The beaches closest to I’On are at Sullivan’s Island, a town with an extraordinary history.
Settled in 1670, Sullivan’s Island was named after captain Florence O’Sullivan who was stationed there as a lookout in the defense of Charleston against Spanish invaders, who claimed that any land south of Virginia rightly belonged to Spain. In June of 1776, a battle was fought at the eastern end of the island that was so crucial, its loss would have eradicated any chance of American independence. Colonel William “Danger” Thomson led the patriot forces, and Thomson Park is named in his honor.
Fort Moultrie played an equally important role during the American Revolution and is the one of the few American forts that participated in that war, the Civil War and World Wars I and II. If you are African-American, there is roughly a 50% chance that you have an ancestor who was brought through the island to be sold into slavery. Edgar Allen Poe was stationed at Fort Moultrie from 1827 to 1828. During this time, he wrote his short story “The Gold Bug,” using the island as its setting. This story earned the author more money than any of his other works, including “The Raven.”
Despite its many points of interest, Sullivan’s Island is only marginally a vacation destination. There are no hotels, the beaches have no lifeguards, and relatively few vacation rental homes are available. The town has some charming restaurants and shops but has no supermarket, major drugstore or municipal parking. There is, however, a small public parking lot next to the elementary school and another next to Fort Moultrie, both of which are free. To enjoy the beaches as a visitor, use one of these lots or compete for street parking, which is actually not on the street but on designated right-of-ways–but note: wheels cannot be on the pavement. The roads are too narrow to allow cars to park on the street.
The lack of commercialization protects the island from crowds and ensures that it remains unspoiled. Happily, all of the beaches are free and open to the public, and the public includes your dog. Pay attention to in-season rules for dogs on the beach; permit tags are a must and can be purchased at the town hall.