Isle of Palms Office

1400 Palm Boulevard Ste. M
Isle of Palms, SC 29451
843.886.5600

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Folly Beach Office

31 Center Street
Folly Beach, SC 29439
843.588.3800

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Dunes Downtown

11 Fulton Street
Charleston, SC 29401
843.722.5618

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Kiawah Seabrook Office

1887 Andell Bluff Boulevard
Johns Island, SC 29455
843.768.9800

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835 Coleman Blvd Ste. 200
Mount Pleasant, SC 29464
843.881.5600

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Category: Vacation Planning Tools

What Is There to Do in Charleston, SC? 16 Non-Touristy Activities

You’ll find no shortages of answers to this question: What is there to do in Charleston, SC? Located along the coast of South Carolina just two hours south of Myrtle Beach and two hours north of Savannah, GA, this charming little city has something to offer every kind of traveler–from world-class cuisine to outdoor adventures. When visiting the area, most people like to rent beach houses in Charleston, SC, because the weather is moderate year-round and the three different beaches in the area are absolutely beautiful. Although there have been huge changes to the city and there are differing attitudes toward tourism development in Charleston, there are still plenty of things locals love to do. Before making your trip to Charleston, check out some of these non-touristy ideas to help you experience the city on a deeper level.

Visit the Angel Oak Tree

angel oak tree charleston sc

Perhaps one of the most unique natural sites in the Charleston area, the Angel Oak Tree is located on Johns Island, about a 30-minute drive from downtown. But, believe us, the short journey is worth the drive. This oak tree is said to be one of the oldest live oaks in the entire country and considered the oldest living tree east of the Mississippi, with most experts estimating its age at around 500 years old. Supported by large, wooden beams, the tree’s limbs extend to cover roughly 17,000 square feet of land. There’s no doubt when you visit this site that it has an ethereal atmosphere that only something that old can seem to possess.

Take Yourself on a Brewery Tour

Charleston has an impressive number of breweries for a city of its size, with more than 30 breweries as of 2020. Plus, the use of renewable energy sources in breweries allow you and them to keep everyone’s thumbs green while still drinking delicious beer. You don’t need a tour guide to experience a taste of the Lowcountry’s best brews. Simply create your own map and start checking places off your list! Start with the downtown area and grab a drink from the rooftop at Revelry before moving on to Fatty’s Beer Works for a game of corn hole and a cold one. Downtown is also home to breweries like Holy City Brewing at Baker and Brewer, Palmetto Brewing Co. and Edmund’s Oast Brewing. Head off the peninsula to try other great options like Tradesman and Holy City Brewing.

Drive Out to the Mepkin Abbey Monastery

This unique place to visit is appropriately located in Moncks Corner, which is about an hour from downtown Charleston. Although it takes a bit of a ride to get out here, you’ll see why people make the trek. Most locals haven’t even visited this corner of their community, so you’ll surely be able to skip the crowd of tourists on this one. Formerly a plantation, the land at Mepkin Abbey was donated and converted into a Trappist Monastery in 1949. Now, the monks still live and work on the land, but open it to the public during certain hours.

Visitors can walk around the truly enchanting grounds that make you feel as though you’ve stepped through Alice’s looking glass yourself. The most intriguing part about this monastery? The monks procure and sell their own mushrooms that are grown on the property. Known as Mepkin Abbey mushrooms, you’ll find some of these delectable little fungi on menus throughout Charleston.

Go for a Hike Through the Francis Marion National Forest

Charleston itself is known for being unusually flat, which ordinarily is not ideal for hiking, but the nearby Francis Marion National Forest offers plenty of opportunities for you to explore the Lowcountry’s unique marsh landscape. There are dozens of miles of hiking trails, including part of the Palmetto Trail that stretches for 500 miles from Charleston all the way through the Upstate into North Carolina. Currently, only 350 miles have been completed, but the project is working to complete the last 150 miles.

Float the Edisto River

edisto river float edisto river adventures

Image: Edisto River Adventures Facebook Page

The next time you find yourself wondering what there is to do in Charleston, SC, look no further than the Edisto River. This is a great activity locals love during the summer (and even the beginning of fall) because it’s an easy way to enjoy the area’s local beauty and take some time for yourself to just relax. Pick up your own tube on the way or rent one once you get there. There are several different routes you can take if you’re going to venture out there on your own, but most people park at Givhans Ferry State Park and float the three miles down river to end at Messervy or Boat Landing Road. When the river is high, this entire trip takes about four hours, but expect it to be closer to six when the water is low.

Spend Time with Animals

Although historic Charleston, SC, itself is a bustling city, the surrounding areas can be rather rural, giving you the opportunity to visit animals and explore some farms. If you want to have some truly unusual experiences during your trip, you should make time to visit Bee City located in Cottageville, SC. About an hour from downtown Charleston, Bee City is a great place for children and adults of all ages with an adorable petting zoo and animal sanctuary featuring unusual species like lemurs, porcupines, sloths and capybaras.

Visit the Caw Caw Interpretive Center

caw caw interpretive center

Image: Caw Caw Interpretive Center County Park Facebook Page

Another great way to learn more about the Lowcountry landscape and the many species of animals that are native here, the Caw Caw Interpretive Center is just 30 minutes from downtown. Here, you’ll be able to explore the many walking trails and raised boardwalks through the gorgeous marshlands. Bird watchers will love keeping an eye out for swallow-tailed kites, warblers, osprey and more.

Check Out the Parks

There are dozens of beautiful parks throughout the Charleston area. If you’re spending time downtown, you can head to Hampton Park, a large outdoor area designed for people to walk, exercise or just relax by the pond. There are also plenty of beautiful, shady spots here where you can enjoy a picnic. Although many of the parks in the area are worth the visit, Melton Peter Demetre Park, also known as Sunrise Park, on James Island is definitely one of our favorites. From here, you’ll get one of the most unique views of downtown Charleston with both the mansions at the tip of the peninsula visible alongside the iconic Cooper River Bridge. Walk around the park or bring a few towels and set up on the sandy shore here.

Walk the Bridge

ravenel bridge charleston sc

Although every tourist who has ever passed through Charleston undoubtedly has a picture of the Arthur Ravenel Bridge on their phone, actually walking over the bridge is a very local thing to do. If you’re starting from the downtown side, park in the public lot on East Bay Street and then cross at the crosswalk to get to the entrance to the walking and biking path on the bridge. The entire bridge stretches 2.6 miles to Mount Pleasant, so be prepared for the walk back if you want to make it all the way to the opposite side. (Don’t be fooled—the climb from the Mount Pleasant side towards downtown is more strenuous than the other way.) Most people walk to the middle, admire the aerial view of the water and head back down.

Tour the H.L. Hunley Submarine

The history behind the H.L. Hunley is still one shrouded in mystery. The submarine was launched in February of 1864 with the mission of destroying the USS Housatonic during the Civil War. Interestingly enough, the Hunley completed its mission, making it the first submarine ever to be used in battle. But immediately after the attack, the Hunley went missing—and would remain missing for more than 100 years. The last known location of the Hunley was just off the coast of historic Charleston, SC, but after years and years of extensive searching, the submarine was never recovered. That is, until 1995 when Clive Cussler, a New York Times bestselling author, found it. Now, you can head to North Charleston to see the real submarine and learn more about its mysterious past.

Explore the Bridge to Nowhere

If you’re looking for more things to do outside, you should check out what locals have dubbed the Bridge to Nowhere. In the Wagener Terrace area of downtown Charleston, you’ll find a bridge at the end of Petty Street that seemingly leads to, well, nowhere. The bridge itself was originally built in an attempt to connect the peninsula to an area of private land known as the Magnolia property, but when the project fell through and the property declared bankruptcy, the unfinished bridge remained. It’s become a symbolic place for local Charlestonians and you’ll find people here riding bikes, walking or simply enjoying the view.

Take a Day Trip to Botany Bay

edisto beach and botany bay

Getting to Botany Bay will take about an hour from downtown Charleston, and while Charleston itself has three gorgeous beaches, none are quite the same as this one. Located at the Botany Bay Plantation, this stretch of beach is known for its truly unique landscape of washed up driftwood. You can spend the day exploring the landscape or just catching some rays, but before you head out there, double-check the tides as the beach is inaccessible during high tide.

Get Out on the Water

One of the greatest aspects of renting one of the beach houses in Charleston, SC, is your proximity to all the amazing water activities. Paddleboarding and kayaking are regular activities enjoyed by locals to help avoid tourist crowds and experience Charleston by water. You can choose to rent kayaks or SUP on Shem Creek and then stop for a bite to eat or a drink on the water afterwards. You can also head out to Bowens Island (just off Folly Road on James Island) to have some fun in the water, followed by the meal of a lifetime at the Bowens Island Restaurant.

Check Out the Art Exhibits at Redux

An art gallery with a true passion for its surrounding community, Redux is one of the best places to visit for artists. While there are certainly other art galleries and museums in town, Redux has built a reputation for itself as the place for the local art community, which means you’ll get a unique view into this world. Check out what exhibits they have going on while you’re in town and keep an eye out for other art-related events here.

Tour the Historic Cemeteries

With so much history behind the city, Charleston has an unusually long list of ghost tales, which is why so many people that visit flock to the ghost tours. Although ghost tours may be kind of touristy, they can be informative and entertaining. But, if you’re looking to skip the tour altogether, you can simply visit some of the alleged haunted cemeteries in town to see if you experience anything paranormal. Even if you’re not interested in ghost stories, a visit to the city’s oldest cemeteries is a unique way to see the city’s beauty and experience its history. One of our personal favorites is the cemetery behind the Unitarian Church on Archdale Street.

Spend the Day at the Lighthouse Inlet Heritage Preserve

With Folly Beach, Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island at your disposal, you’ll find plenty of gorgeous beach areas to spend your time. But, if you’re looking for a more unusual shoreline to explore, you should check out the Lighthouse Inlet Heritage Preserve located all the way at the end of Folly Beach. This area tends to be more secluded and free of tourists, but you do have to make a short walk from the street through a graffitied area before you’ll reach the ocean. Here, you’ll find eerily beautiful driftwood decorating the beach and an unparalleled view of the Morris Island Lighthouse.

Morris Lighthouse Folly Beach SC

Explore Charleston Like a Local

Whether you are an actual local or you’re just renting one of the beach houses in Charleston, SC, and you’re looking for a unique experience, we’ve got a whole list of great ideas for you. With such a unique landscape, the Holy City has a nearly endless list of outdoor activities available–from water sports and hiking to animal petting zoos and historic sites.

How Far Is Charleston from the Beach? Planning the Perfect Getaway Weekend

Many people who are looking to take a weekend getaway seek out coastal areas near beautiful beaches to enjoy the unlimited access to the ocean and water activities. Right now, one of the most popular coastal cities to visit is Charleston, SC because of its rich history, unique architecture, and, of course, the beaches.

If you’ve got Charleston n mind, there are dozens of great areas to explore. Folly Beach real estate is particularly popular for vacation rentals and those who want to be as close to the beach as possible, but, because Charleston is a relatively small city, it’s easy to visit some of the other great beaches and attractions in the area as well.

So, How Far Is Charleston from the Beach?

The short answer: not far. In fact, there are beaches in almost every direction from the downtown peninsula. If you head east toward the town of Mount Pleasant, you’ll find two popular beaches—Sullivan’s Island and Isle of Palms. Sullivan’s Island is only about a 20-minute drive from downtown, while Isle of Palms is a bit deeper into Mount Pleasant, making your trip from the peninsula to the beach about 30-minutes long.

Folly Beach is a favorite place for locals and visitors to frequent as well. Head west to James Island during a quick 15-to-20-minute ride out to Folly, where you’ll find a beach town with plenty of restaurants and shops.

Beaches in the Area

• Folly Beach

Known as “The Edge of America,” Folly Beach is known to have a bit more of a bohemian vibe, with many surfers heading here to a spot known as The Washout to catch some waves. Folly stretches for six miles, giving beachgoers plenty of space to spread out and enjoy the sun.

how far is folly beach from charleston sc

If you want to stick close to Center Street, the road that takes you right into Folly, you can check out some of the restaurants like Snapper Jack’s or Jack of Cups, or sip a cocktail while looking out over the ocean at the Tides’ Blu Beach Bar and Grill. Don’t forget to take a walk down the pier and maybe stop for another cocktail on your way back at Pier 101.

If you’re looking for a more private area of the beach, you should turn left at the end of Center Street and follow the road until the end. Here, you’ll discover a path that has been decorated in colorful graffiti over the years and which leads to an area of the beach known as the Lighthouse Inlet Preserve. You can relax among the beach’s driftwood trees and get a peek of the Morris Island Lighthouse from the shore.

• Sullivan’s Island

When you arrive at Sullivan’s Island, you’ll be greeted by a row of great restaurants and bars with outdoor patios, giving visitors plenty of options for places to stop for happy hour or a post-beach meal. Park near Station 18 if you want the chance to admire the beach’s unique, triangular lighthouse that has been in operation since 1962. The lighthouse was initially created as a replacement for the Morris Island Lighthouse because the former was at risk of suffering damage from the island’s erosion.

To get to a more private area of the beach, head down to Station 10, but be sure to check the tides first as sometimes the sand is covered by the ocean during high tide.

• Isle of Palms

Although Isle of Palms is the furthest beach from downtown Charleston, there are dozens of beautiful vacation rentals along the beach and other areas nearby. A favorite activity for those visiting the Isle of Palms beach is to head to the Windjammer, where they regularly hold live music shows and beach volleyball games.

The Isle of Palms tends to attract more of a family crowd, though it’s the perfect beach for any kind of traveler. Wild Dunes rentals are the perfect places to stay for a beach getaway because you have easy access to the beach as well as all the amenities in the gated neighborhood such as tennis courts and a pool.

Other Nearby Beaches

edisto beach and botany bay

• Edisto Beach and Botany Bay

While Charleston county has three beautiful beaches to offer, there are a few other great beaches nearby that you can visit for the day. Edisto Beach is about an hour south of Charleston, but it has more of a sleepy, small-town vibe with a few great restaurants and cute stores.

If you decide to make the trip out to Edisto Beach, you absolutely must spend some time at Botany Bay. This nearby plantation has a gorgeous driving route that takes guests through avenues of live oaks before bringing you to a parking area for the Botany Bay Beach, which is truly one of the most unique beaches in the country. The sand stretches for nearly three miles and is covered in huge remains of driftwood trees. On any given day, you’ll see beachgoers posing for pictures on these beautiful beach decorations.

• Kiawah Island

Also about an hour from Charleston, Kiawah Island is one of the top destinations for golfers. You can spend the day on the beaches of Kiawah sunbathing and looking out for coastal creatures that dwell in these areas like dolphins and a variety of seabirds.

If you need a break from the ocean and sand, you can spend a day teeing off on one of the five professionally designed championship courses. Taking a day trip to Kiawah Island is the perfect way to explore more areas of the South Carolina coast while getting the chance to golf and still return back to enjoy all the city has to offer.

How to Find a Charleston Vacation Rental

Because the Holy City is such a hot travel destination right now, the options for Charleston, SC vacation rentals are abundant. While there are plenty of hotels in the area, most people prefer to stay in a vacation rental during their trip to Charleston because these types of properties provide more space, are closer to the beach, and give you the option to cook up your own delicious meal right where you’re staying.

charleston sc beach vacation rentals

If you’re looking for a vacation rental in the area, here are tips to keep in mind:

• Consider What Your Group Needs

The type of vacation rental you decide to book will have a lot to do with what kind of group you’re traveling with. If you’re taking a couple’s getaway, you won’t need as much space as an extensive group of friends or a family gathering would, so you might want to opt for something a bit more cozy and intimate.

For big groups, a beach rental is the perfect accommodation because you’ll have room for everyone, a place for people to hang out and congregate, and quick and easy access to whichever beach you choose to stay near; plus, you’ll have the downtown area within quick driving distance.

• What Activities Are You Planning?

Before you book a rental, determine what you want to spend your vacation doing. If you’re looking to lounge on the beach for days on end, you should stick with a beach rental, but, if you’re planning to spend your time exploring downtown, you may want to pick an area closer to the city and just plan to drive out or grab an Uber to one of the beaches during your trip. There are no shortage of water activities, so consider all the sports you may want to try from kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding, to jet-skiing and parasailing.

• Check the Dates First

Although there are tons of great rentals in the Charleston area, these properties do book up quickly, particularly in the spring and summertime, so be sure when you’re searching that you’re entering the dates of your trip. This will give you a better idea of what is still available and prevents you from getting your hopes up when you find a really awesome accommodation, only to learn it has already been booked for your planned time.

If you’re flexible with the dates of your trip, you can try plugging in a few different dates to see how the options for vacation rentals change and then pick the property that’s right for you.

Places to Stop at the Beach

While the beaches of Charleston are beautiful on their own, there are a few local spots you should definitely check out during your beach getaway. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite places to stop when we’re near the water.

favorite beach spots near charleston sc

Folly Beach

Bert’s Market: This 24-hour local grocery store is a must-stop little shop with everything from freshly made desserts and sandwiches to grocery items like snacks, drinks, and more. If you’re looking to grab a few things before you hit the sand, Bert’s is your place.
Surf Bar: A very local spot, Surf Bar is just off of Center Street. While it may not have the gorgeous oceanfront views of the Tides hotel, it has a lot of local flavor. Stop in for a drink and sit by the fireplace on the patio or grab some food. The philly cheesesteak is cooked to perfection.
Wiki Wiki Sandbar: This three-level restaurant and bar is kind of a newbie on Folly Beach, but it’s a great place to grab some fresh Hawaiian-inspired dishes and some fun, beachy cocktails. Head up to the third floor to sit at the fully decked-out tiki bar or on the outdoor patio.

Sullivan’s Island

The Obstinate Daughter: Considered by many to be one of the best restaurants in the Charleston area, the Obstinate Daughter is owned by Chef Jacques Larson, the same owner of Johns Island’s Wild Olive, a highly recommended Italian joint. Pop into the Obstinate Daughter for a classy dinner of dishes like the Old Danger pizza, which features an egg, homemade pastas, and fresh oysters among other tasty options.
Home Team BBQ: If you’re looking for a good time, Home Team is the place to be. Their barbecue is delicious and their frozen drinks are even better. Throw back just one of their game changers, and you’ll be good for the rest of the day.
Mex 1 Cantina: Another great place to hit up for happy hour after a long day at the beach, Mex 1 Cantina has outdoor seating and delicious Mexican food and drinks.
Dunleavy’s: If you’re the kind of person who loves a good dive bar, Dunleavy’s is for you. It’s not the divey-est dive bar, but this Irish pub doesn’t put on frills, with a cool interior covered in old license plates and photos of the staff. If you want a quick bite to eat, they serve up all the simple things like hot dogs, burgers, and fries.
Poe’s Tavern: Inspired by the American writer and poet Edgar Allen Poe, Poe’s Tavern is one of the most popular places to dine while on Sullivan’s Island. Everything on the menu is named after one of Poe’s legendary stories. Select from a variety of burgers, chicken sandwiches, and tacos. And, don’t forget to ask about the time Poe spent in the area while stationed at Fort Moultrie.
The Co-Op: Before heading out to the water, stop by The Co-Op to pick up a few sandwiches to enjoy in the sun. Don’t forget to order one of their flavored frosé drinks while you wait.

Experience Your Dream Getaway

charleston sc beach getaway vacation

When you come to Charleston, SC, you’ll be surrounded by the best of everything: beaches, bars, restaurants, and history. If you’re thinking about planning a trip, look for Folly Beach real estate available to rent and stay near the water, or find a vacation rental closer to the city to experience the heart of downtown Charleston while also being just a short drive from three of the best beaches in the state. While you’re in town, consider taking a day trip to one of the other beaches as well, like Kiawah Island or Edisto Beach, and have the vacation of a lifetime.

Everything Under the Sun: The Ultimate Guide to Outdoor Living in the Lowcountry

outdoor activities charleston sc

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.

hot temps charleston sc

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

kiawah golf course charleston sc

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.

folly beach pier charleston sc

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.

folly beach morris island lighthouse

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

fishing charleston sc

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.

Boating Excursions

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.

boating charleston sc

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.

Outdoor Shopping

king street shopping Charletson SC

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.

Outdoor Attractions

Angel Oak on Johns Island

Angel Oak Charleston SC

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.

Rooftop Bars

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.

Historic Sites

fort sumter charleston sc

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.

The Complete Transportation Guide: 7 Easy Ways to Explore Charleston

Charleston SC Transportation Options

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

Free Trolley

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.

Pedicab

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.

Taxi

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.

Uber/Lyft

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.

Walking

walking around downtown Charleston SC

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.

Bicycle Rentals

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

Waterfront Park Charleston SC

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.

Rainbow Row

Rainbow Row Charleston, SC

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

Charleston SC 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.

Marion Square

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

College of Charleston SC

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.

A Newlyweds’ Guide to the Perfect Charleston Honeymoon

Honeymoon Charleston SC

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.

Charleston SC Couples Honeymoon Vacation Rental

  • 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

Romantic Restaurants Charleston, SC

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

cocktails Charleston SC

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.

Angel Oak Charleston SC

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.

couples kayaking in Charleston SC

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.

beach picnic Charleston SC

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.

Local’s Guide to the Ultimate Family Vacation in Charleston

Charleston family vacationThinking about a Charleston family vacation?

Great choice! The Holy City is packed with beautiful beaches, historical sites and fun activities for the entire family. From outdoor adventures to interactive museums, a Charleston family vacation has something for everyone to enjoy!

But with so many fun things to do, planning your Charleston family vacation can seem overwhelming. To take some stress out of the process, we’ve consulted with some local experts, and this is their helpful guide for planning the ultimate family trip to Charleston this summer.

Activities and Attractions

Whether you’re traveling with teenagers, grade schoolers or toddlers, there are plenty of enjoyable things for your kids to see and do in the Lowcountry. From plantation tours to wildlife encounters, these activities will make your trip to the Holy City as memorable as possible.

Charles Towne Landing
First-time visitors shouldn’t miss Charles Towne Landing. The 664-acre park isn’t just the site of the first permanent English settlement in the Carolina colony; it’s also home to a nature preserve, an indoor interactive museum, beautiful gardens, self-guided history trails and more.

If your kids are old enough, consider renting bicycles from the park to take a peaceful ride under majestic oak trees draped in Spanish Moss. Kids of all ages will enjoy the Adventure, a replica 17th century trading vessel they can board and explore.

Visiting with little ones? They will love the Animal Forest, a wildlife sanctuary filled with animals that once inhabited the region. As an added bonus, admission is free for kids under the age of 5.

Charleston family vacation

Water Fountains and Public Parks
Charleston summers can be brutal, with temperatures averaging mid to upper 80s and humidity that makes it feel even hotter. A great way to beat the heat is by splashing around in Charleston’s many water fountains or relaxing in shaded parks.

The Charleston Waterfront Park boasts numerous water fountains for the kids to play in, including the iconic Pineapple Fountain. While the kids are getting soaked, you might want to grab some gelato and sit on a bench to take in the gorgeous view of the harbor.

Searching for a less touristy option? Try Park West Recreation Complex in nearby Mount Pleasant for a fun playground with fountains or James Island County Park, which has its own splash pad and waterpark.

Nature and Wildlife Adventures
It may be hard to believe, but you don’t need to venture far outside of Charleston’s city center to experience its natural beauty and wildlife. The coastal city boasts many diverse natural landscapes, from magnificent beaches and tidal creeks to salt marshes and forests.

If your family loves outdoor adventures, consider touring a marsh in a kayak or taking an eco-tour out to Bull’s Island. These tours are great for families with older kids and offer a more unique way to experience Charleston’s local ecosystems.

Visiting with younger children? The South Carolina Aquarium is sure to be a hit for the entire family. The aquarium is home to more than 5,000 animals and features indoor and outdoor touch tanks.

Fort Sumter National Park
You don’t need to be a history buff to enjoy Fort Sumter National Park. This famous sea fort is one of Charleston’s most popular attractions, and it provides an exceptional learning experience for the entire family.

Insider’s tip: book your tickets in advance! Because these tours are so popular, tickets sell out fast, and many visitors are forced to wait for the next boat. Also, the southern sun can be brutal in the summertime, but sunscreen and hats will help keep everyone comfortable.

Charleston Museums
Who says learning can’t be fun? Take the kids to one of Charleston’s many museums for a hands-on educational experience they won’t soon forget.

Parents with small children should not miss the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry (CML). With its many interactive exhibits and programs, youngsters will have a blast exploring all the themed areas.

If interactive museums are a hit with your kids, the North Charleston Fire Museum and Patriot’s Point Naval Museum are also worth a visit. Although neither are as toddler-friendly as CML, they both offer interactive exhibits that are fun for the entire family.

The Plantations
A trip to Charleston wouldn’t be complete without a visit to one of its historic plantations. With their well-kept grounds, lush gardens and rich history, these storied locales can make you feel as though you have been transported back in time.

Each plantation offers a unique experience to visitors. At Boone Hall Plantation, visitors can go U-picking for seasonal crops and see firsthand why these enchanting grounds are the most photographed of any plantation. Or stop by Magnolia Plantation and Gardens and take a relaxing boat tour as you learn about the important role plantations played in our nation’s history.

Charleston Beaches
Charleston’s beautiful barrier islands offer miles of pristine beaches for locals and visitors to enjoy. From the romantic and secluded strands on Sullivan’s Island to the family-friendly shores of Isle of Palms, each of Charleston’s local beaches has its own unique charm.

If you’re traveling with kids, Isle of Palms is a great choice. IOP has many rules to keep beach-goers safe, as well as many recreational opportunities both on and off the water.

Folly Beach is great place to try your hand at watersports. Watch surfers catch waves near the north end of the island or walk along Folly Beach Pier, the second longest pier on the East Coast.

Looking for more information on Charleston’s most popular beaches? Check out this blog post that details the city’s most captivating beaches and their unique charms.

Family-Friendly Lodging

When it comes to choosing a place to stay for your Charleston family vacation, there are a few options to consider. Start by creating a budget and factor in whether you plan to rent a car while you’re in town.

For example, renting a car gives you the option of staying in more affordable hotels and vacation homes located just outside of downtown Charleston. If you’re not renting a car, you’ll want to explore all the fantastic lodging that are conveniently located on the peninsula.

No matter what you’re searching for, the Holy City has great options for every family and any budget. Here are a few suggestions to help you find the right fit for your vacation.

Charleston family vacation

Beach Vacation Rentals
When rest and relaxation are a top priority, a beach vacation rental is the way to go. Families often feel cramped in hotels, but a charming beach cottage can provide a more spacious accommodation where you can unwind and enjoy the peace and quiet of coastal life.

From Isle of Palms to Folly Beach, Charleston has a beach vacation rental for everyone. Browse the best beach rentals around Charleston and search for your ideal home-away-from-home based on your exact criteria.

Let’s be honest, we’re in the vacation rental business, so we always recommend staying on the beaches in one of our rental houses. Be we understand there are times, especially with smaller groups, where a hotel is in order and we have some favorites.

The Beach Club at Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina
Beautiful views of the harbor, spacious rooms and easy shuttle access to downtown Charleston makes The Beach Club an excellent place for families to stay. Located across the harbor from Charleston in Mount Pleasant, this gorgeous hotel is just a quick shuttle or seasonal water taxi ride away from all the action. The resort is also home to Harborside, a waterfront hotel that offers different rooms and amenities.
Insider tip:  Check out Groupon before you book. The resort often has deals for both their Estuary Spa and their hotel lodging.

Holiday Inn on Meeting Street
Don’t want to pay exorbitant prices for a downtown Charleston hotel? The Holiday Inn on Meeting Street offers all the comfort, cleanliness and convenience — but without the fancy amenities that you might find at a luxury hotel like The Belmond Charleston Place.

This relatively new hotel is within walking distance of local restaurants and shopping opportunities on King Street. However, you can also take a quick Uber ride to additional restaurants further along the peninsula.

Restoration on King Street
Visiting with a big family but want to spend a few days living in luxury? The Restoration on King has everything you need to make your stay relaxing and enjoyable.

Located in Historic Charleston, this luxury spa hotel offers spacious suites equipped with a well-stocked kitchen, flat-screen TVs and large bathrooms. Roll-away beds and cribs are available upon request, and guests can rent a room with a terrace for additional space.

Kid-Friendly Places to Eat

Charleston Family vacation

It’s no secret that Charleston serves up some of the best Southern food in the country. But can the city’s impressive food scene be enjoyed by young children as well as adults?

Luckily, the answer is a resounding yes! Although some kids can be picky eaters, there are still plenty of restaurants that will please everyone in your party. For a family-friendly dining experience, check out these local eateries:

Bowen’s Island Restaurant
Known for its oysters, hushpuppies and amazing fried shrimp, this funky seafood shack is a hotspot for locals and tourists alike. With its fresh seafood and spectacular view of the water, Bowen’s Island Restaurant may be the perfect place to grab a cold beer and eat a delicious meal with the family after a long day on Folly Beach. Bonus: this is the BEST place in town for oysters when they are in season.

Early Bird Diner
If you’re a fan of the Food Network, you may be familiar with Early Bird Diner and its famous chicken and waffles. However, it’s not just that one dish that makes locals flock to this popular American diner.

From shrimp and grits to homemade ice cream, the Early Bird Diner can do no wrong. Order anything off the ever-changing menu and expect your taste buds to be delighted.

With affordable prices and large portions, this classic Southern diner is ideal for families on a budget. Just be prepared to circle the parking lot a few times if you come during the lunch rush.

Triangle Char + Bar
Triangle Char + Bar is a convenient place for locals to enjoy savory burgers or stop by for a beer during happy hour. Whether you’re in the mood for a craft cocktail or a brisket taco that melts in your mouth, good food at Triangle is always a sure thing.

Lost Dog
If you’re staying on Folly Beach with the family, visiting Lost Dog Café is a must. This charming café serves breakfast all day and welcomes dogs to sit outside on the patio with their owners.

From the blackened salmon wrap to flavorful biscuits and gravy, Lost Dog never disappoints. Breakfast is served all day, so you don’t need to worry about missing out on those delicious cinnamon buns or poached eggs.

Fleet Landing Restaurant and Bar
Kids and adults should have no trouble finding something to enjoy at Fleet Landing. Located near the City Market in Historic Charleston, this casual restaurant boasts four menus: dinner, bar, brunch and dessert.

Dinnertime at Fleet Landing is usually noisy, but families with little ones may find this to their advantage. Take in the ocean view as you enjoy some specialty crab cakes or she-crab soup.

Smoky Oak Taproom
Craving some good BBQ? Smokey Oak Taproom on James Island is the place to roll up your sleeves and don a bib.

In addition to pulled pork, chicken, beef brisket, pork ribs and many tasty sides, Smokey Oak offers more than 45 craft beers. Combined with its laid-back attitude, Smokey Oak is the perfect dinner place for casual family gatherings.

Final Thoughts

There is never a bad time for a Charleston family vacation. You can save money — and a few headaches — by planning your trip to the Holy City in advance. This way, you can take advantage of deals and avoid tourist traps that can suck your vacation budget dry.

Ready to put your vacation plans into action? Book your Charleston family vacation today and get ready to start making lasting family memories!

Ultimate Planning Guide for a Romantic Staycation in Charleston

couple on beach

With its world-class dining, resort spas, tranquil gardens and gorgeous beaches and sunsets, it’s easy to see why Charleston is a popular couple’s vacation spot. But who says that you need to be a tourist to plan a romantic getaway in Charleston? (more…)

It’s Beach Season in Charleston – Isle of Palms

It’s beach season and there is no doubt that each one of Charleston’s beaches has it’s own charm. I would say that all are worth a visit, and you can pick one that suites your mood! If you’re looking for surf and are feeling adventurous, Folly is for you. If you’re looking for a great beach to take the kids to, Isle of Palms is where you should be. Want to go kiteboarding? Head on over to Sullivan’s. Each week we will be featuring a different local beach, and this week it’s all about Isle of Palms! Read on to see some rules, guidelines, and what to expect at Charleston’s most family-friendly beach.

Isle of Palms

Out of all the beaches in Charleston, Isle of Palms offers the most family-friendly shores (and is my personal favorite!). Because this beach has a bucket of rules and a ton of tourists, there are a few things you should know before packing up the family and heading out for a day of fun in the sun. Isle of Palms beach doesn’t allow alcohol, glass bottles, bonfires, camping, fireworks, or, of course, littering. So if you’re a college kid looking for a party, this beach probably isn’t for you. Dogs are allowed on the Isle of Palms beach as long as they are kept on a leash at all times (even when they are in the water) except from 5 am to 8 am, making it able to get your morning walk with your pooch in.

Holes that your children may dig while making mystical castles must be filled in when they are done. This keeps baby sea turtles from getting stuck on their way to the water and grandma from falling in and breaking a hip. Isle of Palms safety officers and lifeguards also need to be able to get around on their beach carts without breaking an axel.

The beaches on Isle of Palms are open and windy, making this the perfect place for kitesurfing. There aren’t many surfers here, since the waves are pretty small. You will occasionally see surfers here, although usually beginners. If you do want to take a crack at surfing, make sure you stay 100 feet from swimmers and 200 feet from the pier if you don’t want a hefty fine.

If you’re looking for a beach with a lifeguard, head to the Isle of Palms County Park on 14th Street. You can park here for $5 and you will find restrooms, showers, picnic tables, ice cream, and chair and umbrella rentals (although I recommend you bring your own – it’s rather pricey). Make sure you pop into our dunes properties office right there on the corner and say hi!

There are plenty of things to do on Isle of Palms if laying in the sun and playing in the sand isn’t for you. Aside from kitesurfing, you could make your way to the back side of the Island where you will find the IOP Marina and you can rent wave runners, go parasailing, or go on a fishing charter. If you’re in need of any beach gear, pop in to Isle Surf Co.

For lunch, check out Windjammer, where you can eat, drink, listen to live music, and even sing a little. Banana Cabana has great seasonal food and a beachfront bar, and Coconut Joe’s offers Island-inspired dishes and a rooftop bar. If you’re looking for pizza, ice cream, or some cute shops to browse in, stroll around The Front Beach Area.

Overall, the Isle of Palms beach is a family-friendly, clean, pleasant beach where you don’t need to worry about alcohol, rowdiness, or parties. Get ready for a day full of relaxation or adventure, whatever you choose! If you decide that Isle of Palms beach isn’t for you, check out the blog post we did last week on Folly Beach and make sure you stay tuned, next week we are featuring Sullivan’s Island.

dunes properties vacation rental guest’s grandchildren

2014 Vacation Rental Additions!

We welcomed so many fabulous additions to our vacation rental program last year. In case you missed them, all of these new properties offer a variety of options from 1 bedroom condos to a 6 bedroom house. Many of these are oceanfront or have ocean views, and are on Isle of Palms, Folly Beach, and in the Wild Dunes Resort.

3302 Cameron Blvd., “Marsh Madness”

44 Intracoastal Court, “Coral Relief”

44 Intracoastal Ct (2)0002

1693 East Ashley Avenue, “Aydlhaus”

807 West Ashley Avenue “Cabana Blue Seascape”

807 West Ashley Avenue “Cabana Blue Oasis”

807 W. Ashley Ave (41)0041

9 Sandcrab Court, “Island Cottage”

114 Grand Pavilion “Boardwalk Bliss”

203G Port O’ Call, “Time and Tides”

Book your 2015 vacation rental today!

Use your Paid Time Off. Go on VACATION!

Some of us cherish our vacation time and use our paid time off up to the last second. Others may be too busy at work to use all of their paid time off, or simply don’t have the desire to go on vacation. For those of you that leave a few hours on the table each year, you’re not alone. It turns out that over 40% of Americans who receive PTO don’t take advantage of it, according to a new study conducted by Oxford Economics for the U.S. Travel Association.

Did you know that among some of the benefits of taking your vacation time include higher productivity, stronger workplace moral, greater employee retention, and significant health benefits? Taking your vacation time is good for you!  Get away for a little while and unwind with your families, relax on the beach, read a book, and stimulate the economy while you’re at it. In fact, take a look at the amount you would be contributing to the economy if you took time off work, or how significantly you could be harming the economy by squandering a portion of the paid time off:

  • Americans left a total of $429 million in unused days last year, at an average of 3.2 PTO days
  • The economy would benefit from more than $160 billion in total business sales if workers used all of their available PTO
  • Spending the $160 billion available from this PTO would support 1.2 million jobs in industries ranging from retail to transportation
  • Taking one additional day of PTO off each year would have a $73 billion impact on the economy

If you’re not already booking your flight and renting your vacation home, then you should consider it. Not only is it good for the economy, but it is of great value to you personally.  Besides, what better way to gather your thoughts for your next big sales meeting or conference than by spending a few days sipping a delicious beverage on the beach?  Call us 888.843.2322 to book a vacation rental today.

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