Vacationing in Charleston

Vacationing in Charleston, SC -- the beach is one of several options

Planning a Vacation in Charleston, SC? Here’s What You Need to Know

Charleston, SC is known to lots of people for lots of reasons—from its history and restaurants to its waterways and beaches. This has turned Charleston into a top vacation destination not just in the United States, but in the world. If you are planning a vacation in Charleston, you’ve made a good choice. Here is some information you can use to help plan your stay:

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Traveling to Charleston, SC

Traveling to Charleston, SC | The Ultimate Vacation Guide

Planning on traveling to Charleston, SC? From navigating the airport to choosing the right restaurants and beaches, here’s everything you need to know. If you’re planning a trip to Charleston, SC, you’re not alone. The Holy City has become a […]

When is the Best Time to Visit Charleston, SC?

When is the Best Time to Visit Charleston, SC?

When is the best time to visit Charleston, SC? If you’re planning a vacation to the peninsula or one of Charleston’s beaches (or both), you can visit the Holy City year-round. Here are some of our tips for visiting each […]

Planning Your Cooper River Bridge Run Weekend

Planning Your Cooper River Bridge Run Weekend

If you’re visiting Charleston for the Cooper River Bridge Run, there’s a lot you can do to get the most out of your time in the Holy City. Here are some insider tips for planning the rest of your weekend. […]

What to Do with Shark Teeth You Find at the Beach

What to Do with Shark Teeth You Find at the Beach

Finding a shark tooth at the beach can be a highlight of your day (or even your vacation). But, what should you do with your fossil when you get home? Here are seven ideas for what to do with shark […]

Getting to Know Charleston’s Beaches: Guide to Edisto Beach

Getting to Know Charleston’s Beaches: Guide to Edisto Beach

Of the Charleston area’s public beaches, Edisto Beach is undoubtedly the least well-known. It’s farther away than the area’s other beaches (unless you live on the outskirts of West Ashley), and it lacks much of the panache of Kiawah Island […]

Getting to Know Charleston’s Beaches: Guide to Isle of Palms

Isle of Palms is one of the Charleston area’s two main beaches (along with Folly Beach) that are popular spring break and summer vacation destinations. But, Isle of Palms is also home to many full-time residents, and it is popular […]

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5 Main Places to Vacation in Charleston

One of the most unique things about vacationing in Charleston is that you have several options of where to stay—all of which offer their own unique flavor and authentic Charleston experience. Most vacationers pick one of the following five options for renting a vacation home or hotel room—and then they either stay put or rent a car to explore other areas:

  • Downtown Charleston – Staying in downtown Charleston is a bucket-list vacation for many people. You can rent a historic house or luxury hotel room within walking distance of all “the peninsula” has to offer. This includes the shops and restaurants on King Street, the Charleston City Market, the historic district South of Broad, Waterfront Park, theaters, museums, and so much more. Vacationers staying in Charleston can also take tour boats to Fort Sumter or take sunset dinner cruises that depart from either side of the peninsula.
  • Edisto Beach – Edisto Beach is considered the Charleston area’s beach that is “off the beaten path.” Edisto Beach is the most laid back of Charleston’s beaches by far, and what it lacks in nightlife it makes up for in serene, natural beauty. Edisto Beach is a popular destination for families and other groups, and the shops and restaurants on Jungle Road offer coffee, seafood, pizza, ice cream, kayak rentals, and all of the other “necessities” of a relaxed beach vacation.
  • Folly BeachFolly Beach is a short drive from downtown Charleston. While it is Charleston’s busiest beach in the summer, this needs to be understood in context—visiting any beach in Charleston is entirely unlike visiting a beach in a larger city. Along with the one hotel on the island (located waterfront next to the famous Folly Beach Pier), there are more than enough rental homes on the island to accommodate the influx of visitors each summer. Folly Beach’s small downtown area has restaurants of all types as well as a surf shop, and you can rent a surfboard—or even take a surfing lesson—while you are there.
  • Isle of Palms – Isle of Palms is located on the opposite side of the Charleston peninsula from Folly Beach. Isle of Palms has several hotels as well as vacation homes, and the main drag has all of the restaurants you could want to visit on a Lowcountry beach vacation. There is a waterfront golf course on the island, and vacationers can rent kayaks and jet skis at the Isle of Palms Marina. Isle of Palms is connected to Sullivan’s Island via a short bridge and is also just a short drive to Mount Pleasant—where there are a variety of dining and shopping options as well.
  • Sullivan’s IslandSullivan’s Island sits between the Charleston harbor and Isle of Palms. While Sullivan’s Island has a large community of full-time residents, there are vacation homes on the island for those who prefer a quieter and calmer vacation experience. Sullivan’s Island is home to a couple of Charleston’s most famous restaurants; and, from the beach, vacationers can see Fort Sumter or look past the Charleston Light to the Ravenel Bridge.

Top 10 Things To Do on Vacation in Charleston

No matter where you decide to stay for your vacation in Charleston, you can take advantage of as much (or as little) as the Holy City and its beaches have to offer. Here is our list of the top 10 things to do on vacation in Charleston:

1. Go To the Beach

You can go to the beach on vacation in Charleston just about any time of year. Of course, most people go to the beach in the summer. If you go in the summer, plan to be at the beach in the morning (if you need to drive), or you may end up spending time in traffic that you could have spent at the ocean. The spring, fall, and winter can be great times to vacation at Charleston’s beaches as well. You can look for shells and shark teeth on the waterline with much smaller crowds (if any), and the restaurants on each of Charleston’s barrier islands tend to see less traffic during the offseason as well.

2. Rent a Kayak, SUP, or Jet Ski

Renting a kayak, standup paddle board (SUP), or jet ski is a great way to explore Charleston’s waterways. Rather than going in the ocean, you can explore the waters on the inland sides of Edisto, Folly, Isle of Palms, or Sullivan’s island. There is a good chance that you will see a dolphin, if not several; and, if you are feeling adventurous, you can head toward the Morris Island lighthouse (from Folly Beach) or the pristine uninhabited islands north of Isle of Palms.

3. Take a Surfing Lesson

Even if you’ve never surfed, or never even really thought about surfing, we recommend that you take a lesson during your vacation in Folly Beach. You can also rent a board and get a feel for the waves yourself, but working with an instructor for 60 or 90 minutes will give you a much better chance of catching a wave and riding it back to shore. If you get a feel for it, you can rent a board for the rest of your time on the island.

4. Go Out to Eat

A vacation in Charleston wouldn’t be complete without a visit to at least one of the city’s famous restaurants. Whether you go downtown, travel to Sullivan’s Island, or make the quick drive to Shem Creek in Mt. Pleasant, you can find a dining experience you won’t soon forget. If you are looking for family-friendly rather than fine dining, there are plenty of options downtown for this as well, and Edisto Beach, Folly Beach, and Isle of Palms all have restaurants that serve pizza, seafood, and other dishes that will satisfy the whole family.

5. Go for a Walk Downtown or at the Beach

Whether you are staying downtown or on one of the barrier islands, plan a walk during your vacation in Charleston. Downtown, you can walk by historic buildings, window shop, and visit any of the city’s many local attractions that you happen to come across. If you are staying at one of Charleston’s beaches, get up early and walk on the beach during sunrise, take a walk during the day to check out the homes and nature in the area, or head out for a stroll as the sun goes down.

6. Walk Up the Ravenel Bridge

The Ravenel Bridge dominates the Charleston skyline. You can see it from many of the city’s neighborhoods, and its height serves the purpose of allowing huge cargo ships to pass under it on their way to the Port of Charleston. If you are staying downtown, you can access the bridge from the peninsula, or you can drive your rental car to Waterfront Park in Mt. Pleasant. Depending on the side on which you start, the walk to the middle is either about 1.25 or 1.75 miles—and it is well worth it. You can look down 200 feet to the water, ships, and sailboats below; and, if you look out toward the horizon, you can see Sullivan’s Island, Morris Island, Fort Sumter, and the Atlantic Ocean.

7. Visit the Historic Charleston City Market

One of the best places to pick up a souvenir of your vacation in Charleston is the historic Charleston City Market on the peninsula. This covered market has several blocks of vendors who sell everything from handmade gifts and pralines to books, jewelry, and clothes. Many of the products here are either Charleston or South Carolina-themed, so you will never forget where and when you found them.

8. Take a Horse-Drawn Carriage Ride

Taking a horse-drawn carriage ride is the quintessential way to see downtown Charleston on vacation. As one tour operator explains in its FAQs, “Charleston is one of the only cities in the world where the animals are monitored individually.” You can visit the tour operator’s FAQs page to learn more about where the horses live, the care they receive, and how much time they spend working compared to how much time they spend on the farm.

9. See a Live Show or Sporting Event

Charleston has several live entertainment venues, including the historic Sottile Theatre, Gaillard Center, and Dock Street Theatre downtown. Other venues include Charleston Music Hall, the Charleston Coliseum, and Credit One Stadium. The Charleston RiverDogs are a minor league baseball team that plays its home games on the peninsula, and the Charleston Battery are a professional soccer team that plays in Patriots Point. Depending on when you take your vacation in Charleston, you may be able to spectate a PGA or ATP event as well.

10. Go On a Fishing Charter, Eco Tour, or Sunset Cruise

While Charleston is known for its beaches, its inland waterways are also world-class. Fishing charters depart daily from various locations around Charleston, and eco tours to uninhabited islands and protected wildlife areas are also scheduled regularly. Another great way to get on the water is to take a sunset cruise departing from Charleston City Marina or Patriots Point. You can watch the sun set over Charleston, then head back to wherever you are staying to relax for the rest of the evening.

Sample Itinerary: A Long Weekend in Charleston

Let’s say you are planning a long weekend in Charleston. If you have an evening and two full days, what should you do to get the most out of your vacation? Here is a sample itinerary:

  • Day 1: After checking into your hotel in downtown Charleston, walk outside and head toward King Street. Window shop as you work your way down toward the Battery. If you make it all the way to the end, pat yourself on the back and soak in the views of the Charleston harbor. If you don’t, that’s okay—there is plenty to distract you along the way. As you are walking, check out the menus in the windows of the restaurants you pass, and pick one for a relaxing dinner before you head back to your hotel.
  • Day 2: Start the morning with breakfast at one of the many coffee shops downtown. Once you are fueled up, explore the historic Charleston City Market before continuing north to Joe Riley Waterfront Park. Then, head east toward Rainbow Row. Pick out one of the restaurants along the way for lunch, then make your way to the dock for an afternoon cruise or eco tour. Make a reservation at a different restaurant for the evening, then see a show at the Sottile Theater, Gaillard Center, or Dock Street Theatre.
  • Day 3: It’s time to get off of the peninsula and head to the beach for some outdoor life. Get an early start to beat the rush to Folly Beach. Park along the road where permitted (just make sure all four tires are in the sand), and get breakfast on the main drag. You can’t go wrong with any of the options that are there. After breakfast, head toward third street to rent a surfboard right on the beach. Feel the power of the waves until you are famished, then head back to land for lunch at one of the many restaurants with an outdoor patio. Reward yourself for your effort in the morning with a relaxing afternoon in the sun, then try out one more of Charleston’s famous Lowcountry restaurants before calling it a day.

FAQs: Going on Vacation in Charleston, SC

Is Charleston, SC Worth Visiting?

Charleston, SC is absolutely worth visiting. There is a reason why Charleston has been named a top vacation destination in the world several years in a row. From its history, culture, and culinary reputation to its beaches and untouched natural beauty, the Lowcountry should be a bucket list destination no matter what you like to do during your travels.

What is the Best Month to Visit Charleston, SC?

Most people will tell you that the best month to visit Charleston, SC is either May or June. During these months, it is warming up outside, but you still aren’t dealing with three-digit temperatures we can see at the height of summer. This is just the beginning of the on season, so you won’t encounter as many other visitors during your stay, but you will still get the full experience of summer Lowcountry living. Alternatively, December is a great month to visit as well. You can go to the beach with a sweatshirt (or not); and, if you enjoy the holiday season, you can see a live performance of the Nutcracker, walk downtown’s decorated streets in the evening, and check out the one-of-a-kind drive-through light show at James Island County Park.

Where is the Best Part of Charleston, SC to Stay?

The best part of Charleston to stay in during your vacation depends on what you want to do while you are here. If you want to experience Charleston’s rich history and culinary offerings, then staying downtown on the peninsula is your best option. If you want a laid-back beach experience, then rent a vacation home on Folly Beach or venture even further out to Edisto Island. If you want to stay at the beach but still be close to everything Charleston has to offer, then Folly, Isle of Palms, and Sullivan’s Island are all good options.

How Many Days Do You Need in Charleston, SC?

The answer to this question depends on what you want to get out of your Charleston vacation. If you just want to get a taste for what it’s like to live in the Holy City, you can tick off many of the area’s major attractions and neighborhoods in about three or four days. But, if you want to take some time to relax, slow down, rent a kayak or surfboard, and perhaps take a guided tour or go on a charter or cruise, then even a full week will go by fairly quickly.

What Should I Not Miss in Charleston, SC?

If there is one thing we would say you should not miss in Charleston, we would say it is the Charleston sunrise. There is just something different about seeing the sun come up over the Lowcountry, and it is the perfect way to start your day. Next on the list would be to check out at least one of the city’s famous southern cuisine restaurants, followed closely by getting on the water in a kayak, sailboat, or other chartered vessel.

Do You Need a Car in Charleston, SC?

Whether you need a car in Charleston, SC also depends on where you stay. If you are staying downtown, you can easily spend three or more days on the peninsula without needing to drive. Likewise, if you are planning to camp out at a vacation home or hotel on the beach for a week, taking a shuttle from the airport should suffice. But, if you want to explore multiple areas of Charleston, or if you want to tour one of Charleston’s famous historic plantations like Magnolia Gardens or Middleton place, then renting a car is a good idea. Charleston is easy to navigate, and traffic generally isn’t a problem—except trying to get to the beach on a summer afternoon.

What’s So Special About Charleston, SC?

What’s so special about Charleston, SC? Once you come here on vacation, you will know. From the atmosphere of downtown to the Lowcountry lifestyle, you truly feel like you are somewhere unique while you are here. From eating at famous restaurants and going to shows at historic theaters to relaxing on the beach and fishing offshore, there is so much to do in Charleston, and a vacation in the Holy City can truly be the trip of a lifetime.