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4 Aug 2023
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As I mentioned last time, the Holy City has once again been named the best destination to visit in AmericaThis makes the 11th year in a row that Travel + Leisure Magazine has tapped us for the honor.    

Therefore, it’s a no-brainer to start planning a Charleston SC vacation, pronto.  So here’s a brief guide to help you do just that.  

Traveling to Charleston

Getting here is a breeze.  Charleston is located on or near major interstates like I-26, which brings you right downtown.  I-95  -  the main interstate down the Eastern seaboard  -  crosses I-26 just north of the Lowcountry.  Charleston is an easy drive from major cities like Charlotte (around three hours) and Atlanta (just under five hours).   

If you’re flying here, CHS is a terrific airport.  With $300 million or so in renovations, it’s big enough to be comfortable but not too big to be a hassle.  It’s served by 13 different airlines (American, Delta, United, Southwest, JetBlue, Breeze, Alaska, Frontier, Silver, Avelo, Allegiant, Spirit, and Sun Country).  The list of nonstop destinations to and from Charleston really impressive  -  including New York, Chicago, Minneapolis, Denver, Seattle, Los Angeles and several dozen others.   

It’s highly recommended to have a car while here.  Drivers are generally polite, honking is rare, and you can easily explore different areas from downtown to the beaches and beyond. 

There’s so much to do in and around Charleston, it’s hard to distill it down to a short list.  But there are some things that you really shouldn’t miss while here...   

Visit the beach  -  or better yet, stay here. 

Charleston is a port city, bordered by rivers and pointing out to the Atlantic OceanWith all this water, there are fantastic beaches to explore, which I covered in the last blog.   

A terrific way to see Charleston AND have a beach vacation at the same time, is to plan to stay on the Isle of Palms, with its seven miles of sandy shorelineIt’s an easy drive from downtown, and along the way you’ll also see lovely locales like Sullivan’s Island and Mount Pleasant.  

Here at Exclusive Properties, we have three dozen gorgeous properties to choose from, for different budgets and numbers of people.   Pick your amenities  -  like private infinity pools, rooftop decks, oceanfront putting greens, elevators, hot tubs, gourmet kitchens, and moreWe even have pet friendly vacation rental options so you can bring the whole family.  Just give us a call, and we’ll help you book the perfect Isle of Palms beach house. 

Eat some of the best seafood in Charleston. 

You can’t come to a port city without eating seafoodThere’s an abundance of fish in the sea and places to eat it.   Word to the wise  -  be sure to try a couple Charleston delicacies while here  -  Shrimp & Grits, and She-Crab SoupThere’s a reason they’re Lowcountry classicsAnd the oyster roasts around here are legendary. 

Here on the Isle of Palms, good options are the Long Island Café (casual), Coda del Pesce (romantic and gourmet), or The Boathouse on Breech Inlet (great views of dolphins).  Or, hop on over to the next island and check out The Obstinate Daughter or Sullivan’s Fish Camp on Sullivan’s Island 

Shem Creek in Mount Pleasant has several good restaurants on both sides of the water, like Tavern & Table and Red’s Ice House, which also have terrific water viewsIf you’d rather prepare it yourself, you can buy fresh shrimp right there on the docks where the shrimp boats come in. 

If you’re in the mood for a very authentic oyster roast experience, try Bowen’s Island, west of the Ashley River toward Folly Beach. 

Take in the history of Charleston. 

Charleston is steeped in history, more than any other city in AmericaThe downtown peninsula is oozing with charmVenture south toward the tip of the peninsula, to The Battery and White Point Gardens, for a great view of Charleston Harbor and Fort Sumter, where the Civil War began.  There’s plenty of free parking.   

One of the best ways to see Charleston is on foot, walking around the historic district south of Broad StreetCharleston was at the forefront of historic preservation, and the grand homes have been elegantly restored, with their wide piazzas (porches), flowering window boxes and manicured gardensTour the Calhoun Mansion on Meeting Street for a glimpse inside the Gilded Age.  

Another great way to see the city is by horse-drawn carriage tourSeveral companies operate out of the stables near Anson Street, including Old South and Palmetto Carriage Works.  Tour guide/drivers are quite knowledgeable and entertainingInsider tip: if you’re interested in something in particular, just mention it to the driver… they’ll often tailor the tour to your likes. 

An exciting new addition to Charleston is the International African-American Museum, which just opened in June 2023 after 23 years of planning and construction.  Located on the site of Gadsden’s Wharf, where the majority of slaves entered this country by ship, it tells parts of history that have too often been neglected in the past.  It’s also getting rave reviews. 

Shop local. 

While downtown, be sure to stroll along King Street  -  named as one of the top ten shopping streets in AmericaLower King, near Charleston Place, has antique shops and elegant boutiques, while Upper King has a younger vibeCheck out Southern Charm star Craig Conover’s flagship pillow store, Sewing Down South, on Upper KingHe’s often in the shop. 

Charleston City Market is a must-doStretching four blocks between Meeting and East Bay Streets, this indoor/open market has been around in some form or fashion since the 1790’s.  Find all sorts of local products like sweetgrass baskets, artisanal crafts, and Lowcountry food delicacies like Callie’s Hot Little Biscuits.  

Saturdays from 8:00 am – 2:00 pm, check out the Charleston Farmers Market outdoors in Marion SquareIt, too, was named one of the best in the nationIt takes place from April through mid-December, wrapping up with special holiday markets.  

Explore nature. 

Charleston is overflowing with great gardens and parksDowntown, check out Waterfront Park with its famous pineapple fountain, or spacious Hampton Park up near The Citadel.

Shem Creek in Mount Pleasant has a wonderful park that’s a series of walkways and boardwalks which extend through the marsh, over tidal creeks, and out toward the harborIt’s a perfect place to spot wildlife like pelicans, herons, egrets, and dolphins frolicking near the shrimp boats. 

And for a special treat – make the drive out to John’s Island to see Angel Oak.   Yes, it’s a tree  -  but not just any tree. It’s more of a spiritual experienceVery old, very large, and very beautiful.  Angel Oak is a city park, a historic landmark, and affectionately known as our  “Lowcountry Treasure.” 

There’s so much to see/do in these parts.  Stay a while, and come back soon. 


All best, 
Lowcountry Lisa  

your Isle of Palms vacation blogger