If you live on James Island and are looking for things to do this weekend, you have plenty of options in your own backyard. While you can head to Folly Beach or go to the peninsula, you can also find several free and low-cost things to do right here on James Island.
While there are certainly more-expensive options as well, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a fun and memorable weekend. Whether you are looking for somewhere to take your kids, something to do with your spouse or partner, or something you can do on your own, keep reading to learn about some of the options you have available.
5 Free Things to Do on James Island
Like most of Charleston’s other neighborhoods, James Island has lots of free public facilities. These public facilities are all generally well-maintained, and they offer access to a variety of activities and amenities. With this in mind, here are five free things to do on James Island:
1. Go to Melton Peter Demetre Park
Melton Peter Demetre Park is located on Wampler Drive, just before the James Island Yacht Club. According to the City of Charleston website, Melton Peter Demetre Park is, “the only city-owned waterfront park on James Island[ and] home to some of the most spectacular views of Charleston and all the surrounding areas.”
Access to Melton Peter Demetre Park is free, and so is parking. Along with its spectacular views, the park also offers a fishing pier, floating dock where you can launch a kayak or standup paddleboard (SUP), picnic pavilion, and sand beach. Be advised, however, that the swimming and diving are prohibited, and there is “no jumping off of docks or piers.” Melton Peter Demetre Park is open from 6:00am to 8:00pm daily.
2. Go to Harborview/Fort Johnson Park or Plymouth Park
Harborview/Fort Johnson Park is located at the intersection of Harbor View Road and Fort Johnson Road on the eastern side of James Island. It has tennis courts and a small playground. Plymouth Park is located on James Island’s northern side on the Wappoo Creek. In addition to offering a nice picnic area with water views, Plymouth Park also has a good-sized playground with standard playground equipment as well as children’s push-cars and other toys that have been donated by the local community.
3. Visit Fort Johnson
Fort Johnson is a historic landmark located on James Island east of Melton Peter Demetre Park at the end of Fort Johnson Road. While much of the facility is used by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) Marine Resources Center and the University of Charleston County Marine Biomedicine & Environmental Science Center, there are historic landmarks you can visit and walking trails with views of Fort Sumter.
4. Go Kayaking or Paddleboarding from Riverland Terrace Public Boat Landing
Has it been a while since you last took your kayak or SUP out of your garage? If so, then consider making it easy on yourself by visiting your local launching point at Riverland Terrace Public Boat Landing. While you can launch at Melton Peter Demetre Park, here you won’t be launching into the Charleston harbor.
The Riverland Terrace Public Boat Landing is located adjacent to Plymouth Park on Plymouth Road. This area of the Wappoo Creek is relatively quiet, especially in the morning, though you’ll want to be careful not to get caught in the Elliott Cut when boats are passing through.
5. Explore James Island’s Neighborhoods
If it’s too hot, too rainy, or you just don’t feel like being outside, you can hop in your car and explore James Island’s neighborhoods. Even if you have absolutely no intention of moving, it can still be fun to check out new areas and look at houses you’ve never seen before. While new neighborhoods seem to be popping up on James Island constantly, there are many well-established neighborhoods as well, including waterfront neighborhoods with classic Lowcountry-style homes and modern beach houses. You can work your way east from Riverland Terrace to Clearview, or start at Country Club II and make your way toward Ocean Neighbors and Seaside Plantation.
5 Low-Cost Things to Do on James Island
In addition to these free options, there are several low-cost things to do on James Island as well. Here are five options for an enjoyable morning, afternoon, or evening that won’t break the bank:
1. Go to James Island County Park
James Island County Park is one of the island’s worst-kept secrets. Admission is just $2 per person (or free if you have a CCPRC Gold Pass), and it gets you access to most of the parks’ amenities. This includes:
- Multiple playgrounds designed for different age groups
- Splash pads
- Walking and biking trails
- A fishing and crabbing dock
- Horseshoe pits and volleyball courts
- Covered and shaded picnic areas
For an additional fee, you can try out the park’s 50-foot outdoor climbing wall, rent a pedal boat, or go to the Splash Zone Waterpark (which operates seasonally). You can even go tent camping in the park for just $35 for the night.
2. Rent a Kayak
Renting a kayak is an option at James Island County Park as well. Or, if you are interested in a more adventurous kayak rental, you can visit Charleston Outdoor Adventures on Bowens Island Road. From here, you can launch into King Flats Creek, which winds its way to the Folly River. Rentals start at $35 for four hours, or you can keep your rented kayak all day for just $10 more.
3. Go Out for Coffee or a Snack
If you aren’t interested in hitting the water, you can go out for coffee or a snack instead. James Island has several local coffee shops and bakeries. These include Muddy Waters, Baguette Magic, and Highfalutin Coffee Roasters, just to name a few. Go with a friend, bring a book and stay awhile, or just grab something quick before you start the rest of your day.
4. Go to the Sunday Brunch Farmers Market
The Sunday Brunch Farmers Market is open every Sunday from 11:00am to 3:00pm. It is located at 1977 Maybank Highway (behind The Charleston Pour House). The farmers market has tons of local vendors, from coffee roasters and food trucks to all types of crafters and artists. You can set yourself or your children a small budget to support a local small business, or you can simply enjoy the weather and live music.
5. See a Movie
The Terrace Theater on Maybank Highway has matinee shows on Saturday and Sunday, and tickets to these shows are just $9 per person. Students, seniors, and military members and veterans can get $9 tickets to evening shows as well. You can check the theater’s website to see what’s playing.
BONUS: 5 Things You Can Do for Free Within a Short Drive of James Island
Interested in getting off of the island for your weekend outing? If so, there are several free options within a short drive of James Island as well. Here are just a handful of the several possibilities that await you in the Charleston area:
- Go to the Beach – It’s almost never a bad day to go to the beach in Charleston; and, if you live on James Island, Folly Beach is no more than a 15-minute drive away. You can find free street parking (just make sure you get all four tires in the sand); or if you have a CCPRC Gold Pass, you can park for free at Folly Beach County Park. Pack a towel (or several), some sunscreen, and some snacks or a picnic lunch, and enjoy a mini vacation just minutes from home.
- Go for a Walk or Bike Ride on the West Ashley Greenway – The West Ashley Greenway starts at Albemarle Road just across the Wappoo Creek Bridge from James Island. From there, it runs approximately seven miles west, ending just before the Limehouse Bridge. It is entirely possible to bike the entire greenway in a morning or afternoon; and, if you make it to the far end of the greenway, you will be rewarded with fantastic views of the marshlands along the Stono River.
- Go Downtown – While you can spend money shopping and dining in downtown Charleston, you don’t have to. You can easily have just as good of a time exploring the Holy City’s free attractions. While tourists flock to the Historic District and the French Quarter, many locals never visit these areas. So, live like a tourist, and learn something you never knew about Charleston.
- Visit a Museum – The Fort Sumter Visitor Center and Mace Brown Museum of Natural History on the peninsula both offer free admission. Instead of (or in addition to) visiting the Historic District and the French Quarter, you can cool off inside while learning about one of Charleston’s most iconic landmarks or looking at ancient dinosaur bones.
- Walk Up (or Go Under) the Ravenel Bridge – If you’ve never walked up the Ravenel Bridge (or if it’s been a while), making the trek is well worth the effort. You can park for free at Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park and follow the sidewalk around to the start of the bridge’s pedestrian lane (which is separated from the traffic lanes). There are multiple nice playgrounds under the bridge as well, and you can bring a picnic to eat on the lawn or on one of the bench swings on the pier.