Day Trip: Kiawah and Wadmalaw Islands

Guide to Charleston Beaches

Looking to explore South Carolina’s Lowcountry for a day? My in-laws visited last summer, which is high tourism season here in Charleston. To get away from the crowds in downtown Charleston, we decided to do a little island hopping outside the city and visit John’s Island, Kiawah Island, and Wadmalaw Island. The road is lined with Live Oaks covered in Spanish moss, and along the way we saw horse farms, tidal creeks, and farm stands with local produce.

Kiawah Island Beachwalker Park

What to do on Kiawah Island

Depending on the time of year you go, parking will either be free or $8. This beach offers both solitude and lively crowds depending on how far you walk. If you want to swim, stay close to the  facilities where you can rent a beach umbrella and chair. However, if you want solitude and to have the beach relatively to yourself, then be prepared to walk (it’s worth it!). I always turn right from the boardwalk and head to the river side of the beach (where the Kiawah River dumps into the ocean). At the far end is a bird sanctuary for migrating seabirds. Parts of the beach are also dog friendly. You can check out more information including hours and fees here.

Freshfields Village

After our walk on the beach we visited Freshfields Village for lunch. There are many options here. If you have the time for a sit down restaurant, order a wood-fired pizza at La Tele Pizzeria. Jesse and I have often grabbed a sandwich or sushi at the The Village Market. We’ve also made frequent stops for ice cream at Vincent’s Drug Store.

Angel Oak

Charleston's Angel Oak

This is one of my favorite places to take family and friends who are visiting from out of town. From Main Road on John’s Island you’ll pull off onto a dirt road–a short drive that’s very much worth it. Mystery and awe surround the Angel Oak, which some claim to be 1,000 years old, others say it is one of the oldest living things east of the Mississippi River.

Charleston Tea Plantation

Charleston on a Budget

To visit the tea plantation you’ll make a short drive from John’s Island to Wadmalaw Island. The tea plantation is free to visit! They have samples of both hot and iced tea that is cultivated on site. It’s not necessary, but if you want to you can pay a few dollars to go on the trolley ride that will take you around the tea fields with a quick stop at the greenhouse.

Dinner at Fat Hen

This is one of our favorite places to eat in Charleston. Located on rural John’s Island, Fat Hen offers a menu that blends French cuisine with Lowcountry fare. It’s upscale food with a laid-back atmosphere (they’ll serve your drink in a Mason jar). The braised lamb shank is heavenly. If southern cooking is new to you, please do yourself a favor and order the fried green tomatoes.

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