Golf and fishing are the headliners of outdoor activities in the Charleston area, but by no means are they the limit of recreational opportunities. There are plenty of options to get outside, have some fun and break a sweat beyond the mainstream sports.
If the idea of jumping onto a paddleboard seems a bit daunting and the learning curve just a little too steep, there are more traditional ways of getting around the creeks, inlets and rivers. The Lowcountry has an abundance of options for any kayak or canoe enthusiast. Saltwater, blackwater and overnight expeditions can be found. Kayak tours of Shem Creek and the Charleston Harbor are offered daily.
If you’ve got a passion for birds, you’ve come to the right place. Cape Romain, the Francis Marion National Forest or the ACE Basin have some of the best bird-watching in the Southeast. The Center for Birds of Prey in Awendaw, which gives visitors insight into the lives of nearly 50 species of birds of prey, including eagles, hawks, owls, falcons, kites and vultures, is not to be missed. Birding also is excellent in the remote Santee Delta north of McClellanville. It is the largest delta on the East Coast, and much of it is part of a state Wildlife Management Area with trails.
A carriage tour of downtown Charleston is not the only horse transportation available to residents and visitors. Seabrook Island Equestrian Center offers trail rides, including along the beach. If you have your own horse, the Mullet Hall Equestrian Center on Johns Island has one of the few public equestrian trail systems in the Lowcountry. Enjoy 20 miles of trails winding through Southern pines and moss-draped oaks.
Outdoor shooting range
If an indoor shooting range feels bit claustrophobic, there are outdoor options. The Francis Marion National Forest offers two range facilities for still target shooting: Boggy Head, located just north of Moncks Corner; and Twin Ponds, located off U.S. Highway 17 in Awendaw. The ranges have large sand hills behind the targets, along with shooting tables, and were designed with firearm enthusiasts in mind and can accommodate pistols, rifles or shotguns. But don’t forget to bring your own paper targets.
If the tourists and crowds get to be a little much, there are plenty of hiking trails just a short drive from downtown Charleston.
Some of the best trails can be found after a short ferry ride to Bull's Island, which is part of the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge. Nearby is the Francis Marion National Forest and the Palmetto Trail. Off the beaten path is the Caw Caw County Park in Ravenel, which was once the site of several working rice plantations carved into a cypress swamp. Edisto Beach State Park features the Spanish Mount Trail, which leads to a native American shell mound that dates back more than 2,000 years.
There are plenty of camping options in the Lowcountry. One of the most popular spots is the James Island County Park, which offers traditional camping, RV camping and recreational cottages. Other nearby campgrounds include Bull’s Island, and Edisto Beach and Hunting Island state parks, which all are beachfront locales. The Buck Hall Recreation area near McClellanville has camping and easy access to the Intracoastal Waterway.
The trails in Charleston aren’t just for walking, backpacking or going on horseback. There are thousands of acres of off-road parks, ATV trails and dirt bike trails. One of the best places to go is Wambaw Cycle Trail in the Francis Marion National Forest, which features more than 40 miles of sandy trails that loop through mixed pine and hardwood woodlands.