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10 Amazing State Parks near Charleston, SC (+ Map)

The state parks around Charleston offer a wide range of experiences. Some are historically significant, some are situated on the Atlantic coast, and others provide access to lakes and rivers with every activity imaginable.
ItIsWild.com: Best State Parks near Charleston, SC
Hunting Island State Park lighthouse

Steeped in history, Charleston is a popular tourist destination for those who want to enjoy Carolina’s Lowcountry. 

For residents of Charleston as well as visitors to the area, South Carolina State Parks manages a variety of destinations that offer a great mix of ecological interaction, environmental education, historical experiences, and opportunities for escape.

Most of these parks allow visitors to experience the intersection of the Lowcountry lands with estuaries, riverfronts, lakes, and the Atlantic coastline. 

A few day-use parks are free, but even those with admission fees offer incredible experiences for very reasonable prices that will meet most family budgets. 

Many of the 10 parks included here were developed during the New Deal of the 1930s, by workers in the federal Civilian Conservation Corps. All parks presently have modern facilities that combine comfort with outdoor adventures.

Related: 6 Fantastic Recreational Lakes near Charleston, SC

Related: 7 Gorgeous Beaches near Mt Pleasant, SC

State Parks near Charleston:

  1. Edisto Beach State Park
  2. Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site
  3. Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site
  4. Givhans Ferry State Park
  5. Colleton State Park
  6. Hampton Plantation State Historic Site
  7. Huntington Beach State Park
  8. Lake Warren State Park
  9. Hunting Island State Park
  10. Santee State Park
State Parks near Charleston South Carolina Comparison Table
Comparison Table

1. Edisto Beach State Park

Edisto Beach State Park in South Carolina
Source: unsplash
  • Official Page: Edisto Beach State Park
  • Distance from Charleston: 47 miles (1h)
  • Activities: Swimming, Fishing, Kayaking, Canoeing, Boating, Hiking, Biking, Camping, Picnics

A 45-mile drive southwest of Charleston, Edisto Beach State Park offers 1,255 acres along the Atlantic shoreline that mix recreation and education. 

A 1.5-mile-long beach lined with palmettos welcomes visitors. Seven cabins and two campgrounds are available for overnight stays in forests along the coastal estuary. 

The Environmental Learning Center is a gathering place to learn about the area’s natural history. Sea life displays, a fishing pier, and interactive exhibits provide a greater appreciation of the largely undeveloped Ashepoo-Combahee-Edisto (ACE) Basin, an expanse of 350,000 acres.

The park includes four miles of tree-lined, ADA wheelchair-accessible trails, more than any other state park. 

An admission fee is charged to enter Edisto Beach. 

Related: 6 Fantastic Recreational Lakes near Charleston, SC

2. Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site

Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site
Source: flickr/CC BY 2.0

A short distance from downtown, the Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site occupies 664 Lowcountry acres on the western side of the Ashley River. 

This location opened in 1970, 300 years after the first English settlers established the Carolina colony.

Once home to bison, black bears, and bobcats, this site tells the story of the area’s evolving natural habitat and life in colonial Carolina beginning in the 1670s. 

Hands-on exhibits, six miles of trails, and the only zoo in the greater Charleston area offer a variety of visitor experiences. 

Replica canons and a tall ship named Adventure connect visitors with the city’s past. An 80-acre garden shares present-day beauty and is a popular venue for special events and weddings. 

A reasonable admission charge offers a day-long adventure. 

Related: 7 Gorgeous Beaches near Mt Pleasant, SC

3. Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site

An important settlement until the 1780s, the Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site was settled by New Englanders in 1695. 

This inland location 25 miles northwest of downtown Charleston became a strategic point during the American Revolutionary War.

Archaeologists continue to document the abandoned settlement’s history. Visitors can tour the cemetery and remnants of St. George‚Äôs Anglican Church tower, as well as a tabby (concrete made from oyster shell) fortress built in the 1700s.

Guests interested in nature will enjoy this 325-acre site that preserves the landscape where a once-vibrant settlement largely disappeared over 230 years ago. 

A modest admission fee allows access to this riverfront archeological treasure. 

4. Givhans Ferry State Park

Givhans Ferry State Park
Source: flickr/CC BY 2.0
  • Official Page: Givhans Ferry State Park
  • Distance from Charleston: 35 miles (50 min)
  • Activities: Swimming, Fishing, Kayaking, Canoeing, Boating, Hiking, Biking, Camping

Situated on 988 Lowcountry acres, Givhans Ferry State Park also serves as the downriver terminus for a 23-mile-long kayaking journey along the Edisto River that begins at Colleton State Park. An admission fee is charged to visit the park. 

Located 35 miles from downtown Charleston, Givhans Ferry is the closest state park to the city with cabins and campsites. 

Riverfront Hall, a facility built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, sits near the river and offers a place to gather. 

Trails offer forest and riverfront views of North America’s longest blackwater river. Canoeing and kayaking are popular pastimes here. 

Related: 6 Fantastic Recreational Lakes near Charleston, SC

5. Colleton State Park

Edisto RIver Canoeing
Source: flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0
  • Official Page: Colleton State Park
  • Distance from Charleston: 49 miles (1h 10min)
  • Activities: Swimming, Fishing, Kayaking, Canoeing, Boating, Hiking, Biking, Camping

On 35 acres and a 50-mile drive from Charleston, Colleton State Park originated as a wayside park built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. 

Colleton’s proximity to a coal-fired power plant kept attendance low until that facility permanently closed in 2012. 

Today, the smallest South Carolina state park provides excellent access to the Edisto River for those who wish to paddle or fish for bream, catfish, and redbreast sunfish. 

A 23-mile stretch of the Edisto offers a blackwater river path connecting Colleton with Givhans Ferry State Park for kayak and canoe adventures. 

Day visits require no admission fee. Campsites — including a primitive camping area for larger groups — allow for overnight stays. 

Related: 7 Gorgeous Beaches near Mt Pleasant, SC

6. Hampton Plantation State Historic Site

Hampton Plantation State Historic Site
Source: depositphotos

Once a rice plantation in colonial Carolina, the 274-acre Hampton Plantation State Historic Site tells the story of rice cultivation and slavery in the Santee River Delta and coastal Carolina. 

After the Civil War ended, freed persons emancipated from slavery continued to live here for generations. 

Visiting the grounds is free, with an admission charge for tours of the historic Georgian-styled mansion. 

Walking trails pass by two cemeteries, one of which was for African Americans who lived on those lands.

Archibald Rutledge, the state’s first poet laureate and a prolific author lived here until 1969. The site, now a National Historic Landmark, became a state park in 1971. 

7. Huntington Beach State Park

Beach in South Carolina
Source: depositphotos
  • Official Page: Huntington Beach State Park
  • Distance from Charleston: 79 miles (1h 35min)
  • Activities: Swimming, Fishing, Kayaking, Canoeing, Boating, Hiking, Biking, Camping

A pristine coastal escape situated on 2,500 acres of Murrells Inlet, Huntington Beach State Park combines great opportunities for beachcombing, birdwatching, and camping. 

More than 300 bird species have been documented in a park with three miles of beaches and 173 campsites. 

The 75-mile drive from Charleston to Huntington Beach takes the visitor to a great coastal escape. 

Loggerhead turtles occasionally nest on the Atlantic beaches, while the freshwater lake offers a place for other wildlife to congregate. There is a park admission fee. 

Atalaya, a winter home built in the Moorish style in the 1930s, is a popular site to visit with a modest separate admission fee. 

Related: 6 Fantastic Recreational Lakes near Charleston, SC

8. Lake Warren State Park

Kayakers on a lake in summer
Source: unsplash
  • Official Page: Lake Warren State Park
  • Distance from Charleston: 82 miles (1h 45min)
  • Activities: Fishing, Kayaking, Canoeing, Boating, Hiking

A popular boating and freshwater fishing destination, Lake Warren State Park is an 80-mile drive west of Charleston. 

There is no admission charge to visit this 200-acre lake, as well as the picnic sites, two fishing piers, a two-acre fishing pond, and three recreational trails at this day-use site. 

Lake Warren has low country wetlands and woodlands, a floodplain forest, a pleasant lake with great fishing, and ample plants and wildlife. 

Visitors should note that there is no wifi coverage in much of the park. 

Related: 7 Gorgeous Beaches near Mt Pleasant, SC

9. Hunting Island State Park

Hunting Island State Park Lighthouse
Source: depositphotos
  • Official Page: Hunting Island State Park
  • Distance from Charleston: 87 miles (1h 50min)
  • Activities: Swimming, Fishing, Kayaking, Canoeing, Boating, Hiking, Biking, Camping, Picnics, Horseback Riding

The most popular park in the state system, Hunting Island State Park has five miles of beaches on 5,000 acres of Lowcountry Carolina. 

A nature center documents local ecology, and campsites offer opportunities for overnight stays. 

With more than a million visits each year, Hunting Island offers visitors a chance to see a variety of marine species and wildlife. 

A saltwater lagoon, a marshland boardwalk, fishing pier, and playground enhance the experience for beachcombers who come to Hunting Island to get sand on their toes. 

Climbing the 167 steps to reach the top of the 19th-century lighthouse at Hunting Island offers impressive coastal views. 

All of these experiences can be enjoyed for a very reasonable admission fee. 

10. Santee State Park

Santee State Park
Source: depositphotos
  • Official Page: Santee State Park
  • Distance from Charleston: 71 miles (1h 15min)
  • Activities: Swimming, Fishing, Kayaking, Canoeing, Boating, Hiking, Biking, Camping

Perched along Lake Marion, the 2,500-acre Santee State Park is known as a destination for boating, camping, and catching catfish. 

Located 70 miles northwest of Charleston, the park has two boat ramps to allow access to South Carolina’s largest lake.

More than 10 miles of hiking and biking trails allow visitors to reconnect with nature. Cabins and campgrounds can be reserved for overnight stays. The Village Round structure offers a great gathering place for up to 75 people. 

For a small admission fee, tourists can enjoy a great spot to visit a 110,000-acre lake that touches five South Carolina counties. 

Whether one comes for an afternoon picnic, to get a few catfish, or to tour flooded cypress forests, they will have a lot to enjoy at Santee State Park.

Related: 6 Fantastic Recreational Lakes near Charleston, SC

Map of State Parks near Charleston:

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