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Ways to See Charleston by Water

April 3rd, 2017

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Among the really great things about Charleston, SC are its abundant waterways and beaches, all of which are just waiting to be explored and enjoyed. If you’re thinking we mean just another boring boat trip around a harbor, think again. There are multiple ways to see Charleston by water,  ranging from the traditional harbor tour to paddleboarding across estuaries and kayak tours through cypress swamps.

Ready to get your feet wet? Read on!

Ways to See Charleston by Water


If a boat trip leaves you wanting a more up-close experience with Charleston’s saltwater marshes and swamps, consider a kayaking tour. Kayak along Shem Creek in Mt. Pleasant to get an unusual view of the shrimp boats and then venture out to the Crab Bank bird sanctuary. Explore the upper Ashley River state scenic river corridor or tour the Blackwater Cypress Swamp, both at Middleton Place. Among the most popular are the tours offered by a number of outfitters through the salt marshes and creeks behind Folly Island. During a sunrise or sunset trip, you’ll see different species of water birds and possibly even a bottlenose dolphin.

Stand Up Paddleboarding

As stand-up paddleboarding, sometimes known as SUP, continues to gain in popularity, more Charlestonians and visitors are discovering the unique perspective this activity gives to a trip through the marshes and estuaries around the Lowcountry. Explore those estuaries around Folly Island or move further inland for even greater privacy as you explore small creeks on your own.


Want to get your feet—or maybe more of you—wet? Charleston’s beaches barrier island beaches offer a variety of water sports. If those waves at Folly Beach look irresistible, grab a surfboard and paddle out. There are a couple of places that can teach you how to catch a wave if need be or supply younger kids with boogie boards.

Over at Sullivan’s Island on the north side of the harbor, you’ll find kiteboarding is popular. If you don’t know how to do this, and want a lesson or two, ask at the one of the sea sports shops there or in nearby Mt. Pleasant.

The Isle of Palms, right next to Sullivan’s Island, is a great spot for a variety of water sports. Here is your chance to ride a jetski or try parasailing. Sign up for an afternoon of wakeboarding, water skiing, or tubing—or all three together!

Harbor Tours

Once upon a time, Charleston harbor tours consisted of a boat loaded with visitors who obediently looked at the sights while a guide droned a series of statistics about shipping and landmarks. There are many sights to see in Charleston by water. Today, Sandlapper Water Tours offers updated trips such as romantic sunset cruises with the spires of Charleston’s historic churches silhouetted against the orange of the setting sun, an all-water Ghost Tour highlighting the Holy City’s famous haunted locations, and nature tours focusing on the barrier islands just outside the harbor.

See also 4 Tours in Charleston SC You Must Take 

If you want a unique way to enjoy the city, see Charleston by water.  Whatever your passion, Charleston’s waterways offer a chance to indulge them. Whether you prefer the peace and quiet of a salt marsh or the speed and excitement of a jet ski, there’s something for everyone. And maybe the next time, you’ll try something at the other end of the spectrum.

Ready to get out there? Find the full schedule of water tours. and make a reservation today.