Change things up this summer and rather than having a vacation at the beach or lake, experience the simple pleasures of floating down a lazy river. This old-fashioned pastime is making a modern comeback as families look for more affordable ways to get in the water and cool off from the summer heat.
With scenic rivers across the state, it’s easy to plan a river tubing-themed road trip with stops in less-traveled destinations offering additional fun activities the whole family will enjoy.
Here is a week-long itinerary that will take you to rivers from the Lowcountry to the Upstate:
First stop is Longs, SC, on the Waccamaw River, considered one of the finest blackwater rivers in the Southeast. Book a glamping tent at River Island Adventures and enjoy tubing through a stunning riverine forest that’s home to an array of wildlife. The outfitter also offers kayak and paddle board rentals, guided kayak tours, a one-hour pontoon boat tour and an outdoor adventure challenge on a 48-acre private island in the middle of the river. Overnight guests enjoy a discount on any of the adventures.
Today you’re off to the Lowcountry where you’ll spend the night in a historic wood cabin at Givhans Ferry State Park on the Edisto River, the longest free-flowing blackwater river in North America. Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression, the fully furnished, air-conditioned cabins are set on a bluff overlooking the river. After you’ve settled in, take a leisurely walk on the 1.5-mile River Bluff Nature Trail, then slip into your swimsuit and head to the park’s sandy beach for a refreshing swim in the river.
Make the eight-minute drive to the riverfront outpost of Edisto River Adventures in Ridgeville and embark on a 2-mile float trip through a section of the ACE Basin, one of the largest wetland ecosystems on the Atlantic coast. The trip ends at the outpost, where you’re welcome to enjoy its expansive river sandbar, a full-size sand volleyball court, cornhole and other beach games.
Get up early and head straight to West Columbia Riverwalk Park for a stroll along the Congaree River. Part of the 12.5-mile Three Rivers Greenway, the Riverwalk stretches into the nearby town of Cayce, but you can walk as far as you are comfortable and then return to the park. Here you can catch Palmetto Outdoor’s shuttle that will drop you upstream for an exciting—and refreshing—tubing adventure on the Saluda River. The water in this section of the river is released from the bottom of Lake Murray and hovers at a cool 53 degrees. Despite its location just outside the capital city center, the Saluda is flanked by woods with little development along its banks. In addition to the scenic vistas, the river features Class I and II rapids, providing a few thrills on your way down the river.
On this night, your best bet is to stay in one of the many national brand hotels in downtown Columbia. Dining options are plentiful, too.
At the end of your day in Columbia, drive to the Saluda Outdoor Center in the Upstate town of Easley. Along with tubing excursions, the outdoor center offers a unique selection of lodging, from two-bedroom tiny houses to one-bedroom river pods overlooking the water.
Embark on a relaxing tubing trip on the Upper Saluda, another beautiful stretch of the 200-mile river that originates in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Celebrate the end of a fantastic vacation with dinner and a frosty mug of beer at 13 Stripes Brewery, located right on the Saluda Outdoor Center property. On Friday nights, the brewery offers live music, topping off your last evening in South Carolina.