Leave behind the crowds—and the world as you know it—to escape to the untouched coastal wilderness on South Carolina’s sea islands. Many of these barrier islands can be reached only by boat, and small tours are available to experience the remote beaches, pristine salt marshes and shady tangles of maritime forests.
From kayak tours to beach drops, Coastal Expeditions offers numerous excursions to South Carolina’s barrier islands. On the dolphin sightseeing cruise, which departs from Russ Point Boat Landing in Beaufort, you’ll learn about natural history while spotting pods of bottlenose dolphins that play and leap from the waters around Hunting Island State Park. Or venture to the Hunting Island State Park Nature Center to catch the ferry to St. Phillips Island. You’ll glide along the winding Story River surrounded by rippling marsh grasses, ultimately arriving at a remote paradise of ancient dunes, live oaks and Southern magnolia. Another option? Hop on the Bulls Island Ferry from Garris Landing in Awendaw for an ecotour through Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge—rife with sunbathing alligators, soaring bald eagles and cresting dolphins—before docking at Bulls Island to explore on your own. There, you can hike the nature trails and keep an eye out for hundreds of species of birds.
With Barrier Island Eco Tours, escape to the undeveloped Capers Island Heritage Preserve on a naturalist-guided boat ride to cruise along serene tidal creeks while learning about the area’s ecology and local wildlife. The guide will also employ nets and traps along the way to show you a closer look at some of the creatures that live in the salt marshes, such as shrimp, crabs and clams.
For a horseback ride along white sand beaches, take the ferry to Daufuskie Island to explore the history and scenery of South Carolina's southernmost sea island with Daufuskie Trail Rides.
Or explore by car when you pick up a free self-guided driving tour guide from the kiosk at Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve on Edisto Island. This 6.5-mile route leads you to Botany Bay Beach—known as “Boneyard Beach”—where erosion left a scraggle of dead trees, their limbs sun-bleached white and lapped smooth by the tides. There are seemingly endless ways to take in South Carolina’s rugged beauty.