Soaking Up Charleston’s Priceless Beauty on the Cheap
By Holly Herrick
When you visit a city as bountiful in beauty as Charleston, it’s easy to get swept up in the frenzy of typical and often expensive tourist activities. While a trip out to Ft. Sumter or a visit to a historical house museum make perfect sense to a history buff and a day spent fishing or kayaking for the nature buff is perfectly natural, there are so many other adventures that might be missed if you don’t know about them.
Having lived twenty years and walked countless miles getting to know peninsular Charleston and surrounding areas, I would like to share some of my favorites, so that you might enjoy them, too. And, with the possible exception of parking, most of these will cost you nothing in money but most assuredly will reward your heart, mind, and soul with unforgotten joy dividends.
View of Charleston Peninsula from the James Island Connector (SC 30):
This three-mile bridge connects James Island with the Charleston peninsula. The drive over this bridge (prettiest at down or dusk) affords views of The Ashley River, the harbor, and Charleston herself. It’s dotted with puffy sails and boats, waving emerald marshes, and a network of weaving, tiny creeks and waterways. Steeples of ancient churches pop up like prayers to another time and the entire town looks like a dollhouse city – Mr. Roger’s neighborhood brushed with colonial and antebellum elegance and poetic beauty.
Stroll on Folly Beach’s Eastern-Most Tip
Folly Beach (commonly referred to as The Edge of America) is a big, long beach on a big, long island. The tip of the beach overlooking the harbor and Morris Island north of Folly Beach is the most soulful. To get to it, you need to walk a bit through a sandy path fringed with dunes and beach grasses. Large branches of sea-glossed driftwood decorate the beach, scattered like spooky, wooden skeletons. This section of the beach looks out over the Morris Island Lighthouse and Fort Sumter. It is most quiet in the mornings and especially during winter, which is when I like it best. The entire beach is dog-friendly, but the hours vary with the season and a leash is required at all times.
Secret Gardens, Cobbled Lanes, and Charleston Window Boxes South of Broad Street
Walking slowly with your eyes open (and not fixed on a map or a camera), is the absolute best way to find and see these gems, each of which are distinctly Charleston in their style and composition. They’re concentrated all over the lower tip of the peninsula, but some of the best are to be found on Legare Street between Broad and South Battery, Tradd Street Between Legare and East Bay Street, and Atlantic Street (including a beautiful cobbled stretch of Church Street where it meets Atlantic) between Meeting and East Bay. Window boxes and gardens fluctuate with the seasons but are a source of special pride to Charlestonians.