Plan The Perfect Staycation
Travel blogger Carol Antman has made a career writing about a love of travelling, in particular exploring some of the most special and interesting places within a day’s drive of her home on Sullivan’s Island. For SiP, she has planned the perfect “staycation” for her fellow islanders, as well as offering visitors some of her tips. Photo by Steve Rosamilia.
There’s a rule you may not know about living here: residents are required to have more fun than tourists. Actually, it ought to be a law. Every day off is an opportunity for a mini-vacation. Every staycation is an opportunity for adventure, exploration, learning and reveling in how lucky we are to live in this paradise. Yet sometimes it’s all too easy not to see what’s right in front of your nose. There are simply too many things to enjoy right on the islands or just nearby. Skip the hassles. Sleep in your own bed. Enjoy the wealth of experiences right in our own backyard. Here are some of my favorite things to do right here at home.
BEST WAY TO PEER BENEATH THE DEEP
Barrier Island Eco Tours
When the cast net is pulled on board and you get a glimpse of what’s swimming in our ocean, it’s awe-inspiring. These family-friendly boat rides from the Isle of Palms Marina cruise to Capers Island to spot dolphins as well as other specialized trips. It’s relaxing, informative and entertaining.
BEST PLACE TO GET INVITED
Step aboard the hourly ferry from the Isle of Palms and exhale. You’ll feel like the King or Queen of the Nile as you cruise the Intracoastal Waterway to the parallel universe of Dewees Island. No traffic lights, just trees; no cars, just golf carts; no noise, just birdcalls and lots of peace and quiet. Over 95 percent of the 1,200-acre island is in its natural state with only 64 secluded houses flanked by one of the most pristine and private beaches in the country. Many of them are for rent, which is the only way you can go unless you’re invited to visit a homeowner there.
BEST PLACE TO MAKE S’MORES
Build a bonfire on Sullivan’s Island
Beach bonfires make memories. Sullivan’s is one of the only places that still allows them. Start by downloading an application from the Town website’s permit page. Take it to the Town Hall, pay a refundable deposit, get the form signed by the fire department and enjoy some old-fashioned family fun.
BEST PLACE TO PLAY HIDE-AND-SEEK IN HISTORY
The teachable moments at Sullivan’s Fort Moultrie are endless. During its 171 years of use by the military, the fort played important roles in defense from the Revolutionary War through World War II. Much of that is included in the interpretive materials among the cannons and fortifications. Significantly, the fort was also a major point of entry for slaves arriving in North America who were quarantined in pest houses. A display in the visitor’s center and a commemorative sign describes the fort’s role as the “Ellis Island of slavery.”
BEST WAY TO GET UP THE CREEK
Kayaking from the islands
Gliding silently through the spartina grass of the marsh is a meditative experience available to very few. If you have a kayak, or rent one in town, you can launch it from the back beach on Station 26 on Sullivan’s. At the marina on IOP you can rent a kayak at Coastal Expedition’s kiosk and be launched without hauling a thing. Not enough horsepower for you? Try your hand at stand-up paddleboarding or kitesurfing by renting equipment from Sealand Adventure Sports on Sullivan’s. Or check out Tidal Wave Water Sports at the IOP Marina and get your adrenaline rushing by renting motor boats, wave runners or trying parasailing.
If you have a hankering for a short day trip during your staycation, hit the road for these close-by adventures, easily enjoyed in an afternoon.
BEST PLACE TO DROP BREADCRUMBS
The Francis Marion National Forest
Paths through the woods make hiking and biking one of the area’s most accessible afternoon adventures. Short hikes like the I’on Interpretive or the Shell Mound Trails can be enjoyed in less than an hour. The 350-mile Palmetto Trail begins at Buck Hall Landing and goes across the entire state. Try the Awendaw Passage section for a slice of scenery straight out of Pat Conroy or the Swamp Fox section for a rough and ready scramble on your mountain bike (palmettoconservation.org). Even closer, the new Laurel Hill trail begins behind the Park West Recreation Center. It’s a beautifully developed, easy five-mile loop.
BEST PLACE TO WALK ALONE ON THE BEACH
One of the world’s most important migratory bird sights is right at our doorstep. Almost 300 species have been identified there. As you walk a mile across the 5,000 acre island from the boat dock you’ll see fresh and saltwater ponds, maritime forests, marshes and lolling alligators. You’ll want to take plenty of photos of Boneyard Beach, a surreal landscape of eroded and weathered tree limbs. There are miles of sandy solitude. Visitors to Bulls Island can enjoy surf fishing, watching wildlife, picnicking, hiking and biking before the ferry brings you back to reality. The only way to the island is via Coastal Expeditions’ Bulls Island Ferry.
BEST SALTLESS, SANDLESS SWIMS
The Marion, Moultrie and Santee Lakes
Just an hour away is a world of freshwater fun. At these inland lakes you can hike, bike, swim, boat, fish, rent cabins, camp, picnic or vacation in rental houses. Santee State Park has facilities for most every outdoor endeavor or you can rent a vacation cottage in one of the nearby lakeside communities and spend the day in your bathing suit, fishing pole in hand. Or take an informative eco tour with Fisheagle. You’ll quickly see why so many of the locals there have not moved to the big city.
BEST PLACE TO SEE NATURE FROM YOU CAR WINDOW
Fifty miles south of Charleston is Botany Bay Wildlife Management Area. Whether you drive, bike or hike the scenic 6.5 miles you’ll traverse forests, agricultural fields and coastal wetlands while stopping at the 15 points of interest described on a map given at the entrance. Learn about the history and agriculture and stroll the bizarre landscape of the driftwood covered beach. Highlights include the grounds of Bleak Hall Plantation with its picturesque ice house and tabby shed.