Best Things to Do on the Water Near Charleston
Credit: Sean Troy

It’s a gorgeous summer evening out in the tidal creeks near the Isle of Palms Marina when one of my friends suddenly announces her arms feel tired. She then asks the handsome stand-up paddleboard instructor if he can tether his board to hers and pull her along for a while. Good scheme. About 20 of us had just met for a three-mile, sunset paddle that winds along creeks through the marsh grass, and my friend was making the most of the social element of this saltwater, Lowcountry outing. Around Charleston, the harbor, and the islands, there are countless ways to get on the water—on boards and boats, and from docks and beaches. Most people tour around Charleston by car or on foot. But if you climb aboard a boat, or jump right into the wash, you’ll get an entirely different view of the city’s culture, islands, wildlife, and natural scenery.

Schooner Pride

The Charleston harbor just wouldn’t look the same without this tall-mast schooner skimming around with wind in its sails. If you’re close enough to see the ship, sometimes you’ll realize that it’s a wedding party aboard on the wooden decks. Or you’ll notice its white sails on a moonlight night—how dreamy.

Fort Sumter Tours

Practically every grade-school kid in South Carolina (including me one year) makes the trip out to Fort Sumter, but seeing the island fort where the Civil War began isn’t the only reason to go. To get there requires taking a scenic boat ride, and you’ll likely see dolphins and ships, too.

Ocean Fitness

The Schuck brothers who founded this paddleboarding outfitter are longtime local surfers, and they make fitness lessons and tours easy and fun, starting from the Isle of Palms Marina. It’s a beautiful spot, and you can stop by the cabana-style bar at Morgan Creek Grill for post-paddling toasts and celebration.

Barrier Island Eco-Tours

This recommendation is for shellfish lovers. Barrier Island Eco Tours also leave from the Isle of Palms Marina, and their naturalist-led outings go to either blue crab fishing spots or the public shellfish grounds at Capers Island. Then everyone gathers for a beachfront Lowcountry boil or clambake of the fresh catch.

Charleston Angler

In addition to selling tackle and outdoor gear, this popular shop offers fly-fishing lessons and guided trips year-round. Take a tip from a local—pay attention to tides and fish the creeks and shallow water at edge of the marsh—you might just catch a redfish, flounder, or speckled trout.