Visit Folly Beach, SC
By Louise Hudson

Folly Beach, SC just a
few miles away from the historic city of Charleston.

     The frivolous name of Folly Beach conjures up visions of frolicking fun in the sun - a welcome respite from everyday cares. Just 20 minutes drive from downtown Charleston, it is a haven for weary workers as well as over-heated tourists from all over world.

     Dubbed "the edge of America" by locals, the name "folly" actually refers to the low, dense foliage first discovered there by early English explorers. The town of Folly Beach is a quaint community of ramshackle houses, casual restaurants, hippy-style retail, fishing shacks, boat outfitters, and beach bungalows.

     Center Street is dominated by the1980s Tides Hotel which hugs the shoreline. Though from outside a bit of a square slab, the Tides inside is stylishly decorated in beach pastels with driftwood-edged mirrors and a subtle sealife motif. With the hotel bar and pool right on the sands, guests can dash into the depths for an early morning dip before breakfast in the warm Atlantic waters. From early morning, there is inevitably a parent-kid team already hard at it building castles and kingdoms in the sand. Walkers, joggers and bikers make the most of the six miles of long flat beach, disappearing into the horizon in that shimmering mirage effect produced by the combination of crystalline sand, sea, sun and warm air. Later in the day, the area right in front of Tides fills up with colourful umbrellas, towels and chairs but further along, where highrise gives way to rickety beach bungalows, the shore is almost empty.

     With fine dining on site, kids can go to bed with a favorite book or video on their I-Pad and the adults can dress up for a grown-up dinner in classy BLU restaurant. It serves a contemporary combo of local Lowcountry cuisine with Mediterranean influences such as tapas and paella. One of Charleston's few oceanfront eateries, BLU maximizes the sea and pier views with outdoor tables and a bustling beach bar with live music at the weekends. The house-made chips and dip, served in a trendy conical paper contraption, go particularly well with the cocktail menu. Much of the food is locally sourced and sustainable, earning BLU the Platinum Certification from South Carolina's Aquarium s Sustainable Seafood Initiative.

     Although the breakfast buffet at BLU is a convenient and tasty option, it is also fun to explore the neighborhood for variety. Once parked in the hotel's convenient free carpark, visitors can stroll almost everywhere - a rare respite from the hours of commuting of everyday life. Advertised on Center St as a "healthy eatery and espresso bar", Black Magic Caf is a colorful coffee shop on the corner of Erie St, with vibrant paintwork and artsy beach and sea-scapes created by local artists and photographers. It has an opulent washroom clothed in magical, black dcor to justify its name. Like Starbucks, Black Magic offers designer drinks but its granola grub is more extensive, incorporating customized omelets and interesting bagel mixes. Both locals and tourist families mingle here, attracted by the casual atmosphere, under 10s menu, library of children's books and free Wi-Fi. For lunch, Rita's restaurant and pub is great for cheap and cheerful shrimp, seafood and salads and the Piggly Wiggly is just five minutes drive onto James Island if you want to pick up picnic produce.

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