20 Free Natural Attractions in Charleston, South Carolina

Planning to Visit Charleston, South Carolina?

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Charleston has plenty of opportunities to get up close and personal with nature.

Here’s a list of 20 locations to explore. Keep in mind this list is not all inclusive. It contains some of my favorite views/places in the Lowcountry.

I lived and worked in Charleston for over two decades and visit often, including each of these locations, again in July 2018.

Charleston Peninsula

Brittlebank Park
LOCATION
185 Lockwood Drive, Charleston, SC 29403
Family-friendly park along the Ashley River near the Charleston Riverdogs Baseball Stadium and The Citadel. It’s a great place to relax, watch the sunset and/or fish. There is plenty of free parking (Paid parking, if a baseball game scheduled.) and park benches inviting one to sit and enjoy the surroundings. Stroll out on the fishing pier. Take in the surroundings and scents.

The Citadel The Military College of South Carolina 
LOCATION
171 Moultrie Street Charleston, SC 29409
The Citadel welcomes tour groups and offers cadet-led tours for groups of ten or more after 2 p.m. on most weekdays. The campus is open all year; however, no cadet-led tours are available on big weekends or during exams, holidays or breaks.
While on campus, visit the Summerall Chapel. Drive around the neighborhood, especially the area between The Citadel and Lowndes Grove Plantation.

Hampton Park
LOCATION
30 Mary Murray Drive Charleston, SC 29403 (next to The Citadel)
Restrooms and on-site parking. Great for picnics (tables scattered throughout the park-many under large oak trees), running, walking/strolling, dog walking. Use the physical fitness trail. The horticulture and landscaping make this a great park for events, including weddings.

 

Colonial Lake 

LOCATION
0 Rutledge Boulevard, Charleston, SC 29401
Colonial Lake is a tidal pond in Charleston, South Carolina with wide walkways around it. The area is used as a park. For many years the lake was known as the Rutledge Street Pond; some residents still call it “The Pond.” It acquired the name Colonial Lake in 1881, in honor of the “Colonial Commons” established in 1768. Great for walking, jogging or strolling.

Washington Square

LOCATION
80 Broad Street Charleston, SC 29401 (Corner of Broad and Meeting Streets)
Washington Square is a greenspace in downtown Charleston, South Carolina. It is located behind city hall at the corner of Meeting Street and Broad Street in the Charleston Historic District. It was known as City Hall Park until October 10, 1881, when it was renamed in honor of George Washington. Stop in to view the monuments, florals, benches and ironwork while getting some much-needed shade.

Joe Riley Waterfront Park
LOCATION
1 Vendue Range Concord Street Charleston, SC 29401
Provides visitors with picturesque harbor views, great breezes, wide sidewalks for strolling, wooden swings and plenty of space to walk out and watch water vessels. Children often splash in the fountains. Great place to rest after walking downtown Charleston.

 

Battery & White Point Garden

LOCATION
2 Murray Boulevard, Charleston, SC 29401
Ideal for history and horticulture buffs alike. Park. Get out and walk. Take in the architectural and water views, including Fort Sumter. Pause by the monuments and Civil War cannons to absorb the depth of history. If you’re lucky, you’ll see a wedding ceremony in the gazebo.

Folly Beach

Morris Island Lighthouse
LOCATION
The Morris Island Lighthouse can best be seen from the northeast end of Folly Beach. Take East Ashley Street until it ends. There is a parking lot there and then it is about a 1/4 mile walk to the beach.
Built in 1767 at the southern entrance to Charleston, the original tower was destroyed during the Civil War. The new tower, built in 1876, stands 161 ft. with 201 steps leading to its top. The beacon was extinguished in 1962.

The red and white striped tower is visible from James Island as well as Folly Beach.

The lighthouse was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.The lighthouse is unusual in that it now stands several hundred feet offshore.

West of the Ashley (River)

Ripley’s Marina
LOCATION
56 Ashley Point Drive, Charleston, SC 29407
Ripley Light Marina Drystack is located just across the Ashley River from Downtown Charleston and has been in operation since 1988. The marina is situated on Hwy 61, adjacent to the California Dreaming restaurant and just blocks from the James Island Connector.
Park. Walk toward California Dreaming. Take in the views.

Old St. Andrew’s Parish Church Historic Highway 61
LOCATION
2604 Ashley River Road, Charleston, SC 29414
Read the history of the Church here before visiting. The grounds are immaculate. The graveyard was founded in 1706. The Tea Room is open annually in March; timed in conjunction with Azalea blooms.

 

 

West Ashley Park
LOCATION
3601 Mary Ader Drive, Charleston, SC 29414
The park has a variety of sports facilities, plus a few hiking and boardwalks through the surrounding woods and wetlands. Several ponds can be seen along the way. One can play disc golf here and participate in, or watch, a multitude of city sponsored sporting events at this location. Children enjoy the playground equipment. Restrooms available.

$ Magnolia Plantation & Gardens
LOCATION
3550 Ashley River Road, Charleston, SC 29414
Founded in 1676, this is America’s last large-scale romantic-style garden. The garden has been owned by the same family for more than three centuries.

 

HINTS

  •  Wear closed toe shoes to safely and comfortably walk all the trails.
  •  Summer months can be painfully hot. Drink plenty of fluids.
  • View the video near the entrance prior to walking the property.
  • Take the Nature Train tour  to see the entire property. Start the day early. Take breaks. There are plenty of benches to rest and enjoy the views. Beverages are for sale in the gift shop and at the concession stand.
  • Block out at least 4 hours or take advantage of the next day free admission to explore the Plantation fully.
  • Check Groupon for admission tickets.
  • If able, climb to the top of the tower for priceless views. Take binoculars.
  • Be quiet. Hear nature’s sounds.
  • Obey the rules. There are alligators on the property-their property.

$ Drayton Hall and $ Middleton Place are also nearby on scenic, historical byway Highway 61 (Ashley River Road) and worth exploring.

John’s Island

Bohicket Marina & Marketplace https://bohicket.com/
LOCATION
1880 Andell Bluff Boulevard John’s Island, SC 29455
Nestled between the sea islands of Kiawah and Seabrook, this marina is home to 200 wet slips, 90 dry storage slips, and a quaint market with restaurants, shops, and offices.

One can leisurely stroll the boardwalk, watch boats come and go and quietly view wetlands and nature without noisy crowds.

The drive out on the oak-tree canopied-two-lane Main Road is picturesque and quaint.

Angel Oak Tree
LOCATION
3688 Angel Oak Road, John’s Island, SC 29455
Estimated to be between 300-400 years old, the tree towers 65 feet high and has a circumference of 25.5 feet. Its area of shade is 17,000 square feet and its largest limb has a circumference of 11.5 feet, and a length of 89 feet.
A gift shop, restrooms and picnic tables are on-site. Access is on a dirt road. Often crowded during peak tourist season, somewhat obstructing impact of tree’s magnitude.

Connecting Charleston and Mt. Pleasant

Arthur Ravenel Bridge
The Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge is a cable-stayed bridge over the Cooper River, connecting downtown Charleston to Mount Pleasant. The eight-lane bridge satisfied the capacity of U.S. Route 17 when it opened in 2005 to replace two obsolete cantilever truss bridges: Grace and Pearman.
The bridge has a main span of 1,546 feet, the third longest among cable-stayed bridges in the Western Hemisphere. It was built using the design-build method and was designed by Parsons Brinckerhoff.
You can walk or run the 2.5-mile pedestrian path.  Parking is available both on the Mt. Pleasant and the Charleston sides. View the sunset from the Bridge. Stop and look for dolphins from Charleston’s highest peak.

Check out the annual Cooper River Bridge Run here. www.bridgerun.com

Sullivan’s Island

Waterway Behind Fort Moultrie Visitor’s Center

LOCATION
1214 Middle Street Sullivan’s Island, SC 29482
Visit the Fort and Center but don’t leave the parking lot without walking back to the dock to check out the waterway and bridge views. If you’re lucky you’ll see wildlife, kayakers and other natural wonders.

 

 

Station 22 or 26 on Sullivan’s Island Beach

One of the least crowded Lowcountry beaches. Please review City rules before packing up your family and pet to spend a day on Sullivan’s Island. If you do, prime beach front locations exist between Stations 22 and 26.

While on Sullivan’s Island, be sure to pause in your day and visit Stella Maris Catholic Church at 1204 Middle Street on the Island.

North Charleston

Greater Charleston Navy Base Memorial at Riverfront Park
LOCATION
1001 Everglades Avenue North Charleston, SC 29405
Riverfront Park is located on the former Charleston Naval Base-accessible from I-526 and I-26. Enter the Base by the McMillan Avenue gate or the Virginia Avenue gate and turn on to Hobson Avenue. Ample parking. Indoor restrooms. Shaded areas. Seating benches. Fishing docks. Well-kept paths.
Enjoy views of the Cooper River, Noisette Creek and a meadow. The park is adjacent to historic homes once occupied by Naval base officers. It is home to the Greater Charleston Navy Base Memorial and the North Charleston Annual Sculpture Competition and Exhibition.

 

Butterfly Garden in Historic Park Circle
LOCATION
4800 Park Circle, North Charleston, SC 29405
Next to the Felix C. Davis Community Center
Sit and enjoy nature, especially in the spring and fall when butterflies are plentiful. A disc golf course is also on the grounds as is a playground.

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©Copyright. August 2018. Linda Leier Thomason
All Rights Reserved.

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business.

You will most often find her outdoors enjoying natural settings, wherever she’s at.

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