A Newlyweds’ Guide to the Perfect Charleston Honeymoon
People travel from across the country, and the world, to visit one of South Carolina’s most-loved cities—Charleston. Named both Best City in the World and Best City in the U.S. by the readers of Travel + Leisure, Charleston captivates travelers of all ages and cultures with its history and natural beauty. For engaged couples trying to pick a honeymoon destination, the Holy City should be at the top of your list. Few things are more romantic than the enchanting Spanish moss that drapes the live oaks growing throughout the area and the charming pastel colors of the antebellum-style homes in downtown Charleston. A Charleston honeymoon is the perfect option for any couple looking for a mix of relaxation and adventure. Learn more about all that the city has to offer–from gorgeous boutique hotels to exciting activities.
Your Guide to the Perfect Charleston Honeymoon
Places to Stay
When planning your honeymoon, you tend to pay special attention to every single aspect of the vacation, more so than you might for a normal trip. This means finding the perfect place to spend your stay. With so many people flocking to Charleston for the annual events, outstanding weather and plethora of activities, there is no shortage of options for accommodations. Before you begin looking into places to stay in Charleston, consider what type of honeymoon you’re hoping to have.
- Vacation Rentals: Newlyweds seeking a laid-back, beachside trip should definitely consider a rental on Folly Beach. You’ll have all the comforts of a home while also having one of Charleston’s best beaches right in your backyard. Though there are several other beaches in the area, Folly is the perfect place for young couples looking to spend time alone while also having plenty of options for bars with a lively nightlife. Isle of Palms in Mount Pleasant is another great area when booking a vacation rental. Here, you’ll discover regular volleyball tournaments, events like live music and delicious local cafes and restaurants. For your Charleston honeymoon, vacation rentals offer couples more room and privacy during their stay. If you’re planning to take a long honeymoon, a rental is an especially good idea as you’ll have access to more amenities.
- Boutique Hotels: Downtown Charleston is home to dozens of boutique hotels offering luxurious experiences to guests. You can find locations at the center of the city allowing for easy access to all the shops, restaurants, bars and activities you’re hoping to do during your stay. If you decide to spring for the particularly luxurious hotels, you’ll be able to experience top-notch service and amenities. For anyone hoping to enjoy a home-cooked meal with fresh-caught seafood and local produce, you’ll probably want to opt for the vacation rental and the additional freedom to make yourself feel at home.
Best Restaurants in Charleston
For a Romantic Night
- Fulton Five: Touted as the most romantic restaurant in Charleston, Fulton Five is located on a charming little street in downtown Charleston that splits off from the bustling Market Street area giving this restaurant a tucked-away ambiance. The elegant inside is an ideal setting for a romantic night with your new husband or wife, and the menu boasts delectable Italian dishes like an espresso-crusted filet, grilled lamb ribs, scallop risotto and an entire list of homemade pasta options.
Hall’s Chophouse: When local Charlestonians want to celebrate something big, Hall’s Chophouse is one of the first restaurants to come to mind. If you’re spending your honeymoon in Charleston, you should definitely make a reservation at this highly regarded steakhouse with an incredible selection of meat cuts and marinating styles—both wet-aged and dry-aged. The side dishes at one of the finest restaurants in the city are served family-style, allowing each diner to select their perfect cut of meat and mix it with a number of other dishes, including creamed spinach and lobster mac and cheese.
Circa 1886: Housed inside the carriage house of the historic Wentworth Mansion, Circa 1886 has a romantic and unique atmosphere perfect for a special date. Dine at this highly regarded establishment for a taste of world-class cuisine while taking in the beautiful architecture of this important structure. Working alongside a group of local farmers and fishermen, the crew at Circa 1886 serve up authentic and fresh Southern cuisine. The menu includes Fried Red Hen with roasted shallot gravy, Broken Arrow Access Venison and Rainbow Trout paired with ramp pudding.
For an Authentic Taste of the City’s Cuisine
Bowens Island Restaurant: Sometimes the more authentic restaurants can be found in the least likely places, which is exactly the case when it comes to Bowens Island Restaurant. This no-frills fish shack is located about 20 minutes from downtown Charleston on James Island while headed towards Folly Beach. It’s easy to miss the turn, so keep a lookout for a large, green sign announcing the entrance to the small barrier island. At the end of the road, you’ll find a humble-looking building surrounded by piles of oyster shells. Inside, the walls are covered with decades’ worth of diners’ graffiti, and the menu offers a simple selection of oysters, shrimp, fish and hushpuppies. But what Bowens Island Restaurant lacks in decor, its more than makes up for in flavor and fresh-tasting seafood. Be sure to order a tray of oysters, which the restaurant receives right from the source on a daily basis and prepares them downstairs over an open fire. To catch one of the area’s famous Folly Beach sunsets, plan to head to the restaurant in the evening and grab a sit on the back deck.
Gaulart & Maliclet Fast and French: Although Fast and French is a traditional French restaurant, it’s a cute, favorite spot for locals looking for a more laid-back night. Pop in for lunch and dig into the soup du jour or one of the many tasty sandwiches. In the evenings, you can choose from a number of chicken du jour dinners, seafood plates or fondue for two. Be sure to check the restaurant’s weekly specials to enjoy perks like chef’s choice fondue night.
Xiao Bao Biscuit: Converted from an abandoned, old gas station into a popular pan-Asian restaurant, Xiao Bao Biscuit has some of the most unique food in Charleston. You can sit inside at the trendy bar or outside at a picnic table beneath the restored gas station awning. If you’re trying to push yourself outside of your comfort zone, order several different dishes here and split them with your significant other. But, you have to place an order for the restaurant’s most popular item, okonomiyaki, a kind of Japanese cabbage pancake which you must order with the farm egg and pork candy on top.
For an Evening Cocktail
After a romantic dinner at a fancy restaurant or a relaxing meal at a local haunt, hit the town with your honey for a post-dinner cocktail. If there’s one thing Charleston does not have a shortage of, it’s bars and restaurants. While you can certainly find a number of dive bars in the area like Cutty’s or Burn’s Alley, there are also dozens of classy bars to pop in for a quick cocktail.
The Watch Rooftop Kitchen and Spirits: This bar on top of downtown’s hotel known as The Restoration is often cited as having one of the best rooftop views in the entire city. You can watch the sunset over the Holy City’s many church steeples and get a great view of the city below. If you’re popping in before dinner, you can share several small plates like the crab cakes, charcuterie board or fried Brussels sprouts paired with a house cocktail. If you want to catch the sunset from the outdoor section of the bar, it’s best to arrive well in advance and grab a table early.
The Gin Joint: Just past the intersection of Market Street and East Bay Street, the Gin Joint is a unique but hidden little bar with a small front patio area and a dimly lit indoor ambiance. The handcrafted cocktails here are some of the best drinks in the city, combining unusual elements like spicy and sour. The trifold paper menus and small tucked away location almost make you feel as though you’re stepping into a prohibition-era bar. If you’re having a tough time selecting a cocktail, the Gin Joint offers guests the option to select two adjectives from a list of options–like “tart” and “sweet”–and the bartender will create a surprise drink to match your taste.
- The Rarebit: Rarebit is a popular destination on Upper King Street known for serving late-night breakfast and top-notch Moscow mules. If you head here for happy hour, you can snag the mules for just $6 each, or if you head in after a long night out, you can pair your drink with the track breakfast of two eggs, bacon, Geechie Boy grits and toast. While it’s a great place for a cocktail or a nightcap, the dinner menu is also delicious with one of the best country fried steaks in the city.
Charleston Honeymoon Activities
Visit the Angel Oak Tree
Explore the natural beauty of the Lowcountry when you make the drive out to Johns Island where the Angel Oak tree continues to grow after hundreds of years. Though no one knows the tree’s exact age, it’s believed that the Angel Oak has been around for some 400 years, making it one of the largest and oldest live oaks in the entire world. When you pay a visit to the area, it’s astonishing to take in its size and sense the almost mystical atmosphere that surrounds the great tree. For anyone taking a Charleston honeymoon, Angel Oak is the perfect place for a great picture of the newlyweds.
Spend the Day Kayaking
When visiting Charleston, it would be a shame to miss out on the many water activities. You can rent kayaks on Shem Creek in Mount Pleasant or Bowens Island on James Island for reasonable prices and spend the day with your significant other, exploring the waterways and marshlands of the Lowcountry.
Explore Historical Sites
Established in 1670, Charleston played a major role in both the Revolutionary and Civil War, making it the ideal destination for any history buffs. To experience and learn about the city’s history, you can embark on a self-guided tour of downtown, making stops along the way at spots like the Battery—the actual location where the first shots of the Civil War took place. If you want a full picture of the area’s history, you’ll have to head outside downtown and visit some of the area’s plantations or take the ferry out to Fort Sumter.
Sail on the Schooner Pride
Spend a day sailing on the water through the Charleston Harbor on one of the Schooner Pride sailboat tours. You can opt to take a two-hour afternoon, sunset or moonlight tour with a group of others, or book a private charter to give you and your sweetheart time alone on the water taking in the scenery and enjoying the light ocean breeze.
Lounge on the Beach
No Charleston honeymoon would be complete without days spent on one (or more!) of the gorgeous beaches. At the very end of Folly Beach, there is a little-known area called the Morris Island Lighthouse Preserve, where you can spend time on the beach amongst picturesque driftwood with a view of the Morris Island Lighthouse, one of the few lighthouses near Charleston, S.C. Stick around after the sun starts to fade to see one of the famous Folly Beach sunsets from this intimate spot on the beach.
Charleston is both a romantic and exciting destination for newlyweds to explore together. Choose to stay in a vacation rental for extra room during your Charleston honeymoon and make sure you have plenty of time for an elegant date, a Folly Beach sunset and a trip to the Angel Oak tree. But, no matter what activities you and your sweetheart decide to do, you’re sure to fall in love with Charleston just as much as you’ve fallen in love with each other.