Folly Beach is Charleston’s most popular beach destination, with miles of sandy beaches only 12 miles from downtown.
The easiest way to get to Folly Beach is currently to drive. In good traffic, the drive to Folly Beach should take as little as 20-25 minutes. Unfortunately, there is only one road over to the island, and traffic can often back up significantly, especially on sunny weekends.
Travel early in the morning and later in the evening to beat the worst of the traffic, bearing in mind that parking can also be a problem when the island is at its most busy.
Folly Beach is not currently well connected to peninsular Charleston by public transportation, with the nearest route terminating on James Island, three miles from the beach. A taxi or rideshare is the only really practical way of getting to Folly Island if you won’t have access to a car.
!Service availability and other information can change at short notice. Please verify all details before planning your travel.
It is around 12 miles from downtown Charleston to Folly Beach, which in good traffic should take around 20 minutes to drive. The route from Charleston crosses either of the bridges over the Ashley River (the route over the more northerly of the bridges is slightly longer at 14 miles, about 30 minutes) then getting onto and following Folly Road (State Highway 171) all the way to Folly Beach.
If you are renting a car at the airport, the drive to Folly Beach is about 20 miles, and should take 30-35 minutes in good traffic. The fastest route is via I-526, through West Ashley, but you can also head downtown (about 2 miles further in total) and cross one of the lower Ashley River bridges to continue your journey to Folly Island.
Folly Island has some of the Charleston area’s most popular beaches, and the roads out there can be crowded on weekends and holidays, especially in the peak season. Leave early in the morning (aiming to get to Folly Beach by 10am-10:30am at the latest) to beat the worst of the traffic and have the best chance of finding a suitable parking space.
Return journey traffic is usually worst in the mid to late afternoon, so if you want to avoid a long, gridlocked trip, either set out from Folly by about 2:30pm or wait until after 5pm-5:30pm.
Taxi fare from downtown Charleston to Folly Beach will be around $30-$45 (exclusive of gratuity), depending on exact start and end points. Although some local taxi companies advertize a beach shuttle, pricing is essentially the same as for a regular metered taxi.
Expect to pay around $15-$25 each way for a standard Uber or Lyft ride from downtown Charleston to Folly Beach, or $30-$40 for a larger vehicle. During peak traffic, rideshare drivers may be reluctant to take you to or from the beach on account of the lengthy trip time.
A taxi from Charleston Airport to Folly Beach will cost around $60, exclusive of gratuity, assuming good traffic conditions. Journey time is 30 minutes or so.
Uber or Lyft fare from Charleston Airport should be around $35-$40 in a standard vehicle, during normal price periods (surge pricing can increase the fare substantially). In a larger vehicle it will be around $60.
There are bike lanes along Folly Road across James Island to the beach, but vehicle speeds are high and some cyclists feel unsafe. There is also currently no safe way to get onto James Island from downtown Charleston or West Ashley by bike.
If you do decide to cycle from James Island to Folly Beach, avoid cycling in low light or after dark, and avoid peak weekend traffic times (late morning and mid afternoon) if possible. You may prefer to walk your bike over the bridges.
There is currently no scheduled public bus service directly connecting Folly Island to peninsular Charleston. Despite community pressure for such a service, there are no definite plans to extend the bus system out to the beach in the immediate future.
CARTA’s infrequent Route 31 – Folly Road bus goes out to James Island, reaching most – but not all – of the way from peninsular Charleston to Folly Beach. The nearest stop to Folly is on Folly Island Road at Battery Island Drive, 3 miles from Folly Beach’s oceanfront.
You could walk those 3 miles, cycle if you have brought your bike on the bus, or call a local taxi/rideshare to take you the rest of the way, but given the infrequency of the service (every 1 hour 30 minutes on weekends until around 6pm-7pm, every 1 hour 45 minutes on weekdays until around 8pm-9pm), few people will find the bus a convenient way of traveling between Charleston and Folly Beach.
Some local taxi firms advertise a beach shuttle running out to Folly Island, but this is generally just a rebranded taxi ride offering the same sort of price as a regular taxi service.
As noted above, there is no bus service to Folly Beach itself, with the nearest service, Route 31, terminating several miles from the beach.
However, if you want to travel from Charleston International Airport and get as close to Folly Island as you can by bus, take the Route 11 – Dorchester Road/Airport service (every 40 minutes to 1 hour) to downtown, and then transfer onto the 31 bus to James Island.