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Fort Sumter Sea Kayaking

Fort Sumter National Monument

Lowcountry, South Carolina

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Fort Sumter Sea Kayaking

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  • The put-in beach at Demetre Park.- Fort Sumter Sea Kayaking
  • Getting ready to start the adventure.- Fort Sumter Sea Kayaking
  • Wide views over Charleston Harbor.- Fort Sumter Sea Kayaking
  • Tide rolling out in Charleston Harbor.- Fort Sumter Sea Kayaking
  • Approaching Fort Sumter.- Fort Sumter Sea Kayaking
  • Pulling up on the beach at Fort Sumter.- Fort Sumter Sea Kayaking
  • A large sandbar appears at low tide.- Fort Sumter Sea Kayaking
  • View of Charleston and part of the port.- Fort Sumter Sea Kayaking
  • Beachcombing a rarely-visited strip of sand on James Island.- Fort Sumter Sea Kayaking
  • A piece of pipe that is who knows how old, washed up on the beach.- Fort Sumter Sea Kayaking
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Free access to Fort Sumter. Beautiful beaches.
Cons: 
Some motorboat traffic.
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Region:
Lowcountry, SC
Access: 
Vehicle
Congestion: 
Low
Pets allowed: 
No
Site characteristics: Water: 
Ocean
Motorized watercraft allowed: 
Yes
Year round: 
Yes
Parking Pass: 
None
Portage required: 
No
Preferable Season(s):
Spring, Summer, Fall
Put-in location (lat, long coordinates): 
32.753096
Shuttle required: 
No
Take-out location (lat, long coordinates): 
-79.915373
Total Distance: 
5.50 mi (8.85 km)
Trail type: 
There-and-back
Typically multi-day: 
No
Water difficulty: 
Moderate / Class B
Water temperature: 
65.00 °F (18.33 °C)
Current Local Weather:
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Paddle Description

Paddle Description

Pro Contributor

No tour of Historic Charleston is complete without a trip to Fort Sumter, but the most fulfilling way to get there is overlooked by almost everyone who visits. Most people travel by ferry from downtown, but the fun (and free!) way is to paddle there yourself. This requires proper skills and equipment, but those prepared for the challenge of paddling on Charleston Harbor might prefer this more adventurous option.

Fort Sumter is on an island near the mouth of the harbor. You could theoretically approach it from any direction, but the most sensible place to start is from Melton Peter Demetre Park on James Island. This route begins in a free public park, allows you to hug the shore all the way to the fort, and avoids shipping channels. It is therefore the safest route, but it does not compromise the experience. Even though the path is generally close and parallel to shore, it should be considered an open-water ocean paddle because of dynamic wind and waves in the bay. There are sandy beaches most of the way where you can take breaks, but there are no public vehicle access points between Demetre Park and the fort. You should be prepared with all your own supplies and safety equipment for the journey.

As with any ocean paddle, weather and tides are major factors. Wind waves can be large, even in the harbor, and tides can be strong. It is generally easiest to paddle out to Fort Sumter with the falling tide and back to James Island with the rising tide. Once at the Fort, you can pull up on the obvious sandy beach. You are advised to check in with rangers on duty and tell them you came by private boat, just for the sake of safety. You will have free entry into the national monument and can join the ranger-led tours with ferry boat passengers. Peruse as long as you like, or until the tides are right to return, then enjoy the paddle back.

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Location + Directions

Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(1 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(8 within a 30 mile radius)

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