At Folly’s northern tip, beach-facing Ashley Avenue ends. Walk the quarter-mile trail, and the sand hills will part to show you Morris Island lighthouse — a once-working beacon where channel shifts gradually ate away the island until the beacon, out of business 50 years now, is all that remains. The tower is about 300 yards out, with a nice view of Charleston Harbor behind it.
• When you’re hungry: If you’re renting a house, figure out how often you want to dine out vs. using the kitchen. It seems like a no-brainer — why cook? — until you figure out the cost difference … and until you go to Crosby’s Fish & Shrimp Company (843-795-4049).
That’s the fresh seafood market on S.C. 171, a small place perched above Folly Creek. Their boats work the area. The prices are reasonable enough, but the freshness and variety are what does the trick — plus, you can get items you won’t find elsewhere, like triggerfish.
The best breakfast is at Lost Dog Cafe on Huron Street (off Center) where the walls are plastered with several hundred dog photos. From 6:30 a.m. until closing (3 p.m.), you can get coffee, fresh bakery biscuits and gravy and the like ($1.25-$8.95).
A couple of eateries along Center push seafood; try the Folly Beach Crab Shack (www.crabshacks.com) where you can sit indoors or outside. Buy a mixed bucket of snow crab legs, oysters and shrimp for $26.99 or $41.95.
This time of year, they serve Gulf select oysters from Alabama. The oysters straight out of the Folly River are cluster oysters, and in season — fall through spring — they’re available here and elsewhere.
If you’re a fan of Locklear’s seafood in Mount Pleasant, S.C., head to their operation here: it overlooks the fishing pier and has indoor/outdoor seating.
Don’t miss Bowens Island Restaurant, which is surprisingly easy to do. On the S.C. 171 causeway, watch for the Bowens Island Road sign on the southbound side. Turn there and wind over about five miles of swamp hills to the restaurant, owned by the grandson of the Bowens who started it in the 1940s. It looks like something out of a Robert Mitchum movie — a group of weather-beaten structures, one of which is the eatery famous for seafood. It’s open Tuesday-Saturday nights; just walk up the stairs to the rambling dining room. The whole operation faces the Folly Creek flats, and the view at sunset is fabulous. Take note of the floor, too: Paintings on it are from a 2010 James Brolin flick called Angel Camouflaged.
As oyster season ends, shrimping season begins. The fried shrimp here is widely acclaimed; eat locally caught shrimp whenever possible.
Also noteworthy: Taco Boy (www.tacoboy.net), whose machine-shed exterior on Center Street hides a bright and somewhat bizarre art-students-must’ve-done-it look. The 16 or so tacos on the menu include the Korean-style kimchi beef as well as portobello mushroom. All are fantastic. But at $3.25 and up, you’ll eat a hole in your vacation cash if you go there too hungry.
• People, places: Check the shops, bars and cafes on Center Street; it dead-ends at Arctic Avenue, where you’ll find the sea-facing Holiday Inn and the fishing pier. The back of the hotel has an outdoor bar and terrace seating that faces the beach. The Edwin S. Taylor Fishing Pier is long and huge — 23 feet above the water and extending more than 1,000 feet into the sea. It’s a great place to stroll; keep an eye peeled for dolphins frolicking. It costs $8 to fish, $3 for kids. (No fishing license is required.) Dream big: a 100-pound tarpon was hauled in from here.