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Choosing Between Charleston’s Neighborhoods: The Best Options in Seven Categories

Choosing Between Charleston's Best Neighborhoods

The Charleston area has dozens of neighborhoods. There are 14 on the peninsula alone. When you expand your home search to include Daniel Island, James Island, Johns Island, Mount Pleasant, and West Ashley (as most people do), you are potentially looking at thousands of homes. So, how do you choose Charleston’s best neighborhood for you and your family?

The good news is that it is very hard to go wrong. Whether you are a first-time buyer or you are looking for a multi-million-dollar luxury home, you have lots of options—and almost all of them have something unique to offer. But, if you really want to put in the effort to find the neighborhood that is best-suited to your family’s wants and needs, it is worth taking some time to prioritize.

What Are Some of Charleston’s Best Neighborhoods?

When choosing where to focus your home search in Charleston, a good way to start is by thinking about why you are moving. Most people who live in Charleston are here for a reason. With this in mind, we’ve broken our list of Charleston’s best neighborhoods down into seven categories:

  • Waterfront Living
  • Peace and Quiet
  • Families with Young Children
  • City Life
  • Commuting Downtown
  • Working from Home
  • Beach Life

To be clear, we are not saying that any one neighborhood is the “best.” Choosing one of Charleston’s neighborhoods over all of the others simply isn’t possible—what is best for someone else isn’t necessarily what is best for you. Rather, if you are moving to Charleston (or moving within Charleston), these are some of the neighborhoods you may want to consider—among others—in each of the categories listed above.

1. Charleston’s Best Neighborhoods for Waterfront Living

With its abundance of beaches, rivers, and marshes, Charleston has several neighborhoods that offer waterfront living. In fact, there are so many waterfront neighborhoods in Charleston that we have published a separate article devoted to exploring some of these neighborhoods in depth. You can read that article here: 25 Neighborhoods with Waterfront Homes in Charleston.

In that article, we focused specifically on inland neighborhoods. But, if you are interested in waterfront living, it is worth at least taking a look at some of Charleston’s coastal sea island communities as well. While waterfront living is its own unique way of life, living on the ocean is something else entirely.

So, if you are interested in Charleston’s best neighborhoods for waterfront living, where should you go? Some of the neighborhoods you will want to explore include:

2. Charleston’s Best Neighborhoods for Peace and Quiet

While Charleston is steadily growing, there are still several highly-desirable options if you are looking for a neighborhood that offers peace and quiet. Incidentally, many of these neighborhoods have waterfront lots and community docks on deep water as well. Many of the Charleston area’s quieter neighborhoods also have lush, old-growth landscaping, making them truly feel like escapes from the hustle and bustle of day-to-day life.

Finding Charleston’s quieter neighborhoods generally means heading away from the peninsula. But, it is still very possible to find a very nice home in a very quiet neighborhood within daily driving distance. Whether you will be commuting to work or you simply want to be close enough to enjoy all that the Holy City has to offer, these are some of the best options for neighborhoods that offer peace and quiet while still being close to downtown Charleston:

  • Croghan Landing (in West Ashley)
  • Horlbeck Creek (in Mount Pleasant)
  • I’On (in Mount Pleasant)
  • Kiawah River and Kiawah River Estates (on Johns Island)
  • Old Village (in Mount Pleasant)
  • Parkside (on Daniel Island)
  • Popular Grove (in West Ashley)

3. Charleston’s Best Neighborhoods for Families with Young Children

Charleston is known for its history, culture, and outdoor life, and all of these make the Holy City a great place to raise children. Several of Charleston’s neighborhoods cater to young families as well, with pools, playgrounds, duck ponds, small parks, and other child-focused amenities. Many of Charleston’s larger neighborhoods have multiple “villages” within them, each with its own amenities that are within walking distance from most (if not all) homes.

When it comes to neighborhoods for families with young children, choosing between the options that are available comes down to where you want to live. Do you want to be in West Ashley or Mount Pleasant? Or, do you want to live in one of Charleston’s island communities?

Some of Charleston’s best neighborhoods for families with young children include:

  • Carolina Bay (in West Ashley)
  • Carolina Park (in Mount Pleasant)
  • Dunes West (in Mount Pleasant)
  • Hunt Club (in West Ashley)
  • Pierce Park (on Daniel Island)
  • Seaside Plantation (on James Island)
  • Smythe Park (on Daniel Island)

4. Charleston’s Best Neighborhoods for City Life

If you are interested in city life, this means that you will be looking at neighborhoods on the peninsula. Downtown Charleston has several neighborhoods that all have their own unique flavor (and, in some cases, price range). While Charleston is a small city—the peninsula has just over 35,000 residents—you can still very much get a downtown experience being within walking distance to work, restaurants, shopping, gyms, and everything else you need on a day-to-day basis.

Charleston’s downtown neighborhoods have homes ranging from quaint ranch-style homes with small yards to luxury condominiums, and from historic townhomes to fully-renovated multi-million-dollar antebellum mansions on the waterfront. Depending on what you are looking for out of your city life experience, some of the best neighborhoods to explore in downtown Charleston include:

  • Cannonborough and Elliotborough
  • French Quarter
  • Hampton Park Terrace
  • Radcliffborough
  • South of Broad
  • Wagener Terrace
  • Westside

5. Charleston’s Best Neighborhoods for Commuting Downtown

If you don’t want to live in the city but still want a short drive (or perhaps even a jog or bike ride) to work in downtown Charleston, there are several neighborhoods that are close to downtown and that still allow you to feel far away when you are at home. These neighborhoods are great options for commuters who prefer a five to ten-minute drive rather than the twenty to thirty-minute drive that comes with living a bit farther away.

In addition to being close to downtown Charleston for commuting purposes, these neighborhoods—like all of the other neighborhoods on this list—are also close to everything else that the Charleston area has to offer. This includes Charleston’s beaches and boat ramps, public parks, restaurants and local businesses, greenways and trails, and much more.

Some of Charleston’s best neighborhoods for busy professionals who want a short commute to downtown include:

  • Ashleyville (in West Ashley)
  • Avondale (in West Ashley)
  • Country Club (on James Island)
  • Northbridge Terrace (in West Ashley)
  • Old Mount Pleasant (in Mount Pleasant)
  • Old Windemere and South Windemere (in West Ashley)
  • The Groves (in Mount Pleasant)

6. Charleston’s Best Neighborhoods for Working from Home

If you work from home, you really can’t go wrong with any of the neighborhoods on this list. The freedom your work-life balance affords allows you to live just about anywhere you choose.

So, where do you want to go? Do you want to be near the beach? Do you want to be able to walk or bike to a local coffee shop every morning? Do you need to be close to your kids’ school or afterschool activities? Do you want to be able to go to your neighborhood’s pool or gym at lunch (or whenever suits you)? Do you want to be able to relax or launch a kayak from your own dock? Depending on your answers to these questions, some of the neighborhoods you may want to consider (along with the others on this list) include:

  • Brickyard Plantation (in Mount Pleasant)
  • Eastwood (on James Island)
  • Hayes Park (on Johns Island)
  • Oyster Point (in Mount Pleasant)
  • Rushland Plantation (on Johns Island)
  • Simmons Pointe (in Mount Pleasant)
  • Woodhaven (on James Island)
Folly Beach is one of Charleston's best neighborhoods for people who want to live the beach life.
While Folly Beach is one of Charleston's main vacation destinations, it is also home to many full-time residents.

7. Charleston’s Best Neighborhoods for Beach Life

If you want to live the beach life in Charleston, you have plenty of beaches to choose from. The Charleston area has six main inhabited sea islands with beaches that are connected to the mainland, each with its own unique flavor and homes: Isle of Palms, Sullivan’s Island, Folly Island, Kiawah Island, Seabrook Island, and Edisto Island. If you are looking for beach life and solitude, then you can check out Dewees Island—which is only accessible by boat.

Along with Sullivan’s Island and Isle of Palms (listed under Charleston’s best neighborhoods for waterfront living above), some of the best neighborhoods for beach life in Charleston include:

  • Folly Beach (on Folly Island)
  • Edisto Beach (on Edisto Island)
  • Harborgate Shores (in Mount Pleasant)
  • Marsh Harbor (in Mount Pleasant)
  • Oyster Point (in Mount Pleasant)
  • Seabrook Island and Kiawah Island
  • Secessionville Historic District (on James Island)

So, Which One is the Best Neighborhood in Charleston for You?

Out of all of the options that are available, which of Charleston’s neighborhoods is right for you? This is for you to decide. Our advice is to take your time exploring the area, and you will most likely know when something feels just right.

If you are thinking about moving to Charleston, here are our tips for planning a trip to explore the city’s neighborhoods:

1. Choose the Category (or Categories) That Are Most Interesting to You

We recommend choosing one (or maybe two or three) of the categories we listed above to explore during your visit. This will help you refine your search, and it will help you start narrowing down the Charleston neighborhoods that might be best for you. There are literally hundreds of neighborhoods to choose from; so, if you don’t have an idea of the types of neighborhoods you want to explore, you can easily end up checking out neighborhoods that aren’t of interest to you.

You can also read our article that covers each of Charleston’s main residential areas to get an idea for whether you might be more interested in a place like West Ashley or Mount Pleasant, or you might prefer living on one of Charleston’s barrier islands. That article also includes a handy map of Charleston’s main residential areas so you can get an idea of where each neighborhood is located.

Once you choose a category (or categories), plan to visit several neighborhoods in each one. Unless you know you want to live downtown or at the beach, we recommend checking out all of Charleston’s main areas—which you can easily do in a couple of days.

2. Plan to Stay for the Weekend

This brings us to our next tip: Plan to stay for the weekend. If you get into town Friday evening and stay until Sunday evening, two full days is enough time to explore plenty of Charleston’s best neighborhoods during your time in the Holy City. Here’s a map you can use to plan out your stay:

If you only have one day to explore Charleston’s neighborhoods, we’d recommend sticking to one side of the peninsula or the other (unless you are interested in living downtown, in which case you should spend your time there). This means choosing between either:

  • Daniel Island, Isle of Palms, Mount Pleasant, and Sullivan’s Island; or,
  • Folly Beach, James Island, Johns Island, and West Ashley.

Seabrook Island and Kiawah Island are further out—and also fairly unique—so those are probably worth exploring on a trip of its own. Plus the residences on both of these islands are behind a gate, so you’ll need to visit with a real estate agent in order to get in.

With all of that said, we do recommend exploring the entire area—there are lots of great neighborhoods all over Charleston. So, if you can only come for one day, we’d recommend making a second day trip to explore some more neighborhoods before honing in on one particular area.

3. Stay in a Central Location (Like Downtown Charleston)

If you’re coming to town for the weekend, staying in a central location will help you maximize your time. You can head east across the Cooper River (and the Ravenel Bridge) one day, and then head west across the Ashley River the next. Downtown Charleston is a good option (don’t forget, you are thinking about moving to one of the most popular vacation destinations in the world), and you’ll be able to walk to dinner from your hotel after spending all day in the car.

4. Explore Each Neighborhood’s Surroundings

When trying to choose between Charleston’s best neighborhoods, it is also a good idea to explore each neighborhood’s surroundings. In some areas, like James Island, Mount Pleasant, and West Ashley, most neighborhoods are within a short drive of grocery stores, hardware stores, restaurants, gyms, schools, and other essentials. But, if you go farther out to Johns Island, or if you are thinking about living at the beach, you’ll want to make sure you are comfortable with the relatively limited shopping options that are available close by. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing (in fact, this is what many people are looking for when they move to these areas), but it is definitely something to pay attention to while you are exploring each area.

This will give you an idea for the traffic you can expect on a day-to-day basis as well. While the traffic in Charleston is nothing like the traffic in larger cities, certain roads can get a bit congested during rush hour, and the main roads to the beaches can get crowded on summer weekends. This might not be a concern for you; but, if it is, it is best to make a fully- informed decision about the neighborhood you choose.

5. Get a Taste for Life in Charleston

Finally, while you should definitely explore as many of Charleston’s best neighborhoods as possible, you should also take some time to enjoy your stay. Set some time aside to get a taste for life in Charleston. After a busy day of driving, heading to the beach or Shem Creek for a waterfront dinner, taking a stroll by the ocean, or walking on King Street downtown will help you remember what you have to look forward to once you make your decision and commit to your move.

When it comes to choosing the best Charleston neighborhood for you, there is no substitute for making a decision in person. While many people relocate to Charleston without having set foot in the city (or after visiting on vacation several years ago), we think it’s best to make an informed decision based on first-hand experience. Plus, what better excuse is there to make a trip to Charleston? We hope you find our resources useful; and, if you move here, we encourage you to let us know @life_charleston.


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