Do you want to go row boating through the cypress trees? Does walking down the beach with the sand between your toes and dolphins jumping in the distance sound appealing? Look no further than Charleston, South Carolina! Downtown Charleston is full of historic sites and breathtaking architecture, but sometimes you just need to get away from all that hustle and bustle. In the area surrounding Charleston you will find some tranquil and spectacular natural escapes.
Here are 6 beautiful escapes from downtown Charleston, and don’t forget to check out my travel guide: Charleston & The Surrounding Area for even more details on planning a trip to South Carolina.
Located just 45 minutes from downtown Charleston is Cypress Gardens. Here you will find miles of walking trails through peaceful cypress swamps. Not only that, but if you’re feeling adventurous you can take a rowboat out through the swamps, but keep your eyes peeled for a gator or two. I feel it is more fun to row through on your own, but for a small added fee you can take an informative guided tour. After exploring the trails you can head on over to the butterfly house and mini aquarium to relax and learn more about aquatic life in South Carolina. Cypress Gardens has all you need to be one with nature. As an added bonus for all you movie buffs, both The Patriot and The Notebook were filmed here.
Come out to ‘The Edge of America’ as the locals call it and enjoy all that Folly Beach has to offer. This beach has everything from surfing to volleyball to fishing. There is always something fun to do in Folly. While on the beach be on the lookout for some of the many pods of dolphins that swim and play along the shoreline. If playing on the beach makes you work up an appetite make sure to check out the variety of different bars and restaurants around Folly Beach. Many offer live music and entertainment throughout the summer and on weekends.
Isle of Palms
The view of the beach and the palm trees opening up in front of you as you drive over the IOP Connector is worth the trip in itself. This beach, with its powdery, soft sand and blue water, will help you relax to the fullest. If you are looking for a quieter beach then look no further then Isle of Palms! While it does get busy in the summer, like all Charleston beaches it offers a slightly more peaceful experience. Get your timing right and you could even witness a sea turtle nesting.
Old Santee Canal Park
Is the beach not for you? Would you rather go on a hike along the canal and look for wildlife? Then you have to check out Old Santee Canal Park, located just 50 minutes from downtown Charleston. You will see lots of different animals from snakes and turtles to big old gators while hiking the trails around the canal. With miles of well-maintained hiking trails to choose from you can visit multiple times and continue to explore new sights. Don’t forget to check out the two museums on site either. One will teach you the history of the canal and the other the history of Berkeley County, where the park is located. Both are informative and offer some much needed air conditioning on those hot summer days. Oh, just don’t forget your bug spray!
Waterfront District at Shem Creek
Located just across the Ravenel bridge you will find Shem Creek, an easy and peaceful place to escape the city. Walk to the boardwalk that takes you out over the marshes towards the harbor and check out all the shrimp boats parked along the way. How many pelicans can you count perched along your path? Cast a line into the water and do some fishing while you’re there, or rent a kayak to check out the view from sea level. Shem Creek boasts a variety of waterfront restaurants that offer outdoor seating overlooking the water. Or better yet jump on the floating tiki bar and have a drink as you float through the creek!
Magnolia Plantation Gardens
If you time your visit right and can go when the gardens are in full bloom then Magnolia is absolutely breathtaking. Established back in 1676, these gardens have seen it all! They have been selected as one of America’s Most Beautiful Gardens by Travel and Leisure Magazine. While the price of admittance may seem a bit steep, if you can go in the spring time when everything is in full bloom it is well worth it.
My family and I all enjoy going for walks on the local beaches or hikes through the parks any chance we can. No matter how many times you go there will always be something different to see and you will return feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. Last trip to Folly we saw dolphins forming bait bubbles and then diving up through them. Three dolphins at a time completely out of the water, it was amazing! Last trip to Old Santee there was an 8 foot alligator just swimming down the canal, close but still at a safe distance from us. It was just so fascinating to watch. If you’ve never been, these places are definitely worth checking out.