The vitality and beauty of Charleston isn’t limited to its city streets and neighborhoods. You’ll also find its beaches, on the islands and waterways. Charleston wildlife runs and flies through lowcountry forests and in the wildlife preserves. Because the natural life is an honored treasure, you’ll find plenty of places to observe it.
Here are a few of the best places to see Charleston wildlife:
At the Beaches
Sullivan’s Island, Folly Beach, and Isle of Palms hug the Atlantic coast and each offers miles of shoreline. Besides observing shorebirds, you’ll find plenty of seashells, starfish and sand dollars. Although there are no restrictions on taking abandoned shells, there are rules about taking live specimens from the beach. If the starfish has any movement when touched or the sand dollar isn’t bleached, leave them where you find them. Hermit crabs reuse shells, and even though it might look vacant to you, examine it carefully in case there’s a critter inside.
The views of Charleston and deep into the water are worth venturing into or above the water. You can rent a boat, a wave runner, or go parasailing to catch views of sea turtles, dolphins and sharks.
If you prefer something solid beneath your feet, how about venturing out on a pier where you can observe underwater sea life at Folly Beach Pier or Mount Pleasant Pier, a 1,250 foot long pier that juts into Charleston Harbor. This park also features a pavilion, food, special event hosting and fishing. Folly Beach Pier sits 23 feet over the water and extends 1,045 feet into the water. It offers full services, including snack bars and oceanfront dining, gift shops, fishing and swimmable beaches.
Check out Bulls Island
Bulls Island is a boat-ride away from Charleston but it’s worlds removed from the hustle and noise of the city. It’s the only Class 1 Wilderness Area in South Carolina, a designation that protects every aspect of its environment from development and encroachment.
Here you’ll have a chance to see bobcats, dolphins, alligators, sea turtles, 300 bird species, and otters. You can take a ferry or kayak to the shores. Anyone who wants to experience the natural authenticity of the low country will find plenty of walking and pristine beaches.
The Center for Birds of Prey provides a sanctuary for injured birds not far from Mount Pleasant. The Sewee Visitor and Environmental Education Center isn’t far away and is home to four endangered red wolves. The Center invites the public for feeding displays several times a week.
Stay in Town
You won’t need to venture far in Charleston to experience nature first-hand at Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site, which is the site of the first permanent settlement in the Charleston area. Its 80 acres give you a chance to see alligators, wading birds and wood storks. Part of this park includes a zoo where you’ll be able to see wild turkeys, black bears, puma and bison.
A guided tour on foot or by boat of Charleston Harbor will combine views and experiences of the civilized and the natural world. Squirrels, opossum, and abundant birds thrive in this city, right besides its human population.
Go On A Charleston Wildlife or Eco Tour
Perhaps the very best way to get an up-close glimpse of Charleston wildlife is to go on a guided boat tour, like those offered by Sandlapper Water Tours. Join our local naturalist aboard the Palmetto, to discover Charleston’s abundant coastal wildlife, while cruising the Charleston Harbor and landing on Morris Island.
Ready to get out there? Find the full schedule of water tours. and make a reservation today.