“I’m going back to dignity and grace. I’m going back to Charleston, where I belong.”
– Rhett Butler, Gone With The Wind
Charleston, South Carolina, has lovely old southern charm. It reminds me a bit of Savannah Georgia. There’s a lot of history to see and experience in the Charleston area, unlike the West Coast of the U.S. where I spend a lot of time. It’s not all positive history: like seeing the spot where the American Civil War began. But you can also view impressive U.S. maritime history, stunning old mansions.
I stayed at the HarbourView Inn in the center of historic Charleston. A clean and friendly hotel in the heart of Charleston. And I rented a car through Turo (an AirBnB-like service for cars) which is my new favourite way to hire a car, cutting out those massive companies with no customer service. You work directly with the owner of the car; you can see the car you are going to get (via photos on the app) and it is super easy to use.
Things to See and Do in Charleston
See where the civil war began: The Confederate Army opened fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston on April 12, 1861 but were able to hold the fort for just 34 hours. The fort is part of the U.S. National Park Service which recommends you buy tour tickets the day before you visit.
See an oak tree older than the U.S.: Often referred locally simply as “The Tree,” this magnificent Angel Oak tree on St. John’s Island is estimated to be 400 – 500 years old. It looms more than 66 feet tall and produces shade that covers 17,200 square feet.
Visit a plantation: Charleston has several plantations as part of its rich history. I visited the Boone Hall Plantation and the Magnolia Plantation. Both feature stunning gardens and I learned a lot about the families and slaves that inhabited the plantations. Drayton Hall, which dates to 1738, is one of the oldest surviving plantation houses in the South.
Wander in downtown Charleston: With its centuries-old mansions and cobblestone streets, Charleston is like a living museum. There are lots of walking tours available, but I enjoyed meandering through the streets by myself. Rainbow Row is a must-see, as is the Charleston City Market.
Scare yourself silly: Charleston boasts numerous tours related to ghosts, goblins, unexplained phenomena, and notorious sites of Charleston’s dark past. Some tours specifically recommend you leave the children at home. I passed on these!
The Battery: Get up early and head to the southern tip of Charleston to see a glorious sunrise at The Battery, a lovely seawall and promenade. You have the sun rising over the ocean on one side and a row of Southern-style mansions overlooking Charleston Harbor on the other. The harbor was formerly the heart and soul of the city’s maritime activity. Be sure to visit the White Point Garden, only a few feet from the harbor wall, where several Civil War relics and memorials commemorate the city’s role in the war.
Tour the USS Yorktown: my grandfather was in the British Royal Navy, so I like to view naval ships whenever I can. I love to envision what it must of been like to live and work on board these ships. The USS Yorktown is fabulous. The volunteers are knowledgeable—some served on the ship at one time or flew in planes that landed on the ship. If you enjoy maritime history, you’ll enjoy this ship and the Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum where the ship is docked.
Trace the steps of The Notebook: If you’re a fan of the film, The Notebook, with Ryan Gosling and Rachael McAdams, you can take a tour to the spots where they filmed the movie.
Enjoy some sun and sand: Two great beaches to visit are Folly Beach and Sullivan’s Island.
Charleston is known for fabulous food. Here are some recommendations… go check them out and let me know what favourite restaurants you found.