Kari & Chris Crolley — A Passion for the Outdoors
Nestled away from the hustle and bustle of the restaurants on Shem Creek lies Coastal Expeditions, which credits itself as Charleston’s original outfitter, and is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.
Family-owned and managed by Kari and Chris Crolley, Coastal Expeditions offers kayak and paddleboard rentals, boat tours, a ferry to Bulls Island, and more, with the mission to take people to beautiful places to experience meaningful things and promote the outdoor living culture in Charleston.
“We hold the door open for people’s opportunity to be wowed by nature–when they see a dolphin swim right beside their paddleboard, they get it,” Chris Crolley says.
In addition to the Mount Pleasant flagship location, they have since expanded to include outposts on both Isle of Palms and Folly Beach, with each outpost being geographically positioned to serve a variety of areas and families so they can all “get their water on.”
Being located in different areas also exposes the guides and those on the tours to various ecosystems depending on the outpost they set off from.
“We’ve been kayaking in Charleston since before it was cool and are so pleased to see so many folks doing it now,” he says.
They’ve paired with the South Carolina Outdoor Education Program, (SCOEP), and so far, over 3,000 middle school students have gone kayaking at no charge to the schools.
“It gives kids exposure to incredible ecosystems and really makes an impression.”
Kari Crolley, who has a horticulture background, came into Coastal Expeditions on the marketing side once she met her husband. The two were married in 2012 and now have a daughter, Olivia, who is 3, and Chris’ son, Graham, who is 20.
“It’s where my passion was. I wanted people to know what we’re doing here. Never in a million years did I think I’d be sitting at a kayak company,” she says.
For Chris Crolley, who has a background in studio art and pursued this at College of Charleston, his connection with nature began at a young age, but it wasn’t until Hurricane Hugo that he was deeply affected by the culture and the community of Charleston.
“There’s a lot of passion and meaning with this for me. It’s more than kayaks and boats to us,” he says, “We take our fun seriously,” Kari Crolley adds with a laugh.
The couple credit a lot of what Coastal Expeditions is able to do to their 27 guides, schedulers and boat captains.
“They’re the heart of this. Ninety-nine percent of the value we offer are the guides and everyone who works here,” Kari Crolley says.
“We’re not a punch your ticket kind of place.”
Tour sizes are small and individualized. It’s obvious there’s a purpose behind what they do more than just taking people out on “a ride,” but rather they offer high-integrity, guided outdoor experiences.
“We use kayaks and paddleboards to get to places with meaning. Adventure makes things richer and opens up a world you didn’t know existed and we miss out on too much,” she says.
Coastal Expeditions gives everyone this opportunity. Their motto is: “You really haven’t seen Charleston until it’s by water.”