Is Sullivan’s Island Safe? Crime Rates & Safety Report

Updated On March 20, 2024
Sullivan’s Island, United States
Safety Index:
80
* Based on Research & Crime Data

I’m not sure that I can write about Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, with the same verbosity as former resident Edgar Allan Poe, but here goes nothing.

Peo was inspired to write Gold Bug about his time here, saying in part, “This island is a very singular one.

It consists of little else than the sea sand and is about three miles long.

Its breadth at no point exceeds a quarter of a mile.

It is separated from the mainland by a scarcely perceptible creek, oozing its way through a wilderness of reeds and slime, a favorite resort of the marsh-hen …”

Sullivan’s Island is part of the Charleston metro area, with an affluent year-round population of around 2,500 people.

It holds history beyond the tortured poet, including the site of two forts and a less visible and unfortunate history of being a main port for slaves during the 1700s.

With nearly three miles of beach and several access points that highlight different natural and artistic venues, there’s something for everyone to explore on Sullivan’s Island.

You’ll find more home rentals than hotels on this island, but plenty of larger resorts on the nearby Isle of Palms.

Warnings & Dangers in Sullivan’s Island

Overall Risk

OVERALL RISK: LOW

There's a low risk here, with very few crimes and plenty of spaces to explore, even on such a small island. Plus, you get plenty of nearby island communities to explore.

Transport & Taxis Risk

TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW

No public transportation can get you to Sullivan's Island. A taxi, rideshare or rental car are the only options unless you want to bike 10 miles from Charleston. Bike paths are available from Mount Pleasant to the island.

Pickpockets Risk

PICKPOCKETS RISK: LOW

The risk is low, with just one pickpocket reported in the past five years. You should still limit what you carry and keep your belongings with you at all times.

Natural Disasters Risk

NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM

Hurricanes or tropical storms pose the biggest risks from June through November, with the height of the season from August through October. Severe thunderstorms and flooding can happen throughout the year. This is a medium risk, and you should understand hurricane safety and evacuation routes before you arrive.

Mugging Risk

MUGGING RISK: LOW

Muggings are rare on Sullivan's Island. Don't let your guard down, but also know this is a safe community by and large.

Terrorism Risk

TERRORISM RISK: LOW

This is another low risk, given that it's a small island that is mostly residential. A mass shooting did happen on the nearby Isle of Palms in 2023. An 18-year-old man is accused of firing several shots during a fight near a pier. This was uncharacteristic for the community but a good example of how this can happen anywhere in America.

Scams Risk

SCAMS RISK: LOW

You can check the city and police department websites and social media pages to see if new scams are trending before your visit. Most scams target local residents.

Women Travelers Risk

WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: LOW

There's a low risk for women here, and that goes for all ages or even solo travelers.

Tap Water Risk

TAP WATER RISK: LOW

The 2022 Water Quality Report shows no violations and full compliance with all standards of the Safe Water Drinking Act. You can check the beach water quality through the state Department of Health.

Safest Places to Visit in Sullivan’s Island

You can find several tourist websites that are safe to explore for things to do on Sullivan’s Island.

One of those is the Charleston tourism website since this island is part of that metro area.

The city website for Sullivan’s Island has a section for tourists.

Sullivan’s Island has 2.5 miles of beach, and it’s one of the less crowded waterfront areas, especially compared to nearby Isle of Palms.

The beach is laid out by “stations,” and the roads intersecting with the beach will bear the name of the station.

You should get familiar with the various stations as they are more destinations than just mile markers.

For example, the best beach areas are between Station 16 and 28.

Station 10 takes you to the waterfront, but swimming isn’t allowed.

It does have a great sunset view.

Station 12 has big signs warning of dangerous currents and a swimming ban.

I would recommend spending time at Station 16 or 18.

You’ll walk a little further to get to the beach, but you also get great views along the boardwalk.

Sullivan’s Island Lighthouse is at Station 18.5, but you can’t tour the fixture.

Signs outside explain its novelty, including the fact that it’s the youngest major lighthouse in the nation.

At Station 28.5, you can see the UFO house (aka “Eye of the Storm), a private residence designed to hold up in a Category 4 hurricane.

Edgar Allan Poe fans flock to Sullivan’s Island, even though he scarcely spent a year here, but you can find his presence at the Edgar Allan Poe Library and Poe’s Tavern.

Poe also spent time at Fort Moultrie, which is open under the management of the National Park Service.

Explore this historic fort, which played significant roles in the American Revolution and the Civil War.

You can also take a ferry to Fort Sumter just offshore.

The only acknowledgment of slavery history here comes in the form of a bench and a historical marker detailing how “Africans were brought to this country under extreme conditions of human bondage and degradation” and “commemorates this site as the entry of Africans who came and contributed to the greatness of our country.”

To learn more about African American history in this community and across the world, visit the International African American Museum in Charleston.

Places to Avoid in Sullivan’s Island

The places to avoid on Sullivan’s Island have less to do with criminally dangerous activities and more to do with outdoor safety and law abidance.

Avoid the beach after 11 pm.

It is closed to everyone.

This is for your safety and the safety of the sea turtles.

No plastic is allowed on the beach at Sullivan’s Island.

That includes plastic bags, straws, and Styrofoam products.

Fines go up to $500 for violating the plastic ban.

Smoking is also banned on the beach and in any public area.

The only place you can legally smoke is in your vehicle or in a home, assuming smoking is allowed in a rental.

We’ll talk about coyote safety a bit in the next section, but they are most often spotted near beach stations 26 and 27.

It might be wise to avoid that area.

No lifeguards are stationed on the beaches here, so you swim at your own risk.

Safety Tips for Traveling to Sullivan’s Island

  1. Sullivan’s Island has a police department. You can follow them on Facebook @SIPDSTRONG. Feel free to call (843) 883-9636 with any specific safety questions.
  2. It’s imperative to stay on top of emergency alerts and weather information here, which can be done by simply signing up for CodeRED notifications. You’ll get emails, texts, or phone calls to alert you to impending safety issues.
  3. Those visiting during the summer and fall should review the Emergency Planning section of the city’s website to learn about evacuation zones, emergency kits, and types of severe weather that impact Sullivan’s Island.
  4. Fires on the beach are permitted with approval from the town and fire department. You must get permission at least 24 hours in advance but no more than two weeks in advance. Non-residents will pay more than residents to get the permit.
  5. You’ll be sharing the road here with bicycles, golf carts, and pedestrians. Stick to the speed limits and always pay attention to your surroundings. If you’re walking, don’t cross the street unless you are at a crosswalk and have the right of way.
  6. A fishing license is required for all fishing and clamming activities here. You can get that through the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. Just be sure to get a saltwater fishing license.
  7. Do NOT attempt to cross the harbor by kayak or SUP. Too much ship traffic comes through, and the current is too strong. You would be risking your life to even attempt it, no matter how skilled you are.
  8. Sea turtle nesting season is from May 15 through October 31. Do not disturb these nests or use any kind of light near the nests after dark. Once nests are spotted, they will be marked with posts and orange tape. Both local and federal laws prohibit any interaction with sea turtles.
  9. Coyotes are on Sullivan’s Island, and for the most part, they want nothing to do with you. In the event a coyote does come too close, make loud noises to scare it away. You can report coyote sightings at 843-743-7200. Whatever you do, do NOT feed a coyote. If you are traveling with a dog, keep it on a leash.
  10. For now, most parking is free on Sullivan’s Island. You will likely have to walk a few blocks to the beach, and knowing how to parallel park will come in handy.

So... How Safe Is Sullivan’s Island Really?

One of the biggest stories in recent years focused on the police chief himself, who was accused of sending sexual and racist messages to female colleagues.

A new chief is now in place.

Chief Glenn Meadows made his goals clear in an interview with a local television station – “We are dedicated to ensuring the Island remains a safe place to live, work and visit, with a focus on preventing crime and engaging the community.

Our members strive to build effective partnerships with all Town of Sullivan’s Island residents, businesses and visitors; and we agree to perform our duties in a courteous and fair manner.”

Between 2017 and 2022, just five violent crimes were reported.

2020 and 2022 saw no violent crimes.

About half of all thefts here fall into the “Other” category, which could be stuff taken from a yard, the beach, or a campsite.

Car break-ins make up about one-third of all thefts, but that whittles down to about five a year.

Locking your car and removing personal items is the easiest way to eliminate that risk.

The biggest safety concerns here are drownings (two in 2023 alone) and severe/tropical weather.

Using common sense and following standard safety guidance goes a long way to staying safe and enjoying a trip to Sullivan’s Island.

How Does Sullivan’s Island Compare?

CitySafety Index
Sullivan’s Island80
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

The first step is to make sure your passport isn't within six months of expiring on the final day of your trip. Then, research the visa options for your trip, which could mean eligibility for a visa waiver. The U.S. State Department has a Visa Wizard module on its website to help you get started on the right path.

Currency

Currency

The U.S. Dollar is the only currency used here. Exchange any currency before you get to the island. Your home bank will offer the lowest fees, or a local branch of your global bank can help, too. Otherwise, you'll need to use ATMs.

Weather

Weather

You'll get four seasons here, but the winters are mild, with highs in the upper 50s. Lows can get near freezing. Summers are warm and humid. Bring bug spray, sunscreen, and water shoes.

Airports

Airports

Charleston International Airport is 12 miles away, making it the closest and largest option. They don't have a currency exchange desk there, but ATMs are available.

Travel Insurance

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is a wise investment, and be sure you have coverage if a hurricane or tropical storm delays or cancels your trip.

Click here to get an offer for travel insurance

Sullivan’s Island Weather Averages (Temperatures)

Jan 10° C
Feb 11° C
Mar 15° C
Apr 19° C
May 23° C
Jun 27° C
Jul 28° C
Aug 28° C
Sep 26° C
Oct 20° C
Nov 16° C
Dec 12° C
Choose Temperature Unit

Average High/Low Temperature

Temperature / MonthJanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
High
°C
151620242831323230252117
Low
°C
45913182223232115106
High
°F
596168758288909086777063
Low
°F
394148556472737370595043

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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