Savor Every Season in Charleston's 10 Best Parks



Welcome to Charleston, South Carolina! Expect to fall in love with the unique beauty of the lowcountry, where the Deep South meets colonial charm and a strong local community. The loveliness of Charleston is evidenced by its original, colorful architecture, the friendliness of its people, and of course, the idyllic views only found in a Southern harbor town.

One of the best ways to enjoy Charleston's subtropical climate is with time spent at a local park–a picnic lunch or quick break from city exploration both work well as excuses to linger outside. You won't have to venture far to find an ideal park pit stop, as Charleston's best parks are close by in Mount Pleasant, West Ashley, James Island, and of course, downtown.

At each Charleston park, you'll encounter different special features and views, but enjoy the same comfortable, laid-back atmosphere at each. Exercise lovers will enjoy a bike ride or run through historic Hampton Park and its surrounding downtown neighborhoods, as well as the path at the old Pitt Street Bridge in Mount Pleasant. Beach babes can hit the sand and surf (with chair and umbrella rentals) at Folly Beach County Park, while adventurous kiddos will enjoy James Island County Park and the Charles Towne Landing National Historic Site. No trip to Charleston is complete without a visit to the Whitepoint Gardens at Battery Park. Rest in the shade under ancient live oaks draped in Spanish moss, with inspiring views of Fort Sumter and the Charleston Harbor.



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Quite often the site of local festivals such as the Charleston Beer Garden and XXX, Brittlebank Park is chosen as a spot for celebrations due to its near-downtown waterfront location overlooking the Ashley River from Lockwood Drive. Also just a short walk from the Charleston Riverdogs minor league baseball stadium, the 10-acre Brittlebank Park makes for a nice place to spend some time with the kids before or after going to a ball game. There are swings and playground available here, and the park is open (free of charge) year-round. There is also a public water access dock and fishing pier available at Brittlebank, which makes a nice spot to launch a small boat or kayak.


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This expansive, 943-acre Mount Pleasant park is part of the Charleston County Park system, and located just 20-30 minute drive from downtown Charleston. Situated along Horlbeck Creek off of the Wando River, Palmetto Islands County Park affords any visitor an untouched view of Charleston's natural beauty, flora and fauna. This park was made for groups and families, including such features as a boardwalk trail, bike paths, an observation deck, and picnic facilities with grills. You can also fish and crab at Palmetto Islands Park, as well as launch a kayak onto this stunningly beautiful marsh creek. The kids will also love the (seasonal) Splash Island Waterpark, open from late May to early September.


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More of a historic colonial settlement brought to life in authentic fashion than a simple park, a visit to the Charleston Towne Landing historic site makes for an excellent afternoon activity off-peninsula for people and groups of all ages. Just a short drive from downtown Charleston across the Ashley River, Charles Towne Landing brings the past to life at the site of the first permanent European settlement in the Carolinas. This state historic site offers bike rentals, nature and walking trails (including nature and history trails), and 80 acres of gardens and greenery. There's even a natural animal habitat on site, home to animal species that the early settlers would have encountered when they first colonized the area.


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Waterfront Park is one of the peninsula's most visited parks, and is located at the southern tip of the downtown peninsula, just a few short blocks from East Bay Street, as well as Battery Park and White Point Gardens. Finished in 1990, Waterfront Park is a favorite of visitors and locals alike, offering fantastic views of the Charleston harbor. The park covers more than 1,000 feet along the coasts and allows visitors a chance to sit and relax after a long day of shopping and sightseeing. Visitors can watch sailboats cruising the waters and large ships heading in and out of the harbor.


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Folly Beach County Park


 

Folly is without question one of the most iconic spots in Charleston, and one of South Carolina's most popular beach vacation destinations. The beach park itself boasts over 2,500 feet of ocean frontage speckled with amenities like dressing areas, outdoor showers, restrooms, boardwalks, picnic areas and a snack bar. Boogie board and surfboard rentals are also on hand for visitors who want to take advantage of some of the best surfing north of Florida on the East Coast. Bring your shades, sunblock, and surfboard to take advantage of this beachtown treasure, an area of the beach usually less crowded than other stretches of Folly outside of park grounds.


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This 643-acre park offers a full-service campground as well as 10 modern vacation cabins overlooking the Stono River marsh. For additional fees, you can enjoy other activities, including Splash Zone water park and a 50-foot rock climbing wall which can accommodate 12-15 climbers at a time. Bike rentals are available, as is a crabbing dock and unrestricted ocean fishing. This county park hosts several major festivals throughout the year, such as the Lowcountry Cajun Festival in April. Educational programs for various ages include the Challenge Course, turtle walks, and tidal creek exploring. The Splash Zone Water Park is a huge draw for local and visiting families, as is the picnic and Spray Play fountain area and public dog park.


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Are you in search of a free attraction or outdoor space that's close to downtown Charleston for a romantic day trip or sunset viewing? You're in luck - Mount Pleasant's Pitt Street Bridge, as it is typically referred to, is located just a short drive across the Ravenel Bridge from the peninsula, and makes an excellent picnic spot or intimate evening outdoors when the weather is nice. Locals often visit Pitt Street Bridge, once the site of a longer dock bridge connecting Mount Pleasant to Sullivan's Island and a training spot for the Hunley, to launch kayaks or try their hand at some shore fishing. Parking and admission into the park is free!


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Battery Park & White Point Gardens
Photo courtesy of Clare Sweeney


 

Battery Park is the quintessential image of Charleston for most Holy City locals. Walking along East Bay Street, with the famous Battery mansions to one side, the Charleston harbor to the other, you'll be able to spot Ft. Sumter in the distance, and imagine the first shots of the Civil War that took place here in 1861. Over many centuries, the Battery has seen many wars, such as the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, and was even the hanging grounds for famous pirate Stede Bonnet, among others. Here you are completely surrounded by the charms that Charlestonians love the most- antebellum historic homes, a view of the Ravenel Bridge across the harbor, and centuries old oaks alongside stately palmettos.


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Marion Square
Photo courtesy of Clare Sweeney


 

Marion Square's 6.5 acres of green city park space is always a great spot to picnic, take a break from shopping, or catch some Charleston sun. Once used as drilling grounds for The Citadel, Charleston's local military college, Marion Square Park is now home to weekly Saturday Farmer's Markets, as well as many other special events, including Charleston Fashion Week, Food + Wine Festival, and the Piccolo Spoleto Festival. Often referred to by local college students as Marion Square "Beach" in warmer months, the park is frequented by locals playing Frisbee and sunbathing with their laptops and textbooks. Don't miss an opportunity to stop and rest a while (or even picnic) on the wide open field space here--so very convenient to every city attraction.


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Hampton Park


 

This nearly 70-acre green space, named for General Wade Hampton, a Civil War general and governor of South Carolina, is located just north of Charleston's bustling downtown, close to The Citadel military college. Hampton Park has been popular with walkers, runners, sunbathers and others wishing to take advantage of the warm and sunny Charleston weather. The park, which is equipped with public restrooms, a playground, picnic tables, and free WIFI, is home to a beautiful variety of annual blooms, as well as a fountain and pond. Hampton Park is also a popular public space for weddings and engagements, photo shoots, and even exercise meet-ups.


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Meet Clare Sweeney

A South Carolina native and avid locavore, Clare is always venturing between traveling abroad and her beloved Lowcountry. 

Clare works and plays in downtown Charleston, spending her days...  More About Clare

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