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Sightseeing And Tourist Attractions In Charleston, SC

Sightseeing In Charleston, SC

Our Favorite Tourist Attractions In Charleston

Our family vacation this year took us back to one of our all-time favorite places in America – Charleston, South Carolina! I have been taking T to Charleston ever since he was a little baby and he absolutely loves it there. It was off the shores of Edisto Beach that he took his very first glimpse of the ocean. The first time he laid eyes on a real alligator was along the inky waters of the Audubon Swamp Walk at Magnolia Plantation in Charleston. His great love of all things natural was first fed by an up-close and personal experience beneath the massive limbs of the ancient Angel Oak Tree. Our love of Charleston and all of the sightseeing opportunities and tourist attractions go back as long as T has been here and so it holds a very special place in our hearts.

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Let me tell you all about our very favorite tourist attractions in Charleston.

Charleston, South Carolina – Summer of 2019

Sullivan’s Island Beach In Charleston, SC

Sullivans Island Lighthouse Charleston SC
Sullivan’s Island Lighthouse

This year, we returned to all the charm that Charleston has to offer and it was just as amazing as ever. We rented a beautiful house less than a mile from Sullivan’s Island Beach.  We love all the beaches in Charleston, but Sullivan’s Island proved far less crowded than the masses we had encountered at Folley Beach. It was well loved, very clean, and just around the corner from Poe’s Tavern – our favorite burger spot in Charleston!

Pelican's Diving For Dinner at Sullivan's Island Beach
Pelican’s Diving For Dinner at Sullivan’s Island Beach
Sullivan's Island Beach
Our first look at the beach on Sullivan’s Island. No crowds anywhere!
Sullivan's Island Lighthouse
The Sullivan’s Island Lighthouse is thought of as a modern lighthouse. This one contains an elevator and has AC!
Cannonball Jellyfish in South Carolina
Cannonball Jellyfish were washing up onto the shores of Sullivan’s Island Beach in Charleston.

Jellyfish In Charleston

The second day of swimming at Sullivan’s Island Beach we started to notice these jellyfish washing up onto the shore. The locals ignored them but when asked, they identified them as cannonball jellyfish. They said we need not worry about these much but warned us that reports of Portuguese Man Of War had come in and we should definitely steer clear of them. We didn’t see a single one but the day after we came home, one did wash up on this little beach! Here’s the article! Yikes!

Visiting Historic Charleston

Historic Charleston Residences
Historic Charleston is made up of several different districts. Some contain residential homes and others are full of shops and restaurants.

The Charleston Peninsula is made up of 5 distinct neighborhoods: The Boroughs, Harleston Village, The Business District also called the Shopping District, The French Quarter and South of Broad. We decided we wanted to explore as much of it as possible.

Horse Drawn Carriage Tours in Charleston, SC
What better way to learn all about the History of Charleston than from the set of a horse-drawn carriage!

Horse Drawn Carriage Ride Anyone?

We spent time looking through reviews of many different touring options. They have plenty of walking tours and tour buses to choose from, there are even food tours. But being in such a Historic Town and considering our great love for horses, we found the Horse Drawn Buggy rides absolutely irresistible. After more research, we decided on Palmetto Carriage Tours. We lucked out by getting Maggy as our tour guide. Many people had mentioned her fondly in reviews! She did not disappoint.

Palmetto Carriage Tours
The guys with our amazing tour guide, Maggy with Palmetto Carriage Tours. If you get lucky enough to get her for your guide, make sure to have her sing to you!
Historic Charleston
Ancient trees drip heavy boughs over charming brick or cobblestone sidewalks. Every architectural detail is exquisite – from the curling gates to the intricate trim work.
Pineapple Gates
Stories are hidden in every nook and cranny of Historic Charleston.

The Charleston Pineapple and Why You Better Eat That Pineapple Upside-Down Cake In A Hurry

Notice the pineapples perched atop these brick pillars? While you may know that pineapple signifies hospitality and friendship we learned that the pineapple impaled at a gate represented the return of a sea captain to his home. Therefore, seeing a pineapple displayed this way meant the lady of the house was now accepting friends.

What we were all surprised to learn is that an upside-down pineapple has the opposite meaning. In Charleston, if someone served you pineapple upside down cake, it was their way of sweetly asking you to leave.

Learning About The Great Fires In Charleston

Kitchen House in Charleston South Carolina
After the Great Fire of 1740, kitchens were built as separate buildings from homes and constructed of brick.

Charleston has suffered from too many colossal fires. In the 1830’s alone, Charleston suffered from no less than fourteen massive blazes. Among the most memorable fires ever to burn in Charleston was The Great Fire of 1740 which destroyed over three hundred residences and businesses and led to the building of separate Kitchen Houses (like the one pictured above).  The Great Fires of 1861 and 1863 left in their wakes unimaginable destruction. To get a better picture of the horror of the great fire of 1861 read this first-hand account of the remains of the ashen city from the New York Times archives. The fire burned over 540 acres, 575 homes, numerous businesses, and five churches. Another Great Fire blazed on  April 27, 1838, destroying over a thousand buildings, taking many lives, and leaving even the most wealthy, with nothing. These parts of Charleston History have left their dark marks all over this otherwise beautiful town.

Charleston Is Also Known As The Holy City

Charleston is also well known as The Holy City. It doesn’t take long for you to figure out why this name suits Charleston so well! Church steeples rise towards the heavens around just about every corner. Synagogues are also laid out before the citizens in great abundance. Charleston is well recognized for its religious tolerance and has been since the 1700s. Not many historic sites can claim the same.

Circular Congregational Church in Historic Charleston
“The circular congregational church was co-founded with Charles Towne, 1680–1685, by the English Congregationalists, Scots Presbyterians, and French Huguenots of the original settlement. These “dissenters” erected a Meeting House in the northwest corner of the walled city. The present sanctuary occupies that exact site. The street leading to it was called “Meeting House Street,” later shortened to Meeting Street.” – Data Source: Wikipedia
The Holy City - Charleston South Carolina

After our tour of the city, we returned to downtown to view several of these churches up close. As you can see in the picture above, the rain was threatening but we refused to be deterred.

Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Charleston, SC
The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist

Here are the guys admiring The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. This church was sadly included among the devastating losses from The Great Fire of  1861. Now, it has been rebuilt on the original 1854 foundation. This version is made of Connecticut tool-chiseled brownstone and it is stunning!

Charleston Makes For A Great Family Vacation

This year’s family vacation was wonderful in so many ways. We ate amazing food! And then we learned a bunch of history. And we spent most of our time in the ocean. Finally, we came home with treasures of seashells and memories of singing Amazing Grace with Maggy from the seat of a horse-drawn carriage as we worked our way through one of America’s most lovely towns. And did I mention that we also ate really well!

The sun setting over the shore at Sullivan's Island Beach.
The sun setting over the shore at Sullivan’s Island Beach. T and I were reluctant to leave. Just one more seashell?
Seashells from Sullivan's Island
Jewels of the Sea!
Seashell at Sullivan's Island
We had to leave this one behind because somebody was home in there. 🙂
Boardwalk to Sullivan's Island Beach
The Boardwalk to Sullivan’s Island Beach! Little yellow flowers grew along the sand. The sound of the Atlantic ocean can be heard before her waves appear.

And now that I am home I drift to sleep thinking of that lighthouse, remembering the sound of the waves crashing to the sandy shores, and remembering the stories of Charleston and her people. And I just can’t wait to get back.

The lighthouse at Sullivan's Island in Charleston

Top Five Tourist Attractions in Charleston, SC (Our picks)

Audubon Swamp Garden

The Audubon Swamp Garden is a unique world where trees grow from the water, islands float, and everywhere wild creatures go about their secret lives. It boasts a diversity of living things almost unequaled anywhere else in America. Thousands of plant and animal species coexist amongst the cypress and tupelo gum trees, surrounded by black water. Each year, hundreds of egrets, herons, and other waterfowl nests within feet of the walking path. You can explore this wild and otherwise inaccessible landscape on boardwalks, bridges, and dikes.

The Angel Oak Tree

The Angel Oak Tree is estimated to be in excess of 400-500 years old, stands 66.5 ft (20 m) tall, measures 28 ft (8.5 m) in circumference, and produces shade that covers 17,200 square feet (1,600 m2). From tip to tip Its longest branch distance is 187 ft.  There is considerable debate about the age of the Angel Oak.  Some contend that it is 1,500 years old.  Most believe that the more conservative estimates are more accurate.

Palmetto Carriage Tours

Palmetto Carriage Works is the oldest carriage tour company in Charleston! Tour historic downtown Charleston by mule or horse-drawn carriage with some of the most experienced personnel in the Charleston carriage industry.

Experience 25-30 blocks of Charleston’s historic downtown district, see houses, gardens, mansions, churches & parks, learn about buildings, history, architecture, flora & the people that make up the “Holy City” on this Palmetto Carriage tour!

Barrier Island Eco Tours

Barrier Island Eco Tours offers naturalist-guided tours to Capers Island Heritage Preserve. Our trips depart from the Isle of Palms Marina and take you through winding salt marsh, tidal creeks, and the Intracoastal Waterway to Capers Island.

Along the way, you learn about this amazing ecosystem and the plants and animals that call it home. Bottlenose dolphins, loggerhead sea turtles, and numerous birds are common sightings. Your guide pulls crab traps and throws cast nets to bring marine life onboard to put in our touch tank for closer examination.

Joe Riley Waterfront Park

Riley Waterfront Park is one of the peninsula’s most visited parks, centrally located near The Market. Finished in 1990, Waterfront Park is a favorite of visitors and locals alike, offering fantastic views of the Charleston harbor. Old-fashioned park benches dot the park, and family-sized swings offer a fun way to spend a relaxing afternoon together. A large rectangular lawn provides a great spot for picnics and sunning. Walkways are ideal for strolling, and two large fountains make for fantastic places for children to play, splash and cool off. The fountains light at night, offering a truly spectacular scene along the harbor’s waterfront.

Top Five Restaurant Selections Charleston, SC (Our picks)

Poe’s Tavern

They offer the most fun in burgers anywhere. With choices like the Tell-Tale Heart ( 1/2 pound burger with a fried egg, applewood bacon & cheddar) or The Starving Artist (Bunless with your choice of Pimiento, Roasted Garlic Bleu, Sweet Pepper Goat or Jalapeno Jack Cheese served with Marinated Bacon-Bleu Cheese Cole Slaw) or the Amontillado (Guacamole, Jalapeno Jack Cheese, Pico de Gallo & Chipotle Sour Cream) you can’t go wrong. T always tries the burger of the day – even when it was PB&J plus jalapeno and bacon. He ate every bite! The staff is friendly and they are all in with the Poe theme!

The Tattooed Moose

All of my foodie friends insisted we try this place. Everyone claims that their Duck Club and Duck Fat Fries are out of this world! If you don’t want to take our word for it how about this?

“Go for Mike’s Famous Duck Club. It’s a Charleston favorite and named on untold numbers of “best sandwich” lists, but the ingenious combination of duck confit and apple-smoked bacon cannot be overstated.  Plus, duck fat fries”.     `~Charleston Eater

Nigel’s Good Food

I can’t tell you how many people were cheering Nigel’s Good Food when we asked for recommendations. This place offers seafood and soul food that everyone adores.

Nigel and Louise’s goal for “Nigel’s Good Food” is to provide excellent service in an upscale restaurant in North Charleston, where all can enjoy Charleston’s favorite dishes including seafood, and soul food. Everything on the menu at Nigel’s is inspired by the food Nigel grew up eating.

Early Bird Diner

Get the chicken and waffles! Trust us on that!

The Bird is the Word! Located in the heart of West Ashley on Savannah Highway 17, we take pleasure in serving up some the finest made-from-scratch diner fare in Charleston. We get up early and stay up late to feed early birds and night owls alike. When you visit, be sure to check out our daily specials alongside some of our famous staples, like our Chicken & Waffles or our Fried Pork Chop with Red Pepper Jelly. We also line our walls with art for sale by local artists to provide a place in the community where the atmosphere is as comforting as the food.

167 Raw

Because you are on vacation seaside and you NEED the best lobster roll you can get your hands on. This is your chance to have it. Tiny place and you should be prepared to wait a bit. In the end, you won’t mind that you waited. You’ll be excited for the next time you get to wait for your lobster roll.

Check out Charleston and then tell us what you loved best in the comments section below. We love to hear from you!

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