Ever see colorful kayaks out on the water and wish you and your kids could experience the natural world in that way, but have never been paddling before? Well, then South Carolina is the place for you. You can learn to kayak here in some of the most beautiful places in the world, and even confidently venture off on your own.
Check out our suggestions for great places to introduce your family to kayaking.
Charleston’s Shem Creek
Kayaking trip on Shem Creek is a perfect family outing. The creek’s calm and still waters are easy to navigate for even the youngest or most novice paddler. Along the sides of the creek, colorful shrimping boats stretch their long arms over the water. Side creeks through the quiet marshes can make you forget that you’re just a few minutes away from the bustle of the Charleston peninsula. And if the weather is right and the water calm, and the paddlers confident, a short trek out into the harbor gives spectacular views of the Holy City.
At Coastal Expeditions in Mount Pleasant (just over the Ravenal Bridge from Charleston), experienced tour guides tailor the trip to the needs and abilities of each group and provide all equipment and training needed. They’ve even had children as young as two in a tandem kayak with a parent. Kids younger than 13 need to ride with an adult guardian.
Jocassee Gorges, far in the Upstate of South Carolina, is an outdoor wonderland. A little known, little seen, little explored treasure of mesmerizing natural beauty, where dozens—maybe hundreds—of waterfalls cascade down rocky cliffs into still, cold water of Lake Jocassee. The only public access to this treasure in through Devil’s Fork State Park, and the way to explore the waterfalls is by boat.
Luckily for families, Expedition Carolina is ready to help people of all ages and abilities explore the Gorges and its waterfalls and lakes. Because it can take hours to paddle around the lake from the park to the waterfalls on far shores, and then hours back again, Expedition Carolina uses pontoon boats to help paddlers make it across the wide lake. That way even novice kayakers can experience lots of amazing waterfalls without having to paddle so far. It's a perfect setup for families with young children, elderly grandparents and everyone in-between.
Columbia’s Saluda River
Ready to finally strike out on your own as a family, with no guide? The Saluda River is the perfect place to take that watery leap. The Saluda as it passes through Columbia, South Carolina’s capital, is a massive and wild river, filled with boulders and sandbars and rapids left behind when the glaciers retreated eons ago. But just upstream from the city, the Saluda is a different river altogether—placid and peaceful, not too wide, and with just enough of a current to help you along. It’s that portion of the Saluda that’s the absolutely perfect place to take a family out on their first unguided kayak trip.
Saluda Shoals Park rents kayaks by the hour or day. They also provide a shuttle service, so that you and your family and paddle down the lovely, leafy river, and pull out at an easy-to-find designated spot on the river. There, a van will meet you to load up your kayaks and paddles and transport you right back to your car after a magical and on the river.