Is Folly Beach Safe? Crime Rates & Safety Report

Updated On March 31, 2024
Folly Beach, United States
Safety Index:
68
* Based on Research & Crime Data

Folly Beach, a vibrant barrier island just south of Charleston, South Carolina, offers a captivating blend of laid-back charm and outdoor adventures.

Known affectionately as the “Edge of America,” Folly Beach adds its unique character with its eclectic mix of surf shops, seafood joints, and colorful beach houses to the barrier islands of the state.

The heart of Folly Beach is its lively pier, where anglers cast lines into the Atlantic, and visitors stroll to soak in panoramic views of the coastline.

Beyond the beach, kayaking, paddleboarding, and surfing await in the rolling waves.

Nature lovers can explore the pristine marshlands.

Folly’s Center Street buzzes with activity, offering an array of restaurants serving up fresh seafood delicacies and lively bars hosting live music performances.

The island’s relaxed atmosphere extends into its vibrant arts scene, with local galleries showcasing the work of talented Lowcountry artists.

You’ll immediately understand how George Gershwin was inspired to write “Summertime, and the livin’ is easy” on this very island.

Whether you’re craving a day of sun-soaked relaxation or an action-packed adventure, Folly Beach beckons with its irresistible blend of coastal beauty and Southern hospitality.

If you’ve made it to this article, you might be wondering if you should stay at Folly Beach, Isle of Palms (IOP), or Sullivan’s Island.

That really comes down to what type of experience you want, yet you can easily visit all three while you’re here.

Folly Beach is a laid-back, “it’s 5 o’clock somewhere” kind of beach experience.

Sullivan’s Island is more upscale, where you would sip wine instead of taking shots of liquor.

IOP is ideal for families.

They all have great beaches.

The downsides?

Folly Beach traffic is legendary.

Sullivan’s Island regularly gets knocked down a notch for not having public restrooms.

IOP might bore you silly with not a lot of things to do other than just be on the beautiful beach or at your rental.

Warnings & Dangers in Folly Beach

Overall Risk

OVERALL RISK: LOW

There's a low risk here, but as a beach destination, you should also treat it as a medium risk. You'll face large crowds and plenty of distractions. Provided you use common sense and follow the rules, you'll be fine.

Transport & Taxis Risk

TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW

For those coming from Charleston, you'll need to either take a taxi or rideshare to get to Folly Beach. Public transportation from the city only goes as far as James Island, three miles away. Getting a rental car is another option.

Pickpockets Risk

PICKPOCKETS RISK: MEDIUM

To be safe, treat this as a medium risk and be intentional with what you bring and what you leave behind. You don't want valuables or expensive electronics sitting in the sun on the beach or risk someone snatching your beach bag while you take a dip. A crossbody purse is great for nightlife, as it is small, attached to your body, and generally out of sight.

Natural Disasters Risk

NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM

This is another medium risk, with hurricanes being the biggest risk from June through November. Severe thunderstorms, flooding, tidal surges, and even average thunderstorms can force everyone inside or off the island.

Mugging Risk

MUGGING RISK: LOW

This is a low risk - looking back through years of news stories, only one armed robbery of a store was reported in 2017. A local said he had never seen anything like this in nearly two decades of living there.

Terrorism Risk

TERRORISM RISK: LOW

Terrorism isn't a risk here, but you can always read the latest Terrorism Advisory Bulletin through Homeland Security if you want to see the overall landscape in the U.S. Regardless of risk level, always report suspicious activity to the police.

Scams Risk

SCAMS RISK: LOW

You should learn about the rental scams risks in South Carolina and look at the short-term rental rules in Folly Beach. That will help you be able to spot scammers who post online. Always ask for proof of a rental permit, do a video call with the person renting the home, and never wire money to secure a unit.

Women Travelers Risk

WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW

Women should use all the standard cautions as you would in any beach town, but there's not an overwhelming risk here. The nightlife can be fun, but stick with a buddy and don't walk around alone. If you drink too much, ask a security officer for help. Also, don't go kayaking or surfing solo.

Tap Water Risk

TAP WATER RISK: LOW

The water here meets or exceeds all the requirements of the Safe Water Drinking Act. If there is a water quality issue, beach towns are great about communicating that to the hotels and rentals. That would usually happen only after flooding or a hurricane when tap water had been turned off during the storm.

Safest Places to Visit in Folly Beach

VisitFolly.com is the tourism website for the island and town.

You can download a free tourism guide without having to give personal information – always a plus in my book.

I hate being spammed with emails after signing up for information.

That said, you can sign up for the mailing list to get more updated information closer to your trip.

Also, Folly Beach has a mobile app that includes the main attractions, beaches, rules, and regulations.

It’s a wonderful tool to carry with you as you visit this eclectic beach community.

Folly Beach, the actual beach, is six miles long.

We’ll start at the southernmost end and work our way north/northeast.

Folly Beach County Park takes up the southern edge of the barrier island, almost a mile long.

It faces the ocean and the Folly River.

It has standard beach amenities, like restrooms, showers, and a seasonal snack bar.

You can rent umbrellas, chairs, and boogie boards.

Heading north from there, you’ll find public access spots among seasonal rentals.

Once you reach Center Street, you’re in the heart of Folly Island.

Take a walk on the Edwin S. Taylor Folly Beach Fishing Pier to see the “Edge of America” view.

It juts out more than 1,000 feet above the water.

There’s a larger viewing area at the end, with fantastic sunrise views.

Rod rentals and a tackle shop are available if you don’t have your own fishing gear.

All the restaurants, shops, and rental stores are found on Center Street.

The dining options are as eclectic as the town, but you still get those standard seafood shacks with ocean views and tropical drinks that hit the spot on a hot summer’s day.

The entire Center Street corridor is an Instagram photo shoot waiting to happen with vibrant colors and unique decor that embraces the uniqueness of the island.

Heading northeast, you’ll get more public beach access spots until you reach the Lighthouse Inlet Heritage Preserve.

The island ends here with sweeping views of Morris Island and its lighthouse and plenty of secluded space to enjoy a beach day or sunset.

Ecotourism is a big deal here, and if you look at the footprint of Folly Beach, you’ll see why.

Waterways of saltwater marsh weave through the back end of the island, with surprise restaurants or islands along the way.

Tours are available by boat, kayak, or paddleboard.

You can also take boat tours to see dolphins, go fishing, or learn more about the region’s history.

Surfing is a huge activity here, and you’ll find plenty of rentals.

If it’s your first time, several surfing schools are available for beginner lessons.

If you are an experienced surfer, head to The Washout on the northeast end of the beach – that’s where Hurricane Hugo knocked down a bunch of homes that were never rebuilt and has now emerged as one of the best surf spots on the coast.

Of course, you also have all the attractions in Charleston, just nine miles away.

Places to Avoid in Folly Beach

The places to avoid a pretty standard – don’t go onto private property and stay away from the water when beach warning flags are up.

You should also reconsider a trip if a tropical storm or hurricane is approaching.

As a barrier island, places like Folly Beach take the brunt of the storm.

Hurricane Hugo reshaped this island, leaving up to 80% of the homes uninhabitable or destroyed.

Many people not familiar with hurricanes don’t realize that storm surge is the number one cause of death in hurricanes.

Everyone thinks it’s the wind.

As one local resident said after Hurricane Hugo, “Then it (the water) came to my waist pitch dark, can’t see my hand in front of my face, then it got up to my shoulders, didn’t know what to do or where to go, but I’ll never make that mistake again.”

Every storm that comes now continues to erode away at this beautiful beach, including Hurricane Michael in 2016 and Hurricane Idailia in 2023.

Safety Tips for Traveling to Folly Beach

  1. Folly Beach has its own police department. Find them on Facebook by searching for “Folly Beach Public Safety Public Information,” as they don’t have a handle for the page. You can also call (843)588-7003 with specific safety questions.
  2. Sign up for emergency notifications through the CodeRED website or app. This is the best way to get immediate alerts about incoming severe or tropical weather. You will also get major safety issues, like a bridge closure or water quality issues. The program is free and is widely used throughout South Carolina Communities, making it a go-to app as you travel across the state.
  3. Alcohol is not allowed on Folly Beach, and this is strictly enforced. A little more than a decade ago, this was the only beach where alcohol was permitted in South Carolina. A 4th of July Beach Brawl led to a temporary ban, and the residents voted for a permanent ban. You can drink at restaurants if you’re 21 or older, just not at the beach.
  4. Also, plastic of any kind, including snack bags, is banned from all the South Carolina beaches, including Folly Beach. That goes for styrofoam and balloons, too. Any violation of the beach rules can lead to a fine of up to more than $1,000.
  5. Do not use lights on the beach at night between 10 pm and dawn from May 1st to October 31st. This is to protect sea turtle nests. Lights can confuse the turtles and make them unable to reach the water. If you happen to spot a turtle egg nest, please call 843-588-2433. These are roped off to keep people away.
  6. Surfers need to know the rules and limits here. You can’t surf between 10am and 6pm between May 15th and Sept. 15th from 2nd Street East to 3rd Street West. That’s because it’s a designated swimming zone, and this beach gets packed. From September 16th to May 14th, surf any time of day except for within 200 feet of the pier. Also, you must always use a leash while surfing.
  7. South Carolina has groups called Waterkeepers that check beach water quality throughout the year. You can find the latest Folly Beach report through the Charleston Waterkeeper or the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. The last thing you want to do is sit in all that traffic, fight for a parking spot, and find out the beach is closed.
  8. Speaking of traffic, lots here will fill up before 10:30 am most summer days. Get there early. I always choose to make my beach days start with the sunrise, so I’m forced to get there early. A bonus on a surfing beach is that you get to watch the surfers before all the crowds get there.
  9. Any fishing or shelling requires a license from the state. You can buy that online or purchase it at one of the vendors in town. That rule does apply even if you are going on a fishing charter.
  10. Most people choose to get around Folly Beach using golf carts, and you can rent one on the island. Pay attention to the street limits of where you can use it. For example, Center Street is off-limits. Don’t drive a golf cart after you’ve been drinking, as it comes with the same penalties as driving a vehicle while drunk.

So... How Safe Is Folly Beach Really?

Without real crime data from Folly Beach Police, I can’t back up any information with statistics – at least, not from this decade.

I’ve searched through many news articles over the past five years to see what made headlines there, and some violent crimes would make me lean toward saying this – just be cautious.

First, it’s one of the most crowded beaches in the area since it’s so close to Charleston.

Second, it’s known for the Spring Break crowd, and people like to let loose and have fun.

In 2023, a shooting at Isle of Palms beach rattled the entire island community and limited group gatherings.

Police are on extra notice for any group gatherings that appear to be getting out of hand.

In another headline, a bride and groom who had just gotten married on the beach were driving a golf cart when a drunk driver hit them.

The bride was killed.

The driver’s blood alcohol content was three times the legal limit.

Be responsible at Folly Beach.

Use common sense.

Don’t drink beyond your ability to make smart decisions.

Heed all water and safety warnings.

Drink plenty of water, wear sunscreen, and use bug spray.

Folly Beach is really as safe as you decide to make it.

How Does Folly Beach Compare?

CitySafety Index
Folly Beach68
Boston67
Washington DC56
New York City67
Detroit56
San Diego67
Miami55
Buenos Aires (Argentina)60
Vancouver (Canada)82
Cordoba (Argentina)61
Toronto (Canada)81
Melbourne (Australia)80
Montreal (Canada)81

Useful Information

Visas

Visas

International travelers need a visa or visa waiver paired with a valid passport that isn't within six months of expiring.

Currency

Currency

Only the U.S. Dollar can be used here, and credit cards are widely accepted. Use that card as much as possible since cash is too easy to lose and even harder to track down if you do. If you are coming here to celebrate an event, your loved ones can purchase Folly Cash to spend on the island. If you choose to use cash, don't wait to use the ATMs here to exchange currency - the fees will be very high.

Weather

Weather

You get great beach weather here in the summer, with warm, sunny days and occasional to frequent afternoon thunderstorms. Spring and fall can be a bit chilly, but the shoulder season offers great beach days without crowds. In the winter, highs get into the 50s, and lows dip into the 40s.

Airports

Airports

Charleston International Airport is 20 miles from Folly Beach, but there's just one bridge to get on or off the island. It can take 30 minutes without traffic, but up to 90 minutes with traffic.

Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance

Comprehensive travel insurance makes the most sense, but ask what coverage you get for hurricane or tropical storm delays and cancellations. Also, ask if your rental will come with insurance, as it might be redundant to your travel insurance policy.

Click here to get an offer for travel insurance

Folly Beach Weather Averages (Temperatures)

Jan 10° C
Feb 11° C
Mar 14° C
Apr 18° C
May 22° C
Jun 26° C
Jul 27° C
Aug 27° C
Sep 25° C
Oct 20° C
Nov 16° C
Dec 11° C
Choose Temperature Unit

Average High/Low Temperature

Temperature / MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
High
°C
131417212428292927231814
Low
°C
781115202425252317138
High
°F
555763707582848481736457
Low
°F
454652596875777773635546

South Carolina - Safety by City

CitySafety Index
Aiken57
Beaufort67
Charleston70
Clemson76
Columbia68
Folly Beach68
Fort Mill78
Gaffney68
Greenville81
Hilton Head Island79
Isle of Palms81
Manning47
Mauldin77
Mount Pleasant78
Myrtle Beach65
North Augusta70
Orangeburg62
Pawleys Island82
Rock Hill63
Spartanburg48
St. Helena Island78
Sullivan’s Island80
Summerville78
Travelers Rest77
Walterboro68
West Columbia65

Where to Next?

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