There’s nothing like seeing the Lowcountry by water and getting up close and personal with sea creatures such as dolphin, redfish, turtles and an alligator or two. Not to mention breathing in the fresh salty air, and seeing some of the most beautiful marshlands and colorful sunsets along the Atlantic Ocean. In this town, there are numerous nautical options to fit every request. Two of the best are Barrier Island Eco Tours and Palmetto Breeze.
Barrier Island Eco Tours has a fleet of boats, great options for any size group or family. Heading out onto the water from Isle of Palms, the main focus is an educational up close and personal view of the saltwater marshes and its inhabitants and getting out in nature. The fleet includes large pontoons for holding up to 26 passengers, and smaller powerboats. Tours are usually three hours, with no one in a hurry to go anywhere. You can join another group or set up your own group tour. This ride along the Lowcountry waters is meant to be slow and easy so that everyone can enjoy the magnificent scenery and take in the surroundings.
Passengers on the Eco Tours will get very close to dolphin, turtles and all types of fish. In addition, there should be any number of birds on the wing overhead including pelican, terns and several varieties of gulls. The occasional osprey and bald eagle might also show up. In addition, to make things even more interesting, the tour can pull up to one of the barrier islands (usually Capers Island) and unload passengers for a fabulous walk along some of the whitest sands along the coast. Shells here are bleached white as well, and are numerous. I highly recommend a walk out on this beautiful island.
Sunsets from one of the Eco Tours vessels is a sight to behold. Brilliant sun setting over lush marshlands, sparkling waters reflecting every cloud, sun ray and countless colors. Lowcountry sunsets have a particular hue of orange/pink, and last a long time. You have to watch them all the way to the end. Often, the last minute is the most spectacular. Seeing such a magnificent sight when out on the water surrounded completely by gorgeous marshes teaming with life, can only be appreciated from a boat. Once back on the dock at Isle of Palms, the market has clean restrooms and if anyone is hungry they can easily walk right over to Morgan Creek Grill, one of the best seaside restaurants in the area.
Palmetto Breeze is a completely different tour, more of a party atmosphere (up to 100 people) on a giant catamaran. This enormous vessel leaves Shem Creek passing the busy restaurants and pubs for a fun-filled sunset ‘booze cruise’ out into Charleston Harbor. This fun cruise lends itself to close up photo ops of the Battery, the Yorktown, Ravenel Bridge, Fort Sumter and Crab Bank. Crab Bank is home to nesting birds and there’s a good chance you'll see dolphin and turtles. The captain opens the tour by welcoming passengers with a huge conch shell horn. Passing other boaters, kayakers and paddle boarders, perhaps the most poignant site to see are the many original shrimp boats that line the far end of Shem Creek. Passengers have the chance to cruise right by these incredible local vessels, still in use today. It's worth taking time to look at these incredible ships with their countless ropes and flags, they are beautiful up close.
Palmetto Breeze is a lot of fun for two hours. This ride includes music, a bar on board and lots of people out for a great time. Having been on Palmetto Breeze a number of times, it’s a great way to meet other people. Some are in town celebrating a wedding, or birthday or just taking time to get out and enjoy. Many are locals going out just to have fun. Either way, this is a great cruise around Charleston Harbor and Shem Creek. If you are hungry after the cruise, the many Shem Creek restaurants will happily welcome you once you depart the ship.
Whatever you choose, Barrier Island Eco Tours and Palmetto Breeze are two options to enjoy the beauty of the low country by water. Each cruise offers a great experience and give passengers the opportunity to see some absolutely breathtaking sights up close. It’s time to get out on the water!