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Charleston Outdoor activities

Our most recommended Charleston Outdoor activities

Charleston: Fort Sumter Entry Ticket and Ferry Ride

1. Charleston: Fort Sumter Entry Ticket and Ferry Ride

Enjoy a ferry ride to the grounds of Fort Sumter and explore the grounds at your own pace. Pass by the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge and take in the sights of Charleston’s stately Rainbow Row and Battery homes. As you approach Fort Sumter, graceful sailboats and playful dolphins add to the photogenic scene. If you depart from Mt. Pleasant you will enjoy views of the USS Yorktown Aircraft Carrier from up-close, while tours embarking from downtown will see Aquarium Wharf as they depart and return. Arrive at The Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park, which sits prominently at the mouth of the Charleston Harbor, a strategic location that was crucial to its defense.  While here, explore the grounds of Fort Sumter. Stand on the grounds where America’s deadliest war began at Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park. The first shots were fired here, igniting a conflict that saw more than 700,000 casualties. Experience the opening battle of the American Civil War and explore its origins with a National Park Ranger. Your approximate 1-hour visit to Fort Sumter allows ample time to explore well-preserved fort ruins and browse Museum Store souvenirs. A visit to Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park provides a window into the life and trials of America’s heroes, from the Civil War to today’s modern conflicts. Learn about the events leading to the war from knowledgeable National Park Rangers who will relay stories of courageous heroes in action from the Civil War’s first battle. Walk in the steps of those who shaped this nation alongside a National Park Ranger. Then enjoy the beautiful views of the city as you ride the ferry back to Charleston.

Charleston: Daytime or Sunset Historic Harbor Cruise

2. Charleston: Daytime or Sunset Historic Harbor Cruise

Cruise through the Charleston Harbor on an old-fashioned 1920s-Bay-Steamer-replica yacht. Enjoy live narration from the captain and purchase treats from a fully-stocked drink and snack bar. See the Civil and Revolutionary war sights and keep an eye out for dolphins. Relax in the enclosed observatory or on the partially-covered upper deck. Listen carefully as your captain guides you on a journey through more than 300 years of American history. You’ll pass by 75 landmarks and points-of-interest on this 20-mile trip. Get close-up views of the “Holy City,” including Fort Sumter - where the first shots of the Civil War were fired. Glide past Confederate and Union army forts and see the famous “Fighting Lady” of World War II. Pass by remnants of the Civil and Revolutionary wars and look for local wildlife like dolphins and pelicans splashing nearby. Choose between indoor or outdoor seating.

Charleston: Historical Downtown Tour by Horse-drawn Carriage

3. Charleston: Historical Downtown Tour by Horse-drawn Carriage

Ride in a traditional horse-drawn carriage through historic downtown Charleston on a guided tour. Listen to live commentary about the city as you pass by the Charleston Harbor, Rainbow Row, King Street, White Point Gardens, and Charleston Battery. Begin the tour at the activity provider's stables. Board a beautiful custom-built carriage and depart from the barn. Ride toward the city gate, located in the Old City Market. Learn about the city's rich history from a professional guide while traveling aboard a unique vehicle. Gaze at vibrant neighborhoods and elegant buildings from your seat. Experience the highlights of the historic downtown area, such as Charleston Harbor, Rainbow Row, 4 Corners of Law, King Street, White Point Gardens, and the Charleston Battery. Take in informative and entertaining commentary from your guide, before arriving back at the stables.

Charleston: 1-Hour Carriage Tour of the Historic District

4. Charleston: 1-Hour Carriage Tour of the Historic District

Explore Charleston's historic district on a horse or mule-drawn carriage tour. Listen to your guide tell you local stories and anecdotes as you go past iconic landmarks, buildings, churches, and more. Begin your tour at the Big Red Barn in downtown Charleston and meet your local driver/guide. Then, settle into a carriage drawn by either horses or mules for your guided tour. Follow a route that takes in some of the historic downtown district’s most elegant mansions and gardens, learning about the architecture of each place as you drive along. Catch the scent of jasmine flowers from deep, shady porches, and pass by rows of bristling palmetto trees. Get an overview of Charleston’s dramatic history, from long-ago pirate raids to plantations, Revolutionary battles, the Civil War, and Reconstruction. The city was founded in 1670, and Charleston's historic buildings have been meticulously preserved and restored. Conclude your tour with drop-off at the Big Red Barn.

Charleston: Magnolia Plantation Tour and Transport

5. Charleston: Magnolia Plantation Tour and Transport

Witness a slice of living history at Magnolia Plantation and its world-famous gardens, owned by the Drayton family for 12 generations. Visit the Historic Gardens, Petting Zoo, and The Conservatory. Begin your half-day tour by boarding a climate-controlled coach in Charleston. Meet your professional guide and ride to Magnolia Plantation, dating from 1676 and the time of the British colony. Step into one of America's first tourist attractions and first public gardens, which have been open to the public since 1870. Take a guided walk through America's last large-scale romantic garden. Experience history on a 45-minute narrated tram ride through the Audobon Swamp Gardens and visit important locations like Drayton Home (not Drayton Hall), Orientation Theater, and the Old African American Cabin.

Charleston: Haunted Carriage Evening Tour

6. Charleston: Haunted Carriage Evening Tour

Listen to spine-tingling tales of prisoners, rogues, and pirates that make up the history of Charleston. Cover over 300 years of history from the comfort of your carriage. Mysterious alleys and cobblestones await as your expert guide leads you through Historic Charleston on a 40-minute Haunted Carriage Tour. Start the tour at Old South Carriage Company's stables where the tour explores the 15 block core that comprises Historic Charleston. Along the way you will see Old Exchange & Provost Dungeon, Circular Congregational Church and Graveyard, Charleston City Market, and St. Michael's Episcopal Church. All tour guides of this activity are members of the Palmetto Guild, which indicates that they have successfully passed a comprehensive examination of the history of Charleston.

Charleston: Charleston Harbor Sightseeing Cruise Tour

7. Charleston: Charleston Harbor Sightseeing Cruise Tour

Take in the amazing sights of Charleston Harbor on a boat tour with live narration from a guide. Gain insight into the history of Charleston while you glide through the gentle waves of the harbor, passing by the Battery, the Ravenel Bridge, Castle Pinckney, and more. Depart from Patriots Point or Aquarium Wharf as you cruise along the coastline of the beautiful Holy City. Hear enthralling tales of the city’s colorful past as well as scintillating facts about its most interesting former citizens. Make sure to bring your camera to capture famous American landmarks such as Fort Sumter, the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown, the Battery, the Ravenel Bridge, Castle Pinckney, and other sites from Charleston's past and present.

Charleston: Patriot's Point Haunted USS Yorktown Tour

8. Charleston: Patriot's Point Haunted USS Yorktown Tour

Come aboard the USS Yorktown and hear the stories of the American heroes who lived, died, and are still rumored to be here today. Commissioned in 1943, the Fighting Lady was once manned by over 3,000 people and designed to fight off enemies all over the globe during WWII. Learn about the ultimate sacrifice and heroism of the people who once inhabited this ship.  This tour gives you exclusive nighttime access to areas of the ship that are usually closed to the public, including the flight deck after dark. Don't forget your camera, you never know who or what you might capture.

Charleston: Magnolia Plantation & Historic City Tour

9. Charleston: Magnolia Plantation & Historic City Tour

Begin your half-day tour by boarding a climate-controlled coach in Charleston. Meet your professional guide and ride to Magnolia Plantation, dating from 1676 and the time of the British colony. Witness a slice of living history at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens and get an amazing perspective on Charleston's past and present. The Magnolia Plantation and its world-famous gardens have been owned by the Drayton family for 12 generations. Enjoy your visit to one of America's first tourist attractions and first public gardens, which have been open to the public since 1870. Take a guided walk through America's last large-scale Romantic garden, and experience history on a 45-minute narrated nature tram ride through the Audobon swamp gardens. Step out among the Romantic gardens and Spanish moss to see wildlife such as alligators, egrets, herons, and turtles on the nearly 600-acre plantation. Cap it all off with a 30-minute tour of the Magnolia Plantation Home before boarding your bus back to Charleston. Back in the Holy City, your deluxe, climate-controlled shuttle will take you for a 1.5-hour tour of the city’s historical highlights. Accompanied by a knowledgeable, local guide, visit over 100 of Charleston’s most iconic sights of the past and present whilst listening to amazing tales and anecdotes about the city. On your tour, travel through some of the most historic parts of the city and visit Charleston’s historic homes, The Battery Sea Wall, the Four Corners of Law, and Rainbow Row to name but a few. Other highlights of the tour include a number of historic churches, old markets, and picturesque neighborhoods.

Charleston: Magnolia Cemetery Nighttime Tour

10. Charleston: Magnolia Cemetery Nighttime Tour

With an expert guide, enjoy a 90-minute walking tour to uncover the best of Magnolia Cemetery’s history, mystery, and spirits. Hear startling stories such as the unsolved murdered socialite, an outraged politician that ordered his butler’s execution, and scandalous tragedies that are never told in history books. Originally a 1790’s rice plantation, Magnolia Cemetery was founded in 1849 on the banks of the Cooper River in Downtown Charleston. Home to 35,000 permanent residents, including authors and poets, artists, Confederate generals and soldiers, prominent politicians, bootleggers, prostitutes, and socialites. Magnolia Cemetery served as a Confederate encampment to defend the city from the Union bombardment during the Civil War. Over 2,000 Confederate soldiers lay at rest in Magnolia, including the eight-man Hunley crew, eighty-four soldiers who fought in the battle at Gettysburg, and six confederate generals.

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Other Sightseeing Options in Charleston

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What people are saying about Charleston

Can be a little chilly sitting outside on the boat in winter, but the ride out to Sumter is nice. Everything is so wonderfully explained that you don't need more than the hour you have after the boat docks. I wish more of our youth would appreciate this kind of history in America. It's not easy to talk about but it is VERY important.

A must do to see Charleston historic district. Open air, in a delightful carriage. Learning history while seeing iconic architecture. A perfect experience for all ages.

Great day. Wonderful location lots of history well executed.

Very entertaining. Cool stories and very chill ride.

Enjoyed learning about the town. Barn is very clean.