Things to See in Charleston SC

Live Oaks covering curving over road in Charleston

Whether you are driving down from Myrtle Beach for the day or spending a weekend, Charleston South Carolina has so much to offer. This charming city is filled with opportunities for photographers and visitors alike to capture cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages, pastel antebellum houses, and large old oak trees curving overhead. Here are all the things to see in Charleston SC.

Live Oaks covering curving over road in Charleston

Ravenel Bridge

Ravenel Bridge

Driving from Myrtle Beach, I crossed over the Ravenel Bridge and caught my first glimpse of Charleston, which was impressive. There was a sailing event on the Cooper River, and the colorful sails dotting the river were beautiful. Did you know that the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge is the third-longest among cable-stayed bridges in the Western Hemisphere?

Fort Sumter National Monument

Seagull flying above Fort Sumter

Fort Sumter is a sea fort in Charleston, South Carolina, and one of the U.S. National Parks that you have to visit when visiting Charleston. Fort Sumter Tours runs the official tours on the island, and you have to purchase tickets in advance online. Tickets are $30/adults and $18/children (4-11). The ferry ride takes 30 minutes through the harbor, which leaves you with one hour at the fort. If you want to know what the tour is like, check out my blog post touring Fort Sumter.

Historical Homes

Historic Homes in Charleston

There are quite a few walking tours that will take you past all the historic antebellum houses in Charleston. I showed up on a Sunday afternoon, so a little poor planning on my part left me with many places closing early. So, I wandered around Charleston and really enjoyed seeing where my feet and camera took me.

Major Peter Bocquet's House (1770)

Nathaniel Russell House

Nathaniel Russell House in Charleston

The Nathaniel Russel House is a National Historic Landmark that you can tour inside and see how it would have looked in 1808. Located at 51 Meeting Street. This home is considered one of America’s most important Neoclassical houses built by Nathaniel Russel, a wealthy merchant and slave trader. Although many would prefer not to visit this home based on what he did for a living back then, I feel it is important to learn as much about history as you can, even the bad parts, to understand and learn to be better.

Branford-Horry House

Entrance to Branford-Horry House (1751)

The Branford-Horry House built-in 1751 is unusual for its piazza, front porch, which extends over the sidewalk. Located at 59 Meeting Street, this three-story home on the National Register of Historic Places was listed at $6.2M. Not many people could afford this house, but it is still pretty to walk by.

Entrance to Branford-Horry House (1751)

Calhoun/Williams Mansion

Calhoun Mansion (1876)

This Victorian mansion offers public tours during the day (11 a.m. – 5 p.m.) for you to explore this American Castle and its gardens. Admission is $17/person and can be purchased in the Williams Museum shop or online. If you want a bigger tour, check out the New Grand Tour, which covers the entire mansion, including the Italianate tower, for $75/person.

Laurens-Rutledge House

Laurens-Rutledge House (1760)

The Laurens-Rutledge House, built-in 1760, is a Georgian double house with Victorian features. This beautiful yellow pastel house became Edward Rutledge’s home, a Declaration of Independence signer and later governor of South Carolina. The building now operates as The Governors Inn, bed and breakfast.

Balconies on the Laurens-Rutledge House

Edmondston-Alston House

Edmondston-Alston House (1828)

You can take a guided tour of the Edmondston-Alston House at 21 East Battery, Tuesdays through Saturdays from 11;30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are $12/adult and $8/children (6-13). This house is built on the foundation ruins of Fort Mechanic from the 18th-century and has a great view of the Charleston Harbor.

Balcony for Edmondston-Alston House

Rainbow Row

Rainbow Row in Charleston

Rainbow Row is a collection of 13 pastel houses and is the longest cluster of Georgian row houses in the United States. Built-in 1740, you can find these lovely homes north of Tradd St. and south of Elliott St. on 79 to 107 East Bay Street. This pretty colorful street is one of Charleston’s most photographed areas, and you will probably see lots of people with cameras walking along Rainbow Row.

Historic Buildings

Missroon House - Granville Bastion

Besides the gorgeous antebellum homes spread around Charleston, many of the city and government buildings are photo-worthy. If you like architecture, this is the place to visit. There are so many historic buildings everywhere you look, your camera won’t stop taking photos.

Historic Charleston City Market

Museum at Market Hall

The Charleston City Market, a National Historic Landmark, is one of the nation’s oldest public markets and opened every day except Christmas. Started in the 1790s, the market stretches for four city blocks. You can always find something to see, taste, and take home as a souvenir from the market from the more than 300 vendors. I recommend picking up a beautiful Sweetgrass basket which you can see the ladies making throughout the city.

Churches in Charleston

Circular Church Graveyard-Circular Congregational Church

I love photographing old churches and graveyards, especially in the south. And there are some lovely ones in Charleston. Each one of these churches has a different look that makes them so appealing. The First Scots Presbyterian Church, built-in 1814, is the fifth oldest church building in Charleston and has twin towers that rise above a columned portico, the seal of the Church of Scotland is displayed in the stained glass window, and decorative wrought iron grilles containing thistles. St. Michael’s Episcopal Church, completed in 1761, is the oldest church building in Charleston and has an impressive steeple and spire, a portico that dates to the late 1880s, and a three-sided second-story gallery and native cedar box-pews. The Romanesque Circular Congregational Church, completed in 1892, was constructed using bricks from the property’s previous church structure.

Charleston Cemeteries

Circular Church Graveyard

One of the coolest places to photograph is in a graveyard. The Circular Church Graveyard is Charleston’s oldest burial ground, with one monument remaining from 1695. And the First Scots Presbyterian Church’s graveyard contains more than 50 stones that date before 1800. I know I could spend hours photographing and wandering around these cemeteries.

Cemetery in Charleston

Waterfront Park

Oak Trees in Charleston

Make sure to walk along the Waterfront Park, the eight-acre park along the one-half mile of the Cooper River, to relax and breathe in the sea air. The views of Charleston Harbor and Fort Sumter are fabulous. And what a southern experience it is to walk under the large oak trees curving over your head.

Gates & Behind the Gates

Iron Gate with Stars in Charleston

When you are walking along the Charleston streets, keep your eyes open and camera ready for the intricately wrought iron gates hiding beautiful gardens. The gates are wonderfully designed, but the gardens hiding behind the gates are immaculate. The gardens remind me of the Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Yes, I know that was in Savannah, but it still reminds me of it.

Cool Things to Photograph

There are so many cool things to photograph in Charleston that makes the trip even more special. From the horse-drawn carriage rides to the gas lantern lamps, exploring Charleston will give you the feeling that you are walking in the southern past. Make sure to walk down every street, and you will be surprised by what you might find around the corner or down a little alley.

Summary

Cobbled Street in Charleston

Exploring the streets of Charleston was pleasant but a short vacation for me. This charming city has everything I enjoy when exploring new places, cobblestone streets, beautiful buildings, large old oak trees, and water. I’m going to have to revisit Charleston when I can go into shops and restaurants and explore Charleston deeper. What are your favorite things to see in Charleston, SC?

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Further Reading

If you are coming to South Carolina for a visit, check out these posts for extra travel inspiration:

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