Climbing wall at James Island County Park (Courtesy Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission)
Whether you like to surf, climb or hit the links, Charleston’s glorious spring weather provides the perfect backdrop with tons of things to do outside. Wander through the ruins of a former rice plantation, commune with wild dolphins or even catch your own dinner. No matter your age, stamina or enthusiasm level, there’s certain to be an alfresco adventure with your name on it.
Caw Caw Interpretive Center
Offering six miles of raised trails, a hike through Caw Caw Interpretive Center winds through an otherworldly cypress swamp. Once a 5,500-acre rice plantation dating from the late 1700s, the land has now reverted back to nature. Take the time to check out the many trailside signs highlighting the area’s natural and cultural histories, but don’t let the tranquility fool you: Caw Caw is also home to otters, deer and bald eagles, as well as alligators and a wide variety of waterfowl.
James Island County Park
The climbing wall at James Island County Park is one of the tallest outdoor climbing facilities in the Lowcountry. The 50-foot structure offers more than 4,500 square feet of climbing space, including two lead climbing walls and 14 top ropes. The adjacent 10-foot bouldering wall provides an additional 1,000 square feet of space perfect for kids and beginners. With its high-quality routes, knowledgeable staff and onsite belayers, the facility is appropriate for all skill levels.
Picturesque Sullivan’s Island, at the mouth of the Charleston Harbor, provides ample beachcombing opportunities. Once the setting of both an Edgar Allan Poe novel and a Revolutionary War battle, today the 3.4 mile square island is the spot to search for shells, starfish and shark teeth. And not just any sharks: These can include Jurassic megalodon tooth fossils ranging from three to seven inches in size. In addition, sand dollars can often be found near the Station 28 beach access. Remember to take only the white ones, as the gray are still alive.
Considered the surfing mecca of South Carolina, Folly Beach lies just 11 miles south of Charleston. A beach break with varied coastline and several jetties, there are a myriad of wave options that make it well-suited to every level of surfer. Try to get out there as early as possible, as winds and crowds tend to pick up in the afternoon. Arguably the best—and certainly the most popular—spot to surf is the Washout, a long stretch of break with powerful swells. Best suited to more advanced surfers or out-of-the-way observation, but newbies can learn the ropes with a class from Carolina Salt Surf Lessons.
There are ways to get out on the water without (hopefully) getting wet. Head to Mount Pleasant’s Shem Creek, an excellent starting point for exploration via kayak or stand up paddle board. Nature Adventure Outfitters leads a variety of tours, in addition to rental equipment for self-guided exploration. Head west from their boat ramp toward the fishing boats and take in the bustle of Charleston Harbor, or paddle east and explore the lazy tidal waters of Shem Creek. The grassy wetlands are home to playful dolphins and even the occasional manatee.
Kiawah Island Golf Resort
Offering some of the finest golfing on the East Coast, Kiawah Island Golf Resort features multiple golf courses including Turtle Point, Oak Point and Cougar Point, in addition to the world-renowned Ocean Course. Spanning more than 2.5 miles of coast, the Pete Dye-designed Ocean Course features a disagreeable mix of near-constant wind, scrub-covered dunes and wildly undulating greens, but still has a reputation for being as worthwhile as it is hard. Site of the 2007 Senior PGA Championship and 2012 PGA Championship, it also will play host to the 2021 PGA Championship.
There may be no better way to take in Charleston’s seemingly effortless beauty than by bike. Start your expedition at the Visitors’ Center, then pedal a mile down bustling King Street as you take in the expansive stretch of trendy shops, boutiques and restaurants. From here, head north to Huger Street while en route to the historic campus of the military Citadel College. Then navigate to East Bay and the nearby on-ramp for the Ravenel Bridge, the largest cable-stay structure in the country. Get your rental rental downtown at Affordabike on King Street.
Pitt Street Bridge
Originally connecting Mt. Pleasant’s Old Village to Sullivan’s Island, the updated remains of the 1898 Pitt Street Bridge provide panoramic views of the Charleston harbor and an opportunity to try your hand at what locals call “chicken necking” or blue crab fishing: Late April through May is considered peak season. All you need is kite string, a long-handled net and some chicken necks. When the tide starts to come in, toss it out, wait for the tug and pull it back in slowly. The crab will hold on until it hits the water’s surface, when it can be scooped up with the net. A fishing license is not necessary when using three or fewer nets, traps or hand lines.