The Lowcountry's Outdoor Jungle Gym
Sightsee in stride in Charleston, South Carolina.
By: Sarah Tuff Dunn, from 5757 Palm Magazine
Motivating yourself to workout inside an unfamiliar gym on vacation is no easy feat – luckily, here, you don’t have to. Exploring Charleston and its barrier islands can double as your fitness jungle gym. Just see for yourself!
Sightsee in Stride
Charleston’s mild climate and stunning scenery make this city a runner’s dream. Year-round you can run along the historic Battery, looping around the historic downtown peninsula; jog across the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge from Isle of Palms to Charleston; or experience the tidal creeks and trails of James Island County Park, among many other routes. Whichever you choose, you’ll be treated to fantastic views and tasty ways to replenish the energy you’ve burned.
- Local Intel – Since 1977, the Charleston Running Club has been promoting the sport in the community, founding the popular Cooper River Bridge Run and the Kiawah Marathon. The club’s president, Ray Hauck, notes his favorite routes sees him running the Cooper River Bridge (officially known as the Ravenel Bridge), which spans the 6-mile long tidal waterway and offers stunning views as you look down to downtown Charleston, the salt marshes, and the Atlantic Ocean. To get started, lace up at Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park (25 minutes south of the Resort) and head up to Wonder’s Way, the 12-foot wide running and biking path on the south side of the bridge. Peer down at Drum Island as your cross toward Charleston, and then continue on to East Bay Street.
- Jump In – Head to Fleet Feet Mount Pleasant to join their free weekly group run (with varying 3 and 5-mile route options) every Monday night at 6:30 p.m. 881 Houston Northcutt Blvd. Mt. Pleasant, 843.606.2546
- Tip to Take – If you’re visiting in early April, join the 50,000 other runners for the 10K Cooper River Bridge Run, finished with a festival at Marion Square with plenty of cold beer, live music, and hundreds of vendors offering local fare and handmade goods.
A Swell Ab Workout
Surfing is a year-round activity here, and with 8,763 miles of shoreline in South Carolina, there are countless ways to jump in the water and on a board – no matter your skill level. You can also burn more than 200 calories an hour while playing in the waves, which makes renting a board or hiring an instructor a great way to work out while sharing some laughs with friends and family under the sun.
- Local Intel – The best waves in Charleston are found around the sandbars off Isle of Palms. “It’s all about sand and tide,” says Peter Melhado, founder of Isla Surf School. “Try to find an uncrowded sandbar around mid-tide.” Beginners should look for “crumbly” soft waves away from crowds while more intermediate surfers will seek out shallower sandbars, which create a steeper wave better suited for short boarding and maneuvers.
- Jump In – Isla Surf School teaches all levels and all ages the fundamentals of riding the frothy waves around Charleston and Isle of Palms. Sign up to learn solo or bring the whole gang for a 90-minute group lesson. 3rd St. W. Folly Beach, 843.813.7897
- Tip to Take – Even if the air feels hot, if surfing from October to early June, you’ll likely want to rent a wetsuit and potentially other gear (i.e. booties) to account for the dropped water temperatures.
Your Own Outdoor Spin Class
With over 1,600 acres of Wild Dunes’ scenic landscapes and trails, biking is the perfect way to explore the grounds all while getting a workout in. A variety of bicycle types are available for rent year-round at the Resort. Head out on your own quest or ask the concierge for a map of some favorite trails to trek.
- Local Intel – The Wild Dunes Bike Shop has a bike for everybody – even trailers and bikes with training wheels – and takes walk-up rentals. If you’re here for the week, however, it’s a good idea to reserve in advance of your vacation at the Resort. Call Wild Dunes Resort for details, 888.776.1876
- Jump In – Many bikers enjoy Palmetto Drive, the trail that winds around the golf course for a scenic loop, and follows the beach for a sunbathing break and some coastal views.
- Tip to Take – To get more exercise out of your ride, find a comfortable rhythm of timed speed intervals. Try four minutes of easy riding to one minute of high-power pedaling and repeat during the duration.
A Lowcountry Kind of Hiking
You may not have come to Charleston for the hiking – as it’s the lowest lying city on the East Coast, and the nearest mountains are four hours away – but the area offers some surprising options for putting one foot in front of the other. Marshes, tidal creeks, and deserted barrier islands create idyllic spots for seeing wildlife (think: birds and even alligators) all while putting your legs to work.
- Local Intel – David Loveland of Loveland Outdoor & Travel in Mount Pleasant regularly leads trips through Charleston’s top trails – two of which are the Awendaw Passage of the Palmetto Trail and the Sewee Shell Ring. In the cooler months, the boardwalk around the mound and the view of the Intracoastal Waterway are spectacular, particularly at a high tide when the Redfish are coming into the marshes and you can see them tailing.
- Jump In – Within the Palmetto Trail, the 7-mile Awendaw Passage meanders through the Francis Marion National Forest starting about 30 minutes northeast of Wild Dunes. Bring $5 for the entrance fee and soak up the solitude among fiddler crabs, owls, and other wildlife in Walnut Grove and beyond. 901 25 Mile Rd. Awendaw; Just south of the trailhead to the Awendaw Passage, the Sewee Shell Ring is a one-mile, self-guided interpretive trail that dates back some 4,000 years. Stroll the 120-food boardwalk to see the mysterious mound of shells left by Native Americans, and an 800-year-old clamshell mound. 7915-7941 Gull Bay, Awendaw
- Tip to Take – The Sewee Shell Ring is best to visit in the cooler months. If visiting during summer, try going earlier in the day.
Paddle with a Purpose
The aquatic offerings don’t end with surfing – try out standup paddle boarding or kayaking and roam among the dolphins. Routes range from placid explorations of estuaries to more high-thrills among the waves. And with plenty of paddling experts around Charleston and Isle of Palms, renting boards or taking tours is a snap.
- Local Intel – Some of the best views come from paddling Shem Creek, on a board or in a kayak. Pack your smartphone in a dry bag to snap photos of the Ravenel Bridge, Fort Sumter, and Charleston Harbor. In the summer, see the spectacular sight of thousands of pelicans, seagulls, and black skimmers at the Crab Bank Seabird Sanctuary.
- Jump In – For first-time standup paddleboarders, Ocean Fitness, a quick two miles adjacent to the Resort, has PaddleFit lessons that teach the proper technique (hint: it’s all about the core) followed by classes in paddling waves and heading downwind on the Atlantic Ocean. Already a SUP’er looking to connect with others? Rent a board and join the Wednesday evening social paddle. 50 41st Ave. Isle of Palms, 843.559.6073; If you’d prefer to be seated while you paddle, Coastal Expeditions (just steps from your stay) also has kayaking adventures from Isle of Palms, among other locations. Slip into the saltwater creeks, chase dolphins, and discover the longest undeveloped stretch of coastline on the Eastern seaboard. Isle of Palms Marina, 843.884.7684
- Tip to Take – Use your core strength to paddle rather than depending on your arm muscles. First, find your balance on the board, slightly bend your knees, and twist from your core with each stroke you take, and find a consistent pace to keep.
Take a Swing at Tennis
Any activity outdoors is a good one in Charleston’s temperate weather. And right at the Resort, tennis and pickleball are sure favorites. Try your hand at tennis at one of the 17 Har-Tru courts (including one stadium) that are groomed and ready for a match of singles, doubles, or lessons. At night, five of the courts remain lit, meaning you can play almost any time of day.
- Local Intel – Guests at Wild Dunes Resort receive a complimentary hour of tennis court reservations per bedroom per day, so you’ll have plenty of time to practice your swing. Forgot your racquet? The tennis instructors, led by longtime pro Charly Rasheed, will advise you on everything from string type to grip size when renting equipment. “What makes the program at Wild Dunes special is the volume of repeat guests that we have on a weekly basis,” says Rasheed, “Which gives the clinics a family feel.”
- Jump In – Each morning from 10 to 11:30, Wild Dunes offers cardio tennis in the form of the Daily Drill, a fast-paced session that changes daily. Saturdays feature round-robin tournaments followed by rehydrating with some craft brews and conversation. Call Wild Dunes Resort for details, 866.359.5593
- Tip to Take – Because tennis is a full-body sport, it makes for a great workout. That also means a proper warm up is even more crucial to prevent any injury. Make time for a quick 10-minute dynamic warm up of light jogs and mobile stretching.