Shem Creek is one of Charleston’s most popular and picturesque waterways. Known for its mouthwatering brunches, gorgeous sunsets and wide variety of water sport activities, it’s easy to see why Shem Creek is a hotspot for visitors and locals alike.
Located in the heart of Mount Pleasant, this little gem is a must-do on any trip to Charleston. Whether you’re in the mood for fresh seafood straight from the shrimp boats or a leisurely walk on the boardwalk, Shem Creek won’t disappoint.
History of Shem Creek
Gazing at the shrimp boats set against a stunning sunset, it’s difficult to imagine that Shem Creek was used for anything other than the fishing industry. The waterway has been in use for centuries, but its previous uses span far beyond shrimping.
In the mid-17th century, Shem Creek was inhabited by Sewee Indians, a tribe that primarily lived in South Carolina and may likely have been the first to greet the new settlers in Charleston upon their arrival in 1670. The creek’s name is derived from the Sewee word ‘shem-ee,’ although its exact meaning isn’t certain.
The name would change numerous times as the land passed hands from one owner to the next. When Barbadian colonist Captain George Dearsley owned the lands and waterway in the late 17th century, the creek was called Dearsely’s Creek. It’s believed that shipbuilding became the waterway’s main function during this time.
In addition to shipbuilding, Shem Creek has also been home to a distillery, a lime kiln, a factory and a water-driven rice and saw mill. It wasn’t until the 1930s that shrimping became the creek’s main industry.
Modern Day Shem Creek
Take a drive around the Shem Creek area today and you’ll find its unique history reflected in some of its street signs. Streets such as Sewee Circle and Oldwanus Drive are named for the early Sewee inhabitants, while Magwood Lane is named after the notable Captain William C. Magwood, who introduced the first shrimp trawler in the 1930s.
Historic Shem Creek is now considered a crown jewel of Charleston. Its healthy waters and marshlands provide more than just panoramic views and wildlife viewing opportunities; they’re also home to the shrimp, crab and shellfish that sustain the local commercial fishing industry.
The waterway also boasts an endless number of activities for all to enjoy. From standup paddleboard tours to savory seafood by the waterfront, there is always fun to be had at Shem Creek.
Things to Do
If noshing on a crab cake sandwich after a long day out on the water sounds like your ideal day, you won’t be disappointed with Shem Creek. From watching bottlenose dolphins swim in the water to catching a jaw-dropping sunset from the view of your paddleboard, there are an endless number of things to do both in and out of the water.
Didn’t spot any dolphins from your beach vacation rental? You’ll have plenty of opportunities at Shem Creek.
Take a kayak eco-tour and there is a good chance you’ll spot a pod of dolphins frolicking in the waterway. You can also rent a paddleboard and simultaneously take in the scenic views, look for dolphins and get in a workout.
If you don’t have your own gear, Coastal Expeditions — located near Shem Creek Bar & Grill — can hook you up with a rental kayak, SUP or boat charter. Consider renting for a half-day to give yourself enough time to paddle past the amazing waterfront homes and experience the stunning beauty of the marsh.
Walk on the Boardwalk
Take a relaxing walk on the Shem Creek Boardwalk and marvel at the stunning views of downtown Charleston, Crab Bank Island and Fort Sumter. Along the way, there are historic markers for visitors to learn more about the history and ecology of Shem Creek.
The end of the boardwalk features a beautiful gazebo that provides the perfect place to pause and take in the sights and sounds of Shem Creek. You can watch as boats and paddle boarders come and go against a stunning sunset backdrop