By Rachel Zuckerman, Guest Contributor
When I was booking my first ever trip to Charleston, SC to consider as my new home, I was urged by Charleston enthusiasts of the northeast to stay in a charming little inn downtown. They stressed not to stay anywhere else, because I wouldn’t experience the true essence of Charleston unless I were on the “peninsula.” Flash forward three months later, and sure enough, I did lease an enchanting little apartment in a Carolopolis Awarded historic home downtown. The mansion epitomizes all that is Charleston to many tourists from all over the world.
The home itself is nearly 7,000 square feet with three grand piazzas, one on each story of the home. I occupied a musty little ground floor apartment with columns in the entryway, gleaming heart pine floors throughout, arched doorways and built-in bookshelves. My original solid wood front door (which leaked heat in the winter and A/C in the summer from the swelling and contracting of wood and the house settling in its dotage), lead out to a Lantana-lined stone walkway to a patio with southern Jasmine, Azaleas, Noisette Rose cascading over the stone walls and wrought iron gate.
However, over the course of my first year living in the Charleston area, I discovered there are numerous other lifestyles to experience beyond the downtown peninsula. What makes Charleston so unique, is how there is a neighborhood, an ambiance, and a way of life for nearly anyone. In fact, my exploration ultimately landed me just off of the peninsula onto Johns Island.
For those seeking a more rustic southern feel, southwest of the city is Johns Island; where the glorious live oaks line the streets with Spanish moss lazily draped over their limbs. Wrapped on one side by the Stono River and the Bohicket River on the other, this part of Charleston is lush with ancient old growth oaks and undeveloped land. Johns Island has its own fine share of epicurean destinations, several within less than 2 square miles of one another. The Johns Island Farmers market celebrates dozens of local artists and farmers, as well as an eclectic mix of international food trucks and musical performances. For the equestrian enthusiasts even more expansive locales include Wadmalaw Island just a little further southwest of the Johns and James Island connectors. Splintering off Johns Island are also Seabrook and Edisto, quaint and exclusive little island communities.
Just 20 minutes away is the world renowned Kiawah Island Golf Resort. The Ocean Course, one of it’s five public courses, has hosted the 1991 Ryder Cup and several PGA Championship tournaments.
Although the unspoiled beauty and quiet lifestyle of Johns Island delivers the perfect Charleston lifestyle for me, every day I live here I discover a new area with a completely different ambiance and tempo of life to another. Just over the Ashley River from the downtown peninsula (before you reach Johns Island) is James Island, also laden with history and once very fertile farmland nestled among marshes and rivers. The 643-acre James Island County Park offers tidal creek fishing, paved trails for walking, biking and skating, playgrounds, a water park, and picnic center. The island is also home to the booming bohemian east coast surf town, Folly Beach, which has a culture unlike any other in Charleston; funky, vibrant, with a laissez-faire philosophy.
Dozens of plantations and wineries, distilleries and horse farms surround the more developed hub of the city of Charleston. Other suburbs, like West Ashley, also provide ample shopping, quaint residential neighborhoods and convenience to more industry, as well as acting as a stop off to the main arteries connecting the northern and southern areas surrounding downtown.
To the northeast of the city lies Mount Pleasant, a large suburb of Charleston, inhabited by a mix of Mount Pleasant pioneers and local ancestry, as well as an enormous infiltration of northeasterners. This sprawling epicenter of shopping, dining, and recreational facilities for children and adults also provides very easy access to the Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island beaches.
Daniel Island, flanked by the Cooper and Wando Rivers is another suburban mecca just northwest of downtown and Mount Pleasant, with eight parks for each neighborhood, plus there is a pedestrian friendly downtown area for shopping and dining.
Both of these suburbs are laden with spas and salons, fitness centers from Crossfit to Hot Yoga and Barre, and are tennis and golf havens, like most of Charleston County.
In nearly every area of Charleston, there seems to be a cause for celebration. There is always something festive happening, always a new activity to engage in; be it surfing, SUP, water skiing, golf, tennis, trying out a new restaurant, taking in a play or live music performance, oyster roasts, or cotillions and balls. In Charleston SC, even a day at work can seem like a day at the beach!
Note: Whether you are an athlete, a history buff, a foodie, a water-lover, or someone who wants an urban, pedestrian way of life, there is something for everyone! And, while living in downtown Charleston has it’s inarguable mystique, there are numerous other facets to Charleston that offer up distinctive lifestyle benefits all their very own.
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