Coastal Carolina Sea Kayaking

Trip Length 4 Days
Group Size 6-14
Activity level
Starting from
$1,299 for REI Members
$1,399 for non-members
Departures Oct 2021-Nov 2022

Coastal Carolina's Barrier Islands provide some of the most spectacular wilderness ecosystems in the country, teeming with diverse wildlife and untouched shorelines. Paddle these coastlines while playful Atlantic bottlenose dolphins dip in and out of view. As the warm afternoon sunshine rises, take a moment to observe the tremendous amount of natural wildlife that surrounds us.

Capers Island Heritage Preserve serves as our oceanfront basecamp. Kayak alongside dolphins while learning about the area’s ecosystem from our naturalist guides. Paddle to Bulls Island’s remote wilderness area, where we explore the vast stretches of beach, inland hiking trails and ponds. Excellent birding and alligator spotting guaranteed. As we paddle around the islands, our guides will be helping us to explore the geology of a barrier island. Take time to investigate the intimate relationship between island, estuary and ocean. This remote coastline getaway provides a unique opportunity to enjoy unparalleled access to Earth’s most wondrous creatures.

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Trip Highlights

  • Immerse yourself in an active adventure on South Carolina's Barrier Islands
  • Kayak alongside dolphins, hike on "Boneyard Beach" and view plentiful bird life
  • Follow naturalist guides, enjoy tasty meals, and stay at a beautiful campsite
  • Visit Cape Romain Wildlife Refuge, Bulls Island, and Capers Island Preserve


This trip is rated Moderate (3) as we plan to kayak 4-6 hours per day in calm to moderately rough conditions.

To maximize your enjoyment of the trip and to avoid sore muscles, we suggest that you engage in a regular exercise regimen beginning at least three months prior to your departure. Most important to your enjoyment of the trip is your overall fitness level.

  • Kayaking
  • Hiking
  • Wildlife Viewing

What's Included

Professional instruction and guiding; meals as noted in the daily itinerary; tents and group camping gear; camp stoves and group cooking gear; kayaks and related paddling gear.


Primitive camping, 3 nights

Your Adventure Itinerary

Day 1

Welcome to South Carolina's amazing coastline!

The trip begins at 9am in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. A welcome presentation is followed by a trip orientation covering expedition style kayaking. A gear introduction and introductory skills development in the kayaks is followed by lunch. Next we shuttle to our launch point and begin our paddle through a salt marsh estuary on our way to the barrier island chain. Discussions will focus on bio-diversity and the fragile marine ecosystems; this is one of the most super bio-diversified ecosystems on the planet. Although we cannot guarantee seeing dolphins, they are certainly not shy and we've spotted them on all departures to date. We expect to see 25+ avian species en route to our oceanfront camp sites on Capers Island. The beaches of these barrier islands are completely undeveloped and truly feel otherworldly. The group will set up base camp for the next three nights and enjoy hors d'oeuvres with the sunset over the beach landscape. Dinner will be followed by a guided group discussion and itinerary review for the following day. We will enjoy the bright starry sky, far from light pollution, and listen to the crashing waves of the Atlantic while tucking into our sleeping bags for the night. Lunch and dinner included.

Kayaking: 5-7 miles

Day 2

Paddle to Bulls Island, a wilderness area relatively unchanged by man.

Begin the day with optional morning yoga, followed by a fresh, organic breakfast. We'll explore the pristine Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge this morning. Our destination is Boneyard Beach on Bulls Island. The Bulls Island experience includes both paddling and maritime forest hiking as we explore the vast stretches of beach and inland hiking trails and ponds – alligator spotting guaranteed. The birding should be excellent as we move through the dynamic edges between ecosystems separating the forest from the sea. Human history and its integral connection to natural history will be our focus today as we experience the original landing spot of the ships that first landed here and were greeted by the SeeWee Native American tribe in the year 1670. We return to our campsite on Capers Island for a locally-sourced dinner, followed by a guided group discussion and itinerary review for Day 3. All meals included.

Kayaking: 8–10 miles; Hiking: 5.5–8 miles

Day 3

Explore the geology of a barrier island while circumnavigating it.

We again begin our morning with optional sunrise yoga, followed by a hearty breakfast. Barrier island geology will be our focus today, as we experience the transgressional migration of the land mass itself in its slow migration towards the main land. While we are paddling around the islands, we'll explore the intimate relationship between island, estuary and ocean. Surrounded by a diverse array of birdlife, playful dolphins, and untouched shoreline, it is easy to picture what early life was like in this warm subtropical waterway. Throughout our trip, our guides will be harvesting and teaching about the local edibles (blue crabs, oysters, plants) and we'll spend part of today gathering our dinner supplies (participation is optional). We'll learn and discuss how the native population made a living off the estuary environment for hundreds of years. We return to our beachfront base camp for a late lunch with time to enjoy and further explore our home-base island's dynamic beach and wildlife viewing opportunities. After dinner, we may walk the empty beach under the stars, or relax by a campfire and listen to the waves. All meals included.

Kayaking: 3–6 miles

Day 4

Take a morning paddle before departing.

Yoga, breakfast and paddling! We'll be immersed in a salt marsh estuary as we navigate the winding creeks between the barrier islands and the mainland. Today's emphasis is on rising water levels and current human impact on coastal ecosystems. We'll begin to develop a more rounded concept of the connections we have with the inner working of the coastal environment. Arriving at the mainland, we'll shuttle back to our starting point and bid a fond farewell to our fellow adventurers. The trip will conclude by 2pm. Breakfast and lunch included.

Kayaking: 5-7 miles.

Gear List

The key to staying comfortable while on an active trip is layering. To obtain maximum comfort with minimum weight, you need versatile layers that mix and match to create the right amount of insulation, ventilation and weather protection. This gear list has been created to help you choose equipment for the trip. Try to bring only what is necessary - this will help you and the field staff.

What to pack

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Travel documents

  • Final Bulletin (Emailed Prior to Departure Date)

Contact Us

Feel free to give us a call at 800-622-2236 should you have any questions regarding the gear list. The staff at our stores and Direct Sales (800-426-4840) will also be happy to help you with gear questions. Or check out REI Expert Advice , which has great information to help you prepare for your trip.