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Visiting the Charleston area and looking for things to do outside the city? The South Carolina Sea Islands offer additional experiences to enjoy during your vacation. And, to really immerse yourself in the island culture, consider staying on Johns Island, a 30 minute drive from the Charleston airport.
I loved my stay at Sailor’s Rest Airbnb. From there I had access to many fun things to do on Johns Island SC. From exploring the Charleston Tea Garden to visiting one of the oldest live oak trees in the south, you can choose several…or all…of these activities to deepen your experience.
This huge, ancient tree is a Lowcountry beauty. Considered the largest southern live oak tree east of the Mississippi, the Angel Tree, also called Angel Oak, is estimated to be 400 years old, although some accounts place the age at closer to 1500 years.
Located on Johns Island, Angel Oak Tree is 66.5 feet tall and has a trunk circumference of 28 feet. The Spanish moss draped canopy spreads over 17,200 square feet, creating sun dappled shade beneath the branches. One of the longest branches extends 187 feet from trunk to tip.
Some of the massive branches require support beneath them, to keep them from breaking. And some of the tree’s branches dive underground and then pop back up out of the ground as they continue to grow.
This park is free to visit, although donations are accepted to help preserve this protected tree.
The park is located at 3688 Angel Oak Road on Johns Island and open 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday through Saturday and 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm on Sunday. The road to the Angel Tree is narrow and a bit rough so drive slowly. Parking spots are located outside the fenced area, with handicap parking available within the park.
There is a gift shop located within the park, along with porta-potties and picnic tables.
Charleston Aqua Park
Located at 3050 Marlin Road, Johns Island, the aqua park is open daily from noon until 6:00 pm.
You can book 45 minutes sessions, for $18.90 per person, and enjoy the water park OR the ropes course. Book sessions online at this LINK. Bring your swimsuit and a towel, for the aqua park, plus closed toe shoes if enjoying the ropes course. Life jackets are provided.
The ropes course offers overwater climbing adventures for ages 6 and up. This fully floating course provides three difficulty levels from beginner to intermediate.
There are picnic tables and beach chairs located beside the lake, for spectators.
Freshfields Village sits at the crossroads of Kiawah Island, Seabrook Island and Johns Island, in the Lowcountry of South Carolina. It’s just 30 minutes from Charleston and minutes from anywhere on the islands.
Operated by Northwood Retail, this is an open air shopping community, designed for pedestrian traffic. Freshfields Village offers vacationers and residents a premiere shopping and dining destination with unique architecture, beautiful courtyard patios, and seasonal events that include cultural festivals, outdoor concerts and movies, plus a seasonal Farmer’s Market.
Although it is designed for walking the beautifully arranged streets and lanes, there is ample parking available in designated areas. Additional parking is available along the streets and behind the buildings.
The Village offers more than 60 stores, restaurants and services in one convenient location. And what a beautiful, relaxed space it is. You can easily spend a day here, shopping, dining and participating in events. Or stop by for lunch and a quick walk through the village. There’s something for everyone here.
Captain Jack’s Kiawah Sailing & Dolphin Watching
Located on Johns Island, at 1880 Andell Bluff Blvd, Captain Jack’s is open 7:00 am until 7:00 pm every day.
You and five others in your private party depart from Bohicket Marina for a tour of the Edisto River or Atlantic Ocean. Watch dolphins swimming alongside the boat while the skipper shares the local lore and natural history of the salt marshes.
Sailing adventures include a private island picnic, sunset sail, family fishing, sailing lessons, dolphin watching, champagne cruise or a full day VIP cruise featuring all of the above.
Three hours of sailing costs $490 (group rate) or the sunset sail runs $530. Check out their website for more info.
For anyone who enjoys drinking tea, hot or iced, the Charleston Tea Garden is a must see. They are the only such tea garden in the US, where hundreds of thousands of tea plants grow in the ideal South Carolina climate.
Owned by the Bigelow family, the farm offers guests an amazing tea experience.
In addition to many acres of tea plants, visitors enjoy an educational tour of the tea factory. And a 45 minute trolley ride around the property provides an up close look at the plants and a tour guide that shares interesting facts about the whole process.
The tea garden, located at 6617 Maybank Highway on Warmalaw Island, is open daily. Hours of operation are 10:00 am – 4:00 pm Monday through Saturday and noon – 4:00 pm on Sunday. The garden is closed on major holidays. Please see their website for a list of those holidays. There is no fee to visit the gardens and tour the factory. The trolley ride costs $15.
St Johns Kayaks
Located at 4474 Betsy Kerrison Pkwy, Johns Island, St Johns Kayaks offers water tours of the Lowcountry.
Explore the salt marshes and estuaries of South Carolina, via kayaks or paddleboards, with knowledgeable tour guides who love sharing about the area and its natural beauty.
St Johns Kayaks also offers fishing charters, dolphin watching, beach combing, barrier island excursions and sunset cruises. Learn more at their website.
Visit Charleston Historic District
While you are close to this beautiful historic city, spend at least half a day exploring downtown Charleston.
Charleston is known for its cobblestone streets, horse drawn carriages, antebellum houses and a rich history that stretches back to the Revolutionary War. The downtown historical district includes the French Quarter, the South of Broad neighborhood, the Battery promenade and Waterfront Park that overlooks Charleston Harbor.
There are so many fun things to do in Charleston, from riding the free trolleys around town to walking along the battery to snapping photos in the South of Broad neighborhoods. Visit the iconic Pineapple Fountain or stroll through the City Market to hunt for treasures to take home.
The city is also an ideal place to grab lunch or dinner before returning to Johns Island.
Caw Caw Interpretive Center
Located at 5200 Savannah Hwy, Ravenel, this nature area offers trails with exhibits and rare wildlife. The Center is closed Mondays. However it is open from 9:00 am until 5:00 pm every other day of the week.
Caw Caw was once part of several rice plantations where enslaved people applied their agricultural skills to create rice fields in cypress swamps. Today it is managed as a low impact wildlife preserve.
Caw Caw features six miles of trails with exhibits, elevated boardwalks through wetlands, environmental programs for all ages, habitats for waterfowl, songbirds, alligators, bald eagles and many other animals and early morning bird walks. They also host festivals and special events during each season.
Admission is $2.
Enjoying Johns Island
I’ve visited Charleston and Johns Island, and there are things to enjoy in both places.
If your focus is on history, amazing architecture and exploring museums and historical sites, visit Charleston. And if your focus is on nature, outdoor fun and a more relaxed experience, visit Johns Island. Or, do as I did and spend time in both locations.
I dearly love Charleston. And I love the laid back vibes on Johns Island and the surrounding Sea Islands. There is an abundance of nature to appreciate throughout the area. And while I did spend time walking and exploring different parts of the islands, I also relished the downtime spent at Sailor’s Rest, soaking up sunshine, swimming in the pool and simply sitting in that tropical paradise, enjoying the beauty of it all.
Which of these fun experiences would you love to try, with Johns Island as your base?
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