Journey to James Island County Park for family fun

Special to The Bluffton PacketJuly 8, 2012 

"Look Daddy, paddleboats! Can we go?"

Why not? Of course, 15 minutes later I realized that playing human outboard for a family of four on a big plastic boat was not exactly what I'd imagined doing when I woke up that morning. Nevertheless, a good time was had by all -- even by a rubber-legged Pop who would feel it the next morning in muscles he forgot he had.

We spent the day at James Island County Park and found ourselves overwhelmed with options of fun things to do. The 643-acre park is located two hours from Bluffton just this side of Charleston and is easily reached for a day excursion or overnight camping experience.

Featuring camping sites and pleasant cabins, the park puts you a stone's throw from Charleston in one of the most scenic settings in the Lowcountry. There was no camping in store for us that day, but the Splash Zone, climbing wall and paddleboats were calling.

James Island County Park was created to allow visitors to experience the picturesque views of the Sea Islands and wildlife habitats while embracing the attractions of a family-friendly fun park. For the young (and young at heart) the Splash Zone is a seasonal waterpark within the park and features water slides, a magnificent Caribbean play structure and a lazy river. There are more than 2 miles of hiking trails and bike paths, ponds stocked for fishing, bike rentals and, of course, the aforementioned paddleboats.

One of the most unique features of James Island County Park is geared toward our fuzzy friends. An off-leash dog park forms a canine centerpiece to the property, and smiles abound as tennis balls and throwing sticks fill the air.

Whether you are staying five hours or five days, James Island County Park is a fine destination for every member of your family, even the four-legged ones.

GETTING THERE

Directions: James Island County Park is at 871 Riverland Drive on James Island in Charleston. It is two hours from Bluffton and a straight shot down U.S. 17 toward Charleston. Take U.S. 17 into West Ashley and turn right onto Folly Road. Cross the Intracoastal Waterway and take a right onto Central Park Road. At the end of Central Park, take a left onto Riverland Drive. The entrance to James Island County Park is on your right.

Admission: $1 a person. Group fees may apply and there are additional fees for the Splash Zone and bike and boat rentals. Concessions, restrooms and other facilities are abundantly available in the park.

Hours: James Island County Park is open year round, but seasonal hours apply.

Details: 843-795-7275, 843-795-4386

GET IN THE SPIRIT AT THE HOLIDAY FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS

When winter arrives, along with it comes another exciting event at James Island County Park: the annual Holiday Festival of Lights. Beginning in early November, a 3-mile drive within the park is lit with thousands upon thousands of festive lights and holiday displays.

More than that, there is a Santa's Village and Winter Wonderland offering fun for all ages, including marshmallow roasting, gingerbread houses and photos with Santa.

This event has become a Lowcountry tradition for many and is only one of several seasonal festivals and activities featured at the park throughout the year. These include fishing tournaments, 5Ks and fun runs, heritage days, music festivals and the East Coast Canoe and Kayak Festival.

Details: 843-795-7275, 843-795-4386

Bluffton resident Matt Richardson enjoys taking day trips with his family and exploring the Lowcountry. To see more pictures from his adventures, go to www.Flickr.com and search on the username "greenkayak73." He can be reached at greenkayak73@yahoo.com.

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