For most people, Charleston conjures up images of cobblestone streets, pastel-colored antebellum homes, museums, historic churches and haute cuisine. But outside the famed historic district is a county full of parks, offering a wide array of recreational opportunities, from camping and hiking to bird watching and fishing, in an area of extraordinary beauty.
Charleston County Parks Offers Something for Everyone
One of the newest additions to Charleston County Parks is Meggett County Park, a 416-acre natural area that once claimed the title of “Cabbage Capital of the World.” The former farmland is now home to 5 miles of trails through a picturesque landscape of pine forests, large live oaks, wetlands and marshes, with beautiful views of Toogoodoo River tributaries.
Located 45 minutes from Charleston in the historic coastal railroad town of Meggett, it is the only park in Charleston County currently open to pedestrians, cyclists and equestrians. But it’s the remote, quiet setting that draws most visitors to the park.
A kiosk in the parking lot features a map of the park’s three interconnecting loop trails located a half-mile down a dirt road. Be aware, there are no restrooms in the park and pets must be kept on a leash
Meggett County Park is one of several nature-oriented parks in the Charleston County Parks system. Stono River County Park, situated at the foot of the Limehouse Bridge on Johns Island, also offers beautiful Lowcountry scenery with river views from 1.5 miles of wooded trails and marsh boardwalks. There are a few extra amenities here, including restrooms, a picnic area, a bike repair station and a chilled drinking fountain.
On the other side of Charleston in Mount Pleasant, there’s the 745-acre Laurel Hill County Park featuring miles of walking and biking trails with large open meadows, a small lake and an oak allée.
Mount Pleasant is also home to Palmetto Islands County Park, where you can roam through 943 acres in a tropical setting. This nature island offers plenty of amenities, including a 50-foot observation tower with a play area, a tidal creek fishing and crabbing dock, paved and dirt trails, a kayak launch and rentals, picnic sites with tables and grills, a dog park and a grass volleyball court.
You’ll also find a similarly large regional park in North Charleston. Wannamaker County Park offers 2 miles of paved trails, 2.5 miles of nature trails, a dog park, sand volleyball court, horseshoe pits, two playgrounds, an 18-hole disc golf course and more than seven acres of grassy open meadows. In the north portion of the park, accessible from Goose Creek, is a thrilling 13-mile mountain biking trail with tight curves and elevation changes.
For bird lovers, there’s Caw Caw Interpretive Center, a 654-acre wildlife sanctuary within the Caw Caw Swamp. Some 250 species of birds have been spotted in the center’s diverse habitats, which include open fields along rice dikes and saltwater marshes.
Looking to do a little fishing on your Charleston vacation? Head to the Mount Pleasant Pier at Memorial Waterfront Park. Once part of the old Silas N. Pearman Bridge, it stretches 1,250 feet into Charleston Harbour under the foot of the Arthur Ravenel Bridge. The park system also includes the new Edwin S. Taylor Folly Beach Fishing Pier, stretching 1,094 feet into the Atlantic with a 7,500-square-foot diamond-shaped platform at the end.
If it’s sun and sand that you seek, Charleston County offers three beach parks: Folly Beach, Isle of Palms and Kiawah Beachwalker Park. All three feature boardwalks, a handicap-accessible ramp, lifeguards, beach chair and umbrella rentals, restrooms and outdoor showers.
Prefer a little more excitement on a hot summer day? You’ve got your choice of three waterparks. Splash Island located in Mount Pleasant’s Palmetto Islands County Park, features a 200-foot body flume, 16-foot slide, sprays, geysers, raindrop waterfalls, an activity pool and swirling water ride.
Whirlin' Waters Adventure Waterpark is located within North Charleston’s Wannamaker County Park and offers a raft ride down two 65-foot slides, a 27,000 square-foot wave pool, a mat racer, lazy river, twisting multi-slide, an interactive play complex and more.
The third waterpark among the offerings is Splash Zone at James Island County Park. Among its water features are 200-foot tube and open slides, a lazy river, leisure pool and rainforest play structure for little ones.
James Island County Park also offers the only campground and rental cottages in the county park system along with an impressive selection of amenities, including a seasonal spray play fountain, sand volleyball court, horseshoe pits, a dog park, climbing wall, challenge course, slack line, 18-hole disc golf course, and bicycle, pedal boat, stand-up paddleboard and kayak rentals.
If that’s not enough to keep you entertained, there’s a marina, skate park and the McLeod Plantation Historic Site, chronicling the lives of African slaves on what was once a 1,700-acre sea island cotton plantation.