Folly beach south carolina

History of Folly Beach as a Vacation Spot

Folly Beach and James Island have rich and varied histories dating back to the 1600’s. Both played pivotal roles during the Civil War and because of that, sometimes the rest of the unique history of Folly Beach is forgotten.

“Folly” is an Old English word meaning an area of dense foliage. Folly Island was deeded to William Rivers in 1696. Folly Beach is a natural barrier island that helps protect James Island from fierce Atlantic storms. 6 miles long, this is the closest beach to Charleston. The salt marshes of Folly Beach provide a perfect sanctuary for the abundant marine life and coastal birds that frequent the area.

In the 1920’s, Folly Beach became an attraction to many visitors who were allowed back then to park their cars on the beach. Pictures from the era show beach goers wearing bulky bathing suits made from wool that must have been uncomfortable in the oppressive South Carolina humidity. The 1920’s was an era of prosperity and wealth and Folly Beach benefited from these good times. In 1925 more than 200,000 people visited Folly to swim, picnic and enjoy the attractions.

Although the 1930’s ushered in an era of economic depression, the 30’s were a period of great activity and change for Folly Beach. Many afternoon and evening concerts were held at Folly Pier, featuring major performers of the day such as Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey and the Drifters. In the early 1930’s, unlike some of the more expensive and snobbish beaches in the area, Folly was accepting, fun and affordable. A causeway connecting James Island to Folly Beach was opened and developers began selling lots. Beachfront lots sold then for what seems today to be the amazingly low price of $2,000 per lot!

1931 was a year of spectacular improvements for Folly Beach. The new Atlantic Pavilion, Boardwalk, Pier and Oceanfront Hotel were built. Despite all of the improvements and development, in 1932 only 9 families lived on the island year-round. One of the things Folly Beach is perhaps most famous for is that in 1934 composer George Gershwin stayed on Folly Beach and wrote “Porgy & Bess”. In 1937 over 15,000 people were at Folly Pier to witness the 4th of July celebration.

The years during World War II saw less dramatic change on Folly as the country was preoccupied with the war. A big boost to the accessibility to the beach happened in 1956 when the wooden Folly River Bridge was replaced with a modern concrete bridge. An unfortunate event happened in 1957 when the Oceanfront Hotel and Pavilion burned. Fire has placed a major role in Folly’s history; the Folly Pier would burn again in 1977, this time arson was suspected.

The 1960’s are commonly referred to as the “Golden Era of Folly Beach”. Baby boomers were flocking to the beach with small children and movies and music of the day had many beach and surfing themes. Folly Beach of the 60’s offered a variety of attractions: the Pier was rebuilt again, the boardwalk was now an impressive 1700 feet, there was an amusement park, shops, roller skating and concession stands. Pat Thomas is widely regarded as the first individual to introduce surfboarding to Folly Beach.

In the late 1980’s, residents of Folly Beach made sure the beach was accessible to the general public in keeping with its laid back and tolerant attitude. Sullivan’s Island, the Isle of Palms, Kiawah and Seabrook Islands all either made it difficult or banned non-residents from their beaches. Being more user - friendly helped Folly Beach attract not only artists, bohemians and hippies, but also tourist families looking for a friendly and affordable place to vacation.

On the night of September 22, 1989, Folly was devastated by Hurricane Hugo. Hugo did far more damage than hurricanes of previous decades. Hugo killed 26 South Carolina residents and did nearly $6 billion in property damage. The massive hurricane destroyed 109 houses on Folly Beach and caused extensive damage to many others. The winds and storm surge from Hugo caused terrible erosion on Folly Beach. In 1993 the Army Corps of Engineers began dredging sand for beach renourishment on Folly. With the beach being recovered, property values quickly began to increase.

Still referred to as “The Edge of America”, Folly Beach today is a thriving vacation destination that still maintains its casual charm. Surfers flock to the Folly Beach Washout to enjoy some of the finest surfing on the East Coast. The Edwin S. Taylor Fishing Pier is one of the longest East Coast Piers. The Fishing Pier is a great spot to stroll and relax or for catching Giant Drum and King Mackerel.

Being in the south, food is a big attraction at Folly Beach. Enjoy traditional Lowcountry specialties such as fresh local shrimp & grits, hushpuppies, oyster roasts, red rice, sweet tea and fruit cobbler. Folly Beach offers a wide variety of restaurants from burgers & beer to fine wine and fresh seafood, all within walking distance of the beach.

Vacation rentals on Folly Beach are quite diverse, ranging from million dollar plus oceanfront estates to small beach bungalows. Whatever your budget or preference, there is something for at the "Edge of America".


Questions?  Call us at (843) 225-3668

Satellite Office
PO Box 82
212 West Arctic Ave
Folly Beach, South Carolina 29439

Create New Account
Forgot Password?
Folly Beach Links
Folly Beach History  
Folly Beach Nightlife
Folly Beach Shops
Folly Beach Dining
Folly Beach Calendar
Folly Beach Fun
Directions to Folly
Freebies & Coupons  


Site Map Disclaimer Privacy Policy About Us Contact Us

History of Folly Beach as a Vacation Spot  |  Online Travel  |  Folly Beach Surfing Lessons |  BLOG Coming Soon