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Paddle, Boat and Fish Your Way to Adventure on Charleston’s Waterways with These Fun Things To Do

One Owner shares her tips for a Lowcountry day on the water

Maehing O
Sail boats on a Charleston, South Carolina, waterway.

Charleston, South Carolina, is a town that most people know for its rich history. However, many people are surprised when they discover that it's also a sea lover's paradise.

Between the Charleston Harbor, Atlantic Ocean, and various rivers and creeks, there are plenty of ways to enjoy a day on the water in the Lowcountry.  

Explore Charleston Harbor

Shot of the Battery District in Charleston, South Carolina.    

One of the biggest draws is the Charleston Harbor, an eight-mile Atlantic Ocean inlet. Formed by the junctions of the Cooper, Ashley and Wando Rivers and part of the Intercoastal Waterway, the harbor is also home to Fort Sumter, where the Confederacy fired the infamous first shot of the American Civil War. 

It was also the home of the H. L. Hunley, the world's first submarine to sink an enemy ship in battle, making it a popular site to visit. Today, you can tour the Hunley and learn more about the historical events of February 17, 1864, through interactive exhibits.  

As a Hilton Grand Vacations Owner, it's also exciting to mention that Liberty Place Charleston by Hilton Club offers a birds-eye view of the Harbor from its rooftop terrace. Finally, Liberty Place's ideal location makes walking to Charleston Harbor enjoyable to convenient. 

Travelers who appreciate being on the water, check out the Fort Sumter Visitor and Education Center or Patriots Point Naval Maritime Museum. Boat tours depart daily, offering visitors an educational, not to mention, beautiful scenic trip through Charleston Harbor.

View of the Charleston Battery district from the water in South Carolina.    

And keep your eyes peeled. You're almost guaranteed to see dolphins along the way, and the unmistakable skyline that makes Charleston so beautiful makes for a perfect photo opportunity. 

If you're departing from the Mt. Pleasant side at Patriots Point, consider touring the USS Yorktown. Winding your way through this National Landmark adds another four hours, so plan to leave yourself enough time. 

For a spookier experience, give the ship's nighttime ghost tour a try. I enjoyed camping overnight on the Yorktown with my Girl Scout Troop, and I promise you the stories are true.  

Insider Tip: check out Groupon before booking anything in the area. 

Charleston Kayaking and Paddle Board Adventures

Adventure seekers will fit right in with the locals. Kayaking and paddle boarding are popular local pastimes, thanks to the abundance of inlets and creeks located off the main rivers. In addition to ideal spots for watersports, these waterways are a natural habitat for our local, protected wildlife.

Woman kayaking through a tree-lined waterway in Charleston, South Carolina.    

So, bring your camera along because you'll likely spot some wild animals.          

Whether you have a little experience under your belt or you're a beginner, it's important to explore safely. Rainfall and tides dictate the speed at which you may float or zip through Charleston waterways.         

Don't discount the force of water and the rate at which it can change its course and speed. Always use safety gear on your adventures — currents are as busy under the water as on the surface. 

For a unique experience, wait until low tide to head out on the water. 

It's only then that several popular sandbars become visible. And there's no mistaking them because you will see a row of boats anchored in these areas.  

My favorite "beaches" are the ones that come and go with the tides in the Ashley and Stono Rivers. With so many local waterways to explore, you'll want to review a map of the local areas before heading out. 

Guided Lowcountry Excursions

As a Charleston local, I think one of the best excursion companies in Charleston is Coastal Expeditions. It's the only company with access to Bulls Island. Additionally, they're heavily involved in protecting local wildlife, such as the Crab Bank restoration project. Finally, the staff are experts in the region and offer unmatched tours throughout the Lowcountry. I can't say enough good things about them. 

Best Places for Fishing in Charleston to Reel in a Big One

Fishing enthusiasts have various choices in the Lowcountry, and experienced anglers who appreciate the differences between inshore and offshore fishing will enjoy Lowcountry fishing. 

Kids in a boat posing at Pinopolis Locks in Charleston, South Carolina.    

Take a coastal boat ride up the Cooper River through the impressive 138-foot Pinopolis Locks that open to the mouth of Lake Moultrie. Santee Cooper, a state-owned electric and water utility company, installed the locks back in 1941.

However, it's the size of the catch in this area that's most impressive. It's not uncommon for anglers to challenge state records for catfish caught here regularly. So if you're lucky enough to reel in a record-breaking catfish, save the big ones stewing — they're best that way, in my opinion. 

When it comes to offshore fishing, you'll find visitors trolling the Atlantic year-round. But, the great thing about Charleston is that you don't have to go too far out for phenomenal fishing as long as you stay in what locals refer to as the "jetties," a three-mile-long channel created 120 years ago to make way for the shipping channel. 

The jetty is an incredible vision, feat and a necessity at the mouth of the Charleston Harbor. South Carolina Ports Authority wouldn't be a leader on the East Coast without it. And it also offers spectacular fishing. 

Over the years, the jetty's location combined with the tides from the Charleston estuaries has created a breeding ground for a diverse food chain. 

Silhouette of fishing boat on Charleston, South Carolina, waterway at sunset.   

Fishing these rocks can be tricky, but it's a popular spot for anglers who are up to the challenge. You'll want to arrive early to claim your spot.

Consider going out with a local guide to maximize your time on the water. A good guide knows the tides, the best bait to use and the best fishing spots. If offshore fishing is your style, you're in for a treat.

Depending on when you visit, you'll discover King Mackerel, Amberjack, Cobia, Mahi Mahi, Wahoo, Black Fin Tuna, Sea Bass, Grouper, Snapper and Trigger Fish love the Lowcountry, too.  

Stick to inshore fishing for a chance to catch redfish, bull reds, speckled sea trout, black drum, sheepshead and shark. Then, of course, there's freshwater fish to consider. 

Some common freshwater fish include but are not limited locally to eel, shad, crappie, catfish, bluegill, carp, sunfish, bass, and perch. For the most part, whatever your pallet is after, our Lowcountry waters have them all. 

Insider Tip: Make sure you have a valid South Carolina fishing license. They're available in local retail stores. 

Finally, no matter what your water adventure in Charleston entails, remember to bring your sunscreen and take lots of pictures. There's something magical about Lowcountry water days, where you feel the comfort of southern hospitality while on the edge of adventure.

Read "4 Seasons of Southern Charm: 13 Things to do in Charleston" for more Lowcountry vacation ideas.  

 

Hilton Grand Vacations Owner, Maehing O.

Maehing O

As seasoned Owners since 2006 and with a love of adventure, Maehing and her husband purchased Hilton Grand Vacations timeshare on the spot and vowed to never stay on the same property twice — and so far, so good. The couple and their large family, including five kids ages 10 through 28, grandkids and extended family, are always on the go searching for their next great family adventure. 

One of their favorite Hilton Grand Vacations memories was the look on their newly engaged kids' faces when they found out they were given ClubPoints for their honeymoon. They chose Kings' Land by Hilton Grand Vacations on The Big Island. When asked why she wanted to become an Explorer, Maehing says, "There's an entire world out there with beautiful people and places that should be seen, experienced and shared."

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