CHARLESTON: 4 Perfectly Planned Days to See the Sites

Charleston city street corner

Charleston, South Carolina is one of the neatest cities to visit in the United States. If you’re someone who loves historical sites and amazing food, Charleston is the place to go on your next trip. This 4-day itinerary lays out for you some of the must-see and do sites.

Homes in Charleston, South Carolina

CHARLESTON SITES ITINERARY SUMMARY

Day 1 –Carriage Tour, Rainbow Row, City Market
Day 2Fort Sumter and Boone Hall Plantation
Day 3Tour Historic Homes and Patriots Point
Day 4Hit the Beach!

Carriage Tour, Rainbow Row, City Market (Day 1)

The first thing I’d recommend when arriving in Charleston is taking a horse-drawn carriage tour. Book online in advance to save money and ensure you get your preferred tour time. These tours allow you to get a “lay of the land” of the city, and also to learn some basic, historical information.

There are a number of tour companies, two of which are: Palmetto Carriage Works and Charleston Carriage Works. Each one lasts about an hour.

Palmetto Carriage Works barn
Horse and buggy tour

After the tour, check out the Charleston City MarketHere, you can wander through numerous booths of local folks selling a variety of their goods.

The City Market closes at 5:30p.m. Sunday – Thursday, but has evening hours from 6:30 – 10:30 p.m. Friday & Saturday night.

Charleston City Market

If you still have some daylight left, walk by Rainbow Row – a famously beautiful stretch of 13 colorful historic homes. It’s Instagram-worthy for sure!

Rainbow Row in Charleton
Rainbow Row - vertical

Nearby, be sure to explore The Battery, which is a neat park area right next to the water.

The Battery
Walkway at The Battery

Then, walk just 10 minutes towards Waterfront Park and the famous pineapple fountain.

Waterfront Park
Pineapple Fountain at Waterfront Park

Grab one of the free maps of Charleston to help find your way around the city to these various sites.

Where to stay

The Historic District is a great, central location for your stay in Charleston. There are a variety of hotels to choose from and you’re within walking distance to a multitude of sites. Course, I think the ultimate place to stay would be one of the beautiful historic homes that are available to rent throughout the city!

Charleston mansion
Beautiful home in Charleston

Fort Sumter and Boone Hall Plantation (Day 2)

On this second day, check out two popular Charleston sites: Fort Sumter and Boone Hall Plantation. You can save some money by purchasing the combo ticket online that gives you admission for both in the same day.

Morning plan

After grabbing some breakfast, walk to Liberty Square (about a 10-minute walk from the historic district area) where you’ll board the ferry to Fort Sumter. It’s where the first shots of the Civil War are said to have been fired.

Fort Sumter

After a 30-minute ferry ride to the island, you’ll have about an hour to spend at the Fort, primarily exploring on your own.

Grounds of Fort Sumter
Fort Sumter cannon
Hole in wall at Fort Sumter

The first ferry leaves at 9:30 a.m. and I think that’s the best one to take so you can witness the flag raising presentation, which is the first thing done at the fort each day.

Flag raising at Fort Sumter

The ferry time back to the mainland brings the total tour time to two hours. Views of the harbor and city and beautiful bridge make the ferry rides to the fort and back well worth your time.

Charleston Bay Bridge

Afternoon plan

From Liberty Square, head to Boone Hall Plantation (20-minute drive located in to Mount Pleasant, SC). Many TV series and movies were shot here, including one of my favorites, “The Notebook.”

Basic lunch options are available onsite, so I’d recommend just eating at Boone Hall to maximum your afternoon. You’re going to want to spend several hours there.

As you arrive, you’ll go through the famous “Avenue of the Oaks” – an absolutely gorgeous three-quarter mile drive lined with giant oak trees covered in Spanish-moss.

First, plan to take the 20-minute wagon ride around the property to see all there is to offer. The tour guides provide lots of interesting narration throughout the ride. 

Building on Boone Hall Plantation
Barn at Boone Hall Plantation
Front gate at Boone Hall

Then, you’ll want to tour the main house and gardens.

Boone Hall Plantation main house
Rear of main house at Boone Hall

Each of the slave cabins is worth going in because they all have their own unique story to tell of the people who lived on the plantation. Some of the stories are definitely difficult to learn about though, as you can imagine.

According to Boone Hall’s website, “This cluster of cabins is one of the few groups of such historic structures remaining intact in the Southeast and the only brick slave street in the U.S.”

Rows of slave cabins
Slave cabin

Finally, check the schedule for the day to make sure you get to experience the Gullah Presentation. It’s a must.

Gullah presenter

End your day with dinner at Shem Creek Boardwalk. This unique area in Mount Pleasant has a ton of great restaurants and shopping. If time allows, explore the creek on paddle board or kayak.  

Historic Home Tours and Patriots Point (Day 3)

If you’re up for more sightseeing in the city, start your day with a cup of coffee in your hand and walk towards the harbor. Just strolling through the neighborhoods and city streets looking at all of the gorgeous homes was one of my favorite parts of visiting Charleston. I could have done this for hours!

Gorgeous Charleston homes

I particularly enjoyed touring a couple of the historic homes in the city. One being the Aiken-Rhett House. That site is unique because its structure and contents are in an “as found” state and haven’t been altered since the mid-19th century.   

Aiken-Rhett House exterior
Living room with harp and chair
Old car and buggy

On the contrary, the Nathaniel-Russell House has been restored and is in beautiful condition. That tour lasts about 45 minutes.

Nathaniel-Russell House exterior

Spend the afternoon at Patriots Point

Finally, don’t miss Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum while in Charleston. This awesome attraction could easily take up a good portion of your day (I spent about 4 hours here). That’s because your admission not only gets you into a massive aircraft carrier (USS Yorktown), but also a destroyer ship, an outdoor Vietnam War experience, and more.

USS Yorktown aircraft carrier
Flight deck of USS Yorktown
Aircraft from USS Yorktown
Vietnam Experience
Vietnam Experience grounds

Hit the Beach (Day 4)

End your time in Charleston with some relaxation at the beach! Folley Beach is 22 miles from downtown; others nearby are Seabrook Island, Sullivan’s Island, and Isle of Palms.

If you’re out near Folley, it’s worth stopping at the Angel Oak Tree to see that fascinating landmark.


More time for Charleston sites?

  • Magnolia Plantation & Gardens – claims to be Charleston’s most visited plantation, and has also been selected as one of “America’s Most Beautiful Gardens.”
  • Pirates Tour – a popular thing to do during the day or night in Charleston.
  • Beaufort, South Carolina – if you’re up for a little road trip, head 70 miles south to this charming city. It’s less touristy than Charleston, and the southern charm is on full display.
  • Hilton Head Island – travel just 35 miles beyond Beaufort and visit this neat area that hosts 2.5 million visitors annually. Check out my blog post: 5 of the Best Things to Do on Hilton Head.
  • Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon — built in 1771 (picture below), history comes alive at this Charleston landmark as Colonial-dressed guides talk about pirates, patriots and presidents.
Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon

Pin this Charleston itinerary for later!

Charleston Pineapple Fountain pin

More ideas for Charleston sites.

What do YOU recommend? Please include your tips in the comments section below

And, be sure to follow “Whoa, What a View” on social media to see the comments other travelers are leaving there about their favorite parts of Charleston and surrounding areas. 


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Tags: Boone Hall Plantation, Charleston, Fort Sumter, Itinerary, Patriots Point, Rainbow Row, South Carolina
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