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Clear Your Mind at the Best Outdoor Spots in Charleston

Having spent my middle and high school career in Charleston, I’ve had my fair share of angsty/emo/overall tough moments that sometimes require a good dose of the beauty that nature has to offer. Luckily, Charleston has a ton of parks and other open spaces that are a great place to reset by yourself or with your friends, and many of them double as cute date spots too! With the weather getting nice soon (and not unbearably hot), I thought I’d share my favorite nature spots with you in case you needed to change it up from the usual beach trips. 

Riverfront Park (North Charleston)

One of my favorite places to relax and explore, Riverfront Park has beautiful ocean views and is pretty versatile as far as things to do here: there are several large grassy areas, multiple memorials and statues, a dock, heavily shaded areas, benches, and some really interesting art structures. This park is located near/in an abandoned naval base, so if you happen to explore outside of the park, you can walk past an empty neighborhood of naval families and other interesting (and kind of eerie) abandoned structures. Just make sure not to trespass!

Melton Peter Demetre Park, previously Sunrise Park (James Island)

This park is really one of the best, although it can often be crowded. Located right on the water, you’ll find picnic tables, little beaches for collecting shells, and a dock with beautiful views here. I’ve always wanted to go at sunrise!

Hampton Park (Downtown)

Located on the upper peninsula, this park has the most impressive flower display and is often the location of many large events in Charleston. It’s a great place to go after picking up takeout; there are picnic tables under giant trees you can sit and eat at. Beware of the geese, though, especially when they have chicks (they will attack!). Explore the park, and you’ll find trails through immaculately-kept landscaping.

Alhambra Hall (Mount Pleasant)

This park is definitely the most frequented for me because it was the last stop on a walk I would take often in middle school from Pitt Street (which is a super cute area, highly recommend!) There’s usually lots of dogs here, which makes it even better, in my opinion, and a great view of the marsh and ocean. Explore around it near the water, and you can find little spots along the water to relax that are wonderful. 

Sullivan’s Island Nature Trail (Sullivan’s Island)

This nature trail is pretty expansive, covering several great natural areas on the Island. I really like how immersed in nature you can feel on several of these hikes, and my favorite parts of this trail are along the beach where you’ll find interesting piles of rocks to climb or sit on. Explore it for yourself and see what you can find!

Memorial Waterfront Park (Mount Pleasant)

Home to the beautiful Mount Pleasant Pier stretching out across the water, this park is located under the Ravanel bridge and is perfect for sunsets. There’s also a large grassy area perfect for picnics or stargazing.

Daniel Island Children’s Park (Daniel Island)

While I’ve personally never been to the dock (although I'm sure it's beautiful), if you follow the trail to the right (when you’re looking out on the water), there’s a little path stemming off that will lead you to a brackish water beach that I hold very close to my heart. It’s a pretty incredible little spot and probably my favorite on this list.

Top Floors of Parking Garages

This is pretty self-explanatory, and although they’re not usually a great place to see nature, I’ve always loved going anywhere in Charleston where I'm well above sea level.  I think there’s a certain inner peace that comes with looking out over a large expanse of land from above.

Pitt Street Bridge (Mount Pleasant)

This spot is really beautiful and is a great walk to get some exercise on. It’s not a functioning bridge anymore, but the end of it opens up into the waterway between Sullivan’s and Mt. P. On your walk along the water, you’ll find picnickers, fishermen, and bikers enjoying the ocean breeze. Highly recommended.

The Battery (Downtown)

I had to include this, although I know people who live in Charleston are very familiar with this area. I love walking along the water here and laying under the big old trees in the grassy area. I’ve always wanted to go on a date here and sit in the open back of a car or truck with takeout to watch the sunset!

Lighthouse Inlet Heritage Preserve (Folly Beach)

This is one of the coolest nature places in Charleston. It’s located all the way at the end of Folly Beach and has beautiful, almost magical-feeling petrified tree structures.

J. Marshall Stith Park (Sullivan’s Island)

This one is perhaps the hardest to get to, as the park area I like to visit is atop a steep hill above the playground. I only know about it because I used to live on the Island! If you go around the other side of the block, the park is on from the main road on Sullivan’s, you’ll find stairs that make it easier to get up there. You’ll know you’re there when you see the little graffitied concrete structures. It’s totally worth the small hike. 

Patriot’s Point (Mount Pleasant)

This is a pretty large area to cover, and if you look it up on the internet, it’ll come up with the Yorktown and other (not free) attractions, but I really wanted to include it because if you drive past the Yorktown, you’ll find there are hiking trails all along here that are pretty much only known by locals, some of them extending out onto the water. If you find a good trail, it’s totally worth it, and you’ll feel immersed in nature!

Cora Schipa

C of C '22

Cora is a student at College of Charleston graduating in Spring 2022, studying English with a concentration in Creative Writing and Sociology. She's found joy in being around the people she loves and meeting new people, as well as the outdoors, food, thrifting, good music, traveling, art, and poetry, and believes there's immense power in a connected community of women! Follow her on Instagram @cora.christa.
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