Charleston is the crown jewel of the Deep South.
Some of the historic and stunning sights that await you include Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie, Southern mansions and plantations, quaint tree-lined streets bursting with historical significance, must-see museums, beautiful beaches, and some of the best dining in the South.
The city’s elegance was created by the abundant rice crops of the region’s swampy fields. Wealthy plantation owners reaped the labor of the many slaves who came through the port city of Charleston.
The world those early Charleston residents left behind is something to behold. To get a closer look at Charleston’s history, take a walk through the historic district. But before heading out, stop at the visitor center at 375 Meeting Street. In addition to a small museum, the center offers maps, guides, and parking information.
We began our tour of the old city by exploring The Battery, a landmark promenade that follows the shore of the peninsula and the Ashley and Cooper rivers. From Battery Park, also known as White Point Gardens, we enjoyed a gorgeous view of the Charleston Harbor, including the striking 13,200-foot-long Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge. The structure, with a main span of 1,546 feet, is the longest cable-stayed bridge in the Western Hemisphere.
Battery Park—a park since 1837, but once used for artillery during the Civil War—is shaded by grand live oak trees draped with Spanish moss. It includes a bandstand and artillery pieces.
Leaving Battery Park, we strolled the charming streets lined with live oaks, gazed at the elegant homes, and peeked through the iron gates at many of the formal backyard gardens.
Heading north, we walked the raised sidewalk that skirts between the harbor and the historic homes along East Battery Street and East Bay Street.
Farther along we came to the famous Rainbow Row. This section is home to pastel-colored, mid-18th century homes. Near Rainbow Row is Waterfront Park, a beautiful eight-acre park with fountains, spacious lawns, and a large pier.
Continuing along East Bay Street, we arrived at Market Hall and Sheds, a National Historic Landmark. The Market—also known as City Market—was originally where vendors brought meat and produce in from surrounding communities and dates back to the early 1800s.
The market today is home to products geared to the city’s visitors. We found the hustle and bustle of an old fashioned market, but with vendors showcasing Lowcountry arts and crafts, clothing, jewelry, and some standard souvenir fare. The most interesting products are the sweetgrass baskets locally crafted by Gullah women of West African descent who speak in an old Gullah dialect of English.
Just outside Charleston, visitors can tour some of the gorgeous plantations that once flourished and created the wealth of the antebellum era. Since 1776, the Drayton family has called Magnolia Plantation their home, and today it’s open to the public and includes Audubon Swamp Garden, the oldest garden in America.
Middleton Place, practically next door to Magnolia Plantation, is a National Historic Landmark and home to America’s Oldest Landscaped Gardens. The elegant symmetry of the terraces and butterfly-shaped lakes reveal the classic European style of the 18th century.
And don’t miss Boone Hall with its majestic avenue of moss-draped live oaks. This photogenic showplace claims to be the most photographed plantation in America.
While touring Charleston the campground at James Island County Park served as our home base. An ideal location amidst scenic beauty and an amazing drive through display of Christmas lights, the 643-acre park is convenient to downtown Charleston and the South Carolina Lowcountry, and the campground provides a round-trip shuttle service to the city’s visitor center.
The park itself makes a fun destination. Miles of paved trails wind through forests and Palmetto trees and skirt by marshes and tidal creeks. Bicycle rentals are available, as are pedal boats and kayak rentals for its 16 acres of lakes.
Traveling through the south? Charleston is a must stop.
If you lead a good life,
go to church,
and say your prayers,
you’ll go to Charleston
when you die.
—old South Carolina saying