Falling for Folly
The Madcap Cottage gents decamp for a winter escape
By Jason Oliver Nixon
There is something about a beach town after the season winds down, and the endless streams of SUV-driving visitors pack up and head back to lands farther afield (aka, New Jersey). The air chills. Restaurants resume a sense of normalcy without those tiresome, we-aren’t-on-Open Table waits. The music tones down a notch, and the locals actually say hello.
For a decade I lived year-round in the Hamptons, and every Labor Day, the vibe would shift seismically. For the better. Granted, our coffers were full from the go-go summer season just behind us, so everyone was happy, flush, and ready to hibernate. And there would be no more of those all-too-frequent Range Rover road rage incidents in front of the must-have doughnuts joint until next Memorial Day.
Folly Beach in South Carolina boasts that certain off-season magic, too. My partner, John Loecke, and I had visited this vest pocket-sized beach town briefly in the summer, and it bristles with energy. Think fun, funky and just a dash honkytonk. Rooftop terraces pack in the crowds. The groovy al fresco Mexican eatery Chico Feo hosts hipsters 6-deep at the bar ordering dinner (try the mahi-mahi tacos and pozole if you brave the July hordes), and “Park Here!” placards are as ubiquitous as teens in bikinis with ice cream cones.
But come fall, as we discovered, the pace slows, and by winter the place has largely cleared out. In November, John and I craved some time away — a long weekend to read books, sit by a fire, walk on the beach and cook — and, on a whim, we decided to try a wintertime Folly. We rented a 1920s-era cottage, Camp Huron, that we had spotted on Instagram, and the house lived up to its billing.
Perfectly situated mere blocks from the action but plunked smack upon a postcard-perfect marsh and the Folly River, Camp Huron proved to be the ideal home base. Think an atmospheric white clapboard, one-story cottage with creaky painted-wood floors, two charming bedrooms, a perfect kitchen, clawfoot tubs, a record player, a firepit and barbecue grill, and a front porch kitted out with party lights. And Hollywood-worthy sunsets.
Says John, “Imagine stepping into the past but with all of the mod-cons, heaps of thoughtful touches, and lightning-fast Wi-Fi. Fluffy towels. Stacks of wood for the marsh-facing firepit. Elvis on the record player. And wonderful rocking chairs on the front porch. Truly, a small slice of heaven.”
The barrier island’s two-blocks-long main drag, Center Street, showcases relaxed, colorful eateries (take note of Taco Boy and Jack of Cups Saloon, in particular) and the usual assortment of beach gear shops and bars. It’s an ideal walking town. In the mornings, we grabbed a coffee at nearby, always-open Bert’s Market with its endless assortment of fresh sandwiches, barbecue and sushi (and oh! the corn dogs).
One evening, we stopped at a terrific seafood food truck near the bridge, Crosby’s Fish and Shrimp Co., and picked up fresh, fresh fish and sat on Camp Huron’s back deck bundled up with heaps of candles. Kicking up the camp experience, we paired our meal with a big bottle of Prosecco and Swiss chocolate s’mores. There was a full constellation of stars overhead, and the occasional trawler passed by in the distance with lights flickering.
John and I walked the dark-sand beach.
We read Nancy Mitford and Caleb Carr — and considered Death in Venice.
With to-go sandwiches in tow from Bert’s, we plunked down on the long strands in scarves and sweaters for a lengthy picnic lunch.
And we spent a stellar day in nearby, more buttoned-up Charleston and environs.
We had biscuits at Callie’s.
We shopped for vintage finds at the always-inspirational Antiques of South Windermere.
Exploration of idyllic Mt. Pleasant was followed by cocktails at the wonderful Post House Inn.
At sunset, we headed back to our restorative beachside retreat for another dinner under the stars paired with a superlative Sicilian white. Cold. Crisp.
Herons bobbed about in the marsh.
And we turned off — ready for a final, blissful morning of doing absolutely nothing. OH
The Madcap gents, John Loecke and Jason Oliver Nixon, embrace the new reality of COVID-friendly travel — heaps of road trips.