Welcome to James Island

Parking at Folly Beach in Charleston, SC; James Island in the background

Close to Everything with Plenty To Do Right At Home

Located across the Ashley River from downtown Charleston and across the Folly River from Folly Beach, James Island has long been among the area’s most-desirable places to live. If you work downtown, you can wake up at your home surrounded by palm trees and waterways in the morning, make the short drive across the James Island Expressway for the day, and then have dinner at the beach in the evening. And, if you choose, you can do this every day of the year.

But, while James Island’s proximity to downtown Charleston and the beach are among its most desirable characteristics, they are just two of many. There are lots of other reasons to live on James Island as well, from the desirable homes in well-established neighborhoods to residents’ easy access to waterfront Melton Peter Demetre Park and popular James Island County Park.

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Living on James Island

Living on James Island is a unique experience. While the island has family-friendly neighborhoods, community parks, shopping, restaurants, and all of the other trappings of suburban living, it is also surrounded by water (yes, it really is an island). As a result, residents enjoy easy access to multiple boat landings and kayak put-ins, and the island has a large number of waterfront homes with their own docks. Folly Island’s Atlantic Ocean beach is also just a short drive away—as short as five minutes for James Island’s closest residents.

James Island is home to several public elementary schools as well as a public middle school and charter high school, and there are also multiple private schools on the island. While the charter high school is a popular choice for families with teenagers, many (but far from all) families on James Island choose to have their younger children attend schools in West Ashley or downtown Charleston. Regardless of which option your family chooses, the drive isn’t bad most days. There are several options for extracurricular activities both on and off of the island as well.

As far as shopping and dining, James Island is home to several local retail businesses as well as a Harris Teeter and Publix grocery stores, Lowes, and a Walmart. The island also has several restaurants that are popular among James Island locals as well as residents of nearby West Ashley and Johns Island. West Ashley offers additional shopping options, and James Island residents can dine in downtown Charleston with just a short drive over the Ashley River.

James Island, South Carolina
Sunset over James Island, South Carolina

Eating Out on James Island

What if you want to stay even closer to home and eat out on James Island? Most of James Island’s restaurants are located along Maybank Highway and Folly Road. Options range from date-night restaurants like Crust Wood Fire Pizza and Zia Taqueria to local favorites like Ladles Soups and Bohemian Bull. Mediterranean, Mexican, Greek, Italian, Thai, and barbecue are all on offer, and of course the island has several seafood options and southern Lowcountry favorites as well.

James Island also has several local coffee shops and cafés, along with breakfast restaurants, pizza restaurants, and other family favorites. There are casual options as well, from Lowdown Oven and Bar to well-known fast casual brands.

As we mentioned above, many of James Island's restaurants are located on Folly Road. Folly Road runs the entire length of James Island, connecting it to both West Ashley and Folly Beach. If you're headed to West Ashley for work (or heading home in the evening), you can stop for a quick bite to eat without taking a detour; and, if you're headed to the beach, you can grab takeout for a beach picnic if you don't want to wait for a table at one of Folly Beach's restaurants on a busy summer weekend day.

The variety of food options on James Island reflects one of the island's main draws: There truly is something for everyone. This applies not only to finding somewhere to eat, but to finding a home and finding things to do as well. Due to its variety of options, James Island is a popular destination for transplants and long-term lowcountry residents alike--whether they are looking for their first home or a multi-million-dollar luxury waterfront property.

Things to Do on James Island

Along with eating out, things to do on James Island primarily include outdoor activities—as is the case throughout much of Charleston. James Island County Park has a waterpark, climbing wall, trails, playgrounds, and even a campground, and Melton Peter Demetre Park offers views of the historic Battery in downtown Charleston and the Ravenel Bridge. The Wild Blue Ropes Adventure Park is a popular option for families, while fishing, boating, and kayaking are all popular among residents as well.

James Island is also home to traditional gyms and a CrossFit gym. For history buffs, there are several historic points of interest on the island dating back to Charleston’s antebellum era.

For James Islanders who live in the island’s easternmost neighborhoods, biking to the beach is a very realistic option—it takes about 10 to 15 minutes to get to Folly Island’s Center Street on Folly Beach Road’s bike lane. Runners who live on the island can use the bike lane to run to the beach as well.

As you might expect, easy access to the beach is one of the main draws for many James Island residents. While James Island doesn't have its own beach, getting to Folly Beach is easy, and James Islanders have the opportunity to get there and find parking before beachgoers from other parts of Charleston get stuck in traffic on Folly Road. When you live on James Island, you can go to the beach in the morning, relax at home in the afternoon, and then go out for dinner in historic downtown Charleston or at one of the popular waterfront restaurants on Shem Creek.

Along with going to the beach, many James Islanders regularly visit James Island County Park. Entrance is free with a Charleston County Parks Gold Pass, which also gets you free parking at Folly Beach County Park just a short drive away. For families, James Island County Park's multiple playgrounds, waterpark, and rental boats all offer great opportunities for spending time outdoors; and, for outdoor enthusiasts, the park's miles of paved trails and climbing wall are great options as well. Many local residents run, walk, or climb at the park multiple times per week.

Real Estate on James Island

James Island is home to some of the most desirable neighborhoods in Charleston. Whether you want an older home and a yard with live oaks draped in Spanish moss, a new home in a planned neighborhood, or a luxury home on the water, you can find what you are looking for on James Island. Some of the island’s most-popular neighborhoods include:

  • Battery Point
  • Bayview Farms
  • Bennett’s Bluff
  • Country Club II
  • Eaglewood Retreat
  • Eastwood
  • Fort Johnson Estates
  • Freeman’s Point
  • Harbor Place
  • Harbor Woods
  • Island Shores
  • Ocean Neighbors
  • Parrot Bluff
  • Parrot Creek
  • Riverland Terrace
  • Sea Aire
  • Seaside Plantation
  • Stiles Point Plantation
  • The Village at Stiles Point
  • Woodhaven
  • Woodland Shores

As we mentioned above, when it comes to homes on James Island, there truly are options for everyone. Many families that move to James Island are buying their first home. From older neighborhoods to brand new neighborhoods with "Charleston single"-style homes, there are several options on the island that are still very affordable. On the other end of the scale, James Island's premier waterfront neighborhoods like Riverland Terrace, Country Club, and Fort Johnson Estates offer multi-million-dollar homes with deepwater docks, luxury amenities, and unparalleled views that more than justify their price tags.

Apartments on James Island

James Island has several apartment homes as well, including several new luxury apartment buildings on Maybank Highway as well as affordable options on the opposite of the island close to Folly Beach. If you are interested in renting on the island, you have no shortage of options available. Many young professionals and transplants rent on James Island and commute to work at MUSC, the College of Charleston, law firms, real estate firms, and other businesses on the Charleston peninsula.

Activities on and Around James Island

What is there to do on (or near) James Island? The list is almost as endless as your imagination. When you live on James Island in South Carolina, you have easy access to:

  • Powerboating and sailing (whether you own your own boat, take a charter, or joint a boat club)
  • Kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding
  • Surfing, windsurfing, and kiteboarding at the beach
  • Road and trail running and cycling
  • Gyms, studios, and specialty fitness centers
  • Shopping and dining
  • Plays, musical performances, and the history of downtown Charleston
  • Morning sunrise walks and sunset dinners in the evenings
  • Birdwatching and dolphin spotting
  • Kids’ activities ranging from surfing and skateboarding to art and music lessons

Does James Island Have Alligators?

Yes, like most of the neighborhoods in Charleston, many of James Island’s neighborhoods have alligators. But, this should not deter you from visiting or moving to the island. For most island residents, spotting alligators is a routine occurrence, as they simply lounge in the sun or float in ponds. Enjoy looking at these prehistoric creatures from a distance, and soon this will become a part of your everyday life. As one local news outlet reported, “[South Carolina] is home to thousands of alligators. They bite people less often than sharks do.” Not that you need to be concerned about sharks at neighboring Folly Beach, either—as the data show that, “the odds of getting attacked [by a shark in South Carolina] are around 1 in 738 million.”

View of the Charleston Harbor from James Island, SC
James Island, SC with the world-famous Charleston Harbor and Ravenel Bridge in the distance.

FAQs: What’s It Like to Live on James Island?

Here are the answers to some frequently-asked questions about living on James Island:

Is James Island Actually an Island?

Yes, James Island is actually an island. James Island is surrounded by water on all sides—Wappoo Creek to the north, the Stono River to the west, Folly River to the south, and the Ashley River and Charleston harbor to the east. Many James Island residents have water views (and deepwater access) at home, and boating, kayaking, standup paddle boarding (SUP), fishing, and going to the beach are all popular activities among those who live on the island.

Is James Island in the City of Charleston?

A portion of James Island is located within the City of Charleston. According to the official City of Charleston website, “Over 18,000 James Islanders are . . . in the City limits.” The remaining portions of James Island are located in Charleston County. But, all James Island residents live within a short drive of downtown Charleston; and, for many, this is one of their main reasons for moving to the island.

Is James Island a Good Place to Live?

James Island is a great place to live. Residents enjoy all of the benefits of living in Charleston County (the City of Charleston is located within Charleston County), from access to county parks to the county’s largely effective planning and consistent maintenance. James Islanders also have a short drive to both downtown Charleston and Folly Beach. James Island itself offers many attractions as well, from public boat landings and homes with private docks to popular local businesses and restaurants.

What Is It Like to Live on James Island?

It’s hard not to like living on James Island. The homes are nice, the neighborhoods and public parks offer lots of amenities, local restaurants and businesses outnumber franchised chains, and you can get on the water or go to the beach every day if you choose. James Islanders also have just a short drive to downtown Charleston and all of the restaurants, events, and culture it has to offer. Whether you are looking for an apartment, a family-friendly neighborhood with a pool and playground, or a multi-million-dollar waterfront home with a deepwater dock and views of the peninsula, you can find it on James Island.

Does James Island Have a Beach?

Despite being surrounded by water James Island does not have a public beach. However, James Island is connected to Folly Island by a short bridge, and many residents have no more than a 5-10 minute drive (or bike ride) to Folly Beach. As a result, going to the beach is a popular activity among James Island residents; and, due to the island’s proximity to Folly Beach, residents can avoid much of the traffic that can lead to delays for residents of West Ashley and other areas.

How Far is James Island from the Beach?

James Island is less than three miles from the beach. Where James Island ends, the marshes surrounding the Folly River begin. A short drive, bike ride, or run on Folly Beach Road brings James Islanders to the beach—everyday if they so choose.

Should You Move to James Island?

So, should you move to James Island? Out of all of the places to live in the Charleston area, is James Island the place you should call home?

Ultimately, the answer to this question is up to you. James Island is definitely a great place to live; and, today, more people call the island home than ever before. James Island offers close proximity to the beach and downtown Charleston with a laid back lifestyle, and you can find the perfect neighborhood whether you are a first-time homebuyer or you are looking for a waterfront property for your forever home.

James Island is also a safe place to live. The island’s crime statistics are fairly low, and this is perhaps indicative of both its geography and its demographics. Most people who live on James Island work full-time, and getting to James Island takes some effort regardless of the direction from which you are coming.

With that said, most James Island residents find it easy to get on and off of the island as needed. Whether going across the Stono River to eat out on Johns Island, heading into West Ashley or downtown Charleston, or heading to Folly Beach, all of the surrounding areas are just a short drive away. This convenience is another key factor that brings many people to James Island as well.

Plus, as we mentioned above, while you certainly can leave James Island to go out to dinner, exercise, or see the sights, you don’t have to. James Island has its own parks, boat ramps, gyms, restaurants, historic sites, and waterfront views. If you work on James Island (including if you work from home), you could easily stay on the island for weeks, if not months, at a time.

But, the beauty of being so close to everything is that you don’t have to. You can go to a lunch meeting downtown and then have dinner by the ocean in the evening. You can take in the sunrise just across the bridge on Folly Beach, then take in the sunset from various points around the Charleston harbor. Living on James Island truly is what you make it, and many local residents will tell you that living here feels like being on vacation every day of their lives.