Charleston is full of “must sees.” Some are easy to get to and others are off the beaten path. Some can be viewed with an easy stroll. Some are free. Here are some best bets.
One of the most photographed spots in the city. Historic homes surround White Point Gardens with its collection of shady oak and palmetto trees. Locals like to brag this is where Charleston Harbor and the Ashley River meet to form the Atlantic Ocean.
Civil War period cannon and mortars line the area as well as monuments to historic figures, including the Confederate defenders of Fort Sumter. Feel free to climb on the guns and picnic on the grass or under the shade.
Follow East Bay Street into East Battery and Murray Boulevard.
The fort guarding Charleston Harbor is where the Civil War began on April 12, 1861. After months of national saber-rattling and secession threats, Confederate batteries opened fire from multiple locations on federal forces inside the fort. The Union troops surrendered 34 hours later.
For four years of fighting during the Seige of Charleston, Union naval and land forces tried repeatedly to take it back.
Today the fort is a monument to the siege where visitors can walk the ramparts and take in a panoramic view of the harbor.
Visiting Fort Sumter is done by concession-operated ferry that departs from two locations listed on the National Park Service website: the Fort Sumter Visitor Education Center at Liberty Square 340 Concord St., Charleston, and Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum 40 Patriots Point Road, Mount Pleasant.
Call 843-722-2628 for a schedule of fees and departure times.
On the southern tip of Sullivan’s Island is the site where several incarnations of the fort have stood. The first fort drew fame when it withstood an attack from a British fleet during the American Revolution on June 28, 1776, saving Charleston from invasion. It was named in honor of Col. William Moultrie.
Over time the fort would fall into periods of neglect and repair, becoming part of the national coastal defenses during the Civil War, Spanish-American War and World Wars I and II. Today the brick fort and surrounding park is easily walkable, has good views of the harbor and many displays give insight to its history and workings. Across the street from the visitor’s center is the grave of Seminole Indian Chief Osceola. Fee to visit inside the fort is $3 for adults; children 15 and younger are free. The park is at 1214 Middle St. on Sullivan’s Island. Call 843-883-3123 for details.
The Angel Oak
Located on nearby Johns Island, many believe this Southern live oak is one of the oldest living things in the eastern portion of the United States, with estimates beginning at 300 to 400 years old.
The tree is now part of an official City of Charleston park. There is no admission charge and a gift shop and picnic area are near by.
Measurements for the tree are generally set at running 65 feet high, with circumference of more than 25 feet.
Visitors are urged to walk under its shady canopy and follow its spread of limbs, the lower rungs of which bow into the surrounding grounds.
The park is at 3688 Angel Oak Road on Johns Island. Call 843-559-3496 for details.
Charles Towne Landing
This marshy point up the Ashley River from where downtown Charleston grew is where a group of English settlers landed in 1670 to establish the original Carolinas colony.
Today the park depicts life in Colonial Charleston, showing the hardships, techniques and defenses of starting the fledging colony. Interpretive rangers and a self-guided history trail and audio tour are ways to absorb the park, along with a recently modernized Visitor’s Center.
Other sites to see are the sailing ship Adventure, a 17th-century replica of what brought colonists across the Atlantic. An Animal Forest Natural Habitat zoo features animals native to the state, including otters, bear and bison.
Admission is $7.50 for adults, $3.50 for youths age 6-15 and free for children 5 and younger.
The park is at 1500 Old Towne Road in West Ashley. Call 843-852-4200 for details.