Charleston’s lively downtown area is far from its only attraction. Beyond its cobblestone streets and picturesque cityscape, the Lowcountry’s outdoor recreation and wildlife opportunities are begging to be explored. Whether you’re fishing for Red Drum in Charleston’s inshore waters or cruising the coastline and taking an island-hopping adventure, the Lowcountry offers an incredible outdoor experience for all.
The surrounding Lowcountry is a one-of-a-kind mix of history and natural splendor, beckoning families to discover her fascinating and majestic natural landscape. From visiting historic Charleston plantations to delving into the city’s rich equine history, one thing is certain: you’ll never lack for things to do!
Even those who have lived in Charleston their entire lives are still becoming acquainted with the area’s natural beauty and wonder. If you’re eager to learn more about the vast array of outdoor opportunities in Charleston, S.C., you’ve come to the right place.
Why Explore the Charleston Outdoors?
You don’t need to be an accomplished outdoor enthusiast to enjoy Charleston’s rolling rivers, tranquil marshes and miles of white-sand beaches. History lovers, adrenaline junkies, bird watchers and Lowcountry families alike can and do take advantage of the endless number of ways to experience the region’s natural landscape.
Those who live in Historic Downtown Charleston are accustomed to the urban hustle and bustle. But there is something to be said about stepping beyond the city limits to explore its natural wonders. What do you have to gain by going on an outdoor adventure in Charleston? Let’s take a look.
A Unique Blend of History and Nature
While most visitors flock to the Holy City for her impressive architecture and vast array of historic attractions, many history enthusiasts overlook the rich stories that nature has to tell. Hidden within the city’s marshland and live oaks are a millennium of history just waiting to be discovered.
Whether you’re sailing a few hundred feet off the coast to see the Morris Island Lighthouse, taking a guided bike ride around Charleston or going on an exciting eco tour, both visitors and residents alike can appreciate the Lowcountry’s natural and cultural history.
Healthy Outdoor Recreation for the Entire Family
If there is one reason why you and the entire family should spend more time outdoors, it’s for your health. Research shows that spending time in nature can improve both mental and physical well-being. According to a 2018 study from the University of East Anglia, living in close proximity to nature and spending time outdoors can reduce the risk of numerous diseases and lower stress.
Charleston’s great outdoors has everything you need to live a healthy and active lifestyle. If you don’t want to go too far to get your sweat on, stop by one of the city’s many county parks, playgrounds and green spaces. Whether you want to run across Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge or take a relaxing stroll through the city’s gorgeous public gardens, you’ll find plenty of ways to stay active in the Holy City.
Educational wildlife opportunities abound in the Lowcountry. With its wide variety of diverse ecosystems, South Carolina has no shortage of educational programs for both youngsters and adults to learn more about the region’s natural habitats.
When you live in a region as beautiful as the Lowcountry, it just makes sense to teach the next generation to love and respect the land. Additionally, Charleston and the surrounding Lowcountry are one of the fastest growing places along the East Coast. As the region continues its fast-paced growth, the importance of land preservation and conservation can’t be ignored.
Outdoor Activities in Charleston, S.C.
Charleston has a bounty of outdoor opportunities that are ripe for exploring. Whether you prefer an adrenaline-packed kayaking adventure along the city’s gorgeous waterways or enjoy taking the entire family on pleasant nature walks, there is an outdoor Lowcountry experience for everyone to enjoy.
It’s not just the sheer volume of outdoor activities that makes the Lowcountry appealing to so many. With average temperatures hovering around the 60s during the fall and winter, you won’t be stuck indoors during the cooler months. Thanks to the city’s subtropical climate, Charleston has become one of the most popular and affordable snowbird destinations, with many temporary residents choosing to stay in Charleston vacation rentals or their second homes to escape the frigid cold up North.
Learn and Appreciate Lowcountry Wildlife
Ready to gain a newfound appreciation for the thriving wildlife in the Lowcountry? Along with Charleston’s many natural history museums and beloved South Carolina Aquarium, the city also offers a vast number of hands-on learning experiences and wildlife groups for you to explore.
- Visit the Caw Caw Interpretive Center—Be sure to check out the Caw Caw Interpretive Center in Ravenel, S.C. for a fascinating lesson in Lowcountry nature, culture and history. Experience the many different types of natural habitats, from dry upland forest to cypress swamps, all while learning about the landscape’s rich history.
- Take a Guided Eco Tour—If you’ve always wanted to see dolphins and manatees up close, try taking a guided, multi-day kayak tour from Coastal Expeditions. Located in Mount Pleasant on Shem Creek, the Lowcountry outfitter takes people of all ages and skill levels on guided kayak and canoe tours to explore estuaries, blackwater and barrier islands.
- Join a Conservation Group—Want to appreciate the outdoors with like-minded individuals? Discover an enormous list of conservation groups in South Carolina, and you’re sure to find an organization that’s right up your alley.
- Go Bird Watching—Charleston has a large and active bird watching community. This is hardly surprising, given the roughly 300 species of birds in Charleston County alone. You don’t need to look far for bird watching opportunities. From Folly Beach County Park to the Caw Caw Interpretive Center, bird lovers will have no trouble finding a place to cozy up with their binoculars. Don’t forget to check out the Center For Birds of Prey for fascinating flight demonstrations and educational programs!
Get Active with Outdoor Sports
Looking for a way to work off Charleston’s savory, Lowcountry cuisine? With its many unspoiled waterways, nature trails, parks and playgrounds, Charleston offers plenty of ways to get your heart rate up all year long. Here are a few of the most popular outdoor activities in the Lowcountry:
- Surfing—Charleston boasts a huge surfing community and hosts several big surfing events each year which include both shortboard and longboard. Along with friendly surf competitions, many surfing groups and organizations seek to raise money through their competitions to benefit water-related non-profit organizations to keep oceans healthy and safe for all.
- Kiteboarding—On any given day, you’re likely to spot more than a few kiteboarders zipping through the water and doing flips in the air. If you’re a newcomer to the sport, take a few tips from Holy City Kiteboarding and get in the water for a thrilling afternoon.
- Paddling—The Holy City is truly a paddler’s paradise. With so many diverse waterways to paddle upon, it’s no wonder that Charleston is home to the East Coast Paddlesports Symposium—one of the biggest and best paddlesport festivals in the region.
- Golfing—Golf enthusiasts will have no problem finding a place to tee off in Charleston. Daniel Island is home to two PGA golf courses, while Mount Pleasant boasts an Arnold Palmer signature golf course, the only one in all of Charleston.
- Trail Walking, Running and Hiking—It takes no special skill to get out and walk a trail, and fortunately, Charleston has plenty of nature trails to traverse. From hiking Awendaw Passage to strolling along the West Ashley Greenway, there are plenty of trails to get your daily dose of nature. Want to combine nature and history? Take a stroll through one of Charleston’s gorgeous plantations and learn more about botany, husbandry, as well as the plantation’s historical and cultural significance.
- Biking—With a mild climate year-round, Charleston is a great place for a pleasant bike ride around the city. The city is also home to a strong cycling community and numerous recreational bike clubs.
This is just a small taste of the outdoor recreation opportunities in Charleston that sports-minded individuals can enjoy. Spend some time with the locals, and you’ll soon be exposed to a variety of interesting outdoor hobbies and recreational pursuits that may tickle your fancy.
Take a Stroll Along Charleston’s Beautiful Beaches
When it comes to exploring the Lowcountry’s great outdoors, you definitely don’t want to miss out on Charleston’s breathtaking beaches. From taking romantic strolls on Sullivan’s Island to catching waves and relaxing on Folly Beach, Charleston’s beaches are just waiting to be explored.
- Folly Beach—One of the most popular beaches in Charleston, Folly Beach has helped many families make lasting memories with its abundance of outdoor recreational activities. Laid-back and slower-paced, surfers can catch a wave in its dolphin-filled waters before grabbing a hearty breakfast at Lost Dog Café. Once summer rolls around, families enjoy booking a Folly Beach vacation rental to spend quality time on “Charleston’s Beach Town.”
- Isle of Palms—An idyllic coastal town, Isle of Palms offers a relaxing, yet fun atmosphere for everyone to enjoy. In addition to its beautiful, white-sand beaches and typical beach activities (surfing, shell-hunting, etc.), IOP is home to a large turtle population. It also offers numerous eco tours that allow guests to view dolphins at sunset or venture to Capers Island, an undeveloped barrier island just north of Charleston.
- Sullivan’s Island—Don’t appreciate the crowds at Folly or IOP? Check out the quiet shores of Sullivan Island instead. The quiet and quaint atmosphere on Sullivan’s Island makes it perfect for romantic walks along the beach, while its strong winds and occasional swell make it ideal for kiteboarders and surfers.
- Kiawah Island—If the sound of award-winning recreational activities and top-notch golf courses sound appealing to you, be sure to check out Kiawah Island. Golf enthusiasts flock to this unique barrier island for its PGA Championship Gold and world-class amenities. To top things off, Kiawah Island is well known for its sustainability and commitment to the environment. Along with many outdoor recreational opportunities, the island boasts numerous nature programs and conservancy efforts to preserve Kiawah’s natural beauty.
Make a Splash with Water-Related Activities
If you don’t get out on the water, you’re missing half the experience of Charleston’s great outdoors. In addition to the water activities we’ve already mentioned, here are other ways to explore the Lowcountry’s plentiful waterways:
- Paddleboard—Kayaking and canoeing along the city’s waterways and hearing dolphins come up for air beside you is a truly remarkable experience. Rent a kayak or paddleboard and weave through brackish waters, blackwater swamps, creeks and rivers teeming with wildlife.
- Dragon Boat Racing—It takes incredible mental and physical power to propel a massive boat through the water. Even if you don’t partake in dragon boat racing yourself, Charleston’s Dragon Boat Festival is something you don’t want to miss!
- Crabbing—Ready to give crabbing a try? Head to Shem Creek in Mount Pleasant, S.C. and give it a shot. Be sure that you’re familiar with the rules first and to get your crabbing license in advance. Once you’ve got that taken care of, drop a line and plan to spend a relaxing day on the water.
- Fishing—If you’re looking to relax with a fishing pole in hand, Charleston won’t disappoint. King Mackerel, Amberjack and Bull Redfish are all prevalent in the coastal waters, and there are plenty of helpful guides who will take you out on the water to reel in your first big catch of the day.
- Water Fountains—Need something for the kiddos to do? There are free water fountains scattered around Charleston that are perfect for the kids. Visit the Waterfront Park for a variety of fun fountains that will help everyone cool off during the summer.
Enjoy the Great Outdoors in Charleston, S.C.
Breathtaking beauty and natural wonder are mere minutes from downtown Charleston, and yet, many don’t take advantage of what awaits them just beyond city limits. Don’t let the Lowcountry’s stunning beauty pass you by! From aquatic experiences to relaxing on the beach with a book in hand, there is something for every outdoor enthusiast to enjoy.