Mary Alice Monroe is an Isle of Palms resident and the bestselling, award-winning author of nearly twenty novels, many of them rooted in the Lowcountry. Her latest, The Summer's End from sister company Simon & Schuster, is the conclusion of her captivating bestselling Lowcountry Summer Trilogy, in stores now, and highlights some of the island places just mentioned. Visit www.maryalicemonroe.com.
Charleston, South Carolina is voted the best city in America year after year and I'm fortunate to live here in an area we locals refer to as the Lowcountry. The natural landscape and its inhabitants — from dolphins, to sea turtles and everything in between — are the inspiration of my novels, the Lowcountry Summer Series. I love this coastal community and am happy to offer these tips and insider knowledge for your next trip to my part of the South.
Get On Island Time
Let nature be your clock. Make decisions based on the weather and your inclination. I think the best days are beach days. Look for shells, sand dollars and other natural treasures that wash ashore. Build sandcastles. And you might event catch a glimpse of bottlenose dolphins arcing out in the Atlantic.
When your beach day is done, pick up your trash and take time to fill in any holes you dug. We share the beach with nesting loggerhead sea turtles. These simple acts will teach your family about being good stewards of the environment and supporting our local wildlife. Leave only your footprints on the sand!
If you're looking for a true Lowcountry experience, Barrier Island Eco Tours on the Isle of Palms offers something for everyone. Go on a dolphin sunset cruise. Go fishing, catch blue crabs or learn how to cast a shrimp net. Go explore the pristine Capers Island Preserve and enjoy a beachside cookout of steamed oysters or "Lowcountry boil" (a delectable dish of fresh shrimp, sausage, potatoes and corn). The options are many and it will be an adventure you'll treasure for a lifetime!
Here To Dine
Coconut's Joes is a popular restaurant for its oceanfront location and great view of the Atlantic. And it boasts live music every night on its rooftop deck during the summer. I love to go to Sea Biscuit Café, which bakes up the best tomato pie you'll ever have. Both restaurants are on the Isle of Palms. Dunleavy's Pub and Home Team BBQ are both on Sullivan's Island's Middle Street business district. Make sure to order the hushpuppies at Home Team — memorable!
Sullivan's Island is dotted with National Historic Register landmarks, including Fort Moultrie, a fortress dating back to the Revolutionary War, and the Sullivan's Island Lighthouse.
Beyond The Islands
Of course, it's fun to venture off the islands, crossing over the Isle of Palms Connector or the Ben Sawyer Swing Bridge into Mount Pleasant or Downtown Charleston. The options of places to enjoy seem endless. But if you only have time to do one thing off the islands, the South Carolina Aquarium is Charleston's must-see attraction for kids and adults. New this season at the aquarium is Shark Shallows, a massive touch tank that gets you up close and personal with sharks and rays.
Related: America's Top 5 Must-Visit Aquariums
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