Charleston is one of the most amazing travel destinations in the United States.
There, we said it.
This city and the surrounding region has something for every type of traveler. There’s history, shopping, dining, and outdoor adventure. Families with young children, retired couples, and solo travelers all find themselves returning to this beautiful place again and again.
If you are driving or towing an RV to Charleston, there are two wonderful campground options with great locations. You can find our detailed review of the Mount Pleasant/Charleston KOA here. And you can find our detailed review of the James Island County Campground here.
Both campgrounds are beautiful. Both campgrounds have amazing amenities. Your preferred location and availability will be the most important factors in which one you choose. And no matter where you park your rig, you will have the vacation of a lifetime enjoying these 23 things to do in Charleston, South Carolina.
1. Palmetto Carriage Works Tours
There are quite a few options for carriage tours in Charleston, but this one is our favorite. The tour guides are fun and informative. You can tour the barn and visit the animals, plus the company is transparent about the welfare of their horses.
2. Charleston Pirate Tours
Learning about the history of pirates in Charleston from a costumed pirate with a parrot on the shoulder? Yes, please. Sabrina and Eric will take you through the oldest parts of the city and make the golden age of piracy come alive. This 2-hour walking tour starts at the Powder Magazine Museum and includes a visit to the Old Exchange Building and Provost Dungeon.
3. Old Exchange Building and Provost Dungeon
This is one of the most historically important buildings in Charleston, so even if you don’t do the Pirate Tour, put this on your agenda. There’s two floors of exhibits, plus a 25-minute guided tour of the Provost Dungeon, which was used as a British military prison during the Revolutionary War. You can also see the only publicly viewable part of the original city wall in the dungeon.
4. Charleston City Market
The artisans and entrepreneurs of the Charleston area have some of their best wares on display here. Yes, there is a fair share of touristy trinkets. But there is also a variety of beautiful Sweetgrass baskets, fresh roasted coffee, and other local delights.
5. Fort Moultrie
This fort was the first on Sullivan Island, and had a storied military history from the Revolutionary War through the Civil War and beyond. It’s been restored to display artifacts from the major periods of American history. Visit Fort Moultrie before you head out to Fort Sumter.
6. Fort Sumter
The first shots of the Civil War were fired here, and you can’t visit Charleston without taking the ferry boat out to Fort Sumter. Book the first ferry boat of the day and you get to participate in the flag raising ceremony. Also make time to explore the exhibits at the national monument.
7. USS Yorktown
Located at the Patriot’s Point Naval and Maritime Museum in Mount Pleasant, the USS Yorktown was the 10th US Naval Aircraft Carrier and served in WWII and Vietnam before being decommissioned in 1970. There are multiple self-guided walking tours available and you can get audio sets for additional fee. Tours #1 and #3 are a great combination. Tour #3 will take you up to the flight deck and through all the control rooms and officer quarters. Tour #1 will lead you through the living quarters of the ship.
8. Magnolia Plantation and Gardens
There are so many plantation tours available in the Charleston area, but the Magnolia Plantation has two things that stand out: the trolley tour and the award-winning gardens. The dark stain of slavery can easily be overlooked on a visit to some of the area plantations. Magnolia Plantation has a Slavery to Freedom Tour which focuses on the slave dwellings, the history of the Gullah, and their contributions to low country culture.
9. Charleston RiverDogs Minor League Baseball Game
Minor league games are a fantastic way to soak in local flavor, and the RiverDogs is a particularly great option. The food options include chicken and waffles served in a dog bowl and macaroni and cheese with pulled pork and okra. Bellyitcher Ale is the signature ballpark beer specially made by the local Rusty Bull Brewing company.
10. Bulls Island with Coastal Expeditions
Bulls Island is an uninhabited island three miles off the coast of South Carolina that is part of the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge. You’ll have to take your own private boat to get there, or you can hop on the Coastal Expeditions ferry, which offers half or full day trips to the island. It’s a mile and a half hike from the dock to the beach, so wear appropriate clothes, a hat, sunscreen, and bug spray. Bring plenty of water and snacks. Then have an absolutely magical day.
11. Center for Birds of Prey
Take the guided tour and learn more about owls, eagles, and vultures than you ever thought you needed to know. Then enjoy the amazing flight demonstrations with falcons, hawks, and other raptors. The Center is right down the road from the Coastal Expeditions ferry, so the two activities could be easily combined for a picture perfect day in the Charleston area.
12. Isle of Palms County Park Beach
If you want to relax at the beach in Isle De Palms, go to the county park. There is ample parking for a $10 fee. Plus, they provide restrooms, rentals, changing rooms, and showers. You are also within walking distance to nearby ice cream shops and restaurants.
13. Sullivan’s Island Beach
After you tour Fort Moultrie, relax on Sullivan’s Island Beach where you’ll enjoy a view of downtown Charleston and Fort Sumter. Parking can be a challenge, but persistence will pay off with the relatively uncrowded beaches and wide sandy expanse. There’s plenty of shopping and dining in the area as well.
14. Shem’s Creek
A local pointed us to the boardwalk at Shem’s Creek and we enjoyed a beautiful evening walk and stunning sunset. You can watch the shrimp boats at the docks and pick from a number of restaurants with phenomenal views. For our money, we would stick with a cocktail and then head to nearby Page’s for dinner.
15. Folly Beach
If you are staying on James Island, then Folly Beach will be much closer than Sullivan’s Island or Isle of Palms. The county park offers a guarded beach, parking, rest rooms, and showers. The town has plenty of charming shops and well reviewed restaurants.
16. Swig and Swine
There are multiple locations of this restaurant around Charleston, but we like the one right across the street from the City Market. All the BBQ is good, but the Burnt Ends steal the show. The wings are perfectly moist and crisp. The fried pickles are divine.
17. Fleet Landing
Located about a block away from the famous Pineapple Fountain, Fleet Landing offers a rare combination: great views and great food. They hit the nail on the head with many low country favorites like the She Crab Soup, stuffed hush puppies, and shrimp and grits.
18. Poogan’s Smokehouse
Poogan’s Smokehouse has more of that wonderful Charleston BBQ, but the snacks and appetizers are particularly good here so we recommend this place for a late afternoon happy hour after you’ve been touring the city. Try the Pimento Cheese Fritters and Buffalo Pork Rinds.
19. Smoke BBQ
If you are shopping on King’s Street, do not miss the opportunity to eat at this gem of a bar and grill in Charleston. Their speciality is taking famous sandwiches and pulling a BBQ twist. Order the Pastrami Reuben, the Cuban, or the Sloppy Smoke.
20. Acme Lowcountry Kitchen
Enjoy breakfast here before heading to the beach in Isle of Palms. Delicious eggs benedict, pancakes, biscuits, and big hearty breakfasts.
21. Page’s Okra Grill
Page’s Okra Grill is the very first place Mount Pleasant locals recommend when you ask them for restaurants in Mount Pleasant. They have all the the favorites–fried green tomatoes, country fried steak, and fried chicken–executed in the richest fashion possible. You won’t be able to clear your plate here.
22. SeeWee Restaurant
This is a road food classic, and you’ll find all the classic low country favorites done without all the fancy twists that are on the menu at the new wave of Charleston restaurants. SeeWee takes the prize for our very favorite hushpuppies of all time. The Po Boys are practically too big to eat. Get your fish done SeeWee style with old bay, garlic, lemon, and sherry.
23. Early Bird Diner
Breakfast is served all day, so there is no excuse for missing out on the best Chicken and Waffles in the entire country. You’ll also love the Country Scramble, the Corn Cake Benedict, and the ridiculously flavorful and creamy grits.
There’s probably another 230 amazing things to do, see, and eat in Charleston, South Carolina. But these will keep you busy for the next couple of trips at least.
See you at the campground,
Stephanie + Jeremy