Founded and settled by English colonists in 1670, Charleston's rich heritage and colorful history is told in its cobblestone streets, stunning architecture and charming gardens. But the story doesn't end at the shores of the famed peninsula.
The rivers, marshes and sea islands just outside the city offer visitors the opportunity to experience the natural beauty of the Lowcountry landscape and this unique Southern culture.
Here are 5 of the best outdoor outings outside Charleston:
Accessible only by boat, Morris Island offers the closest view of the historic Morris Island Lighthouse, built in 1876 to help guide sailing vessels into Charleston Harbor. From the public landing near the bridge to Folly Beach, it's a scenic 5-mile paddle along the Folly River to the secluded island and the 150-foot brick lighthouse a quarter mile off shore. Several local outfitters offer guided trips to Morris Island, or you can rent a boat from Flipper Finders, conveniently located next to the boat landing.
With its breathtaking view of Charleston Harbor, the western end of Sullivan's Island is a favorite spot to throw out a line and settle into your beach chair for a relaxing day of fishing. If you're looking for more action, try Beach Inlet between Isle of Palms and Sullivan's. Fish cruising inshore on a high tide are funneled through the passage, increasing your odds of hauling in a nice-sized flounder, sea trout or red fish.
Once part of several 18th and 19th century rice plantations, this 654-acre wildlife sanctuary offers some of the best birding on the South Carolina coast. More than 250 species of raptors, shore birds, waterfowl and migratory songbirds have been observed in the center's diverse habitats. Six miles of trails and elevated boardwalks take you into fresh, brackish and saltwater marshes, cypress swamps and bottomland forests. Early morning bird walks are offered regularly.
The last passage of the mountains-to-sea Palmetto Trail, this easy 7-mile trek offers sweeping views of the Lowcountry salt marsh as it winds through maritime forests along a section of Awendaw Creek. A great place to stop for a snack is the overlook and boardwalk at Walnut Grove. Also, be sure to check out the remains of an old rice trunk located next to one of a dozen footbridges. Your adventure ends at Buck Hall Recreation Area in Francis Marion National Forest overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway.
With its interactive exhibits, recreation information center, 1-mile loop trail and diverse educational activities and events, the Awendaw center will give you a fantastic overview of the Lowcountry's ecosystems. You'll also have the opportunity to observe four endangered red wolves housed on the property. A red wolf feeding and discussion program is presented at 3 p.m. Thursdays and 11:30 a.m. Saturdays. Other outdoor exhibits at the center include a butterfly garden and bee apiary.