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Charleston Campgrounds Offer Value and Lowcountry Atmosphere

Libby Wiersema Libby Wiersema
Libby Wiersema lived in California and Alabama before settling in South Carolina 38 years ago, where she's covered the state's best culinary offerings and tells the stories behind the food.
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Charleston might be known for its quaint inns, luxury hotels and historic lodgings, but local campgrounds hold a special allure, too. Located just minutes from historic downtown are three scenic campgrounds offering RV, tent sites and/or cabin rentals. It's a smart way to experience the area's natural beauty, meet other travelers and save some serious cash.

Loathe to leave Fido behind? Pet owners will find a warm welcome for their "babies" and special pet-centered amenities. Fishing, boating, swimming and children's activities provide plenty to do when you're ready to leave the tourist hubbub behind. Best of all, you're just minutes away from points of interest, beaches, cultural events, shopping and all of Charleston's amazing dining. Fall in love with your temporary digs while stretching dollars for a vacation to remember.

Mount Pleasant KOA

A 30-acre lake makes a serene focal point for this lovely campground located in the heart of Mount Pleasant, but it's the hidden gems that make it truly distinctive. On Friday and Saturday afternoons, board a tractor-pulled wagon for a free tour of Oakland Plantation, the town's oldest residence. Have your camera ready as you enter the majestic oak avenue leading to the house, which was spared by Sherman's troops at the behest of African slaves who took up residence there when the owners fled the coming assault. A slave graveyard is intact as is a family graveyard still utilized by the current owners.

Back at the campground, start your day with a stroll on the 1.5-mile wooded nature trail or rent a canoe or paddle boat and spend some quality time on the water. (Don't be surprised if you spot a gator or two.) A small game room, swimming pool and two playgrounds provide opportunities for playtime. There's also a large enclosed dog park for romping with your pet, private shower rooms with locks, squeaky clean bathrooms, and a camping kitchen with microwave ovens and sinks for your use.

There are plenty of RV sites and an expanse of tent sites, some with sheds for your picnic pleasure. Fire rings abound, but meet at the lakefront for a community fire at night. Need firewood? Purchase through the camp store and the friendly staff will deliver it to your campsite.

Several cabins dot the property, each with a lake view, covered picnic table, patio, brick fire pit and porch swing. Some have full or half-baths, and some are designed just for sleeping. For larger groups, there's a family lodge that sleeps six as well as the wildly popular Kamping Kaboose, an authentic L & N train caboose. Note: To get on board, you'll need to reserve this fun option well in advance.

The location of this campground is another notable amenity. Blackbeard's Cove, a family fun center with mini-golf, go-karts and more, is just a short walk from the campground's entrance as is a bustling shopping center with restaurants and markets. You could feasibly set up camp and never need to get in the car for your stay's duration. But, of course, you'll want to venture out and experience the many splendors of the Charleston area.

James Island County Park

Make this campground your headquarters for exploring the Charleston area, but pencil in time to enjoy all this 643-acre park has to offer. Take in the rich, natural beauty of meadowlands, de-stress with a leisurely walk or bike ride on miles of trails, or get some rays as you navigate the 16-acre lake in a pedal boat or kayak. For a fishing experience that's truly Lowcountry, fish the tidal creek or go crabbing at the dock.

There are 124 campsites, some of them primitive, to accommodate RV and tent campers, and 10 three-bedroom cottages situated on the scenic Stono River marsh - a good option if you prefer a few creature comforts such as satellite TV, AC and private bathrooms.

Within the park, there's ample opportunity to indulge your inner adventurer. Test your mettle on the 50-foot climbing wall. With more than 4,500 square feet to scale, it's the tallest climbing facility in the region. You can also develop your disc golf skills on the park's 18-hole course. For a modest fee, enjoy the Splash Zone water park in season or take the little ones to play in the splash fountain.

The off-leash dog park is a camper favorite, as is the round-trip shuttle (a $10 fee per person applies) where you can disembark at either Folly Beach for surf and sun fun, or the Charleston Convention and Visitor Bureau for a day of sightseeing, arts events, unparalleled dining, stellar shopping or sampling at one of the area's brew pubs or wine bars. Hey - you're taking the shuttle, so why not?

In the winter months, James Island County Park is home to the Holiday Festival of Lights, an event that draws thousands of visitors. While it offers a visual spectacle for campers, note the crowds can cause traffic delays into the park and you will be limited to a seven-day maximum stay.

Oak Plantation Campground

If you're looking for a quieter camping experience within close proximity to Charleston, this RV park (no tents, please) is a good choice. The grounds of this Johns Island-area property are oak-shaded and peaceful - the perfect respite after a busy day in Charleston. There's internet service and cable TV at each of the 200 campsites and access to a playground, disc golf course and garden chess. Fish without a license on the campground's private freshwater lake and take a refreshing dip in the small, but sparkling swimming pool.

The camp store is nicely stocked with all the essentials; there's a Publix grocery store within walking distance if you need steaks for the grill or libations for campfire happy hour. Note: Campfires are only permitted in off-the-ground fire pits. Bring your own or rent one from the camp office. In season, there's a chapel service for those campers so inclined. The owners, who live on the grounds, are friendly and poised to ensure guests have a comfortable, relaxing camping experience. And did we mention that Historic Downtown and the eclectic shops and eateries of West Ashley are just a short drive away? Set up that camper and zip up the road to explore the area's best offerings.

Libby Wiersema
Libby Wiersema lived in California and Alabama before settling in South Carolina 38 years ago, where she's covered the state's best culinary offerings and tells the stories behind the food.