- Explore Beaufort, where antebellum mansions and historic churches and schools tell stories of the past.
- Watch for birdlife, alligators, and loggerhead turtles on St. Phillip’s Island, a pristine wilderness area once owned by conservationist Ted Turner.
- Venture to the ruins of historic plantations at Botany Bay Plantation Wildlife Management Area, and discover unspoiled beaches and coastal forests.
- Coast in a Zodiac along the shores of Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, keeping an eye out for dolphins and seabirds.
The Sea Islands stretch along the southeastern shores of the United States, a string of barrier and tidal isles that carve South Carolina’s Low Country into a maze of waterways and wilderness. Sail among these islands during a short, enriching getaway, discovering sites that tell the history of South Carolina and exploring wetlands, wild beaches, dunes, and maritime forests in parks and refuges along the coast.
This trip is operated in collaboration with Lindblad Expeditions.
Arrive in Charleston and settle into your cabin aboard the National Geographic Sea Lion. This evening, sail out of scenic Charleston harbor and follow the coast southwest, skirting the barrier islands that shelter the mainland.
National Geographic Sea Lion for the entire voyage
We round Bay Point Island early this morning and enter the mouth of the Harbor River. Be on deck as the South Carolina coastline awakens. We’ll make our way along the coast of Port Royal Island to the historic town of Beaufort. This beautiful area was alternately settled—and sometimes fought over—by English, French, and Spanish colonists as well as its original Native American inhabitants. Dive into this diverse heritage today, visiting Old Sheldon Church; the Port Royal Museum; and the Penn Center, the first academic school for freed slaves. See evocative antebellum mansions, and then head to Lady’s Island Oysters for a tasting of oysters raised in the nearby estuary.
Spend today exploring several of the barrier islands. On pristine St. Phillips Island, which was never developed and is now part of a state park, hike trails that weave from sand dunes to salt marshes to marine forests. Keep an eye out for migrating warblers and roseate spoonbills in the quiet waterways, as well as alligators, loggerhead sea turtles, and more. Watch for dolphins as we cross St. Helena Sound. Conditions permitting, we’ll go ashore at Edisto Island to visit Botany Bay Plantation Wildlife Management Area. Originally two plantations that played a role during the Civil War, this protected area now comprises 4,600 acres of wild beach, pine forests, and freshwater ponds, dotted with historic plantation ruins.
Trace the coast north past Charleston to Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, which spans 104 square miles from Bull Island in the south to Murphy Island in the north. We have an entire day to explore the refuge and discover its wildlife and history. Hike one of the many trails, or cruise close to shore in a Zodiac, watching for dolphins and seabirds. Have your camera ready as we pass the Cape Romain Lighthouse.
Dock in Awendaw and set off into the waterways of Francis Marion National Forest today. Dotted with towering old-growth bald cypress trees, this black water region draws all manner of wildlife, from turtles and birds to reptiles sunning on the rocks.
This morning, National Geographic Sea Lion arrives in Charleston where we disembark and transfer to the airport for flights home.