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Fossil Hunting Itinerary Along the SC Coast

Bria Barton Bria Barton
A traveler at heart, Bria has lived around the country, but South Carolina’s allure always draws her back. She loves to inspire others’ wanderlust for her home state by sharing its boundless beauty.
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Paleontologist Ashby Gale owns and operates Charleston Fossil Adventures.

When visiting Charleston, you can’t help but become immersed in the city’s fascinating history dating back more than 350 years.

But what if you could take your exploration a step further—say, 30 million years?

Well, luckily, you can—time machine not needed.

Charleston is a hotbed for fossils, particularly those of the prehistoric marine life variety. Charleston Fossil Adventures, operated by skilled paleontologist and boat captain Ashby Gale, provides exceptional guidance and education in unearthing these natural treasures.

So, if you’re looking to visit Charleston and embark on a fossil-hunting excursion, here’s the guide for you.


Preparing for Your Adventure

You’ll first want to decide what type of fossil-hunting adventure you’re looking to enjoy, as Charleston Fossil Adventures offers four options that vary in length and location. Each excursion takes guests to one or more secluded islands ideal for fossil hunting.

Plan on getting muddy during the excursion. Capt. Ash recommends wearing appropriate footwear and quick-drying clothing. You should also pack water, sunscreen, bug spray, a camera or cell phone, a waterproof bag, a light jacket and a hat.

If your excursion takes place around lunchtime, pack a light lunch or snack, such as pimento cheese, benne wafers and boiled peanuts (for a true taste of South Carolina).

For lodging, the Home2 Suites by Hilton Charleston West Ashley is a convenient place to stay as it’s close to the location where you’ll be meeting with Capt. Ash to begin your adventure.


Arrival: Friday

Once you've checked in to your hotel on Friday afternoon, head out for fine dining at Historic Charleston French brasserie 39 Rue de Jean, headed by 2023 South Carolina Chef Ambassador Marcus Shell. It’s the perfect spot for folks looking for a crafted cocktail with delicious fare. Be sure to try the onion soup gratinee and the bacon and Brussels salad for starters. For entrees, the short ribs and pan-roasted duck breast are both crowd-pleasers.


Day One: Saturday

It’s an early morning, so grab an on-the-go breakfast to munch while on the boat ride to the secluded fossil-hunting location.

On the way to the destination, Capt. Ash will instruct you on how to find fossils, such as shark teeth, dolphin bones, sea turtle shell fragments, coprolites, swordfish bones, fossilized seashells, remnants of the Ice Age and remains from extinct species up to 30 million years old.

Using the fossil-hunting style known as surface collecting, there will be no digging or sifting involved in the search. Capt. Ash provides knee pads for comfort, as well as a complimentary apron to store your finds throughout the day.

While it takes some getting used to, your eyes quickly adjust to searching out the little (or big) beach treasures. And be prepared to find a good many—maybe even a Megalodon tooth!

Once the search is complete, Capt. Ash sorts and categorizes your finds, which you can then take home.

After working up an appetite fossil hunting, head to Leon’s Fine Poultry and Oyster Shop for dinner. Located in a trendy old garage, the restaurant is known for its incredibly tasty—as the name suggests—fried chicken and oysters. Or, if you’re in the mood for barbecue, run, don’t walk, to Rodney Scott’s BBQ for heaping, award-winning plates of pulled pork and chicken with all the fixin’s.


Day Two: Sunday

Sit down to breakfast at Early Bird Diner, a quirky little spot that serves all-day breakfast and American diner classics. While you’ll certainly be happy with a traditional breakfast here, consider trying the chicken and waffles served with a honey mustard barbecue sauce drizzle.

Once finished, set off to meet Capt. Ash again, but this time, fossil hunting isn’t on the itinerary. Instead, partake in Charleston Fossil Adventures’ latest experience: A Prehistoric Plantation Cruise.

This informative and scenic boat tour travels through the heart of the Ashley River’s historic plantation district, transporting guests back in time to Charleston’s phosphate-mining boom of the late 1800s.

While learning about this short-lived era and its connection to fossil hunting, you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy the scenery and get a different perspective of Charleston's historic plantations as you cruise past Middleton Place, Runnymede Plantation, Drayton Hall and Magnolia Plantation and Gardens.

A pleasurable day on the water in the South Carolina sunshine concludes a fabulous weekend of stunning views, incredible finds and unique history along the Charleston coast.

Bria Barton
A traveler at heart, Bria has lived around the country, but South Carolina’s allure always draws her back. She loves to inspire others’ wanderlust for her home state by sharing its boundless beauty.