Marie McAden



Family trip to Folly Beach is perfect combination of adventure and fun

Posted 7/31/2011 3:28:00 PM

It’s been a couple of weeks since I got back from a family reunion at Folly Beach and I’m still tagging photos on Facebook. All told, 20 of us made it to the Carolina Coast for a vacation dubbed “The Big Chill.”

They came from Florida, New Mexico, Georgia and California, as well as a couple of cities in South Carolina. It had been three years since we last met up on Hilton Head Island for a long-overdue family reunion. As much as we enjoyed Hilton Head Island’s resort atmosphere, we decided to change things up this year and go to a beach with a totally different vibe.

Folly Beach fit the bill. Known for its gnarly swells and laid-back feel, it’s the perfect place to chill in the summer. Having Charleston just nine miles down the road is an added bonus.

We rented a large, six-bedroom oceanfront house with a pool, porch and roof-top deck. My sister from California wisely chose to rent her own house two doors down the beach to escape the inevitable chaos that comes when you put four families under one roof. Mealtime was a madhouse, but we managed to get everyone fed night after night.

On a typical day, the early risers in the bunch would set off just after dawn for a long walk on the beach. By mid-morning, a jumble of umbrellas and chairs had been assembled at water’s edge. It didn’t takes us long to wise up to the fast-moving tide and set up camp closer to the sand dunes to avoid having to move our beach paraphernalia every hour.

The day after we arrived at the beach, my nephew rented a board from McKevlin's Surf Shop ($30 a day, $75 for a week) to take a crack at Folly’s much-celebrated breakers. Unlike his aunt who tried unsuccessfully to surf last summer on Folly, he was ripping it up in no time.

Rather than embarrass myself two years in a row, I rode the waves on a body board — every bit as fun and so much easier. Tossing around the Frisbee was another favorite beach activity.

Several of us brought bikes and rode from one end of the island to the other. We also took our bikes to Charleston and peddled all over the Historic District and across the Ravenel Bridge.

In the evenings after dinner, we’d play dominoes, shoot pool or sit out on the porch and enjoy the cool sea breezes. Or we’d crank up the stereo and dance to Earth, Wind and Fire, The Jackson Five and Tina Turner. I am happy to report I finally learned how to do the Electric Slide.

On our last full day at the beach, we drove to Charleston and walked from White Point Gardens near the Battery through the historic neighborhoods South of Broad to Waterfront Park. As many times as I’ve visited Charleston, I always discover something new. This time it was Philadelphia Alley, a narrow brick-lined passage off Queen Street between Church and State.

We haven’t decided where we’ll have our next family reunion. South Carolina offers all kinds of options — Isle of Palms, Sullivan’s Island, Litchfield Beach, Kiawah, Pawleys Island, Garden City, Myrtle Beach, Edisto, Hilton Head Island.

Wherever we go, we’ll need to decide soon. So many people reserve the same rental house year after year, they often are booked up a year in advance.

Planning a family vacation at the shore? Click here for your guide to S.C. beaches.