We can't stop here - this is jellyfish country!
May 18, 2009 4:30 PM   Subscribe

Have you ever been to the beaches in the Charleston, SC, area in May? Is the water warm enough to swim in, and how clear is it (jellyfish? seaweed? etc)? Should we instead go further down the Atlantic coast to Tybee Island? Is our attempt to find a new beach hopeless? Should we just go back to the Redneck Riviera (read: Gulf Coast)?
posted by TheNewWazoo to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (13 answers total)
I can't speak to the warmth of the water. But I adored Tybee Island. One of my best beach trips ever. Charming, anachronistic, and beautiful.
posted by kimdog at 4:34 PM on May 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

How warm do you require? The Gulf is always going to seem like a hot tub compared to the Atlantic.
posted by rikschell at 4:36 PM on May 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

I've lived in Charleston for around 10 years. As far as jellyfish, I rarely see them at either of the two public beaches (Isles of Palms or Folly Beach). Seaweed isn't out in the water floating either.
posted by rancidchickn at 4:41 PM on May 18, 2009

I grew up going to nearby Edisto and it should definitely be warm enough for swimming in may; according to this the average water temp in Charleston is 75 degrees in the last half of May. We are going to Isle of Palms in 2 weeks and definitely plan on swimming in the ocean.
posted by TedW at 5:04 PM on May 18, 2009

I just moved from the Fort Walton Beach/Navarre/Destin area 3 days ago. We went to the beach just a couple days before that, and the water temp was already about 75.

Pretty much all the water around the country is monitored by a series of offshore buoys that read everything from wave height and duration to flow and temperature.

In the redneck riviera (right where I was), the delay in temperature creep from 15 miles out to the actual beach was between 1-2 weeks. So...when we saw 74 degrees offshore, we knew that swimmable water was coming fast. You can sort of look at the flows and get an idea how fast any given water will get wherever, so it's possible you can look 4-6 weeks ahead of your vacation schedule and make a decision.

Of course, that's barring massive rainfall, etc. We had 70 degree water like 6 weeks ago, and then we got 18 inches of rain in 2 weeks, and it took another 3 weeks for it to get back to 70.
posted by TomMelee at 5:19 PM on May 18, 2009

I've been to many gulf beaches and many southern Atlantic beaches and there is quite a difference. The Atlantic will always be noticeably colder and choppier. The water is often a much deeper blue. The sand is often rougher. The Gulf (in the summer) is really warm, with soft rolling waves, beautiful sand, caribbean colors. I obviously prefer the Gulf, but it's striking how much I prefer it. I have never been to an Atlantic beach that I really enjoyed. I've had alright experiences there, but the water's always been too cold for me. I've had a number of really amazing days in the Gulf. It's like being in the Caribbean (well, almost).

If you prefer the brisk water with crashing waves - I know some people do - then give the Atlantic a go. If you prefer the warm, rolling water that you can lounge in for hours, see if you can't find a Gulf beach in a different area. Don't go to Pensacola or Destin, the 'official' Redneck Riviera. Not too far east there is a beautiful nature preserve called St George Island that has lots of opportunities for quiet beach house rentals. Further south you have Anna Maria Island and Sanibel Island, both beautiful not terribly tacky places. If you prefer the mainland, I highly recommend the beaches in Pinellas County, from Dunedin and Clearwater down to Pass-a-Grille.

Tybee Island is beautiful. The look and feel of the town is really nice (though so is the look and feel of Apalachicola or Dunedin). I've had lovely days walking and biking around, looking through shops. But it was way too cold for me to swim there. It's true, I hate any water colder than 85 f. But if you don't have to freeze in the ocean, why should you?
posted by mosessis at 6:04 PM on May 18, 2009

Surf Reports list water temp. You can monitor that for a few days to get a feel for current conditions.

I've lived at Folly and only see an occasional jellyfish (never in the water). Seaweed is sometimes encountered down at my feet, but not floating. You'll also see a good bit of (lightweight, hollow) driftwood depending on where you are on the beach. My advice: Rent a house
posted by ijoyner at 6:13 PM on May 18, 2009

Oh, and the water on the beach is not very clear, but not dirty... Say you're standing in chest-high water and you put a hand underwater, you'll see it down to about your waist or thigh.
posted by ijoyner at 6:17 PM on May 18, 2009

Best answer: I just went to Charleston last weekend. The temperature in the city was in the 90s and about 10 degrees cooler at the beach (we were at Isle of Palms). We didn't swim, just walked, but the water wasn't shockingly cold.

As for jellyfish, we saw three dead ones. They were all in about a 25 ft. area, so it was probably just a fluke, but there you go. Didn't see any seaweed at all.
posted by cooker girl at 6:36 PM on May 18, 2009

Best answer: Our family just got back from Wild Dunes/Isle of Palms three weeks ago. We had a spectacular time. The temperatures were unseasonably warm (80s) and the water was very pleasant (high 60s/low 70s). The water was so nice, in fact, that my 2 year-old daughter wouldn't come out. Things were particularly nice at low tide when she could spash in the tide pools, some of which were downright warm.

We saw 3-4 dead jellyfish at low tide, and a few big live ones trapped in tide pools. Both for the most part the water was free of them.

I second ijoyner who recommended renting a house (or condo). The prices were really quite affordable. We had a very nice 2 br. condo on the beach for $1200 for the week.
posted by scblackman at 7:09 PM on May 18, 2009

If you are looking for a new beach, try the public ones on Hilton Head. In March, they were obviously too cold but very clear.
posted by soelo at 9:37 PM on May 18, 2009

Best answer: Answering on behalf of my GF, a Charleston native:

Water will definitely be warm enough for swimming, there will be jellyfish, though you might not notice. (She's never been stung by one in years of swimming at this time of year.) The beaches should be pretty lightly trafficked for now, as the tourists won't start coming in earnest until June.

Expect air temps between 70-90.
posted by SpiffyRob at 4:47 AM on May 19, 2009

Best answer: I grew up in Charleston. Jellyfish aren't a problem there like they are in the Chesapeake bay or the Gulf; don't worry about jellyfish. I've never been stung there. The water is never all that clear but it's clean, just sandy. There isn't a whole lot of seaweed. Folly Beach is one of my favorite places in the whole world and yes, it's probably plenty warm enough to swim by now.
posted by mygothlaundry at 7:32 AM on May 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

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