Conroy’s novel is kicking the tourist trade up a notch — a tourist trade that already brings in about $100 million a year to Charleston County, where people come to see Fort Sumter and numerous Revolutionary War and Civil War sites (South Carolina was the first state to secede) and real-pirates-of-the-Caribbean sites. Charleston’s historical inns, cotton exchanges, dungeons, and rows of tall and slim pastel homes are well preserved and well traveled. The city is home to the internationally attended Spoleto Festival USA, an arts festival held annually for 17 days in late spring. Its low-country restaurants and plantation homes-turned-inns are legion. Like New Orleans and Savannah, Georgia, Charleston drips of the Old South. But with its miles of connected beaches and its islands to the north and south, it beats the other cities . (The two rivers, the Ashley and the Cooper, converge on Charleston’s east side to spill into Charleston Harbor and the Atlantic Ocean. As the locals also like to put it, to the west is the port side, the fourth largest in North America.)
Just out to sea from Charleston is Sullivan’s Island, the setting for the opening of The Prince of Tides. To the north is Isle of Palms beach and the well-known Wild Dunes Resort. Farther north is Myrtle Beach. To the south is the more secluded Folly Beach and Kiawah Island, home of the five-star Sanctuary golf resort, which includes the Ocean Course, where the 2004 Ryder Cup was held. And then there’s Fripp Island, where Conroy currently lives. Taking up seven square miles, Fripp Island has about 1,000 permanent residents, and as the most seaward of South Carolina’s islands, it offers picturesque beaches of dunes. Farther south still is Hilton Head.