We bicycled by a bunch of fancy waterfront homes on Sullivan’s Island a couple weeks ago, and I’m guessing we rode right past the weekend getaway for SC Governor Mark Sanford and his poor/rich wife, Jenny. If houses could talk….
The residential island was one stop on an action-packed ride we took around Charleston. I’d never thought of the area as a cycling spot, but indeed it is.
Before heading out, we stopped off at The Bicycle Shoppe in historic downtown. You can rent bikes here (they also deliver to the various outlying islands), shop for bike stuff, or just get some friendly advice from this family-owned store in business for more than two decades. (We’d brought our own bikes.)
We were pointed to the guidebook Lowcountry Bike Rides, which details rides within an hour’s drive of Charleston. It costs $15 and is produced by the nonprofit Coastal Cyclists, a wonderful and very active advocacy group in the area. I’ve been in several such groups, and putting out a book of bike routes is no easy feat. I’m impressed! (Some of the routes are on their website.)
We started out cycling over the massive 2.5-mile-long cable-stayed Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, known locally as the Cooper River bridge. We had, in part, the Coastal Cyclists to thank for the awesome separated bike/ped path. When the bridge was being built (it opened in 2005), bike advocates had to fight the many folks who considered the lane a waste of money. Instead, it’s filled with walkers, runners, and bicyclists. At the top you get a great view of the Cooper River and the city, though the way the bridge shakes is a little nerve-wracking.
Wessel missed our turn for the scenic route, and we had an icky traffic-filled ride to Sullivan’s Island. Once on the wealthy residential island, we visited Fort Moultrie and the Toni Morrison Bench, to commemorate the spot where hundreds of thousands of slaves were first brought from Africa.
We made sure to take the scenic way back through tree-lined residential Mount Pleasant, which we so enjoyed. It was filled with more million-dollar homes, but most of them historic and understated. The sweetest part was the commercial “Old Village,” which at one point was the center of this now suburban area first settled in the late 1600s.
When we rode back over the bridge it was filled with an after-work crowd, while the roadway traffic was bumper-to-bumper. They shoulda been cycling. We cycled along Battery Park in Charleston, a famous promenade looking over the harbor and passing even grander multi-million-dollar historic homes, and then through residential streets downtown (more gorgeous houses) and finally to our hotel, The Mills House. They were nice enough to let us roll our bikes through the lobby, into the elevator, and into our room. Some hotels are very uptight about bikes. Not this time.
My only word of warning about cycling in historic Charleston is: watch out for the cobblestone streets! You might end up lower in the Lowcountry than you want to be.
Tags: Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, Battery Park, Charleston, Coastal Cyclists, Cooper River Bridge, Fort Moultrie, Governor Mark Sanford, Lowcountry Bike Rides, Mount Pleasant, Sullivan's Island, The Bicycle Shoppe, The Mills House, Toni Morrison Bench