One of the most relaxing ways to explore Charleston is by taking a cruise around the historic harbor. You'll discover more about the history of the city and see several of the iconic sights along the way.
These popular Charleston tours can be enjoyed during the day or the evening. Daytime trips are perfect for sightseeing and can take place on board replica steamers or modern cruisers. Live narration will have you captivated throughout your journey.
You'll pass 75 landmarks, including many from the Civil and Revolutionary Wars. No less than 300 years of American history will pass by right before your eyes. Enjoy seeing the Holy City and Fort Sumter, as well as the Fighting Lady – an aircraft carrier from World War II.
For something extra special, opt for a sunset harbor jaunt. The city looks even more enchanting when illuminated at night, whether you're out on the open-air deck or cozied up inside. Many evening cruises offer onboard dining, with 3-course meals and live music to set the scene.
The port city of Charleston is an easy place to explore on foot, with most of the historical attractions being close together. These Charleston tours are led by expert locals who know all the best places, and a few off-the-beaten-track secrets too.
As you stroll through this atmospheric walled city, listen as your guide regales you with tales of Charleston's turbulent past. The charming cobblestone streets lead you past churches and colonial mansions, each of which has its own story.
You'll hear about how the city has survived several disasters through the centuries, including hurricanes, sieges and epidemics. Even fires and earthquakes didn't keep this charismatic city down for long!
Discover the meaning behind ancient symbols on churchyard tombs and delve deep into Charleston's eclectic history. Many excursions focus on the French Quarter and South of Broad districts, stopping at spots like the Old Slave Mart Museum and Rainbow Row. You'll also get to see the Pink House Gallery which is the oldest residence in the city.
For a traditional Charleston experience, clip-clop around the historic Downtown on a horse and carriage tour. You'll journey along the avenues just like in times gone by, with the steady pace allowing you to savor all the sights.
As the sturdy draft horses pull you along, sit back and soak up the vibe. You'll pass everything from lush gardens to antebellum houses, covering around 30 blocks as you venture into the heart of the city. This is a narrated experience to help you make sense of what you're seeing.
There will be plenty of opportunities for photos, and the driver will pause at key attractions so you can click away at will. Popular stops include the former home of Governor William Aiken Junior, which is a nationally registered historic place.
You'll also take in the City Market, pretty squares and ornate gardens. It's a relaxing way to pass an hour, and you'll cover a lot more ground than you would on foot.
Prepare yourself for a spine-tingle evening out as you walk in the footsteps of restless spirits and unruly ghosts. Charleston is known as one of America's most haunted cities, and it's a hotspot for fans of the paranormal from around the world.
On these Charleston tours, you'll head into the old town after dusk has fallen, led by a local guide who knows all the tall tales. Keep a wary eye out, you never know who, or what, you might meet along these streets.
You'll head to some of the city's eeriest places, where creepy encounters are all part of the adventure. Pirates, cemeteries and a century-old jail all feature on the itinerary, as well as plenty of spooky churches and houses.
A popular stop is The Powder Magazine, which is haunted by the notorious Anne Bonny, as well as a motley collection of soldiers. Meanwhile, at St. Michael's Church, some of the oldest ghosts in the city have been known to make their presence felt.
The grand house and gardens of the Magnolia Plantation showcase centuries of living history here in Charleston County. This is one of the oldest plantations in the region, having been founded back in 1676 by the Drayton Family. They've owned the place ever since!
Opened to tourists in 1870, this colonial manor was one of the first visitor attractions in the United States. On arrival, you'll have a guided tour of the house to learn about the heritage of the area and its people.
Enjoy a stroll through the world-famous gardens, which are among the most beautiful in the country. During your visit, you'll also take a tram right through the wetlands and forests on the plantation estate. Keep an eye out for the local wildlife – alligators, turtles and herons are often spotted.
There's also a petting zoo to keep the children entertained, and you can visit the Old African American Cabin and Drayton Home too. Feeling energetic? The historic river walk and bamboo garden are great places to stretch those legs.
Middleton Place is another one of Charleston's historic plantations. It was once home to two of the Founding Fathers of America – Henry Middleton and his son Arthur. The former was president of the First Continental Congress while the latter signed the famous Declaration of Independence in 1776.
The highlight of your visit will be a guided tour of the House Museum. You'll get to see many artifacts and personal items that belonged to the Middleton family. There will then be some free time to check out the Plantation Chapel and the Butterfly Lakes.
Don't miss Eliza's House, which was the dwelling of a former slave. It gives an insight into the lives of the enslaved workers who constructed the plantation property and worked here for the family.
At Middleton Place, you'll also find the oldest landscaped gardens in the country as well as stable yards with a curious collection of heritage breeds. Feel free to go and say hello to the water buffalo, the Guinea hogs and the Gulf Coast sheep.
Take to the water and discover a different side to Charleston with a wildlife cruise around the historic harbor. Dolphins are the stars of the show on these trips. The friendly marine mammals are often sighted so keep an eye out from your comfortable perch on deck.
These Charleston tours can take place on traditional schooners or more modern motorboats, depending on your preference. The former will make you feel like you're sailing back in time – you can help hoist the sails if you like! Private excursions are also available.
You'll be able to admire the landmarks of Charleston as you cruise along the waterfront. Fort Sumter, Castle Pinckney and Fort Johnson will be among the highlights. The crew will share stories about sailing and the city's maritime history during your voyage.
Hopefully, the dolphins will come out to play, and you'll see them frolicking about in the waves alongside the boat. You'll be able to move about the deck to find the perfect vantage point for viewing.
Food-themed Charleston tours are a fun and sociable way to get to know the city a little better. These experiences usually last between 2.5 hours and half a day, depending on how long you have to spare.
Most trips involve a walking excursion in Downtown Charleston, stopping at different establishments to taste local delicacies. You'll be exploring over 300 years of food history during your visit, with a local guide who knows all the best eateries.
Stop at Charleston City Market, which was set up in the 1800s as the settlement's main grocery store. As you continue your walk, you'll hear about an enslaved chef who came up with a recipe that continues to influence Charleston cuisine today.
While you explore the old city, you'll stop at bistros and cafés to sample some Lowcountry classics. Collard greens, stone-ground grits and South Carolina barbecue are all on the menu, as well as sweet treats like benne wafers and pralines. Live chef demonstrations are often part of the adventure too.
You might not immediately associate Charleston with wine. Yet connoisseurs of the grape will be pleased to hear that there are plenty of foodie experiences that incorporate a few glasses of wine. Culinary walking tours and cooking classes are among the most popular options.
For a true wine tasting day out, take a day trip to Wadmalaw Island which lies just south of Charleston. This tidal island is known for its fertile soil and mild climate, which makes it the prime location for growing grapes.
On this excursion, you'll visit the Deep Water Vineyard which is one of the region's most famous wineries. The whole wine-making process takes place right here on site, and there are walking trails to explore among the vines. Tasting is, of course, the best part.
While you're on the island, don’t miss seeing the Angel Oak Tree – it's one of the oldest trees east of the Mississippi. You can also enjoy a trolley ride around the Charleston Tea Garden and drink complimentary samples brewed here on the plantation.
Feel the need for speed on one of these epic Charleston tours. If schooners and water taxis seem a little sedate, hop on a speedboat and have the ride of your life. These adventures last 2 hours, which is plenty of time to get that heart pumping.
On these tours, you can take the wheel yourself and have a go at being captain. You'll be given a safety briefing, and then it's time to hit the water. Follow the guide boat around the harbor, checking out the sights as you go.
As you bounce over the waves, don't forget to hang on tight. You'll see plenty of the city's landmarks during your trip, but blink and you might miss them! You can stop at places like the Battery, Ravenel Bridge and the USS Yorktown for photos if you like.
During the tour there will be live narration from your guide, so you know which key sights to look out for. The route is around 21 kilometers so you'll see a lot.
The historic port city of Charleston is one of the most famous places to visit in South Carolina. The atmospheric architecture and warm southern hospitality make it a particularly appealing destination for tourists from across the world. Adding to the enchantment are the warm weather and the distinctive local cuisine.
Named after Charles II, the settlement was established in 1670 by colonists from England. The heritage here is rich and colorful, with the city's success rooted in trading cotton and rice in the Caribbean. Charleston was a key player in the formation of the Confederacy, and it was here that the American Civil War began in 1861.
Today, Charleston is like a living museum and a particular favorite with history buffs. Visitors can explore wartime landmarks like Fort Sumter and the Battery as well as learn about the birth of the United States of America.
Charleston has its own international airport which makes it easy to access wherever you are in the world. The city is also well served by Amtrak if you're journeying here by train. Most people come for a few days, but if you have longer, you won't have any difficulty filling your time with adventures.
For first-time visitors, the ultimate place to stay is in the French Quarter. This puts you close to most of the major attractions and there's a range of hotels and guest houses for all budgets. Many of the properties are steeped in history, with warm hospitality and romantic vibes.
Marion Square also makes a great base, especially if you want to be near some of the best restaurants in the city. This is a good option if you're returning to Charleston for a second visit and want to experience something a bit different.
You can explore most of the top sights in Charleston on foot, which is the perfect way to get to know the city. For longer journeys, taxis and buses are readily available. There's also a Downtown Area Shuttle which is free to use – you can hop on at places like the Visitor Center and Waterfront Park.
Temperatures in balmy Charleston can soar during summer, so if you're not a fan of the sizzling heat, it's best to avoid July and August. The weather in spring and fall is perfect for sightseeing tours, while winter brings some calm without the crowds.
Unmissable attractions in Charleston include the historic French Quarter and the harbor. Boat trips and walking tours are the best ways to explore if you want to take in a lot of sights. To understand more of the area's heritage, book one of the Charleston tours that feature a plantation – Middleton Place and Magnolia Plantation are popular.
Get out of town for a while with a day trip to Morris Island from Charleston. You'll enjoy a boat cruise along the tidal creeks and stop at the famous lighthouse for photos. Then you'll have a bit of leisure time to hunt for shells on the beach and search for sea birds and turtles.
Don't miss a dolphin watching cruise if you're into wildlife, or, if you're feeling active, Charleston jet boat tours will get the adrenaline pumping. Meanwhile, bike excursions and kayaking adventures lend a different perspective to the city.
For free days out, wander down to Waterfront Park where you'll be treated to panoramic views of the harbor. Then stroll along colorful Rainbow Row which is one of the most photographed streets in Charleston. The Mace Brown Museum of Natural History is free to visit too.