On the southeastern coastline at the bottom of South Carolina, Charleston is a historic city that was founded in 1670. In fact, it still has its pastel antebellum homes, horse-drawn carriages, and cobblestone streets, giving you the feeling that you have been transported back in time. It is also the largest city in the state, with over 150 thousand residents, with more than one-third of those households having at least one dog.
The city stays warm all year long, with temps in the mid-60s during the winter and upper 80s during the summer, making outdoor activities very popular. Charleston is the annual host to many festivals, fairs, and other events like the Cooper River Bridge Run, Spoleto Festival USA, and the Charleston Food and Wine Festival. Beaches here are popular, too, with more than 20 of them located along the Atlantic Ocean. And although there are only seven official dog-friendly beaches in and around Charleston, SC, there are also parks and other open spaces on the water to play with your fur buddy.
Hazel Parker Playground
Less than half a mile from the city of Charleston, East Bay Dog Park is located at Hazel Parker Playground right next to the Carolina Yacht Club on the oceanfront. The main park is named for the recreational supervisor of the park, who passes away in 2011 at the young age of 88. Before that, it was known as East Bay Park, and the dog park kept the name.
Although there is not a separate section for small dogs, everyone gets along well here, according to locals. The parking is free for two hours, which is about all the time you need for your pooch to get good and worn out. It used to be a baseball field and has red sand, which some pup parents say can turn your canine companion’s fur red. But the 2.5-acre space is fully fenced and has drinking fountains, plenty of seating, and Mutt Mitt dispensers.
Joe Riley Waterfront Park Beach
Right next door to Hazel Parker Playground to the north, Joe Riley Waterfront Park has a large beach area where your fur puppy is welcome as long as he is leashed at all times. The most popular attraction here is the Pineapple Fountain, which is shaped like a pineapple and is lit up at night. Many people come here just to get some selfies at the fountain with the waterfront in the background.
Although you are not allowed to get in the fountain, there is a water spray area here, too, where you can cool off with your pup. With more than 1,000 feet of coastline, you can easily find a spot where you and your dog can relax at the beach on the Cooper River or Charleston Harbor. The 10-acre park also has walking paths, a playground for the kiddos, and lots of room for picnicking. You will probably see some pelicans and other wildlife. Keep your pup on a short leash, so he does not get too close.
Colonial Lake Park
Not even a mile from downtown Charleston, Colonial Lake Park is a historical pond that allows pups to play as long as they are on a leash at all times. Just off the Ashley River, the lake is considered to be a tidal pond, which is a naturally occurring tide pool filled by nearby waters. For more than 150 years, this has been a popular spot for leisure activities like fishing, swimming, boating, and just hanging out, getting its name in 1881 to honor the Colonial Commons from 1768.
Besides being a fun place to hang out, the lake is an important habitat for many of the native flora and fauna. Some of the special plants here include the American Beautyberry, Beach Verbena, and Frogfruit. Take a walk around the lake on the half-mile loop trail, and let your pooch get his feet wet from time to time. Just remember the doggie bags.
A few miles up Cooper River, you can find Riverfront Park, a large public park with a stretch of riverfront where you and your fur buddy can play if he is on a leash. The oaks offer plenty of shade, and the water is cool and inviting for both of you. It is also home to the Charleston Naval Base Memorial and historic houses that were once home to many naval officers. There are several events held here annually, including the High Water Music Festival.
Want to let Fido off the leash for a while? Head to the northwestern corner of the park, where you will find a fenced dog park. Not only does it have a large open area to play fetch or frisbee, but it also has agility equipment. Your canine companion can jump through hoops, over rails, and run through tunnels until he is ready to go back to the water and cool off.
Just a mile up the riverbank from Charleston, Brittlebank Park has 10 acres of riverfront fun, including trails, a playground, picnic areas, and more. Your fur puppy can join the fun in or out of the water as long as you keep him leashed and pick up after him. If you have a boat with you, you’re in luck because this lake has a boat launch so you can get in the water. There is also a fishing pier where you and Fido can try to catch a whopper!
What’s more, the park also has a dog park at the north end where you can take your pup’s leash off and let him run free with the other dogs. You are sure to work up an appetite, so bring along a picnic lunch or grab something to eat from one of the area eateries like Sweet Bowl Poke & Tea, Aqua Terrace, or BKeDSHOP Bakery.
Shem Creek Park
A few miles to the east on the mainland, Shem Creek Park is another historic spot where you and your canine companion can get in touch with nature. The creek is the largest tributaries to feed into the Atlantic Ocean as it comes out into Charleston Harbor. It has provided a safe haven for travelers since the 16th century and was built up by industries like shrimpers, the lime industry, and, more recently, tourism. Surrounded by water on three sides, there is plenty of beach space to choose from.
Besides the beach, the park also boasts a 2,200-foot boardwalk that takes you way out onto the waters near the mouth of the harbor. You and your pup can enjoy seeing all sorts of wildlife, such as pelicans, cranes, and even some dolphins. There are numerous eateries and shops along the way but be sure to ask permission before entering with your fur baby.
Melton Peter Demetre Park
About eight miles out onto James Island, Melton Peter Demetre Park is the only park on the waterfront owned by the city of Charleston. It is a great place to play on the beach with your canine companion, where you can get some sensational views of Fort Johnson, Sullivan’s Island, Mount Pleasant, and Patriots Point, as well as the Battery, Ravenel Bridge, and even Castle Pinckney on Shutes Folly Island.
It was renamed in 2007 when it was dedicated to Melton Peter Demetre, who donated the property to the city. But with such pretty views, many of the locals just call it Sunrise Park. Keep your fur baby on a leash, and he can play in the water on either one of the sandy beaches, walk out onto the 200-foot pier, or sit and watch the water on the floating dock. One thing to note: people are not allowed to swim here, but pups can get their paws wet.
Sullivan’s Island Beaches
Sullivan’s Island is a pup-popular island with quite a few public beaches. In all, there are over two dozen stations, including Thomson Park, but only 20 of them are suitable for beaching, and several are too dangerous for swimming because of the current. They are called stations because they used to be trolley stops on the way to the Isle of Palms.
All dogs have to have a dog permit from the town, even if you are just visiting, which costs $35 to $50, depending on your residential status. You can get them at the town hall on Middle Street. Another important note is that your canine companion can play off the leash except for between 10 AM and 6 PM from May through September. Check with city hall for more details and for any changes. But always bring puppy poo bags to pick up anything he drops while you are there.
Isle of Palm Beach
Right next to Sullivan’s Island, the Isle of Palms County Park is pup-friendly and has a large sandy beach along the ocean. The hourly restrictions are similar to the others, but they allow dogs from 5 AM until 8 AM from April until September 14th and 4 AM to 10 AM the rest of the year. Your fur baby must always be on a leash, and you have to bring your own doggie bags to pick up after your pup.
The large park has a playground for the human kids, picnic areas with tables and grills, umbrella and chair rentals, and a volleyball court. There are also restrooms, changing areas, and outdoor showers for your convenience. Although the park has lifeguards, they are off duty at 8 AM, so keep that in mind. And concessions, as well as food trucks or eateries, may not be open early either, so bring your own food and water.
About 15 minutes from downtown Charleston, Folly Beach is one of the pet-friendly beaches with restrictions. Here, your pup is allowed to play on the beach from October until May, but they must be on a leash at all times. From May through September, your canine companion is not allowed on the beach until after 6 PM due to the crowds. There are many activities here, like paddleboarding, surfing, sailing, kayaking, and fishing, as well as swimming, dining, and playing in the sand.
While you are there, stop in at the Lost Dog Cafe, where they cater to pups in their outdoor seating area. There are also many other dining establishments and shops to explore but ask first because some do not allow dogs. Also, Folly Beach has a number of boat rentals, tours, and other water fun where dogs are welcome such as Sail Folly and Folly Beach Fishing Charters.
Kiawah Beachwalker Park Beach
Just west of Folly Beach, Kiawah Beachwalker Park is a perfectly pup-friendly patch of sand on Kiawah Island. It is located at the western end of the island, just before you get to Seabrook Island. Most of the island is owned by resorts and clubs, but this one is a lovely spot that allows your dog to visit off the leash from November to March 15th and on the leash the rest of the year. Either way, your fur buddy is welcome to enjoy the sand and surf.
Because this is the only public beach on the island, it can get very crowded, especially on weekends. Here you will find oceanfront and riverfront beaches with lifeguards, a boardwalk, dressing rooms, outdoor showers, a snack bar, picnic areas with barbecue grills, and chair and umbrella rentals. You will need to bring your own puppy poo bags and keep your pooch from disturbing beachgoers and wildlife.
Edisto Beach State Park
On the next island over to the west, Edisto Beach State Park is surrounded by water, including the Big Bay Creek, Wadmalaw River, and of course, the Atlantic Ocean. The 1,250+ acres span over a mile of beachfront, is leashed pup-friendly and includes a campground on the ocean with 73 sites and another on Scott Creek with 39 sites. Some have water and electricity, and most allow pets. There are also seven vacation cabins (no dogs), a shower house, a dump station, and picnic areas.
If you like to hike, bike, or just want to go for a walk, there are seven trails you can explore, ranging from less than a quarter-mile to almost two miles. Edisto Island is a historic place with a lot of interesting background that includes Native American history. The 1.5 miles of beach is full of soft golden sand, picnic tables, and a boat launch.
Ernest F. Hollings Ace Basin Beach
Not far from Charleston, the Ernest F. Hollings Ace Basin Nature Preserve is a great place to go if you are interested in seeing some of the local wildlife. Here you will find everything from alligators to terns, as well as an antebellum plantation. Leashed pups are welcome on this huge 350,000-acre park, which is the largest of its kind in the state of South Carolina. You will need to keep your canine companion from disturbing the wildlife and keep him close because of the gators.
There is plenty of waterfront area to enjoy, including some grassy and sandy beaches on the South Edisto River, Ashepoo River, and Mosquito Creek, to name a few. Fishing is very popular here with a variety of fish like crappie, catfish, bluegill, sunfish, and largemouth bass. Anyone over the age of 13 will need a South Carolina fishing license though. Please bring doggie bags to pick up after your pup.
Santee State Park Beach
A little further northwest and you will find Santee State Park. Located on Lake Marion, this pup-popular park has lots of beachfront where you and your fur baby can swim, fish, and go boating. There are also two campgrounds with more than 150 campsites as well as cabins, many of which are pet-friendly. Some of them have electricity and water, while others are more primitive. In fact, as long as your canine companion is on a leash, he is welcome anywhere in the 2,500 acres of park.
Besides water sports and beachfront, the park also has biking and hiking trails, boat tours, picnic areas with tables and grills, and several playgrounds for the human kids. They even have several geocaches in the park you and your pup can search for. You will also find tennis courts, unique sinkholes with cool wildlife, and a cypress forest to explore. Bring plenty of puppy poo bags with you to pick up whatever your pup drops.
Old Santee Canal Park Beach
Head north about 20 miles to the historic Old Santee Canal Park, which is right on the banks of the Cooper River and Biggin Creek. This is a popular spot for locals who enjoy paddling, kayaking, fishing, and swimming. The park boasts close to 200 acres and is named for the first canal in the United States, which was finished in 1800. You will find many historical sites here, including the Stony Landing Plantation House from 1843, Moncks Corner, and the Berkely County Museum.
In the middle of the park, there is an interpretive center that explores the history dating back to 4000 BC, as well as a large fountain and garden. It is also a well-known spot for bird watchers with a variety of feathered friends to see while you are there. Make sure you keep your fur buddy on a leash at all times and pick up after him.
The Final Woof
Get out on the water with the Charleston Water Taxi, where pups are always welcome as long as they are leashed and friendly. Keep an eye out for dolphins, which are often seen swimming alongside. If you want to catch a whopper, Exclusive Fishing Charters allows your pooch to join you for a day on the water. You and your fur buddy can even enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride or full tour at Palmetto Carriage Works. Or take your pooch shopping along King Street, where there are a bunch of stores and eateries that allow fur babies to join their pup parents.