Charleston is a beautiful city that is loaded with history and fine dining. But if you are looking to change things up a bit and visit Charleston’s surrounding areas then its southern islands might be for you! The islands south of Charleston, SC consist of Johns, James, Wadmalaw, Kiawah and the most popular of the group Folly. Each of these islands have their own unique personalities and attractions to visit.
Known as the “Edge of America” Folly Island is most known for the beach there by the same name. Folly Beach is a very popular vacation destination for those visiting around the Charleston area, just over a 20-minute drive from the city. There is a quaint downtown area with a good selection of places to eat, and maybe more prevalent are the bars in the area.
Folly has all of the beach and water activities that you would expect in a beach town. For the people who prefer to be on the water there is kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, surfing, and jet ski rentals. For those who prefer to be on top of the water, dolphin watching tours and fishing charters are of course an option.
Of course, hanging out on the land is also a great option too. At the north end of Folly there is the Morris Island Lighthouse, it is about a ¼ mile walk to view the lighthouse. (Note: the light house is offshore so you will not be able to get too close to the lighthouse. Not a great photo opportunity, but a nice walk and you will be able to view the lighthouse well). Hanging out around the beach and downtown area are also great options. You can walk along the beach, explore the pier, and enjoy some great cuisine. The most recent time we visited a place called Jack of Cups Saloon, it had a great selection of vegetarian options.
If the goal is to be oceanfront Kiawah Island is another great option, the island is a little further at 45 minutes from Charleston and 50 Minutes if you are at Folly Beach. Being a little further from the city, Kiawah is a quieter option. There are still plenty of activities including kayaking, golf and nature tours or enjoying the beach. Kiawah Beachwalker Park is the main beach on the island and a popular spot for beachgoers. You can also rent bicycles to pedal around the island or spend some time shopping at Freshfields Village. We have not had the pleasure of visiting the island yet, but sounds like we will have to sooner rather than later.
If you are looking to change things up a bit and want to visit places more inland there are some great options just south of Charleston. Johns Island’s is the largest island in the state of South Carolina, the most notable attraction on the island is the Angel Oak tree. The tree is estimated to be between 400-500 years old and its longest branch is 187 feet long. This behemoth of a tree is awe inspiring to be in the presence of. I would definitely recommend packing a lunch and having a picnic in the park. It is definitely a site to see in Charleston. A tree of that magnitude comes with a few rules, in an effort to protect the tree there is a person enforcing the rules of the tree. They mostly include no leaning, climbing, or damaging the tree in anyway, and no four-legged friends under the trees canopy.
Just over 15 minutes from the Angel Oak tree is the Charleston Tea Plantation on Wadmalaw Island. We recently went there and was an interesting place to learn about tea manufacturing, and it is the only place in the united states which you can. Since it is the only garden in the United States. You can walk the premises for free and see the manufacturing process as well for free. You are able to take a trolley tour for a little more in-depth explanation of the garden. We enjoyed walking around the property, took the self-guided tour of the factory and enjoyed tasting some teas in their gift shop. Find more information about visiting here: https://www.charlestonteaplantation.com/
After a picnic at the Angel Oak then visiting the Charleston Tea Plantation it is definitely 5 o’clock in South Carolina. Which means it is a time for a visit to the Deep Water Vineyard and Firefly Distillery. Although we missed this stop on the tour of Wadmalaw Island, the reviews of these places suggest we should have stopped. We definitely will be headed there next time we visit the area. How can you go wrong with grapes grown on site and tastings of local spirits? Have you ever visited?
Last but certainly not least is James Island is just 10 minutes south of Charleston via Highway 30 or James Island Expressway. One of the major attractions on the Island is McLeod Plantation Historic Site. If visiting Charleston taking in some of the history is a Must and at the McLeod Plantation you can do just that. Take a tour of the grounds and how life in America used to be. The site has been carefully preserved and tells the stories of all the people that had a part in the plantation’s operation. (Note: Fort Sumter is also south of Charleston just off James Island, however the ferry leaves from the city. We really enjoyed the trip out to Fort Sumter, a combination of a boat trip, island military fort and very interesting history.)
Charleston’s southern islands have a lot to offer and can provide a little different scene than the historic downtown. So, when consider planning you next trip to the Holy City consider traveling south to take in a little more charm the area has to offer. And be sure to share your adventures with us on social media and tell us where your favorite place to go is while visiting Charleston. Thanks for reading!