Called the Lowcountry because it’s at sea level—and sometimes even below—Charleston is surrounded by an array of tidal creeks, estuaries, and rivers that flow out to the deep blue Atlantic Ocean. The region's beaches are taupe sand, and the Carolina sun warms them nine months out of the year. Many are uncrowded, especially in the spring and fall, when it’s not hard to find the perfect spot.
Several barrier islands within easy driving distance of the city are studded with lacy palm trees and live oaks hung with Spanish moss. The car-accessible islands are fairly extensively developed, but still shelter plenty of wildlife. Charlestonians will tell you (without bragging) that this is one of the most beautiful regions on this planet. Here you can commune with nature, perhaps like you haven't in years.
Sailing is an increasingly popular activity in this port city. If you already know how to sail, you can rent a small sailboat. If you don’t, you can take sailing lessons or head out on a charter boat. Among the annual sailing events are the Sperry Charleston Race Week in April and the much-televised Charleston-to-Bermuda Race in late May.
Many of the region's best outdoor activities can be expensive, and this may give pause to families on a budget. But regularly scheduled dolphin-watching and kayak tours make for relatively inexpensive outings, and crabbing at low tide is free. You'll also find an amazing number of low-cost options, from biking to nature walks. In the warm weather, the beach is the place to be. Those looking for more of an adrenaline rush can rent surfboards and ride the waves.
The area’s golf courses are reasonably priced compared with, say, Hilton Head. The championship courses on the nearby islands are the most beautiful, though they can be costly. There are plenty of public courses where you can enjoy the region’s scenery without emptying your wallet.