Charleston is a city defined by water. Sculpted by the Ashley and Cooper Rivers and laid bare at the feet of the Atlantic Ocean, Charleston harbors a fascinating and unique aquatic ecosystem that deserves to be explored and celebrated.
Through Coastal Expeditions, a local boutique outfitter designed to engage and inform the customer, one can experience these estuaries and backwaters in the most intimate way possible – a kayak tour. There is no substitute for the hands-on experience that comes with a small kayak excursion, especially in terms of creating lasting memories through photography and proximity to the ecosystem. If you are looking for a personal, exciting, and aesthetically breathtaking adventure, then look no further than Coastal Expeditions.
Here’s a firsthand account of a Charleston kayak excursion…
A Great Blue Heron strikes a pose off Shem Creek.
“Our tour began at Shem Creek. It was a clear morning with a slight breeze – perfect for an early day kayak adventure. Our tour guide, Rachel Jones, began our oceanic jaunt by establishing the basics of kayaking and safety regulations, instilling both confidence and excitement throughout the group. We soon found ourselves on the creek, gliding our way through the backwaters and peeking through the small, winding offshoots of the estuary to catch and eyeful of the teeming wildlife.
Pro Tip: Keep your cold water wrapped safely in the elastic bands of the kayak. Be sure not to litter!
Our experience was only heightened by our dedicated and excited tour guide. Rachel recently graduated with a degree in Biology from the University of Central Florida. From the dietary habits of the Eastern Brown Pelican to the mating patterns of the Snowy Egret and Great Blue Heron, Rachel was a wealth of valuable information. This all came to a point when an Osprey was circling overhead. Rachel claimed that the Osprey will sometimes dive into the water to snack on some local fish – and, as if it were planned, the bird of prey divebombed into the water, only to emerge with its catch. This was all before we got out of the estuary!
Our tour took us out of the winding estuary and into the open breadth of Shem Creek to catch a glimpse at the infamous Crab Bank. The air was warm, the breeze was cool, and the views were unforgettable. In the far distance, we had the gorgeous backdrop of the Arthur Ravenel, Jr. Bridge. Right next to us, however, we were graced by the presence of an active family of dolphins. They would dive, surface, and then playfully glide through the shallow waters leading up to Crab Bank.
Up close and personal: An active dolphin shares a splash in the harbor.
What Crab Bank lacked in crabs, it made up for in bird life; Great White Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Laughing Gulls, Terns, Herring Gulls, American Oystercatchers, and Wood Storks were nesting, swimming, and flying as far as the eye could see. While newborns were taking their first steps, the symphony of squawking and cacophony of cawing echoed around the banks.
Bird is the word: Thousands of birds enjoy solace and safety near the waters of Crab Bank.
On our way back, we made sure to follow the incoming shrimp boats; as they pulled into the harbor, thousands of birds would swirl and dive to catch the falling feast of live shrimp. The dolphins were privy to the harvest as they stalked the vessel in droves. Swerving back into the estuary, the birds dissipated from the boats. This was now dolphin territory – a family, including a few young calves, elegantly danced around our kayaks in search for food, sometimes approaching as close as arms reach. It would be a mistake to forget your camera in moments like these.
A family of dolphins enjoys a mid-day snack supplied by the docking shrimp boats.
This unparalleled venture provided by Coastal Expeditions was only accentuated by the knowledge base and guidance of the trained staff. The water systems are an integral part of the lowcountry lifestyle – as we indulge in our local culture and cuisine, it is vital to understand where these gifts are stemming from. The chance to get involved in an experience as wholesome, exciting, and fundamental as a Charleston kayak tour would be a mistake to miss.”
Plan a getaway to any of Charming Inns’ hotels, inns and bed & breakfasts in downtown Charleston, SC and a Coastal Expeditions excursion is at your fingertips. Our concierge team of area experts will help make arrangements for a perfect day trip to the Charleston harbor. Learn more about Charming Inns here.