In the previous installments of this blog on hidden gems, I made it clear these locations are not secrets but rather places that even some long-time Charleston residents have yet to find and explore. Here is one more delightful neighborhood and two surprises hidden in plain sight.
Shellring at St. Thomas Island
Do you love the Daniel Island lifestyle but find it is beyond your budget? Shellring offers the same easy, bikeable access to Daniel Island shops, restaurants, grocery and tennis center but, with lower HOA fees and the added benefit of super quick access to I-526. The neighborhood connects to everything Daniel Island offers via bike or golf cart at a significantly lower cost for home ownership. The charming neighborhood pool, Daniel Island schools, and highly walkable streets make this a great family neighborhood.
Beachwalker County Park
The Travel Channel lists the beach at Kiawah as one of the best beaches on the east coast and I couldn’t agree more. The dunes and the sugary white sand make for a relaxing day at the beach. But, even if you are not staying in a pricey beach house behind the gate at Kiawah Island, the south end of the beach is open to the public at Beachwalker County Park. Our county park system in Charleston is excellent and provides a ton of amenities including charcoal grills and picnic tables, restrooms and showers, food concessions, and my mom enjoyed using their beach wheelchair free of charge. Lifeguards are available, as are umbrellas and chairs for rental. Take your dog (on a leash of course) and watch the dolphins and children play in the surf.
The Island Trail at Grimball Gates
Looking to the southwest from the Limehouse Bridge as you travel to Johns Island, you will see a sandy strip running along the Stono River. A glimpse of this bike/ped/golfcart path disappears under the canopy of trees and you might wonder where it leads. It leads through the marsh, tidal creeks, and along the Intracoastal Waterway in a 1.63 mile loop around the island putting the great beauty of the Lowcountry right at your fingertips. The newly refurbished Grimball Gates community dock is a shady stop on the tour where you can watch the dolphins, alligators, and waterfowl that inhabit the environs and coexist with the boaters that navigate the river. Residents often enjoy their happy hour there, or take in a sunset. The trail itself is maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers.
In Part One and Part Two of this blog on hidden gems, I made it clear these locations are not secrets, but rather places that even some long-time Charleston residents have yet to find and explore. Here are two more delightful neighborhoods and another surprise hidden in plain sight.
Maybe you’ve heard about the Rockville Regatta, maybe you have some vague recollection that Rockville is way out on Wadmalaw Island. But, if you haven’t visited, you are missing a delightful town seemingly floating along the Bohicket Creek. The Regatta is a great big party, but on any other day, Rockville is a sleepy resort village and a lovely spot for a picnic or day of fishing. Their designation as a Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places has preserved the historic homes and churches. Drive through the canopies of Live Oaks draped in Spanish Moss on the Maybank Highway from James Island to Johns Island and keep going across Wadmalaw until you run out of road.
Do you want the benefits of newer construction, the charm of ancient oaks, views of the Ashley River, and you want it all downtown? Longborough has it all. You may not have driven by it because it is tucked away behind Wagener Terrace at the north end of the peninsula. This charming neighborhood was designed for a downtown vibe and is walking distance to Hampton Park, the Citadel and has some of the best new restaurants in town! I love the community waterfront park, walking trails, and dock.
Fast and French
How can a long-established restaurant on Broad Street be a hidden gem? Charlestonians have long enjoyed the Fast and French Gaulart & Maliclet communal tables and cozy atmosphere. You may not know however, that they recently changed their service model to a tip-free patronage. That’s right, no tipping and even the tax is included in the price. Your very French, Seafood Normandy listed for just $21 will cost you exactly $21 out the door. My favorite is the $5 traditional ham and brie on baguette from the express menu. You’d be hard pressed to find a better downtown lunch for the money! Grab one of the eight $5 sandwiches and enjoy it while taking the garden tour I described in the first part of this series. That’s totally free.
Whether you’re planning on visiting Charleston, S.C. or you’ve made the decision to move here permanently, you should be prepared to spend a lot of time outside. Located along the coast of South Carolina, Charleston is a quaint and charming city that experiences sunshine almost every day of the year, making it the perfect place for outdoor enthusiasts. Though the area is relatively free of mountains, there are dozens of other great outdoor activities visitors and locals can participate in all year long, especially water-related sports. Find out more about everything you need to know to enjoy the Lowcountry outdoors.
Charleston Has the Ideal Climate
In the last decade, Charleston has experienced a huge influx of people moving to the area from more northern states. Aside from the world-class cuisine, great bar scene and beautiful landscape, the most enticing aspect of the city to these newcomers is most likely the climate. Charleston’s location on the coast can mean an increased chance of humidity, but it also provides some relief from the summer heat as an occasional breeze from the ocean can cool things down.
July and August are the hottest months of the year with temperatures regularly surpassing 90 degrees F. Though the summers can be sweltering, there are plenty of ways to seek relief from the heat, and the rest of the year offers beautiful temperatures allowing you to take advantage of the outdoors. In the winter, the average temperatures fall between the mid-40s and 60 degrees F. These winter temperatures are very mild compared to other parts of the country and many Charlestonians take advantage of the warm winters by heading out on the harbor in boats or even making a December trip to the beach, though you will still want to throw a sweatshirt on for this activity.
Take Advantage of Lowcountry Outdoor Living
With such beautiful year-round weather and gorgeous Lowcountry scenery, it would be crazy not to indulge in all of the exciting outdoor activities Charleston has to offer. If you’re coming to the area for a vacation, you can find beachfront rentals throughout the area to stay close to the water. For visitors, the spring is the most popular time of the year to visit as the summer heat hasn’t quite set in yet, but the flowers are all in bloom. If you don’t want to visit during a time when a lot of other travelers are in the area, try booking a trip for fall or winter and get a more authentic feel for Charleston. Summer brings in a lot of travelers as well, but some people avoid the area during this season because of the hotter temperatures. During your stay, here are the top outdoor activities you should plan to participate in.
Golf Courses Galore
Charleston is a hotspot for those who love golf. Not only are there several nearby golf courses, but Charleston is also less than two hours away from Hilton Head Island, where you’ll find even more world-class courses. In Charleston, you can spend a day on the green at the public City of Charleston Municipal Golf Course or frequent one of the private courses like Patriots Point Links or Shadowmoss Plantation Golf Club. Many of the most serious golfers will take the 40-minute drive to Kiawah Island for access to some of the best courses in the entire country. The Kiawah Island Golf Resort offers five beautiful courses that have been designed by top professionals like Jack Nicklaus and Pete Dye. Each course integrates the natural landscape of the nearby ocean and marshes.
Hit the Beach All Year Long
With winter temperatures rarely dipping below the 50s and 60s, it’s possible to enjoy the beach during every season. Charleston is surrounded by three fantastic beaches—Folly Beach, Sullivan’s Island and Isle of Palms. When you drive about 20 minutes from downtown Charleston to James Island, you’ll reach Folly Beach. This area has a bohemian vibe with great restaurants like Jack of Cups Saloon, which offers a killer red curry mac and cheese, and Rita’s, where you need to order the surprisingly refreshing watermelon tuna nachos. You can enjoy a drink on the back deck of the Tides hotel while overlooking the ocean or grab a seat on the pier and take in the view.
If you head all the way to the end of Folly, you’ll find the Lighthouse Inlet Heritage Preserve. To get to this hidden part of the beach, you’ll have to park your car and walk down a stretch of deserted road covered in unique graffiti. After about half a mile, you’ll see the beach, which is covered by large pieces of driftwood that people use to hang hammocks. In the not-so-far distance, you’ll also be able to see the old Morris Island Lighthouse, which is no longer in operation but still makes for a unique landmark.
If you head in the opposite direction of James Island from downtown, you’ll discover two more beaches in Mount Pleasant. Sullivan’s Island has a more upscale vibe with fancy restaurants like The Obstinate Daughter and more casual eateries like Hometeam BBQ or Mex-1. After a filling meal, hit the beach and find a spot near the lighthouse. Traveling a bit further into Mount Pleasant, you’ll reach Isle of Palms, which tends to have a bit more of a family vibe. For young people, there’s still plenty to do like catch some live music at the Windjammer beach bar or round up people to play a game of beach volleyball on the bar’s courts. Isle of Palms is also the perfect location if you’re looking for beachfront vacation rentals.
A Fishing Enthusiast’s Dream
There are plenty of areas throughout the Lowcountry for fishers to spend the day trying to reel in a big catch. For shoreline fishing, you can cast a line off one of the fishing piers in Mount Pleasant or Folly Beach. Many fishers will also head to specific areas of the beach to participate in some shark fishing, which often turns up small sharks that can be as large at three feet long. As a visitor, you can charter a boat and take it out to some of the best spots in the marshes or out on the ocean to catch some local fish species. Before heading out on the water, be sure to educate yourself on local fishing laws to ensure that you’re not breaking any guidelines or disturbing the natural ecosystem.
With so many bodies of water surrounding Charleston, there’s plenty of opportunities to go boating, whether you want to spend the day fishing or cruising through the harbor. Drive beneath the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge for one of the best views from the water and cruise past the Battery to get a unique look at the mansions that line this street. Throughout the area, you’ll discover many sand bar areas where other boaters anchor to spend some time drinking, chatting and taking a dip in the Atlantic. If you’re moving to Charleston, you may want to consider investing in your own boat as there’s ample opportunities to get out on the water. Some locals even head out on a Christmas Day ride. For those visiting, you can look into one of the many charter options available.
Other Water Activities
Charlestonians love their water activities. From kayaking and paddleboarding to surfing and parasailing, you’ll find it all here. Maybe you want to explore the ocean atop a jet ski or learn how to balance on a standup paddleboard. If you head to Bowen’s Island and rent kayaks from this location, you can explore the waterways surrounded by gorgeous marshlands. Then, after turning in your kayaks, head to the Bowen’s Island Restaurant for a taste of the freshest fish in the city. Shem Creek in Mount Pleasant is another great area for water activities as you can paddle through the waterway, which is surrounded on either side by popular outdoor bars. Afterwards, be sure to stop at Saltwater Cowboys or Red’s Ice House for a drink and an appetizer.
Though there are traditional malls in Charleston, outdoor shopping is definitely the more popular option. Both locals and visitors tend to prefer spending as much time outside as possible in Charleston because of the beautiful weather. The downtown shopping district runs from the intersection of King Street and Calhoun Street until King hits Market Street. Explore the many local boutiques or pop into bigger name stores like Urban Outfitters and H&M. You can also check out the open-air market on Market Street, which offers unique, handmade products from local artisans.
For even more outdoor shopping, you can explore the Tanger Outlets in North Charleston. Here, you’ll find great prices from major brands like Nike and Lucky Brand. The entire outlet area is set up like an outdoor mall so you can enjoy the mild temperatures while walking from shop to shop. Mount Pleasant’s Town Center is another outdoor mall with a combination of small boutique shops and big-name department stores like Belk.
Angel Oak on Johns Island
The Angel Oak tree on Johns Island is undoubtedly one of the top outdoor attractions in the Holy City. When visiting Charleston, S.C., a trip out to one of the oldest trees in the world is well worth the drive. This live oak is so large that many of its limbs need to be supported by thick wooden stakes. When you arrive at the Angel Oak, you’ll be in awe of the tree’s sheer size and beauty, and you may even notice an almost mystical ambiance that surrounds the entire area. While out on Johns Island, check out one of the area’s best restaurants before heading back into the city. The Wild Olive is a highly praised Italian restaurant run by chef Jacques Larson of Sullivan’s Island’s The Obstinate Daughter. The Fat Hen is another great option on Johns Island for either brunch or dinner.
Drinking, eating and being outside are three of Charlestonians’ favorite pastimes, and locals will try to combine these activities into one as often as possible, which is why so many rooftop bars dot the downtown area. The Watch, a bar atop The Restoration Hotel, may offer one of the best views of the sunset along with craft cocktails and light plates. The rooftop bar at the new Hotel Bennet overlooks Marion Square and faces out towards the harbor. From here, you can spot several of the dozens of churches that make up the Charleston skyline. Stars is another popular restaurant and bar on King Street that offers a rooftop experience and delicious dishes like Truffle Lobster Fettuccine.
If you’re looking for more ways to enjoy the Lowcountry while also learning more about the area, try taking a trip to one of the many historical sites. From Fort Sumter and Patriot’s Point to Waterfront Park and Rainbow Row, the entire city is entrenched in an intriguing history. Learn about the city’s role in the Revolutionary and Civil wars or head to the Patriot’s Point Maritime Museum atop the USS Yorktown, where you can explore this retired aircraft carrier and even climb aboard some old military planes on the hangar deck. Head out to Fort Sumter to witness the location where the Civil War began or spend the day hanging out in one of the many historical parks in the area. You can sign up for a walking historical tour or hear legends of the city’s past on a late-night ghost tour.
Whether you’re just visiting Charleston, S.C. or relocating to the area permanently, you’ll quickly realize how much outdoor living is a part of the city’s culture. You can spend your days on one of the nearby professionally designed golf courses, hit the beach any day of the year or simply enjoy the many outdoor spaces and historical areas. No matter what outdoor activities you choose to participate in, you’ll be amazed by the unparalleled natural beauty of the Lowcountry.
In part one of four, I made it clear these locations are not “secrets,” but rather places that even some long-time Charleston residents have yet to find and explore. Here are two more delightful neighborhoods and another great activity hidden in plain sight.
Kiawah River Estates
Do you love the Kiawah Island (KI) lifestyle but find it a bit too exclusive? Kiawah River Estates (KRE) is a great alternative with many of the same great features KI offers at a premium. This gated community is less than 5 miles from the front gate at KI and prices are significantly lower for its executive homes. KRE has tennis, a community pool, tennis courts, pickle ball tournaments, and party house where I’m told they hold one of the area’s top notch Kentucky Derby Parties! The newly redesigned golf course at KRE is managed by the Kiawah Island Club. There is also a picnic area near the community dock and you’ll see more golf carts than cars on the quiet streets. Perhaps the best feature is that Beachwalker County Park is less than 5 miles away and is open to the public. The county park is connected to the beach behind the gate and features the same white sand, dunes and dolphins! At KRE you can enjoy one of the finest beaches in the country and live where the homeowner’s costs are thousands less per year.
Looking for a bargain near historic downtown Charleston? The Bourdeleaux condominiums are located in Wagener Terrace on the banks of the Ashley River. This delightful neighborhood on the north end of the peninsula is walking distance to Hampton Park, the Citadel and some of the best new restaurants in town! The condos share a pool and fabulous views of the river. Walk the dog, or bike through the lightly traveled streets. The tidy homes in this older Charleston neighborhood are hot properties, so if you haven’t been to Wagener Terrace lately, you are in for a treat. If you are looking for a real sense of neighborhood, a downtown bargain, and the convenience of a condo, Bordeleaux might be right for you.
For years I watched people fishing and shrimping off the edge of the Ashley River under the bridge that links West Ashley to North Charleston via Cosgrove Avenue. Folks would park precariously along the edge of the road to throw in a line or net while cars whizzed past them in four lanes of traffic over the bridge. A couple of years ago, the City of Charleston developed this de facto fishing pier into a charming municipal park with a proper dock, plenty of parking, and a safe ingress and egress for walkers, bikers, and cars. Other amenities include security cameras, lighting, and restrooms. Put in a kayak, take your fishing pole, pack a picnic, or just sit on a bench and watch the boats and dolphins navigate the waterway at the Northbridge Park. The sunsets are truly spectacular!
One of the hottest travel destinations in the world, Charleston, South Carolina, has so much to offer its visitors, from a top-notch culinary scene to unique historic sites. However, if you’re like most travelers, you’re probably planning to fly into Charleston, leaving you without a vehicle to get around. Luckily, the downtown area of Charleston itself is fairly small, which makes it easy for active visitors to walk from place to place. If you’re traveling with small children or seniors on the other hand, you may want a quicker way to get around. If you’re not interested in renting a car, don’t worry–there are plenty of modes of transportation while staying in Charleston.
Getting Around Charleston Without a Car
Most people who live in downtown Charleston actually prefer not to own a car since it’s easier to get around, and there’s no need to pay for parking. If you’re moving to Charleston, you may want to consider the fact that your car could be a bigger burden than a convenience in the downtown area. However, if you’re moving to another area like James Island or Mount Pleasant, you’ll probably want a car to get around. If you’re just visiting the area and you have a place to stay downtown, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to know that you are within walking distance of most downtown attractions. Before figuring out which types of transportation you’ll need to use, it’s helpful to plan out all the places and sights you’d like to see. Then, you can determine the best way to hop from place to place.
Charleston Transportation Options
When walking around downtown Charleston, you’ll notice a number of trolley buses cruising through the streets with the words “FREE” painted across the sides. You’re not imagining that—the downtown trolley service is actually free for visitors and locals! This DASH trolley service stops at some of the most popular and frequented places on the peninsula, making it easy for you to see all the sights you want to without needing a car. You can stop by the Charleston Visitor Center to pick up a map and find out more, or simply look for the CARTA signs that line the streets.
CARTA Public Transportation
The Charleston CARTA is a larger public transportation system that can be useful if you need to get on or off of the downtown peninsula for any reason. CARTA has routes that run between downtown, North Charleston, James Island, West Ashley and Mount Pleasant. This is a great and affordable way to get to and from the airport, but be sure to catch a bus that leaves well in advance of your flight just in case of unexpected delays. Although CARTA is a great way to get around, it does not have as many stops in neighborhoods aside from downtown, so you have to carefully plan how you will get from your stop to your destination. If you’re looking to visit attractions like the Angel Oak on Johns Island, you may have to opt for a different mode of transportation.
Downtown Charleston has a handful of different bike taxi options. Although these pedicabs will only bring you to locations on the downtown peninsula, this is a fun, cheap and convenient way to get around. Each pedicab can fit two to three people, but you can request multiple bikes if you’re traveling in a large group. These pedicabs will often post up in popular areas to make catching a ride even more convenient, but you can also contact the company directly and have a cab pick you up and drop you off at any desired downtown location.
Always a viable transportation option, taxis are available throughout the Charleston area. However, unlike other larger cities, you won’t often see taxis driving around that you can simply hail down for a ride. Instead, it’s easier to call the company ahead of time and arrange for a ride. While this a great secondary option, there are several more convenient ways to get around Charleston.
Using a ridesharing service like Uber or Lyft is a more efficient way to get from place to place over a traditional taxi in Charleston. Uber and Lyft drivers can be found most times of the day and night, with wait times usually being under ten minutes. Ride-sharing services can be more useful than public transportation as they will pick riders up from any destination and bring them exactly where they need to go. When using public transportation, you’re a bit more limited because of the specific stop locations.
When exploring downtown Charleston, you can walk to nearly any attraction easily. The entire downtown area covers about three miles in each direction, meaning you never need to go too far on foot. There are some areas that would be inconvenient or dangerous to walk because of traffic, but for the most part, all of the shops, restaurants and parks are within walking distance. You can even embark on a Historic Walking Tour of the city to learn more about its history and witness the many beautiful neighborhoods.
One of the top ways for locals to get around downtown Charleston is by bicycle. If you’re moving to the area and wondering about transportation options, purchasing a high-quality bike is a great option as you can quickly and easily navigate the streets of downtown without having to stress about parking. For visitors, biking through the city is a great option. Throughout downtown, you’ll find many different Holy Spokes bikeshare stations where you can rent bicycles and pay simply for the time that you’ve been using the bike. Just download the app, enter your payment information and you’re off! You can rent the bikes whenever you’re done at any of the stations around town, but keep in mind that even if you park the bike, you are still being charged for the time. You may want to return your bike at your destination. Then, start another rental period when you want to move on to another area.
Places to Visit by Foot
Waterfront Park is one of the most popular outdoor areas for visitors to walk or bike to. Located off Broad Street near The Vendue hotel, this area features a grassy park where you can sit and enjoy a picnic, as well as a pier that extends out into the harbor. Spend some time looking for dolphins passing by while relaxing on one of the large swings on the pier. If you have kids with you and you’re visiting in the summertime, you can also bring along their bathing suits and let them wade in the two fountains at Waterfront Park! Be sure to snap a picture in front of the Pineapple Fountain before you leave, as this is one of the most recognizable areas in Charleston.
Located on East Bay Street near The Battery, Rainbow Row is a series of thirteen houses that are painted in beautiful, bright colors. This is one of the most photographed areas in the city, and it’s easy to walk to from other popular destinations like The Battery, Waterfront Park and the market. If you’re going to walk to this attraction, try planning a route that will take you to several other nearby sites at the same time. This is also a great area to bike. You can round the corner after viewing the houses, and ride along the water while admiring the mansions that line the Battery.
King Street Shopping District
King Street is the main street that runs through the city and features many of the most popular bars, restaurants and shops. You can easily walk the entire length of the street to view beautiful Charleston-style buildings while shopping and eating to your heart’s content. If you’re in the area on the second Sunday of the month, you can walk here for the King Street Second Sunday celebration when the city closes the lower part of the street to traffic. Restaurants and shops will bring their business out to the sidewalks as visitors and locals walk through the street for a relaxing Sunday outside.
The Charleston City Market
Potentially the most popular tourist attraction, The Charleston City Market is located on Market Street between Meeting and East Bay Street. You can walk here from nearly anywhere on the lower peninsula, but be sure to consider what time and day you’re planning to visit as it can get very busy on weekends. The market itself features dozens of local artisans selling handmade goods, as well as food purveyors and artists. The market runs between South and North Market Street, both of which are also lined with individual shops. This is a great place to go to find unique souvenirs or gifts, and you can pop in to one of the restaurants if you start to feel hungry during your shopping trip.
On the corner of King and Calhoun Street, Marion Square is one of the most popular parks to spend time in. Bring a picnic and eat your lunch right here in this beautiful park or stop in to the Hotel Bennett, which overlooks Marion Square, to have a drink on the rooftop and get one of the most breathtaking views in the city. Between the months of April and November, Marion Square has a farmers market on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. You can purchase fresh, local produce, browse local art and jewelry and indulge in some of the best food truck food around. Live music and a kids’ play area act as additional entertainment for the whole family.
Before booking a trip to Charleston, be sure to check the city’s schedule of events. Marion Square often hosts some of the most highly anticipated events of the year. Charleston Wine + Food’s annual culinary village is held right in this park, and attendees can walk around trying gourmet food samples, as well as sipping on a variety of wines and local beers. The Spoleto Festival, Charleston Fashion Week and SEWE (Southeastern Wildlife Exposition) are three other major events hosted in this park each year.
White Points Garden
White Points Garden is at the tip of the peninsula, connecting East Bay Street to Murray Boulevard. This is the start of what locals refer to as The Battery. Murray Boulevard runs along the tip of the peninsula with gorgeous views of the Atlantic Ocean and beautiful multi-million dollar mansions. Hang out in the park and then explore The Battery to witness the exact location where the first shots of the Civil War rang out. This is the perfect place to visit during a bike ride through the city. Start your ride by renting bikes by Colonial Lake and then head towards The Battery. Ride along the water until you reach the park and continue up East Bay Street to see Rainbow Row and visit the Charleston City Market.
College of Charleston Campus
Voted the Most Beautiful College Campus in the U.S. by the readers of Travel + Leisure, the College of Charleston is located in the heart of downtown. If you find yourself exploring the city by foot, you should definitely take some time to walk through the campus, and get a glimpse of the gorgeous live oaks covered with Spanish moss and historic Charleston homes converted to offices. The Cistern is a large, open area where graduation takes place and is filled with beauty and history.
Explore the Best of Charleston
Whether you’re planning on moving to Charleston or just heading down for a vacation, this is one of the greatest cities in the country. If you’re staying downtown, you can easily walk or bike to many of the most exciting areas. You can also hop on and off the free DASH trolley to get to locations like the South Carolina Aquarium, Charleston City Market and Waterfront Park. If you need to travel further distances, you can easily grab an Uber or Lyft from nearly any area in the city–or, for short distances, hop on a bike and enjoy the ride. However you choose to get around Charleston, just be sure to explore the best of the city’s food, history and outdoor activities.
I won’t call these locations “secrets,” because they simply are not; they are however, places that many people have not yet discovered and each is special in its own way. Here are two delightful neighborhoods, and an array of lowcountry activities hidden in plain sight.
Tucked away behind the all too obvious Archdale neighborhood with its large, vibrant sign right on Dorchester Road, are Baker’s Landing I & II. It’s hard to imagine a busier thoroughfare in the Lowcountry than Dorchester Road, but these two communities are tucked away on quiet streets. Each houses a small enclave of executive homes situated on the Ashley River, with community docks and breathtaking sunset views across the river. Within walking distance to Bosch and just a short drive from Boeing, both might be your ideal North Charleston commutes.
Across the highway from the highly visible Carolina Bay in West Ashley is a gently “patina-ed” sign for Croghan’s Landing. The sign is a little faded, and hard to see as you travel the Savannah Highway, but it is worth the slight detour to check out this neighborhood. As you turn into the neighborhood from the highway, you will suddenly find yourself in a quiet and highly walkable area with huge trees and slow moving streets. The dog walkers and golf cart drivers are treated to marsh views along the Intracostal Waterway portion of the Stono River. You might also enjoy the West Ashley Greenway – a former railroad route that runs from James Island to Johns Island – perfect for biking, running, or a leisurely stroll.
This might be my favorite free thing to do in Charleston. Start at the garden and cemetery at the Unitarian Church on Archdale Street downtown. It is a treasure trove of plants and critters year round. I’d bet even your grandmother would be hard pressed to name every variety of plant found there. The paths twist around and end at King Street. Cross the street ever-so-slightly diagonally to the right, and enter the grounds at the Gibbes Museum just behind the Charleston Library Society. A more formally designed venue than the former garden, it has its own verdant charms that foster certain serenity in the heart of downtown Charleston. When you exit this shady green, you will find yourself on Meeting Street. Cross to the cemetery at the Circular Church and follow the Zen-like paths through the beautiful and ancient headstones.
“According to one gravestone historian, there are more of these unusual 18th century slate stones in this graveyard than anywhere else in the country.”  Enjoy this unique way to experience Charleston’s history and beauty.
 Circular Church website
Anyone who is looking to escape the cold winter weather should consider Charleston as a potential place to move. Not only is Charleston a top travel destination, but it offers some of the most beautiful year-round weather. Located on the coast of South Carolina, this charming city has it all—festivals and events, top-notch dining, unique boutiques and shopping centers, beautiful beaches and more. It’s no secret summers can be hot, but the winters are very mild, allowing you to spend more time outside. If you’re planning on moving to Charleston, we’ve compiled a guide to help you navigate the winter and discover all the great things to do here.
Charleston’s Winter Weather
Charleston’s weather is ideal for anyone who is not a fan of the snow. In the summer, it’s not unusual for the temperatures to climb past 100 degrees Fahrenheit regularly. Though this may sound brutal, the city offers plenty of respite from the heat between beaches, water activities and pools. However, in the winter, you’ll find that the temperature stays around 50 or 60 degrees F. From the months of December through February, the usual highs are somewhere in the low 60s, and low temperatures rarely drop below 45 degrees F. However, in the past, there has been the rare snowfall. For Charlestonians, this is an exciting and unusual event that often shuts the entire city down for a few, fun-filled days.
How to Deal with Unexpected Snow
If you’re planning on moving to Charleston, you will probably experience a Southern snowfall at some point, though it may take several years to happen. Even if you were born and raised in a snowy environment, it’s important to know how to prepare for snow in Charleston as it’s a very different experience than snowfall up north or out west. Because snow is so rare here, the city does not have plows to clean up the streets following a storm. This means if the temperatures are cold enough and the snow sticks to the ground, there can be some very dangerous driving conditions until the sun can melt away the snow and ice. Be aware of this if you hear about a possibility of snow, and be sure to make transportation arrangements in advance.
It’s also recommended that you leave your faucets dripping when the temperature is expected to drop below a certain point (typically around 30 degrees F) to prevent the pipes from freezing. While this may seem like an unnecessary precaution to some, keep in mind that the pipes are not typically exposed to these temperatures, making it more likely that something could burst.
Indoor Activities in Charleston
Although the temperatures in Charleston are often warm enough to enjoy outdoor activities during the winter months, there are plenty of things to do indoors as well. Unlike in northern states, the winter weather only lasts two to three months, making this an ideal time to explore some of the other activities in the area.
Visit Art Galleries
Charleston has a thriving art scene with many downtown galleries and art-related events. During the winter, why not take yourself on a tour of the downtown art scene? The Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art is a large gallery that is part of the College of Charleston art department. Here, you’ll find one-of-a-kind student work that sheds light on a new generation of budding young artists. Redux Contemporary Art Center is another popular place to go for art-related events. This location often hosts exhibit openings, open studio nights and even live music events from time to time. Art lovers won’t want to miss an opportunity to walk through the Gibbes Museum of Art with rotating exhibits and regular events.
Though these are three of the larger art spaces in downtown Charleston, you can also pop into one of the many boutique galleries including Robert Lange Studios, Mary Martin Gallery and Corrigan Gallery.
Explore the Museums
Winter in Charleston is the perfect time to explore all those museums you’ve been meaning to visit. If you have young children, spend a day at the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry where they’ll discover interactive exhibits like the Medieval castle, the art room and the kids’ garden. Each week, a new program is devised to teach children about a variety of topics from science to art. For adults, the Charleston Museum is a must-see place located downtown. With a combination of permanent and rotating exhibits, the Charleston Museum brings to life the history of the City and imagines where it might be in the future. You can admire museum artifacts from prehistoric fossils to historic textiles and everything in between. Throughout the city, you’ll also find an abundance of historic homes. Embark on a tour to learn more about the most prominent buildings and the families who lived there.
Head to the Dock Street Theatre
Known as the country’s very first theater, the Dock Street Theatre opened its doors in 1736 with a rendition of the play The Recruiting Officer. Over the last 300 years, the building has gone through many changes and it was destroyed in a fire before being rebuilt as a hotel. Like many of the structures in Charleston, the hotel suffered much structural damage after the Civil War and was going to be torn down but was later converted back into a theater. Today, Dock Street is one of the best venues in downtown Charleston to catch a show as performed by the Charleston Stage troupe. During the winter, you can catch one of their Christmas shows to get yourself into the holiday spirit.
Eat Your Way Through the City
If there is one thing that Charleston does not have a shortage of, it’s restaurants and bars. With some of the country’s best chefs right here in our own city, it would be a shame not to experience as much of the culinary world of Charleston as possible. Spend the winter months checking the top restaurants off your bucket list. Halls Chophouse and Oak Steakhouse are two of the most sought after places to go for a top-notch steak. When you feel like you’re ready to splurge on the meal of a lifetime, make a reservation at one of these two steak houses. You can also try out the food at Circa 1886, which is located inside the beautiful and historical Wentworth Mansion. But the fancy restaurants are not the only ones you need to visit. Try out other local watering holes like Jack of Cups Saloon on Folly Beach or Cuban Gypsy Pantry downtown.
Outdoor Winter Activities
Though winter is a great time to explore more of Charleston’s indoor attractions, the weather is mild enough to allow you to participate in outdoor activities, too. In fact, you may even want to save some of your indoor options for those brutally hot summer days when you just want to be inside with some icy cold air conditioning. During the warmer winter days, try out some of these activities.
Walk Along the Beach
Being so close to the beach is one of the best parts about moving to or vacationing in Charleston. And, guess what? You can take advantage of this perk all year long! Don’t get too excited, though. It’s unlikely that you’ll want to hit the shore with your best bikini in the middle of winter, but the temperature is usually nice enough that you can still throw on a light jacket and take a walk through the sand.
Sometimes, during the colder months, you can find dozens of starfish washed up on Isle of Palms in the town of Mount Pleasant. Sullivan’s Island is another great beach to visit during the winter before heading to one of the many restaurants like The Obstinate Daughter for a warm bowl of she crab soup. Folly Beach offers unparalleled scenery with a pier extending out into the Atlantic and another area known as the Lighthouse Inlet Heritage Preserve.
Play a Round of Golf
On one of the warmer winter days, spend some time on the golf course. Locally, you’ll find a handful of gold courses from the City of Charleston Municipal Course on Maybank Highway to the more private Shadowmoss Plantation Golf Club and Patriots Point Links. There are plenty of great courses for you to test out, including the links at the Wild Dunes resort. However, if you want to play on some of the best courses in the entire country, you can make a day trip out to Kiawah Island.
From downtown Charleston, Kiawah is only about a 45-minute drive and offers some of the most challenging and rewarding courses you’ll find anywhere. Designed by renowned course designers and former golf champions, these courses can challenge players of any skill level. You’ll also get the chance to admire the beauty of this barrier island as you play amongst the natural landscape.
Winter Events and Festivals
Aside from the beautiful scenery and ideal climate, one of the best things about living in Charleston is the year-round events. Summer brings in the 10-day long Spoleto Festival, but winter means it’s time for fashion, food and laughter. These are three of the biggest festivals that take place every winter.
Charleston Fashion Week
Come winter, it’s time for fashion week to hit Charleston. Typically held in February or March, Charleston Fashion Week is a top event with a combination of established and emerging designers bringing their creations to the stage. The fashion show itself is held in Marion Square and offers several other events throughout downtown. The opening night is a celebration you won’t want to miss, but be sure you also make it to the after parties that take place over the course of the week. The Emerging Designer competition is one of the most exciting parts of Fashion Week as young designers show off their latest fashion for the chance to win.
Charleston Wine + Food
A highly anticipated event, Charleston Wine + Food is a foodie’s dream event. This festival spans five days and offers a range of great events throughout the city. The Culinary Village takes place each day in Marion Square and allows attendees access to dozens of delicious food and drink samples. You’ll receive a custom glass to commemorate the event, and you’ll have the chance to learn more about local products from vendors. By March, the weather is already warming up, making this a great outdoor event. Throughout the festival, you can also purchase tickets for special dinners, wine tasting demonstrations, parties and more.
Charleston Comedy Festival
Charleston’s only sole comedy venue, Theatre 99 presents an annual comedy festival each January with help from the Charleston City Paper. This is a unique event that will have people of all ages crying with laughter. For three days, comedy acts will take to the stage to entertain the people of Charleston. Headliners in the past have included big-name comedians like Hannibal Buress, Jim Breur and Quincy Jones. Though many comedians travel to the city to participate in the festival, there are tons of local comedians who take to the stage as well. Shows are held in several different venues throughout the city, giving you plenty of opportunities to catch your favorite act.
Make Charleston Your Forever Home
Moving to Charleston, SC is one of the best decisions you could make—the people are friendly, the weather is mild and there are so many things to do year-round. You could spend years trying to eat your way through the city, testing a new restaurant each time. During the winter, you can try exploring indoor activities like museums, art galleries and shows or opt to spend your time outside. There’s no shortage of golf courses or beautiful beaches here. And, don’t forget about all the exciting annual events. So, what are you waiting for? Discover your dream home in Charleston today!
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.
Searching for a place to settle down near Charleston, SC? You’ll be delighted with the convenience and charms offered by James Island. Located just five minutes from downtown Charleston, this large sea island is close to the best shopping, dining and amenities in all of Charleston County.
Easy access to historic downtown Charleston isn’t the only appeal of James Island. Boasting top-notch schools, outdoor amenities, as well as a rich, lively culture, it’s not difficult to see why so many families plant their roots on the beautiful sea island. Let’s explore more deeply why James Island is a great place to live, work and play.
History of James Island
One of Charleston’s most unique sea islands, James Island boasts a rich history that dates to the 17th century. First established as Jamestown in 1671 by English settlers, the island was previously occupied by native American nomads. They primarily hunted for their food, taking advantage of the plentiful seafood along the island’s waterways.
Early Settlement of James Island
As early as 1609, Spanish explorers documented their encounters with the Stono tribe, who occupied both James Island and Johns Island. In 1666, English settlers also recorded two different tribes — the Stono and the Kussoe — on James Island.
Although early settlers initially found the tribes friendly, tensions between the native Americans and the colonists came to a head in 1674. This resulted in the tribes coming together to fight against the European settlers. Their combined forces were no match for the colonists, who defeated them handily and took control of the island thereafter.
Early Military and Naval History
With its proximity to Charleston, James Island made for an ideal location to set up lookouts for pirates in the 17th century. Prior to early colonial settlement, pirates frequented the island to stock up on supplies before heading back out to sea.
In the early 18th century, the island raised its first militia. Led by Colonel William Rhett, the militia was born out of concern over a French and Spanish invasion in 1706.
In 1708, construction of historic Fort Johnson began. Located on the banks of the Ashley River, the fortification is named after Sir Nathanial Johnson, proprietary governor of Carolina. The fort remains a popular historical site on the island and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The American Revolution and the Civil War
James Island played critical roles in both the American Revolution and the Civil War. It acted as a defensive wall for Charleston in 1780, and later in 1862 through 1864. The island was the site where the last battles of the American Revolution took place, as well as the site from which many shots of the Civil War were fired from Fort Johnson.
Benefits of Living in James Island
Today, James Island is known for its laid-back, unpretentious vibe. The island’s picturesque views and relaxed atmosphere are just the beginning of the many benefits this island has to offer its residents.
Apart from living on the peninsula itself, James Island is the closest suburb to Downtown Charleston. Those who choose to work in the Holy City and live on James Island will find the commute much easier compared to Charleston’s other sea islands.
James Island boasts some of the best public schools in all of Charleston County. Because of this, many families choose to send their kids to James Island Charter High School because it is highly rated and provides great opportunities.
There are two middle schools and four elementary schools on James Island for parents to choose from as well. Of these schools, Fort Johnson Middle School and Harbor View Elementary School stand out with high ratings.
James Island provides a warm, welcoming and inclusive atmosphere. Because of this, residents here are generally not pretentious and fit the island’s laid-back vibe.
However, don’t mistake being laid-back for a lack of caring. James Island residents are passionate about preserving the natural environment. Many fight vigorously against large-scale development of the area. This is especially true when it comes to protecting trees like ancient live oaks.
Although families are serious about protecting the small-town feel of the island, the community is also welcoming to newcomers and visitors alike. If you want the best for your kids and do your part to make James Island a better place to live, you’re sure to fit right in with this welcoming crowd.
Minutes from the Beach
Living in James Island, S.C. means that you’ll have easy access to the beach. James Island is essentially Folly Beach’s neighbor, making it a convenient 5-15 minute drive to one of the most family-friendly beaches in all of Charleston.
Some homes on the island are within biking distance of Folly beach. If you’re looking for a home on James Island, chances are good that you’ll find an attractive home just minutes away from the sound of ocean waves.
For a modest island, James Island has a lot of history packed into it. When your friends and family visit your home in James Island, there are plenty of fascinating historical sites you can take them to.
One of the most popular historical sites in James Island is McLeod Plantation. Located along Wappoo Creek, the historic plantation was established in 1851. It was largely successful due to its production of Sea Island Cotton. The plantation played a significant role in the American Civil War is an important Gullah Geechee heritage site.
Another notable historical site is Fort Johnson. Located at the northeast point of James Island, the fort held military and political significance during the colonial era. It is also the site where the South Carolina state flag was first flown in 1775.
Lesser known is Secessionville Historic District, an area on the island that honors those who fought in the Battle of Secessionville. The district includes a few historic homes — one Victorian and two Antebellum Greek Revival homes — as well as the unmarked grave representing over 300 Union soldiers.
What to Do on James Island
James Island boasts a wide variety of fun activities for the entire family to enjoy. From live music and concerts at the Pour House to the family-friendly James Island County Park, you won’t have trouble finding things to do on this quaint sea island.
James Island County Park
Searching for fun, outdoor activities to do with the kids? Need ideas for date night in James Island? You can always count on James Island County Park to make lasting memories.
James Island County Park has it all: playgrounds, a water park, a dog park, open spaces, a climbing wall and a fun splash pad that your little ones will love. That’s not all the 643-acre park has to offer. The park also features plenty of activities like nature trails and paved trails, tidal creek fishing opportunities, volleyball courts, kayak rentals and much more.
During the holidays, the park is lit up with millions of lights as part of the annual Holiday Festival of Lights. A dazzling spectacle, this much-loved event is a delightful tradition for many Charleston families.
Catch a Movie at Terrace Theater
The unique Terrace Theater is a five-screen art house cinema with a funky, retro vibe. This James Island Movie theater is a fun place to catch both independent films and popular showings.
Serving both traditional and unique concessions, the theater is also a fun place for date night. With a huge variety of craft beers and fine wines, independent films and quality atmosphere, it’s not surprising that the Terrace is consistently voted the best movie theater by Charleston City Paper.
Terrace Theater is locally owned, and residents love to support this treasured cinema. The theater owners are known for giving back and are deeply involved in many charity events that aim to enhance the community.
Take in a Local Performance
If you’re interested in Charleston’s local music scene or simply want to take in a live performance, the Pour House in James Island is the spot to go. With eclectic street art, music and a fantastic bar, this no-frills tavern is a favorite hangout for locals.
Featuring local and national touring bands, the Pour House has earned its reputation for being one of the best concert venues in the Charleston area. This top-notch venue has incredible sound, relaxed atmosphere, great beer and exceptional eats.
If you’re more interested in a great dining experience with a side of live music, check out Kwei Fei the popular Chinese restaurant that opened next door to The Pour House in November 2018.
Get Outside with the Entire Family
If you’re looking to disconnect for a while and breathe in some fresh air, James Island has plenty of opportunities for you to do so. In addition to the massive James Island County Park, the island also features a host of quiet spots to explore.
The Fort Lamar Heritage Preserve is not only a cool historical site, but it’s also a nice little nature trail with trees providing ample shade. Melton Peter Demetre Park — aka, “Sunrise Park” — provides a fantastic view of downtown Charleston and a great place to cast a fishing line off the pier.
Get out with the kids and let them explore the playground at Pinckney Park. Or, take the older kids and walk along the beautiful nature trails.
Have Fun with Fido
When we say the entire family, we mean the dog too! James Island has no shortage of pet-friendly places to bring your furry friend.
Many of the places we’ve listed here are pet-friendly, including James Island County Park and the Pour House. But, there are also top-notch restaurants that welcome Fido.
For instance, Smoky Oak Taproom is renowned for having some of the best barbecue in all of Charleston. They also welcome dogs in the outdoor patio area. The Barrel features 33 taps of local and regional craft beer, has live music and food trucks and is perhaps Charleston’s most dog-friendly bar.
Want to get social with your dog? Take your pup to James Island’s Yappy Hour. This family-friendly social event features live music and beverages at the dog park located at James Island County Park. Most importantly, you’ll find plenty of other folks who love their four-legged friends as much as you do!
Attend a Festival or Annual Event
The Holiday Festival of Lights is just one example of the many fantastic events that James Island puts on each year. From cultural celebrations to savory food festivals, the island attracts visitors from all over the world for its lively festivities.
As a resident of James Island, you’ll have easy access to all the fun activities located on the island. Therefore, you’ll also be close to nearby Folly Beach and Charleston. Take the kids to the Lowcountry Cajun Festival at James Island County Park and let them enjoy the carnival. This will give you a chance to taste of the numerous Cajun and Creole foods.
The Charleston Outdoor Fest is another yearly event that takes place on James Island. It is the perfect time to try out stand-up paddleboarding or test your skills at archery.
Nearby on Folly Beach, there are always exciting events that the family will love. Check out FollyPalooza, a festival that raises money for cancer patients. Packed with activities, live music and food trucks, this fun-filled fest is a guaranteed good time.
An Outstanding Community
With its welcoming, family-friendly neighborhoods and easy commute to Charleston, James Island is no longer a well-kept secret. Today, families are flocking to this charming island to settle down and raise their kids.
Is James Island calling your name? From spacious lots and grand homes to smaller townhomes, there are James Island homes for sale that could be your new forever home. Get in touch with us! One of our James Island experts will answer any questions you might have about this wonderful, family-oriented island.
There are so many reasons to love Sullivan’s Island! With miles of quiet beach, a rich history and a friendly and inviting community, the residential island is a prime location for Charleston locals to kick up their feet.
Whether you’re searching for a romantic vacation spot or scoping out Charleston, S.C. real estate for a place to live, Sullivan’s Island is worth exploring. Discover what makes this island the go-to beach for Charleston insiders:
About Sullivan’s Island
Easy island living is what Sullivan’s Island is all about. Located just 10 miles from downtown Charleston, this island and town is home to families, retirees and anyone who enjoys the slow-paced coastal lifestyle.
With a total area of 3.4 square miles, Sullivan’s Island is on the smaller side. But what it lacks in size, it makes up for in beauty, charm and history.
Settled in the late 1600s, the island is named after Captain Florence O’Sullivan, who arrived on one of the first fleets to create the new settlement in Charleston. The lack of development on Sullivan’s Island has allowed it to retain its pristine natural beauty, making it one of the most beautiful beaches in the Lowcountry.
With just under 2,000 residents, Sullivan’s Island is home to a tightknit but welcoming community that appreciates understated charm over flashy indulgences. While the island’s population rises in the summer, locals enjoy much less tourism than Charleston’s other barrier islands.
Reasons to Love Sullivan’s Island
It isn’t difficult to see why locals love Sullivan’s Island. This stunning barrier island offers a wide array of beach activities and watersports, historical landmarks and wildlife viewing opportunities, as well as some of the best food in the Lowcountry.
Whether it’s a weekend retreat or a day trip, you’re sure to fall in love with Sullivan’s Island for the same reasons the locals did.
One of Charleston’s most natural and beautiful barrier islands, Sullivan’s Island is more than a romantic retreat for tourists. With little development and a clean shoreline, living on the island is akin to having your own private oasis.
Although the island itself is small, Sullivan’s Island has a vast beach with sandy dunes and wild, coastal vegetation. There are no piers, touristy beach shops or convenient stores along the beach — just calm and quiet as you enjoy the island’s unspoiled landscape.
Sullivan’s Island is undoubtedly one of the best Charleston, S.C. beaches for those who enjoy their peace and quiet. Compared to Isle of Palms and Folly, Sullivan’s Island is secluded, pristine and utterly romantic — especially when the sun begins to set over Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge and the historic lighthouse.
Every Charleston beach has unique characteristics that make it distinct. The lack of commercial development makes Sullivan’s Island stand apart from other islands. However, keep in mind that there are no lifeguards or public restrooms on the beach.
There are also no bars or restaurants along the beach. While this may seem like a disadvantage, it does an amazing job of keeping Sullivan’s Island secluded, private and clean.
For locals, no bars or restaurants isn’t a downside. In fact, it presents the perfect opportunity to bring a picnic and enjoy the privacy and serenity of Sullivan’s Island. And of course, there are bars and restaurants just a few blocks away in the middle of the island.
In keeping with the secluded, small-town feel of Sullivan’s Island, there are no hotels, motels, bed-and-breakfasts or other types of temporary lodging. The nearest hotels are in Mount Pleasant.
Although this might seem inconvenient to some vacationers, locals love having the island mostly to themselves. With both Charleston and Mount Pleasant less than 15 minutes away, Sullivan’s Island can get away with having no transient lodging.
Mount Pleasant locals don’t mind the policy either. In fact, many locals from the Mount Pleasant area ride their bikes across Ben Sawyer Bridge — less than 15 miles roundtrip — to spend the day at on the island and enjoy the secluded beach.
Deep Roots in History
Charleston is steeped in history, and Sullivan’s Island is no different. Locals have experienced many of the historic landmarks on the island, but who wouldn’t enjoy living in an area so rich in history?
Since its settlement in the 17th century, the defensive sea island has played a key role in the nation’s military operations. Fort Moultrie has stood strong on the island for over two centuries and receives tourists daily.
Although most locals have explored the museum and interactive exhibits at Fort Moultrie, many still enjoy exploring the grounds after hours. Fort Moultrie closes at 5:00 p.m., but the grounds are open 24/7, and many locals come for the peaceful views of the Charleston Harbor.
With such charm and history, it’s not surprising that Edgar Allen Poe was inspired to write “Goldbug” while stationed here in 1827. If you’re a fan of the gothic writer, be sure to stop by the popular Poe’s Tavern restaurant.
Quiet During the Off Season
During peak tourism season, Sullivan’s Island gets its fair share of visitors. Still, the crowds aren’t nearly as bad as on Charleston’s other barrier islands.
When the off season arrives — roughly, October through February — locals get to enjoy their sleepy beach town to its fullest. The parking is less harried, favorite eateries are no longer packed and the frenzy of summer vacationers is finally gone.
You’ll still find people out and about, enjoying a casual bike ride or walking the dog. However, everyone is quiet and respectful of the town’s noise ordinance.
Things to Do on Sullivan’s Island
Sullivan’s Island may be your quintessential sleepy beach town, but there is a never-ending list of things to do here. From kayaking and backwater paddling to exploring the shopping opportunities along Middle Street, locals have a vast number of amenities and activities at their fingertips.
Sullivan’s Island is every water-lover’s dream come true. From kayaking and wind surfing to swimming and paddleboarding, the island offers a wide array of water sport activities.
The calm waters on Sullivan’s Island are ideal for swimming, while the strong, steady winds make it perfect for kiteboarding and sailing. Although you won’t find any water sports equipment rentals on the beach, there is a rental shop on Middle Street, the main drag of the island.
Sullivan’s Island is also ideal for fishing. Whether you’re angling for flounder or bluefish at Breach Inlet or setting out on a world class fishing charter, the lush marsh estuaries and inlets surrounding the island make it the perfect place to cast your line.
Sullivan’s Island may be small, but some of Charleston’s best cuisine can be found on this barrier island. From fancy eats served in elegant spaces to funky beach taverns with tons of character, you’ll never get bored with the dining options on Sullivan’s Island.
You can’t bring up eateries on Sullivan’s Island without mentioning Poe’s Tavern. As previously mentioned above, this literary-themed tavern is decorated with Edgar Allen Poe’s best works and has a great atmosphere.
Poe’s Tavern also has the best burgers in all of Charleston, and we aren’t just saying that: It was voted “2018 Best Burger” by the Charleston City Paper.
Burgers aren’t the only thing on the menu at Sullivan’s Island. Stop by High Thyme for lunch and enjoy fried duck breast with smoked gouda grits while listening to live music.
Craving some barbecue? Bring the entire family to Home Team BBQ for mouthwatering smoked meats and savory sides.
Want something a bit more upscale? The Obstinate Daughter has a great selection of modern and unique cuisine. Although you might wait a bit for a table, the dining experience will be worth it.
Explore Historical Landmarks
History buffs will want to check out Fort Moultrie, located on the east side of the island. Known for its role in the Revolutionary War and Civil War, the famous seacoast defense is full of rich military history. The entire family will enjoy Fort Moultrie’s museum, interactive exhibits and stunning views of the Charleston Harbor.
Sullivan’s Island also has a dark past that can’t be ignored. The island was the port of entry for hundreds of thousands of African American slaves during the height of the international slave trade. Fort Moultrie has an exhibit concerning the painful history of the slave trade on Sullivan’s Island, and there is a commemorative bench on the island for people to sit and contemplate this chapter of our nation’s past.
Need to balance the dark with some light? If you can’t get enough of Charleston’s lighthouses, be sure to check out the lighthouse on Sullivan’s Island. Built in the 1960s, it is commonly known as “Charleston Light” and is steeped in Lowcountry lore.
Visit Poe’s Library
Set inside the renovated Battery Gadsden, Poe’s Library is packed with books — including all of Edgar Allen Poe’s famous literary works. Although this quaint library isn’t big, you could easily spend an entire afternoon learning about its history and losing yourself in a good book.
Poe’s Library regularly features programs for children and adults alike. From board games and DIY crafts for the kids to writing workshops and book clubs for adults, the library is a special gathering place for locals.
Catch a Glimpse of Loggerhead Turtles
Seeing loggerhead turtles in their natural habitat isn’t easy. Although you might see an adult loggerhead turtle come up for air from your boat on the ocean, witnessing tiny hatchlings emerge is incredibly rare.
Although your chances of seeing one on Sullivan’s Island is still rare, they did have a record high of 15 nests in 2016. The sea turtle nesting season is May through October, but the nests hatch from July through the end of October.
Volunteers walk the beach early in the morning to identify tracks and alert the Island Turtle Team, who helps relocate eggs to protect disoriented hatchlings. If you do see a sea turtle or their tracks, report it to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and the Island Turtle Team.
Keep in mind that loggerhead turtles are an endangered species and that the island goes to great lengths to protect them. Disturbing them in any way can result in a fine of up to $25,000 and a year’s imprisonment.
As you walk along the beach during sunrise, keep your eyes out for them and you might get lucky. Just remember to keep your distance and avoid using flash photography.
As you can see, there are tons of reasons to love Sullivan’s Island. History at every turn, exceptional dining spots and miles of quiet shoreline make this laid-back beach a hotspot for locals.
If you’re ready to call Sullivan’s Island home, we’ve got the folks to help you do it. Chat with a Sullivan’s Island expert and find out why the island is one of the most desirable places to live in Charleston.