guides sea vessels into the harbor as it did over 50 years ago. Since 1960, Sullivans Island has grown very little adding only about 500 residents. As of 2014, less than 2,000 people live on the 2.5 square mile barrier island.


Ben Sawyer Bridge Opening for a sailboat.

What sets Sullivans Island apart from other island communities are the people. There are no hotels, motels, resorts, or shopping malls on the island so most of the people that you come into contact with live there permanently and are proud of their home. They are also more than happy to share their piece of paradise with visitors. The island residents are truly some of the friendliest people you can meet in the South.


Longtime island residents taking in the views.

In fact, Coastal Living magazine recently named Sullivans Island as one of the happiest seaside towns in the nation. The finalists were ranked on “Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, percentage of clear and sunny days, healthiness of beaches, commute times, walkability, crime ratings, standard of living and financial well-being of the locals, geographic diversity, and our editors’ assessment of each town’s coastal vibe.”

“Best Beach No One Knows About”


A beach to yourself.

Take a short stroll down one of the island’s many public access paths today and you will still be greeted with one of the nicest beaches in South Carolina. Arguably, the beach is one of the most defining characteristics of the entire island. It’s hard to find a beach that rivals the cleanliness or peacefulness of Sullivans while being in such close proximity to the city of Charleston.


Beach access paths extend through the naturally occurring maritime forests and sand dunes. Pictured here is the Station 25 beach access path.

Sullivans Island is unique in that the beachfront lands have accreted over time which has produced beautiful maritime forests and natural sand dunes leading to the beachfront. This land is owned by the town and is protected from development to preserve the coastal ecosystem.  This has lead to the creation of beautiful, secluded walking paths and boardwalks that lead from the streets to the beach. In fact, last summer a special nature trail was established at the Station 16 Street access path.

This nature trail is made up of 650 feet of boardwalks, observation decks and benches offering peaceful, secluded views of the harbor, forested wetlands and vegetated dunes. – Post & Courier

But probably the best part about the beach on Sullivans is that dogs are allowed, albeit at designated times and with a town issued dog tag and collar. In the winter months they can be totally off leash to run freely during off-hours. For residents, walking the dog on the beach with a cup of coffee has become a natural morning routine.

However it’s also not uncommon to find dog owners from Mt. Pleasant, Charleston, and other areas taking advantage of the canine-friendly laws on the island especially during winter. Rules for dogs do change seasonally so be sure to check the town’s website here for dog laws.

During the summer months, Sullivans Island has gotten increasingly popular with beach goers, although compared to Folly Beach and Isle of Palms, it’s still consistently less crowded. Last year GQ Magazine ranked the “six best beaches in America” and Sullivans Island was named “the best beach know one knows about”.

Rarely will you see more than ten people laid out on its dunes. Which means you can pick up a bag of boiled peanuts (side of the road; $2), set up camp at the edge of the receding tide, and pretend this little slice of sand is all yours. – Mark Byrne, GQ Magazine

It seems that people have taken a liking to the old-school island feel. It’s hard to believe that this island was once shunned for lacking progress and being too rustic. Things have undoubtedly come full circle now as the once unrefined island is now basking in the spotlight for simply being itself.

Check out the latest real estate listings on Sullivans Island

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If you are thinking about selling your Charleston home or just have questions about the buying or selling process, contact me directly to discuss your options or visit our sister site CharlestonListing.com for free home valuation based on current market conditions in Charleston not a broad national average like Zillow or Trulia.

Call me directly: (843) 437-8386
Matt Anderson

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