Explore > South Carolina > South Carolina Spotlight
spotlight header

Places Welcoming You

gs logo Camp Pedro Campground
Dillon, South Carolina
gs logo Hilton Head Harbor RV Resort & Marina
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
gs logo Camp Lake Jasper RV Resort
Hardeeville, South Carolina
gs logo Springwood RV Park
Greenville, South Carolina
gs logo The Campground At James Island County Park
Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston

Walk a scenic city that basks in barbecue and Colonial history

Find a connection with America’s rich history in this elegant port city of the South. The history of past generations is preserved brilliantly in Antebellum estates and historic fortifications. To the east, the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean echoes with the trade and exploration of old.

A Southern Treasure

Looking at Charleston’s skyline, visitors are greeted with as many steeples as skyscrapers. The many spiritual structures that tower above Charleston serve as reminders of why South Carolinians call it the “Holy City.” It’s among the many reasons that an estimated four-million people visit Charleston each year. One of the most famous local houses of worship is St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, the oldest surviving religious structure in the city.

From the very start, Charleston’s role as a vibrant port city made it an asset to America’s east coast. Not surprisingly, it was coveted by pirates, invading armies and business visionaries. Charleston Harbor quickly established itself as one of the nation’s busiest shipping centers, serving as a vital hub of commerce for the burgeoning European settlement.

Charleston’s growing prosperity became evident through the development of its intricately designed city layout and its palatial plantation homes, some of which stand today, dating back as far as the early 1700s. Stroll on your own or take a horse-drawn carriage ride through Charleston’s historic district. The area is filled with pre-Revolutionary War buildings and hundreds more built before and after The Civil War.

Clues to Charleston’s Native American roots are found in the archaeological discoveries that include sacred shell mounds. So, too, are its ties to African American history, beginning with Charleston’s slave trade. Sites marking the city’s pivotal role in The Civil War have also been carefully preserved. Among those is Fort Sumter National Monument in Charleston Harbor, where the opening shots of the  Civil War were fired in 1861. Boats will take you there with pickup locations at Patriots Point and downtown’s Liberty Square.

David Dugan

Pirates and Plantations

The legends of pirates who sailed the Atlantic Ocean near Charleston’s shores still loom large in the city. Charleston’s pirate history is shared through any number of guided tours, including one exclusively for children, complete with a treasure hunt, a foam-fashioned sword, a balloon-shaped parrot and even a pirate bandana.

For a feel of what it might have been like for pirates offshore, take a narrated harbor tour, a sunset sail aboard the tall ship Schooner Pride, or charter a boat for the chance to see incredible wildlife in the area, including habitats in surrounding beach towns.

Some tour operators also offer nature excursions that feature guided kayak tours. For a different kind of water experience, step aboard the Carolina Queen Riverboat, a paddle-wheel vessel with themed cruises, including jazz brunches, murder mysteries, craft beers and one of its extra-special events: Signature Blues & BBQ cruises. The latter pays homage to South Carolina’s claim that barbecue was invented in the Palmetto State.

Plantations of the Past

Historical plantations dot the landscape around Charleston, and many of these elegant structures open their doors for tours. The Magnolia Plantation and Gardens is among the most popular. Middleton Place touts a geometrically designed garden that’s said to be the oldest of its kind in the United States. Boone Hall Plantation and Gardens features a working farm and living history presentations. Northwest of the city, the Boone Hall Plantation sits at the end of the famed Avenue of Oaks: an elegant road lined by the stately trees draped in moss.

Historic homes abound in town. The 1821 Edmondston-Alston House is a beautiful Greek-revival city mansion with three floors of columned terraces and a large collection of memorabilia and antique furniture. A 10-minute drive away, the Aiken-Rhett House is full of old decorative and historical objects. This 1820 building is considered the most intact antebellum structure within the city and its historic interiors have looked more or less the same since 1858.

Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum is home to the USS Yorktown, an aircraft carrier that saw action in the Battle of Midway in 1942. This vessel and others, along with the Medal of Honor Museum and the Vietnam Experience, are compelling windows into the past.

While touring the city, don’t miss Waterfront Park, where the Pineapple Fountain is a magnet for countless selfies.

Nature, Naturally

Surrounding the city core are beach areas known for world-class amenities and jaw-dropping views of the ocean and nearby town.

Isle of Palms has two championship golf courses, a marina and, of course, sandy beaches; Kiawah Island has beachfront, world-class golfing and 30 miles of marshland serving as a wildlife habitat; Seabrook Island has a storied past steeped in pirate folklore. This coastal barrier island is home to marshes, a maritime forest and pristine shores.

At the mouth of Charleston Harbor is Sullivan’s Island, the site of a Revolutionary War battle and the setting for three Edgar Allan Poe tales: “The Gold Bug,” “The Balloon Hoax” and “The Oblong Box.” Historians say that George Gershwin wrote “Porgy & Bess” during a vacation at Folly Beach. Tunesmiths could write an equally impassioned ode about fishing off Folly Beach Pier, the second largest on the East Coast.

Looking for some retail therapy? The Charleston City Market is open 364 days a year (it’s closed on Christmas Day) and dates to the 1790s. It spans four city blocks and the entire open-air bazaar is now an official National Historic Landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Vendors sell fresh produce, crafts, antiques and other goods.

The South Carolina Barbecue Trail

South Carolinians say they invented barbecue. And while some Texans and other loyalists to their respective states might argue this point, there’s no argument that barbecue in South Carolina bursts with out-of-this-world flavors. Check out the South Carolina BBQ Trail, which leads seekers of succulently grilled goodies to Charleston and other fantastic towns. No less than two dozen Charleston area restaurants feature barbecue.

The stiffest competition facing Charleston barbecue may be the bounty of seafood straight from Charleston Harbor. The choices range from magazine cover-styled seafood entrées in high-end restaurants to dishes served in traditional seafood houses, authentic down to the requisite mallets and bibs. You’ll find that “catch-of-the-day” means just that, and “waterfront dining” is a literal term.

For More Information

Charleston Area Convention and

Visitors Bureau

800-774-0006

www.explorecharleston.com

South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism

803-734-0124

www.discoversouthcarolina.com