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.

Ready to plan your trip to Charleston? Start here.

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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.

Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form.

One to Watch: Newly Elected 22-Year-Old Harry Griffin

Youngest City Council Member Ever Elected in Charleston, South Carolina

Harry Griffin is living proof that dreams do come true, even if in a down-scaled sort of way.

Full disclosure. Harry was a classmate and friend of our son, Alex. He played tag football in our Charleston, South Carolina yard and basketball on our driveway. Harry ate at our table and celebrated birthdays on our screened porch. He was part of a group of West Ashley young men. Yet, he was different. He stood out as a leader and made no apologies for it, even as a child.

As one who’s career included two stints on Capitol Hill, I kept an eye on him. I especially took interest when, as a 3rd grade student, he announced on a local TV station that he’d one day run for President of the USA. I knew he could, and should. He had leadership talent. Family, teachers and friends all noticed and fostered it.

At age 22, Harry Griffin is the youngest Charleston City Council member in modern history. He was elected in a District 10 run-off in November 2017. He smiles every day for the honor to serve his community. Harry knows he’s lucky and he gives all glory to God and thanks to his family, who, according to his mom, Susie Podiak, will always be in the front row cheering him on.

Maritime Industry

The second oldest of four boys, this 2016 Citadel graduate is a Project Manager at Neal Brothers Charleston, Inc.-a 100-year-old international export packing company led by his father, Darryl Griffin, Sr. A man Harry calls “a very strong leader who’s always been my hero and mentor.”
Harry grew up exposed to the business and enjoyment of one of Charleston’s most important industries-the Maritime industry. He’s foresees himself as an experienced leader one day at Neal Brothers. And, he projects a political career, fighting for “civil liberties of all Charlestonians.”

Getting Elected

Although Harry’s election at age 22 is novel in the City of Charleston, he doesn’t think youth is as important as it once was. He does acknowledge, however, that his age did help him stand out and gain additional coverage. He claims his positivity and work ethic were equally important to the historic victory. Familiarity and ease of using social media to communicate his platforms and message to a broad range of voters in rapid time were also key victory indicators.

Harry never doubted he could win. He was ready to make a positive, direct impact on the lives of his friends, family and neighbors. He sought out campaign advice from two-term council member, Marvin Wagner. Wagner was also the first to congratulate Harry on his win and told him to get ready to work. “The easy part was over.”

Getting to Work

Harry hit the ground running. His District notoriously floods, so he’s working with companies and various government entities toward flood mitigation and infrastructure improvements. He keeps his constituents updated with regular social media posts. He spends weekends meeting with residents and doing civic projects. Harry is an active member of the St. Andrew’s Rotary group and the South Carolina Maritime Association.

He’s learning while he’s going. He dissects bimonthly agendas to gain an understanding of key issues before casting a vote. He’s eager to learn more about public transit. “It’s so important to Charleston’s future and we haven’t used it to the full potential.”

Harry is working hard to stay true to the Citadel motto: Honor, Duty and Respect. His actions and decisions are about his constituents and putting their needs first.

National Politics

Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) is Harry’s national political role model. “Senator Scott is a strong leader who is truly admirable. He not only fights for Republican values but also South Carolinian rights and values.”

He opines that politics on a national level has great intentions but subpar results. Given an opportunity to appoint a President and Vice-President, he’d appoint the current office holders. “We needed something different because the same old political practices were not working.”

Not surprisingly given his upbringing and career interest, on a national level, Harry cares most about the nation’s infrastructure and Commerce regulations.

Harry Griffin Gets Personal

Harry looks forward to one day being a husband and father. For now, he’s content to spend time with his four-year-old brother, Timber, and to watch his brother, Buster, march in step at Citadel parades.

He writes his own music and sings Karaoke.

Harry dreams of a trip to Hawaii where he can turn off his phone and lay on the beach for a week.

He seeks out and admires those with humility, perseverance and generosity.

You’ve done well, Harry Griffin.
The future is bright. You’re one to watch. I’m watching.

 

 

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. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form below.

© Copyright. March 2018. Linda Leier Thomason
All rights reserved.

70’s Pittsburgh Steelers Shape Charleston Swimmer’s Life

Swimmer’s Tough-Mindedness

swim-around-charlestonKathleen Wilson grew up at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania’s Three Rivers Stadium. Here she’d wait for the arrival of her Steelers, greet them, and then join her parents in their front row seats. “Honestly, my beloved Steelers, and those Sunday afternoons in the 1970’s, formed me. I learned about team and commitment from watching how those men performed and interacted. They were solid. Not flamboyant. Not attention seeking, just solid.”

Today, Kathleen uses these early observations and lessons in all areas of her diverse life in Charleston, South Carolina (SC). She’s a 30-year principal harpist with the symphony orchestra. She’s also a three-term city councilwoman and accomplished marathon swimmer and aquatics coach. Kathleen admits she lives a life of extremes.

She and her husband, Fred, have two children. Christine, 23, a U.S. Navy ensign, is training to become a helicopter pilot. Robbie, 20, is a junior mechanical engineering major at the Citadel. She’s also the proud caretaker of Lulu, Duke and Daisy. These rescue rabbits “are very sweet gentle animals fully capable of defending themselves when needed.” Kathleen knows both personalities firsthand.

To be successful Kathleen has blended fierceness with gentleness. She possesses a deep sense of commitment. This and her ability to press, and press relentlessly, originate from swimming. Being highly disciplined and enduring torment also originate from swim training. “Maybe that’s why I hold elected office.”

Marathon Swimmer

Post English Channel Swim with Coach Andrew
Post English Channel Swim with Coach Andrew

Remarkably, Kathleen has been swimming for 42 years. “I was not an outstanding swimmer growing up. I was the forgotten and ignored one.” It didn’t become clear until much later in life that Kathleen was an ocean swimmer, not a pool swimmer. She lacked speed for the classic 50 and 100 yard events. Instead, she possessed the tolerance and endurance for overnight ocean swimming and being pummeled in the rough surf.

Kathleen started ocean swimming after moving to SC in 1987. “I discovered I liked the ocean a lot more, given my lack of sprinting speed.” She settled into the waters and learned to handle the physical tossing around of the ocean and the mental game of being out there. It was appealing. It required Steeler toughness. She was all in.

She was fortunate to be coached by Charleston’s assistant USA Swimming coach Andrew Wunderley from 1998-2005. Kathleen talked Wunderley into training her for the 1999 Swim Around Manhattan, New York. He didn’t know anything about marathon swimming. Yet, over time, the duo became one of Charleston’s most successful coach/athlete combinations. Wunderley simply took the time to make adjustments to Kathleen’s technique and applied good, sound USA Swimming distance training principles.

Brought Sport to SC

Kathleen is credited with introducing marathon swimming to SC. It was virtually unknown before she participated in the annual 12 Mile Swim Around Key West event in 1997. Her 2001 English Channel Swim was big news locally. So much so that the local newspaper flew a crew to England to follow her journey. An entire region became familiar with marathon swimming and even hosted an airport homecoming celebration.

Kathleen’s initial goal was to simply complete the events. Now marathon swimming has morphed into a way of life and living at a higher level. “It’s about accepting hardship and challenging myself to do better. I’ve learned a lot about life spending countless hours training and swimming alone.” I’ve learned:

  • How to train properly outside of the water with weights, food and rest.
  • How to take care of my body, specifically shoulders
  • How to sacrifice to fund swims. These are not cheap.
  • How to value those who support and accompany me, including husband, Fred, and training partner and friend, Lesley Fanning. This isn’t a solo sport. Marathon swimmers require an excellent crew.
  • How to appreciate the adventures and experiences of these swims. I’ve seen and done things I never dreamed of. I’ve met people I’d otherwise never meet. I’ve put myself in extraordinary circumstances; some fantastic, some dangerous, and some challenges I couldn’t forecast. Sharks aren’t the most dangerous obstacle. The unexpected is. Wind, jellyfish and hypothermia also present challenges.
  • How to carefully plan. This isn’t done foolhardily. Alternate scenarios are prepared and everything is well thought out every time the open water is entered. This is not daredevil activity.

Public Office

harpWith an appetite for continuous challenge, Kathleen set her sights on representing James Island on the Charleston City Council. She ran and was defeated in 2002. She won in 2005. She’s now in the last year of her third term and plans to seek a fourth. (November 2017: Kathleen was not re-elected.) “I needed to expand my mind and skill set. Music is extremely isolating and one-dimensional.” Armed with a Bachelor of Music (1985) and Master of Music in Harp Performance (1987) from the Cleveland Institute of Music, Kathleen felt a bit intimidated by the process. “I had no law or business degree; however, serving the public and acquiring considerable knowledge and learning how to make sound decisions appealed to me.” Former Mayor Joseph P. Riley assured her the main skills were common sense and a good heart and that she could learn the rest. She has.

Presently, Kathleen is putting all of herself into getting a premier, major aquatics facility built for the citizens of Charleston. “No one ever died because he didn’t play tennis or soccer or ride a bike. Too many have because they didn’t swim. We are hopelessly behind as a community in creating good, sustainable athletic facilities that communities are demanding today. I will get this done.”

Swim Calm & Swim Around Charleston

SwimCalm Class
SwimCalm Class

As if being a member of the symphony, training for marathon swims and serving on city council weren’t enough, in 2010 Kathleen created Swim Around Charleston.  The 12 mile swim, hosted each fall, is an excellent way to introduce new swimmers to the sport. Participants also train for future swims and determine if the sport appeals to them. Swim Around Charleston is known nationally as a well-managed event.

Kathleen’s also founded SwimCalm, a course teaching fearful adults to swim.  Many of her students have failed traditional swim lessons. Under her guidance, they’ve gained both confidence and the ability to comfortably swim.

Soft People on Her Mind

So, what does this hard-driving, dedicated woman do to de-stress? “Baking is my therapy from swimming. Swimming is my therapy from life.” In addition, Kathleen enjoys reading and picking up bits of knowledge daily.

Watching Steelers football with bunny in team blanket
Watching Steelers football with bunny in team blanket

Spoken like a 1970’s die-hard Steeler’s fan, Kathleen is deeply concerned about the ‘softening of people.’ “It seems like we can’t withstand hardship anymore. There is declining knowledge and disinterest in important matters world-wide.” She believes everything is distilled into soundbites because of our failure to concentrate and see something from beginning to end.

She doesn’t lose sleep over this, but despises it. One thing she’s most grateful for is her lifelong excellent health. “Nothing can buy that. It’s impossible to recapture once gone. I treasure it daily.”

In the meantime, she’s going to keep fighting for a Charleston aquatics center, ensuring all learn to swim. She will continue to surround herself with a menagerie of rabbits. They provide much-needed calm and lower her blood pressure so she can keep doing what she loves and enjoys for a good long while.

©Copyright. October 2016. Linda Leier Thomason

All Rights Reserved.

Share this post with swimmers at all skill levels, those who think they don’t have enough time to publicly serve and those who just enjoy reading about inspirational people like Kathleen.

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. Find out more about Linda by clicking the “Meet Linda” tab above. Interested in working together? Complete this form below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9 Shot Dead & Life Got Very Real

st marys
St. Mary’s Church

I lived in Charleston, South Carolina for 20 years. Two decades in the Holy City, which annually lands at or near the top of every list of great cities to visit. I was recruited to work for a start-up medical manufacturer there and married my husband in St. Mary’s in downtown Charleston. Alex was born here. I owned several businesses and employed local residents. The people and the community embraced and supported my family and my businesses. We actively participated, served on boards and volunteered our time and talent. We coached youth sports teams. We were members of a church, a neighborhood and community. We were vested in Charleston. It was easy to do. Many give much to this great city.

Charleston deserves considerable credit for shaping a huge part of the woman I am today. Yet, during all of this time, thankfully I never knew a single person who got murdered in Charleston. Not until I woke up on Thursday, June 18th in Omaha, Nebraska to a lit up phone.  What the heck happened, I wondered? Why all the messages?

Sadly, three people we knew and interacted with, along with six others, lost their lives. The news stunned and deeply saddened me and the level of grief only heightened as details were released. They were shot point blank in a church basement while attending a Bible study session. Who does that? Why?

Multiple sources have asked me to comment about the mass murder. I have remained silent, allowing myself time to process the insanity of it all and to mourn for the victims, their families and the city itself.

I am so sorry for everyone involved. These were outstanding citizens-all nine of them. As we mourn, my family and I have watched with pride as the city unites peacefully to show the world the real character of it’s classy soul.

I am not clueless. Racism is alive and present in South Carolina.  I was aware of the racial undertones, but did not let them interfere with my interactions or decisions. As they say in Charleston, I was “from off”, even though I lived there 20 years. I wasn’t even called a ‘Yankee’ because my birthplace is North Dakota. Several folks referred to me as a ‘Southern Canadian’, which always brought a laugh to both parties. I was a misfit with an awareness. It would be pretentious of me to say I had an understanding of the historical tensions and conflicts between races. I didn’t grow up there. I didn’t share the ancestral stories of either side. Yet, despite that, the tension and need to always be “racially or politically correct” was certainly real. My awareness was acute, and like most, I did my best to straddle that fine line to avoid offending anyone.

Yet today as I listen to Charlestonians in my ear or on television the focus has not been on racial divides. Rather, they weep for the senseless loss of life and for the young man so misguided in his thoughts and actions. They ache for the city and for the goodness they need restored. They know the Confederate Flag is a symbol, not a cause. They want their leader, their parent, their friend and their family member back.

So, may the souls of these nine good citizens rest in peace and may the watching world learn from the fine example being set in Charleston of unity, peace and strength of community.


Nine were shot dead.

Life got real.

 Hearts broke.

Tears fell.

The world mourned.

Politicians reacted.

Charleston citizens united.

The world watched.


BFF
BFF

I went through my catalog of Charleston photographs since the shootings last week.  My intent was to post images of landmarks which visually represent my fondness for the city.

Instead, what grabbed me were the photos of people. Landmarks are nice, but these images  represent the heart and soul of this fine city-diverse citizens peacefully interacting, enjoying fellowship and working on behalf of their community.

Rotarians
Rotarians
Neighbors
Neighbors

Color of skin is not a barrier to co-existing.

Nursing Home Buddies
Nursing Home Buddies

Learning to thrive with that attitude and understanding is what is needed to peacefully heal from this senseless act.

Employees
Employees
crafters
Holiday Crafters

Copyright. June 2015. Linda Leier Thomason