Johns Island, SC: Escape to the Countryside to Explore the Natural Beauty

lowcountry swamp

Are you looking for a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle?


Yes, downtown Charleston doesn’t compare to LA, NYC, or even Atlanta. But it can still get hectic.


Step away from the noise and explore Lowcountry wonders at your doorstep in Johns Island, SC!


Johns Island, South Carolina, quickly becomes a favorite of newcomers to Charleston. Even today, it feels surreal crossing the Stono River Bridge and pass through the live oak tree canopy.


Johns Island is a beautiful barrier island only 11 miles from downtown Charleston and 15 miles from the beaches of Kiawah and Folly Beach.


Located off the coast of South Carolina, this tranquil island offers a laidback life and outdoor activities galore. From quaint natural spots to romantic sunsets over the waters, Johns Island offers time secluded away from nature.


Read more about our favorite places below, you’ll be ready to plan a Sunday tour as soon as you finish!

What to Expect on Johns Island, SC – from Adventure Trails to Unique Wildlife

a heron on johns island sc

Johns Island (sometimes spelled John’s Island) is the largest island in the state of South Carolina. Located in Charleston County, it’s also the East Coast’s fourth largest island, after:

  • Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts
  • Mt. Desert Island in Maine
  • Long Island, New York


Johns Island has a population of just over 14,000 people lightly sprinkled across an area of 84 square miles. It is surrounded by the islands of Wadmalaw, Seabrook, Kiawah, Edisto, Folly, and James.


The island has a strong sense of community and offers a more laid-back way of life.


Whether you are hiking on a beautiful adventure trail through the swamps or taking in the natural beauty of the lakes, Johns Island is delightful. Experience peace and serenity at its finest with outdoor activities such as kayaking or bicycling along scenic shorelines.


Local wildlife on Johns Island

bald eagle

Wildlife enthusiasts will also not be disappointed, as Johns Island is home to many unique birds and animals. The island is home to a variety of wildlife species, including:

  • Deer
  • Alligators
  • Raccoons
  • Coyotes
  • Bobcats
  • Otters
  • And wild hogs


Dolphins, as well as other fish and shellfish, are abundant in the rivers and marshes. There are hundreds of different bird species here, among them:

  • Ducks
  • Owls
  • Hawks
  • Herons
  • Egrets
  • Wild turkeys
  • Ospreys
  • And even bald eagles


What is Johns Island Like?

Johns Island, about 25 minutes from historic downtown Charleston, offers a tranquil, picturesque neighborhood surrounded by lovely waterways. Despite this, it is extremely close to Charleston’s urban amenities.


You can divide Johns Island into two distinct parts. The northern third of the island is zoned for higher-density development. You’ll find the denser communities there.


South of Maybank Highway, two-thirds of Johns Island retains a more rural atmosphere. Zoning laws limit the density of residential communities in this area. Farms used for farming and horses, estate communities, waterfront homes, and large estates set it apart.


Is Johns Island really an island?

group of friends getting on a boat on johns island sc

Of course. English settlers may not have been creative with their name choices, but they weren’t liars.


Johns Island is bounded on one side by the Stono River, on the other by Bohicket Creek, and on the east by the Kiawah River.


To the south, the resort towns of Seabrook Island and Kiawah Island shield Johns Island from the Atlantic Ocean (and hurricanes).


History of Johns Island

Nomadic Native American tribes, such as the Kiawah, first settled on Johns Island and subsisted on hunting and collecting shellfish.


By the 1670s, European colonists on Johns Island had established towns near the water, with slave-grown indigo as their primary crop. The first European inhabitants named the island after the St John parish in Barbados.


Stono Rebellion

The Stono Rebellion, which took place in 1739, began with a group of slaves attempting to flee to Spanish Florida. Lieutenant Governor William Bull and his companies rallied other plantation owners to put down the uprising. Planters then attacked slaves, killing any who could not provide proof that they were forced to march.


The Stono Rebellion marked the beginning of over a century of much harsher treatment of the enslaved population until the Civil War.


Revolutionary War

As part of the American Revolutionary War, a group of British soldiers led by General Augustine Prevost arrived on Johns Island in May 1779. In February 1780, Sir Henry Clinton’s army crossed the Stono River and established a temporary base at Fenwick Hall. Charleston surrendered to British forces on May 12, 1780, and was held until December 17, 1782.


Civil War

The Battle of Bloody Bridge, also known as Burden’s Causeway, took place here in July 1864. A force of approximately 8,000 American soldiers was repulsed by approximately 2,000 Confederate troops. Three long days of fighting drove the Federal troops off the island.


Experiences Not-to-Be-Missed – From Relaxing Waterside Walks to Thrilling Adventures

Johns Island is a paradise for outdoors enthusiasts.


This large island is home to some of the best outdoor activities in Charleston, SC.


Boating on Johns Island

boats at bohicket marina

If I had the money, a kayak would be my second splurge purchase after a bike. Kayaking is a wonderfully relaxing activity. Nothing beats paddling a kayak along the Stono River between West Ashley and Johns Island. And watching the sunset over the Lowcountry from a kayak will make you feel one with nature.


The numerous waterways and tidal creeks in our backyard create a wonderful playground. There is plenty of deepwater access all around Johns Island. The island also has several small lakes. Fishermen and boaters glory in the ease of access to the water here.


Bohicket Marina and St. Johns Yacht Harbor are the two marinas on Johns Island. Each one offers boat storage, slip ownership, and even boating clubs.


All boaters are welcome all year at the John F. Limehouse boat landing.


Trophy Lakes is a less well-known public lake. It has been a popular water sports destination since 1988, offering:

  • Private water ski and wakeboard lessons
  • An 18-hole disc golf course
  • A kid-friendly water park
  • And slalom water skiing


You can even rent the lake for a day!


Golf courses on and near Johns Island SC

Golf enthusiasts will never tire of the beauty and difficulty of the golf courses at the Kiawah Island Golf Resort.


Oak Point Golf Course on Betsy Kerrison Parkway is a local favorite due to its accessibility and affordability.


The Charleston County Municipal Golf Course on James Island, just across the Stono River bridge from Johns Island, was completely renovated. It’s a great place to introduce kids to golf or to play a few inexpensive rounds after work in the summer.



Beachwalker County Park is home to Johns Island’s public beach. It is one of the top ten free public beaches in the United States.


And there are plenty of other beaches near Charleston, SC, to choose from close to Johns Island.



A bike ride from Johns Island to Wadmalaw Island and back is one of the best biking trips in Charleston, SC. Wadmalaw Island is even more rural than Johns Island, and the roads lined with live oaks on both islands are beautiful.


Tour the Historic Sites and Learn About the Island’s Rich History

angel oak tree, surrounded by tourists

While Johns Island isn’t dense with attractions, it’s still got a few perks.


The Angel Oak Tree

Johns Island is home to the famous Angel Oak Tree, a Southern live oak tree estimated to be 400-1500 years old. This massive oak has a 187-foot-long branch from tip to tip, making it the largest tree east of the Mississippi.


The name has nothing to do with religion, by the way. The name comes from Justus Angel, the nineteenth-century owner of the land on which the tree grows.


Johns Island Farms & Farmers Market

Johns Island is also well-known for its farms. They grow a lot of agricultural products, and yet tomato farms are a famous specialty for some reason.


The Saturday farmers market offers fresh produce, regional foods, and live music. Many of the vendors own farms on Johns Island, near Maybank and Main Roads.


Reenactment of the Battle of Charleston 

walking trail in botany bay

Legare Farms off River Road hosts an annual reenactment of the Battle of Charleston. The event, which began in 2004, features 19th-century cuisine, music, and battle reenactments. One of the battles reenacted is the “Battle of Bloody Bridge” from Johns Island in 1864.


Johns Island Presbyterian Church

The Johns Island Presbyterian Church, built in 1719, is located on Bohicket Road. The congregation was founded as part of Reverend Archibald Stobo’s plan to establish five Presbyterian churches in South Carolina’s outlying areas. It is one of the first wood frame American churches. Johns Island Presbyterian Church expanded in 1792 and 1823. The church, which is also on the National Register of Historic Places, offers tours.


Where to Eat on Johns Island, SC

photographer catching the sunset on johns island scThere’s something to satisfy every taste on Johns Island. Farm-to-table restaurants and markets offering fresh produce are a major draw. Some of the best Charleston restaurants are here.


Tattooed Moose

This restaurant is fantastic. Their renowned duck club sandwich is delicious.


That said, this place truly shines for Sunday brunch. It may be worth foregoing church if it means getting a table.


The mimosas and Bloody Marys are a steal. One of my favorite Charleston experiences is the Loaded Bloody Mary, which is only available at the Johns Island location. A Bloody Mary in a glass topped with:

  • Fried chicken
  • Pickled okra
  • Hash browns
  • And a skewer of candied bacon lardons


The drinks go well with homemade biscuits and gravy and a bottomless cup of coffee.


And the ridiculously tasty Garbage Plate includes:

  • Cheese
  • Meat
  • Eggs
  • And Vegetables

Everything is served on a bed of their famous duck-fat-fried, sausage gravy-covered French fries.


My mouth is watering just writing this.


While the downtown Charleston location was the original, the Johns Island location is much larger and takes advantage of the open air. And the Tattooed Moose only serves brunch on Sundays, so plan accordingly.



After the Fat Hen closed its doors, the owners of Husk and Delaney Oyster House reopened Minero.


I say re-opened because this Mexican-inspired restaurant closed after giving it a college try on the peninsula.


But after a two-year absence, Minero is back! Homemade tortillas, classic dishes, and delectable new favorites are all available. Chef Shamil Velazquez employs traditional cooking methods with a modern twist.


Among the other renovations are major kitchen upgrades, an open charcoal cooking area, and an indoor/outdoor bar.


Wild Olive

This outstanding restaurant is one of the city of Charleston’s best-kept culinary secrets. The Wild Olive restaurant serves artisan Italian fare and features a large wine selection. It is known for its friendly and lively atmosphere. The seafood and daily specials are highlights.


Customers can order classic dishes like chicken parmesan and veal scallopini, as well as delectable house-made pasta dishes and daily specials.


And don’t forget to save room for dessert after you’ve devoured the popular bruschetta and risotto fritter appetizers.


Low Tide Brewing

Head to Low Tide Brewing for local beers with distinct yet delicious flavors. This is quite the hotspot on weekends, especially on those hot, muggy days for which Charleston is infamous.


You know, when the only thing to do is have an ice, cold beer.


How to Explore Johns Island SC

There are several ways to explore Johns Island and get around! A car is the easiest, while a taxi would be doable from downtown Charleston. Johns Island is about a 30-minute drive from Charleston International Airport. The island is about a 20-minute drive from downtown Charleston, South Carolina.


For exploring local attractions, there are plenty of biking trails, horseback rides, boat tours and more!


Real Estate on Johns Island

live oaks draped in spanish moss

With so much land available, Johns Island remains one of the more affordable places to live in the Charleston area.


And Johns Island has plenty of housing options if you’re looking to buy a home:


New home communities seem to keep going up, from single-family homes to condos and townhomes.


Many of the existing Johns Island neighborhoods have amenities such as:

  • Community docks
  • Walking trails
  • Community pools
  • And clubhouses for neighborhood events


But be warned:


All the new development on Johns Island has caused some consternation in the community. There are some fears that all the new developments will change the rural, laidback, character of the island. And that would be multiplied by–Heaven forbid–extending I-526 to the island for even easier access.


Other nearby islands near Charleston, SC, to explore

sunset over kiawah island

As you approach the island, the oak-lined roads give you the impression of stepping into a Nicholas Sparks film. That’s likely why The Notebook’s local scenes were shot here in 2004. If you get the chance, to see this beautiful island for yourself; you’re sure to fall in love, too.


With its stunning natural beauty, Charleston, South Carolina offers visitors the chance to explore some of the most gorgeous islands in the region.


If you’re looking for more adventure beyond Johns Island SC, then consider visiting some of the other islands near Charleston, SC:

  • Wadmalaw Island
  • James Island
  • Kiawah Island
  • Seabrook Island
  • Folly Beach
  • Edisto Island


Explore wetlands and woodlands, and treat yourself to long nature walks through woods and past meadows. Sample local seafood dishesx and take part in several activities like kayaking and golfing. All these incredible islands have so much to offer everyone – beautiful scenery, historic sites, and plenty of modern-day attractions as well!


Be sure to read the full guide to attractions, activities, and things to do throughout Charleston, SC!

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