In a city rich with history and southern tradition, you might believe it'd be easier to find fried green tomatoes than outdoor adventure. Fortunately in Charleston, that's not the case. Located near some of the most pristine beaches on the East Coast, Charleston has vacation spots with everything from championship golf courses to wildlife night hikes. But choosing a beach can be difficult if you're not familiar with the area. Here are a few must-dosand the beaches on which to do them.
If you want it, Kiawah Island probably has it. Just 21 miles east of Charleston, Kiawah Island Golf Resort offers visitors the chance to kayak, fish, bike, run, hike, and more. With ten miles of shoreline and 10,000 acres of natural woodlands, you can't go wrong. If you're up for testing the waters, sign up for a fishing tour or charter. For $25, Kiawah's fishing guides will provide you with a pole and an hour-and-a-half lesson on how to cast beyond the breaking waves of the Atlantic.
Not up for angling? Learn to ride the waves. Folly Beach, South Carolina's most popular surfing beach, offers camps and lessons for all abilities. As one of the top surfing spots on the East Coast, Folly Beach plays host to surfing competitions like the Wahine Classic for women. Folly's Washoutthe best surfing spot in South Carolinawas created by Hurricane Hugo in 1989 when it claimed a bank of nearby homes. Now the wind passes ceaselessly across the beach over the wetlands, allowing the water to roll onshore ever so gently. And while the waves aren't always outstanding, stay alert for hurricanes on the horizon, and then grab your board; this is when locals hunt out the best waves. Just be sure not to overstay your welcome; 100-mile-per-hour winds don't make for an easy ride on the surf. If you're new to the surfing scene, Sol Surfers (843.881.6700) offers surf lessons and five-day camps at Folly Beach throughout the summer. A two-hour lesson starts at $75, and a weekend clinic starts at $150.
If balancing on a board in the Atlantic just isn't your thing, you can always hop in a kayak. Some of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet await where the fresh water meets the open ocean, and South Carolina has more of these than any other state in the country. Explore the low country by kayak and see marine creatures such as sea cows, dolphins, loggerhead sea turtles, and birds, including American oystercatchers, bald eagles, and laughing Gulls. Options include half-day tours around Charleston Harbor, Folly Creek, and Morgan Creek, where you'll explore diverse salt marshes. Full-day tours take you around protected, remote bird sanctuaries, cypress-tupelo swamps, and abandoned rice fields for six-hour tours. Multiple-day excursions with Coastal Expeditions (843.884.7684) let you to explore the inlets during the day and camp on the Atlantic coast at night. For an added architectural delight, spend the night in a tree house. Carolina Heritage Outfitters (843.563.5051) offers overnight stays in accommodations that sit 16 feet above the Edisto River. You have to paddle 12 miles to get there, but the seclusion and wildlife setting are worth it. Cost is a mere $125 per person and includes a two-day canoe rental
Amy A. Clark