1 Day, 2 Bikes, 6 Stops
Our picks for things to do on Sullivan’s Island.
By Margaret Pilarski. Photos by Minette Hand.
Whether you’re a local for life, or a visitor by day, Sullivan’s Island’s charms stretch the length of the barrier island, spanning everything from history to adventure to natural beauty. While I think any of these suggestions are stellar as standalone activities, together they comprise an epic day of sightseeing and take you from one end to the other—all via two wheels, with a bonus water excursion. With the help of the SiP team, I built a Sullivan’s Island itinerary that represents a full day of fun and asked my sister, Jane, to come along to test it out.
STOP 1 - BAG A BIKE
If you are truly planning a full day of adventure, I recommend you stop at Sealand Adventure Sports, a locally owned shop right on Middle Street. Here you can rent bicycles, surfboards and paddleboards and if you’re feeling extra-adventurous, sign up for some kiteboarding, surfing and paddle boarding lessons too. Bicycles come with a generous basket to tote your supplies for the day (recommendations: SPF, hat, binoculars, sunglasses, jacket or scarf for cool breezes, water), and every bike rental comes with a bike lock and helmet. Helmets aren’t required by law, but they are recommended. Before you leave the shop, double check the tire pressure—you want beach cruisers’ fat tires a little squishier than you’d want for a road bike—and make sure the seat is at a comfortable height since you’ll be on the bike all day. Once you’re good to go, hop on and head west to Station 16.
STOP 2 - WALK THE MARITIME FOREST
Station 16 is the main entrance to the Maritime Forest, a now-200-acre forest protected by a conservation easement. In 2015, the island unveiled several hundred feet of boardwalks on meandering trails through the forest and on out to the beach. An exploratory walk of any length can net you spottings of diverse species of birds and butterflies. Platforms, observation decks and benches offer spots to sit for a bit and appreciate secluded views of the harbor and wetlands. Once you untangle yourself from the winding trails, pop back out and onto your bike and continue a few blocks west to Fort Moultrie.
STOP 3 - EXPLORE FORT MOULTRIE
This block has enough stories to fill an entire historical library. Stop in at the Visitors’ Center and learn about the history of the area, watch a short film and explore an exhibit on the enslaved Africans brought through the area. Across the street you can enter the Fort’s grounds, which had a place in American history from the Revolutionary War to World War II. A self-guided tour can be completed at your leisure. Behind the Visitors’ Center is a small park, a dock, the grave of General Moultrie, and a special bench placed there in 2008. The bench, commissioned by the Toni Morrison Society, is a place of remembrance for captive Africans—nearly 40 percent of whom entered America on Sullivan’s Island.
STOP 4 - PADDLEBOARD TO SHARK TOOTH ISLAND
From the dock at Stop 3 you can look left to see this tiny speck of sand, which popped up after the dredging of the harbor. With a well-timed kayak or paddleboard put-in, the tide can help you zip out for a walkabout. Locals nicknamed it Shark Tooth Island because of the teeth frequently found among the sand and pebbles by keen-eyed wanderers. Hunt for chompers with rambunctious little ones who might like specimens of sea monsters to take for show-and-tell.
STOP 5 - FISH FROM THE PIER
Back on land, find the hidden pathway near Station 9 that leads out to the edge of what remains of the Sullivan’s Island side of the old Pitt Street Bridge. What’s now a park and pier at the edge of Mount Pleasant’s Old Village was formerly a wooden trolley bridge allowing passage between the two towns. It was widened for automobiles in the 1920s but eventually disused in 1945 when the Ben Sawyer Bridge was completed. Creep up the trail marked “Station 9 Old Bridge Landing” (an easy trail, but there are a few steep bits) and take the short walk to the water for a different view of the Intracoastal and a visual context of the island’s former connections to the mainland. If you’ve got a rod and reel, it’s a prime spot for fishing, and the wooden bench even has a South Carolina DNR placard to check measurements and regulations. If you aren’t looking to catch dinner, it makes a fine spot for catching up with friends or catching the golden hour before sunset.
STOP 6 - SUNSET FROM THOMSON PARK
If you’ve still got energy for pedal power, a prime sunset spot is northward at Thomson Park just before the connector to Isle of Palms. Take your time and find a lazy route through quaint back roads of Sullivan’s Island—the four-mile ride takes about 20 minutes. Once you arrive, the site can be explored quite quickly, but the real marvel is the fact that locals put it together five years ago after realizing there was no marker for the 1776 battle at Breach Inlet. Today the park has palmetto logs, a series of explanatory signs, native plants and frequent dolphin sightings.