Your Guide To Sullivan's Island, SC
Pristine Beaches, Award-Winning Restaurants and Local CHarm
Sullivan's Island, SC is a 2.5 mile long barrier island on the coast of South Carolina. It's less than 20 minutes from downtown Charleston and serves as a beach destination for locals and visitors alike.
What It's Like
Charming · Laidback
Beaches · Restaurants · Fort Moultrie
Off Mount Pleasant, SC // South of Isle of Palms
About Sullivan's Island, SC
Sullivan's Island is a 2.5 mile long barrier island on the coast of South Carolina. The west end of the island serves as an entrance to the Charleston harbor and offers excellent views of ships passing by. The southside of the island is all Atlantic Ocean beachfront, and the north end is on the Intracoastal Waterway.
You'll find neighboring barrier island Isle of Palms just north of Sullivan's. A bridge connects the two and you can walk or drive over it. Just be careful if walking because the sidewalks feel narrow!
There's a small commercial district in the middle of the island just over Ben Sawyer Bridge. This is home to all of the restaurants on Sullivan's Island, as well as a few shops. There's a playground and park located here, as well as the town hall.
Sullivan's is a highly residential area and there are no hotels on the island. If you want to stay on Sullivan's Island, you'll need to book with a vacation rental company. Even though there aren't any hotels, the island is still very busy in the summer. Charleston locals and visitors flock to the area to enjoy the pristine beaches and excellent dining opportunities.
In fact, you can tour Fort Moultrie where he spent a year at age 18. Prior to this he was a student at the University of Virginia, but that ended after he encountered debt from gambling. The famous short story The Gold-Bug was inspired by his time on the island.
If you appreciate a good nod to the famous poet, make sure to dine at Poe's Tavern for a gourmet burger and outdoor seating.
This Island is a very singular one. It consists of little else than the sea sand, and is about three miles long. Its breadth at no point exceeds a quarter of a mile. It is separated from the main land by a scarcely perceptible creek, oozing its way through a wilderness of reeds and slime, a favorite resort of the marsh-hen.Edgar Allen Poe, "The Gold-Bug"
Getting To Sullivan's Island, SC
Sullivan's is east of Charleston and just off Mount Pleasant, SC. There are two ways to get there if coming from the Charleston area-- see below for details.
You'll first have to pass through Mount Pleasant before you can connect over to Sullivan's Island. So, we'll start there in our directions.
You can get to Mount Pleasant from downtown Charleston by crossing over the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge.
The Ravenel Bridge offers a spectacular view of the harbor, where you are sure to see cargo ships or cruise ships, as well as the USS Yorktown. You'll also pass by Shem Creek on the way to Sullivan's.
If coming from North Charleston, you can get to Mount Pleasant via 526. If traffic isn't an issue, either way will get you on the island in about the same amount of time from 26.
If you are coming from the Charleston airport (CHS), both ways are about the same distance and drive time. We personally prefer the Ravenel bridge!
Once you arrive on Mount Pleasant you'll need to take another bridge to Sullivan's. The most direct way is the Ben Sawyer bridge because it connects the two cities. Another option is to cut through Isle of Palms because it also connects to Sullivan's. Details below!
Mount Pleasant to Sullivan's Island
The Ben Sawyer Bridge is located down Ben Sawyer Blvd, which originally starts as Coleman Blvd before it splits into Chuck Dawley and Ben Sawyer. You'll pass by a Publix and then eventually get to the bridge.
Keep in mind that the Ben Sawyer bridge is a drawbridge! It's a swing bridge that turns on its axis to clear the channel. It can be quite entertaining unless you are running behind.
Hurricane Hugo hit Charleston in 1989 and famously toppled the former Ben Sawyer Bridge. Don't worry, it was rebuilt!
Isle of Palms To Sullivan's
The other way to get onto Sullivan's is through Isle of Palms. A bridge connects the two just past Isle of Palms seafood restaurant The Boat House. You can walk or drive over the bridge between the two islands.
For the most part, people flock to Sullivan's for a nice relaxing day at the beach or to dine on the island. The island also offers a few opportunities for a look back at history, like with a tour of Fort Moultrie. You can also spend a day on bike, cruising the full island and even popping up to Isle of Palms. For more ideas, make sure to check our guide to things to do on Sullivan's Island.
Though it's a small island, the Sullivan's Island dining scene is actually quite impressive. You'll find fresh seafood, famous burgers, delicious BBQ and even a James Beard nominated chef. All of the restaurants on the island are in the small commercial corridor on Middle Street. The area can get really crowded but there are plenty of restaurants to satisfy your cravings.
Obstinate Daughter is the most-recommended restaurant on Sullivan's. It has a coastal vibe with everything from low country fare and raw oysters to delicious wood-fired pizzas. They have what we consider to be Sullivan's best weekend brunch. It's from 10-3 on Saturdays and Sundays and includes a quiche of the day, eggs in purgatory and even peel and eat shrimp. Plan to make reservations at Obstinate Daughter to avoid a wait.
A few other restaurants we love on the island include Home Team for a casual Carolina-style BBQ meal, the Co-Op for a burger and frosé, and Mex 1 for margaritas and Mexican fare. If you are looking for more recommendations, check out our roundup of awesome spots for lunch on Sullivan's.