Rushing, tranquil. Thrilling, calming. Exercise, escape. With friends, or alone.
In the Carolinas, being outdoors means all of the above.
Whatever your preferred way to spend a glorious Carolina day outdoors, we’ve got the ways and means to give you what you want.
It’s not just about the appealing, four-season climate, although that’s a factor. Nor is it the incredibly varied terrain that makes high-speed mountain adventures and languid salt marsh floats equally accessible. Those are simply contributors to the outdoor culture that pervades how we live and play in the Carolinas. That’s what we’re talking about here.
Get your paddle, racquet, helmet, lifejacket or clubs. We’ve got a Carolina sunshine day in store for you.
KAYAKING, CANOEING & RAFTING
Let’s place Carolina waters in perspective. There are 11,000 miles of rivers, lakes and coastal waters in South Carolina. North Carolina has 35,000 miles of similar liquid delights. The mountains have challenging whitewater rivers, including the Chattooga, Chauga, Nantahala and French Broad, among others. The skill required to negotiate the rapids is varied, but there are many whitewater outfitters who can provide the guides and the equipment to make any outing safe and rewarding.
Paddling is one sport equally at home for solitary drifters as well as larger groups of family and friends. Despite the chilling scenes from the original whitewater movie, Deliverance, paddling Carolina waters is, with the right equipment and proper respect for others sharing the water, a guaranteed good time.
South Carolina Scenic Rivers include Lynches, Black and Ashley. In North Carolina, the list includes the Lumber River, Horsepasture (near Nantahala), and New River. Less familiar are the ethereal black water rivers and swamps that require careful paddling beside ancient Cypress trees draped in Spanish moss. And some are quite lengthy, including the Edisto River in the heartlands of SC which has a 300-mile unobstructed flow. Its dark color (as well as the similar black appearance of many Carolina rivers) is due to the large amounts of tannins that have been absorbed into the water.
Abundant resources help experienced and novice paddlers find the perfect ribbon of water in which to drop a paddle. Be forewarned that water is an ever-changing force. Be sure to call ahead before deciding to spend a day on any of the Carolina waters. Remember: Pack it in; pack it out. Leave no trace that you were here.
“The canvas can do miracles, Just you wait and see.”
Songwriter Christopher Cross must be a sailor. He may have even sailed in Carolina blue waters a time or two. Clearly, he understands the sport, as do thousands of others who have plied the coastal waters or inland lakes in their search for the perfect way to relax.
Perhaps because of the many beautiful lakes, or the 500 miles of coastline, or the near perfect four-season climate, sailing is very popular in the Carolinas. It’s environmentally friendly and you can enjoy it at any age. Families sail together, competitively, or just for fun. It’s an individual sport, or a group activity. The choice, as they say, is yours.
Don’t own a boat, sail-powered or otherwise? Not a problem. There are dozens of yacht rental companies that can set you up for a day’s adventure, or a two-week sail down to the Caribbean. But, if you love the water, and plan to live near a lake or the coast, you may eventually be convinced that sailing is for you. Why not? (The name of our first family sailboat, a Clipper 27, which, unfortunately, perished in a fire. The name, however, said it all.)
You’ll be in good company in the Carolinas. According to the South Atlantic Yacht Racing Association, there are 18 yacht and sailing clubs in South Carolina, including six in the Charleston area, two in Columbia, and others sprinkled from the upstate to the coast. There are 15 yacht racing clubs in North Carolina, along the coast from New Bern to Southport, and inland, in Raleigh, Mooresville (near Charlotte), Greensboro and more.
Want to get a feel for the boating life before making a commitment? Consider Wilmington, where you can choose a motor yacht as your floating B&B. The Sea Star is docked in downtown Wilmington and offers romantic cruises, or something different in the way of staying overnight. This “Berth & Breakfast” receives rave reviews and provides an upscale experiment with overnight boating. (No docking, tying, or otherwise strenuous exercise is required.)
In Charleston, accommodations can be reserved on the Southern Comfort, a motor yacht which can be rented for special occasions. They aren’t sailboats, but when you’re resting comfortably in your surprisingly roomy berth, you’ll understand the appeal of this ancient sport – especially in the Carolinas, where a sunny February finds sailboats and their motorized brethren exploring the lakes and coastal areas we call home.
When you decide that you really want to own a boat, Cape Fear Yacht Works is the largest manufacturer of custom sailboats in the Carolinas, but there are a number of excellent resources listed in the U.S. Boat Builder website, www.boatbuilders.us.
The varied terrain of the Carolinas, plus the year-round outdoor climate, makes any of these outdoor activities perfectly suited for visitors and residents. Biking is no exception. Although some folks have a passion only for mountain biking or backwoods, level-ground exploring, others enjoy a bit of variety.
If you like to race, or go on rides with a group of like-minded folks, there are lots of clubs in the Carolinas. According to Carolina Cycling News, there are 40 cycling clubs in North Carolina, and 27 in South Carolina. Some towns are more into the sport than others. Asheville has six different clubs, and Charlotte hosts 10. Below the state line, Columbia offers seven clubs, and Greenville has managed to put together 10 different groups. A quick glance down the lists of both states reveals a number of towns have enough cyclers to form groups to race or ride recreationally.
Here are a few possibilities to offer you a great ride, and teach you a bit about both states:
The Palmetto Trail, SC Now, you can enjoy more than 200 miles of trails for bikers and hikers (plus a few for equestrian trail-riding) from mountains to ocean. There are trail guides available and it’s sponsored by the Palmetto Conservation Foundation in cooperation with the SC Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism. Trails include the Jocassee Gorges passage, which is a 12.5 section of trail beginning at Table Rock State Park, heading west past the Wesleyan Camp, and extending into the Jocassee Gorges, which is owned by the SC Department of Natural Resources. The Capital City Passage offers a 7.5 mile easy urban ride which goes from Riverfront Park in Columbia to Fort Jackson, passing by the State Capitol and the University Horseshoe. Near the coast, the Awendaw passage provides a seven mile easy ride in Charleston County that begins near Awendaw and ends at Buck Hall Recreation Area on U.S. Route 17 at the Intracoastal Waterway.
NC Rails to Trails Stretching 7.5 miles from north of Lake Brandt south to Greensboro Country Park and beyond, the newly named Yadkin & Atlantic Greenway offers a combination of three greenway segments, now made into one: the Lake Brandt and Bicentennial greenways and the Battleground Rail-Trail.
Take a trip down memory lane by strolling or cycling the Charlotte Trolley Rail-with-Trail. This two-mile trail follows the Charlotte Trolley as it finds its way from E. 9th Street in Uptown to Clanton Road in the historic South End. (The original trolley line closed in 1938. Luckily, a University of North Carolina history professor was able to track down the last trolley – No. 85 – and this piece of history is now back in service.)
The River to the Sea Bikeway is an 11-mile, on- and off-road bicycle route that follows the Historic Beach Car Line, which carried vacationers from downtown Wilmington to Wrightsville Beach by trolley. The bikeway is created from neighborhood residential streets, off-road multi-use paths and a few busy arterial roadways.
If you can find it, there’s a gem of a book entitled Best Bike Rides in the South, written by Elizabeth and Charles Skinner. It features nine great rides in North Carolina and four equally delightful ones in South Carolina. Tips for safety, etiquette and terrain are also included. One reviewer calls it a “guide to great excursions.” It is that, for sure.
What are you waiting for? We’ve provided sample rides, and hopefully answered a few potential questions. Now it’s time to get that helmet, pack some gourmet trail mix, and start pedaling.
The tennis culture flourishes in the Carolinas. Many communities have strong tennis programs, and the cities and towns have parks with tennis courts, as well as tournaments and ongoing programs. Leagues include adult, super senior, college, combo doubles, mixed, singles and the RBC Flex League.
A strong, well-organized USTA in both states offers instant connections to the sport, with assistance to those relocating. Flex Leagues offer players a creative way to enjoy competitive play without the commitment to a specific schedule or team. The League can be set up with adults, seniors and super seniors divisions for singles, doubles and mixed doubles play.
It is the fastest growing sport in the U.S. according to some experts, and is particularly popular in the Carolinas.
Recently, the Richland County Tennis Center in Columbia, SC, was featured in Southern Living, with a profile on the LadyNets, a group of women ranging in age from 33 to 53, who practice year round and compete during the spring. This group of 12 began in 2004 as beginners. Since then, they’ve become not only accomplished players but award-winners, capturing city, state and regional titles. (They’ve also become forever friends, as well as accomplished athletes.)
Professionals and Amateurs The Family Circle Cup: This internationally recognized women’s tennis tournament attracted more than 95,000 spectators at its most recent event. The partnership between Family Circle magazine and the city of Charleston is one of a kind, and demonstrates the popularity of the sport in the Carolinas. With its green clay courts, the facility is magnificent, not only for this tournament but for the lucky residents of greater Charleston.
Each spring, Daniel Island and the city of Charleston serve as the backdrop to one of the richest events in women’s professional tennis. Volunteers donate countless hours to ensure the event is seamless. Families vie for the coveted tickets. The weather usually cooperates and the parties begin before the first tennis ball is tossed in the air.
For those of us who are slightly less talented, recreation centers and town parks have tennis courts. All ages can enjoy tennis camps. If tennis is your passion (or might be someday), check out facilities in the communities and neighborhoods. There’s no need to settle for anything but a superlative facility near your new Carolina home, or your vacation destination. Bring your racquet and balls and we’ll provide the courts and perfect tennis weather. The friendships will happen on their own.
Golf is big in the Carolinas. No, we mean it. Golf is huge here. www.GolfLink.com tells us that there are more than 1,100 public and private courses in the Carolinas. That’s a lot of golf to be played.
Here are GolfLink’s Top Ten Golf Destinations in each state:
Myrtle Beach • Hilton Head Island • Bluffton • Columbia • Greenville • Pawleys Island • Little River • Murrells Inlet • North Myrtle Beach • Aiken
Charlotte • Raleigh • Durham • Wilmington • Greensboro • Winston Salem • Southern Pines • Pinehurst • Southport • Calabash
And that’s just the beginning. For sure, Pinehurst and Southern Pines have long been synonymous with fabulous golf. And, Myrtle Beach and the Grand Strand attract golfers from all fifty states and throughout the world. Some plan their vacations around pursuit of their personal best, and many return to coastal, heartlands and mountain resorts year after year to perfect their game. Since Hilton Head Island’s Sea Pines Ocean Course opened in 1961, golfers have made repeat visits to enjoy the upscale resort atmosphere in addition to the fabulous golf.
Great golf course architects have laid out multiple courses here. The PGA, LPGA, PGA seniors and Nike circuits have stops here. Golf courses have been designed around every type of terrain and for every skill level.
CarolinaLiving.com recently ran an in-depth feature on all things equestrian – from western sports like barrel racing, to English disciplines that include dressage and jumping. Well over 300,000 horses currently call the Carolinas home, with more arriving every day. For more on the joy of equestrian activities in the Carolinas, please visit us online at: www.carolinaliving.com/equestrian
PUT IT ALL TOGETHER
Kayaking, canoeing, sailing, biking, tennis, golf, riding – plus many more outdoor sports we couldn’t cover in one hundred pages. The culture, the climate, the terrain, the people, the friendships, the parties are all symbols of life in the great Carolina outdoors. Come and join us for a day, a week or a lifetime. Who knows? You may discover talents and interests you never before imagined. We know you’ll have fun finding your inner athlete.
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