Wander Guide: Charleston, SC
Charleston, SC is one of my favorite cities. It’s charming, historic, and a food lovers dream. I’ve visited Charleston a handful of times over the years and always want to return. If you love southern charm (not just the TV show), then Charleston needs to be on your must visit destination list!
This guide is based off of my experiences in Charleston, SC. I’m a very budget-friendly traveler, so a lot of these suggestions are related to saving money and still having a great vacation.
Where To Stay
Staying in Charleston is expensive. We typically stay a little outside of the downtown area, and drive or Uber in for dinner.
Where I’ve Stayed:
Springhill Suites Charleston Mount Pleasant – New hotel in Mount Pleasant, right across the bridge from Charleston. Great location and just a short drive/Uber to downtown Charleston. There were also a lot of restaurants and shopping options near the hotel.
Springhill Suites Downtown/Riverview – A pretty basic hotel not far from downtown. There was not a lot to do around the hotel, so you would need to drive or get a car to go somewhere.
Splurge on a nice hotel in downtown Charleston – There are some beautiful hotels in the heart of Charleston. I will probably never stay in one, but if you have the means, this would definitely be the ideal choice.
Rent a beach house – I’d love to rent a beach house, but it was rather expensive when I was looking for a place for us and our two dogs. I stayed in a huge beach house in Isle of Palms for my senior trip in high school and it was a blast. This would be an awesome option for a larger group of people.
What To Do
Walk Downtown Charleston (Or Take A Walking/Carriage Tour) – There are so many charming buildings to see and it is always lovely to walk by the water. A few key places to check out would be Waterfront Park (I love the Pineapple fountain), Rainbow Row, and The Battery/White Point Garden. I’ve taken a carriage tour and walked around the city without a tour guide. I prefer walking around the city but both are good options.
Go To The Beach – You should 100% go to the beach when you are in Charleston. There are a few great beaches very close to the city. More on the Charleston area beaches below!
Visit Fort Sumter – If you are a history buff or looking for something a little different to do, then taking the Fort Sumter tour is a great option.
Tour A Plantation – We visited Magnolia Plantation but there are a lot of other plantations to chose from. This would be a great option for those who want to explore nature, see some wildlife, and have a few hours to stroll the a beautiful property.
Kayak in Shem Creek – Such a fun option for a more outdoorsy/adventurous option. Kyle and I kayaked Shem Creek a few years ago and I still remember it fondly. We did not venture out into the ocean that day because of the weather, but there are plenty of places to explore on Shem Creek. There are a few kayak rental places that make it a easy and fun experience. We even saw a few dolphins.
Shop in the Charleston City Market – The Charleston City Market is a staple and a must visit place on your trip to Charleston. There are lots of little booths with handmade goodies. If you are into shopping, there are a lot of shops in this area as well.
Patriots Point – Patriots Point is a naval and maritime museum. This is another great option for those history buffs.
The four beaches near Charleston are Folly Beach, Kiawah Island, Isle of Palms, and Sullivan’s Island. I have them listed below from my personal favorite to least favorite. However, they are all great beaches, and I highly recommend spending a day at the beach on your trip to Charleston.
Folly Beach – We visited Folly Beach last year on our Babymoon and I loved it. Personally, I like to feel a little more secluded on my beach going experience. Around the pier there were definitely more people, but also more things to do. (Restaurant, bar, etc) We drove out a little more to Folly Beach County Park. I think it was $10 for access for the day. However, I thought it was completely worth it because it was less crowded and we could leave and come back throughout the day. There are quiet a few shops and restaurants on the main road, whenever you need a break from chilling on the beach.
Kiawah Island – Kiawah Island beach is absolutely gorgeous. It is a little farther away and definitely more secluded. They have a little beach shop and bathrooms but other than that, there is not much around. This beach is perfect if you bring all the stuff you will need for a day at the beach. The sand is perfectly soft and the water is gorgeous. It almost feels like being away at a beach resort. It’s a great beach for taking a long walk and looking for star dollars.
Isle Of Palms – Isle of Palms is a great community for families or large groups on a nice beach. There are cute little shops and restaurants nearby and it definitely feels like a vacation town. There are a lot of large, beautiful homes that people rent for a beach vacation. However, the sand is a little more rough/dirty, compared to the previous two beaches. It is also a little farther away from Charleston.
Sullivan’s Island – Sullivan’s Island is pretty close to downtown Charleston. This would be a great option if you just want to take a stroll on the beach but I personally did not like this beach as much as the others. We had dinner at a nearby restaurant and then walked the beach, so for that purpose I thought it was enjoyable.
Where To Eat & Drink
Charleston is a food lovers dream. There are so many fantastic restaurants that it is hard to go wrong (well, unless you decided to eat at a chain restaurant, so please don’t do that). There are ton of fine dining restaurants in downtown Charleston, but I haven’t been to any of those. (If you Google search restaurants in Charleston, most of these will be the top results. I’ve heard good things about Husk, Fig, Magnolias, The Macintosh, and Slightly North Of Broad, to name a few.)
I tend to eat at more budget-friendly restaurants, so here are my recommendations for great Charleston restaurants and bars that won’t break the bank:
Fleet Landing (Downtown Charleston) – Eating at Fleet Landing is always at the top of my list when visiting Charleston. Great seafood and drinks. I LOVE the location (right on the water)! It’s so relaxing to sit outside and enjoy a cocktail. I always enjoy walking over to Waterfront Park after eating here.
Charleston Crab House (Downtown Charleston) – A fantastic seafood restaurant. Nothing fancy. In fact, they bring a bucket of seafood that is so fresh and delicious, and you probably will get messy. It is 100% worth the mess. If you are a seafood lover then you need to go here.
Taco Boy (Folly Beach) – A quirky little taco restaurant with really good food and margaritas. It’s a fun place to visit after spending the day on the beach. It’s a very casual restaurant.
Poe’s Tavern (Sullivan’s Island) – Poe’s Tavern is an Edgar Allan Poe themed restaurant. The atmosphere is a little dark and moody. It was an interesting restaurant and I put it on the list because it was fun to go to but the food was pretty basic.
Bacco (Mount Pleasant) – A seriously delicious Italian restaurant. Homemade pasta. Good wine. A good restaurant to go to when you want a break from seafood.
Henry’s – A fun bar with live music and a rooftop bar right in the heart of the city. It’s a great place to hang out and have a few drinks.
Craftsmen Tap House – Tons of beer and a good cocktail list.
Well… there you have it!
Have I convinced you to take a trip to Charleston yet? It’s the perfect spot for a long weekend, week long family beach trip, babymoon, girls trip… you name it. There’s so much to do in this city that you can create an enjoyable trip to meet your needs.