The city of Charleston is South Carolina’s oldest, largest and (arguably) most interesting city. Honestly, with so many historic and best things to do in Charleston, you’ll have to visit.
For us, travellers who don’t live in the US, South Carolina as a whole isn’t the most obvious place to visit. Though, it certainly shouldn’t be sidetracked by the more ‘popular’ states of California or Florida.
There are a whole lot of fun and best things to do in Charleston South Carolina that you’ll be totally spoilt for choice.
Plus, it’s a great base if you want to explore some of the surrounding areas. Or, alternatively, just chill out in this gorgeous and pretty historic city.
With that in mind, I wanted to share some of my very favourite and best things to do in Charleston on your next trip. Oh, and with all our posts, pop us a message if you need any other tips.
Take a look at the best things to do in Charleston. Have the best trip!
1.) Eat your way through City Market
Located in downtown Charleston, the City Market (also called the Centre Market) is an integral part of Charleston’s history.
This all makes it one of the most important things to do in Charleston. Well that, and the chance to gorge on all the free samples here. Just saying.
Constructed way back in the 1790s, it is one of the oldest public markets in the United States. Also, it’s home to not just delicious treats but also fun knick-knacks, too. This all makes it a potential stop for some souvenir hunting.
Once here, make sure to get some fresh lemonade from Lowcountry Lemonade. It’s so zingy and refreshing.
2.) Take in all the colours at Rainbow Row
Grab your camera and head to the well-known Rainbow Row, a 13-row cluster of Georgian-style, pastel-coloured houses.
Plus, it’s actually the longest cluster of Georgian row houses in the US, too. With dates going back to well before the Revolutionary War.
The houses are privately owned and alas are not open to the public but to be honest, the best view is from the streets anyway, where you get to fully appreciate this colourful piece of American history.
It’s totally picture-perfect and one of the best things to do in Charleston if you want to visit some of the historic houses.
Plus, for a gorgeous period hotel, check into the Hotel Bella Grace which is totally historic and so sumptuous.
3.) Relax at Waterfront Park
Nestled on the bank of the Cooper River lies the 12-acre Waterfront Park.
The park is a pretty scenic spot in the city, for sure. Plus, as it’s located close to the French Quarter, it makes for a perfect tie-in spot when exploring this area.
If you are lucky, you may even spot a dolphin leaping in the Atlantic waters.
Afterwards, pop over to Carmella’s for some of the tastiest and dreamy chocolate cake you’ll ever eat. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.
4.) Get in a bit of history and culture at Exchange and Provost
This historic building is located just south of Waterfront Park.
Built within the 1760s, it was once upon a time used as a British-run prison in the Revolutionary War and for many other purposes since then.
It’s probably worth springing for a guided tour when you’re here to help you get the full low-down on the history of Exchange and Provost and its place in the city.
5.) Find out more about the city at Middleton Place
Located near the Ashley River, Middleton Place is a historic plantation site built in the 1730s and a visit here is one of the most important things to do in Charleston – not least of all because of what plantations stood for back in American history.
On a lighter note though, the site houses America’s oldest landscaped gardens and is a pretty spot to spend an afternoon in. It really is one of the best things to do in Charleston after a long morning of exploring the streets.
Afterwards, pop into Circa 1886 which serves up some of the best dishes in the city. Now, just make sure to book a table in advance (especially on weekends), this spot fills up fast.
6.) Take in an iconic part of American history at Fort Sumter
This national monument marks the site of where the American Civil War began – ergo why it’s a key piece of American history.
The sea fort is reachable by boat at one of the two departure locations (Patriots Point and Liberty Square).
Also, if you plan on going, I’d recommend getting tickets in advance to avoid any disappointment (tickets can be purchased at least one day before).
7.) Slow things down a notch at Johns Island
Step away from the city and venture out to Johns Island, the largest island in South Carolina.
The area is about a 45-minute drive from the city and there’s a lot of chilled, fun stuff to do here. Plus, you might even get to see some wild dolphins.
A large, old and picturesque tree known as the Angel Oak is a must-see on your visit. It kinda reminds me of many TV shows (and indeed movies) set in the South (you’ll see why when you visit).
8.) Do some sombre reflect at the Old Slave Mart
George Santayana once said, “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it”. This phrase is more than enough reason why a visit to the Old Slave Mart is a really important thing to do in Charleston.
The Old Slave Mart building, as the name suggests, is the former slave market and is located along the cobblestone streets of the French Quarter.
Now, although the Old Slave Mart is a relatively small museum, it more than makes up for its relatively diminutive size with its wealth of information. It’s a total reminder of the dark history of slavery in the city and indeed, across America.
9.) Get lost (not literally!) on Morris Island
Morris Island is an uninhabited, remote 840-acre island in Charleston Harbour. To get to the island, you need to take a boat and as there are no amenities on the island, it is recommended to bring with you anything you need.
When you get here, there is a historic lighthouse you can take a little stroll to and if you’re into fishing. Well, you’ve come to the right place.
If neither fishing nor strolls on beautiful fine sand are ‘up your street’ – you can just kick back, relax and take in life at a slower pace than in the city.
Honestly, it’s one of the best things to do in Charleston if you want a little break from the city scene.