As a longtime Folly Beach local, I’m here to give you the best few hours you can spend on Folly Beach for free. There are tons of restaurants, bars, and shops to spend money on during the rest of your trip, but use this guide for some ways to have fun on the island without bringing your wallet!
The entire island is 5 miles wide. To stay completely free, you can accomplish this tour with your own car and some easy walking. But to have a little more fun, I typically recommend some alternative transportation such as bicycles, mopeds, or golf carts.
The order of this tour is up to you, and you can even break it up into a few different times of day, or different days of your vacation. My preferred order is to explore both ends of the island, then finish at the center of town.
The East End (Lighthouse, Washout)
Ride down East Arctic Avenue (one way street) to pass a lot of the cool oceanfront houses on the way. When Arctic Ave ends on 12th Street, hop over to East Ashley Ave for the rest of your journey. After a few blocks down Ashley, you will notice a large section of beach with no oceanfront houses. This is the famous Washout surf spot. Stop here for a few minutes to check out the surfers and beach. Hop back on to Ashley Ave and head to the end of the island. After passing lots of cool houses, park and the very end (near the cul de sac). Here you will take the walk to the lighthouse. It’s about a ten minute walk down pavement, then a sandy trail. You can see cool graffiti, some old concrete structures, and the beachy landscape along the way. Once at the very end, you find yourself on an awesome beach with the Morris Island Lighthouse out in the water. I highly recommend spending some more time on this beach by walking to the left (North). It gets very secluded as you walk down the shoreline, wrapping around Folly Island. Go as far as you like (you can go even further at low tide), and enjoy the empty beach and marsh scenery, and usually some dolphin viewing as well!
The West End (Neighborhoods, County Park)
The West End will be a shorter journey than the East End. Use Ashley Avenue to get back into town, then go through the traffic light onto West Ashley Avenue. Feel free to explore the side streets to see some neighborhoods, or check out the beach at any access point. At the very end of the island is the Folly Beach County Park, which is basically just a big beach. Wander in to take a look, or just turn around and continue your free tour.
Center Street (The Pier, Shops, Music, People Watching)
The middle of town is always fun and lively, and very busy in the summertime. Park on any side street for free (just make sure all your tires are off the road) and explore on foot. At the end of Center Street is the Folly Beach Pier. It is free to walk and absolutely something you need to do. On your way to the end you can see fisherman on the pier, and surfers and dolphins in the ocean. When you get back to land, I suggest walking through the Tides Hotel lobby (right next door) towards their tiki bar for a cool view of the beach. Then, for the last part of your free journey, simply explore Center Street by foot. There will be plenty of live music to see and hear from the sidewalk. Go in and out of the many beach stores just to explore (My favorite is Mr. John’s - a Folly Beach classic!). Make sure you go down each side of Center Street to feel the vibes of all the different places. Enjoy!
Other Free Stuff to Do
I recommend spending some time looking for dolphins, hunting for shark teeth, body surfing the waves, playing beach volleyball, shooting hoops at the park, watching the sun rise over the ocean, and just hanging out in the sand enjoying the sun and ocean!