Charleston, known as the “Holy City” for its numerous churches and religious history, is a vibrant and fascinating city that offers endless opportunities for adventure, discovery, and indulgence. From its rich history and culture to its world-renowned cuisine and natural beauty, there’s something for everyone in Charleston. Whether you’re looking to rent an apartment in Charleston or purchase a home in the area, there are certain experiences that can’t be missed. From exploring historic landmarks to indulging in delicious seafood or simply soaking up the city’s charming ambiance, this Charleston bucket list has got you covered. So, get ready to embark on a journey of discovery as we explore the top must-see destinations and experiences that make living in Charleston one-of-a-kind.
Must do bucket list activities in Charleston
Visit the Morris Island Lighthouse on Folly Beach
The Morris Island Lighthouse on Folly Beach offers a fascinating glimpse into the area’s rich maritime history and stunning views of the surrounding landscape. The island’s natural beauty is truly awe-inspiring, with pristine beaches, dunes, and wildlife all around. “If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to spot some dolphins,” remarks local Brooke Embry Photography.
Check out the Round Holiday Inn on the Ashley River
The Round Holiday Inn on the Ashley River is an iconic hotel that offers visitors a one-of-a-kind stay in a completely circular building. The panoramic views of the Ashley River and the surrounding landscape are breathtaking and can be enjoyed from almost every room in the hotel.
“One of the first places you have to go in Charleston is what locals call the Round Holiday Inn on the Ashley River,” shares local grocery-cafe Queen Street Grocery. “They have a top-floor bar that gives its patrons the best sunset in Charleston, as well as encompassing views of the city, which is hard to find.”
Spend a day on the water
Charleston’s waterways offer endless opportunities for adventure, whether you’re interested in fishing, sightseeing, or simply enjoying the beauty of the Charleston Harbor. From the comfort of your boat or the sand, you can soak up the stunning views of the historic waterfront, see the famous Battery, and even spot dolphins playing in the water.
There’s a lot of great things to do in Charleston, but being on the water is the best, whether at the beach or going out on the boat,” notes local vintage fashion store Drifter Merch.
Sample the delicious Charleston cuisine
If you’re a foodie looking for an immersive experience in Charleston, going on a food tour is a great way to explore the city’s culinary scene. Charleston is known for its rich history, southern hospitality, and, of course, its incredible food. From award-winning restaurants to hidden gems, a food tour will take you on a journey through the city’s vibrant food culture, allowing you to sample local favorites like shrimp and grits, she-crab soup, and BBQ.
“My favorite thing about Charleston, besides the Lowcountry charm, is the food,” shares Morgan Greb Photography. “For brunch, check out Miller’s All Day or the Grocery. For lunch or dinner, consider Husk or The Darling Oyster Bar. Coast Bar & Grill & 39 Rue de Jean are also two favorites, in part because they’re situated in the cutest little alley. Lastly, don’t forget to stop by Carmella’s Cafe & Dessert Bar for an after-dinner cocktail and the best cake you’ve ever eaten.”
Peruse The Charleston Market Place
The Charleston City Market spans four city blocks and features more than 300 vendors selling a wide variety of goods, including local handicrafts, artwork, souvenirs, and delicious food. The market has been a hub of commerce and social activity in Charleston for over 200 years. Visitors can walk through the market’s covered stalls, browse the goods on display, and enjoy live music and entertainment.
Spend a day at Shem Creek
Shem Creek is a picturesque and historic waterway located in Mount Pleasant, just a short drive from downtown Charleston. The creek is home to a bustling fishing fleet, charming waterfront restaurants, and scenic boardwalks that offer stunning views of the marsh and Charleston Harbor. Visitors can take a leisurely stroll along the creek and watch as fishermen unload their catch. Shem Creek is also a great place to enjoy fresh seafood, with several award-winning restaurants offering a variety of dishes featuring local shrimp, oysters, and fish.
David from Carolina Kayak Fishing Adventures notes, “Shem Creek provides a view of the Charleston Harbour and is filled with shrimp boats, dolphins, and kayakers. There are also several open-air restaurants which provide an amazing meal with stunning scenery of Charleston.”
Go on a fishing trip
Charleston is a premier fishing destination that offers a variety of opportunities for anglers of all skill levels. The city’s waterways include the Atlantic Ocean, Charleston Harbor, and numerous creeks and rivers. From offshore trolling for big game fish like marlin and tuna to inshore fishing for redfish, trout, and flounder, there’s a diverse array of fish to catch in Charleston.
“Heading out on a Charleston fishing trip is a must anytime you’re in town,” remarks Captain Experiences. “South Carolina’s Lowcountry offers world-class year-round fishing for redfish. Come spring and summer, deep sea fishing out of Charleston heats up with the spring Mahi Mahi run, and Amberjack, Cobia, and Marlin action offshore.”
Russ at Kayak Fishing Charleston recommends taking a coastal expedition trip to Bull Island in Bulls bay or an offshore charter on one of the several larger offshore fishing boats to catch plenty of ocean fish not available on shore.
Visit Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site
Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site, located in West Ashley, is home to a 22-acre English settlement that was established in 1670 and served as the birthplace of the Carolina colony. Visitors can explore the remains of the original settlement, including a replica of the original fort and weapons demonstrations. Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site is also home to a zoo and wildlife habitat called Animal Forest that houses deer, bison, and waterfowl, providing a unique opportunity to observe these animals up close.
“If you’re a history buff looking to learn about Charleston’s early days, don’t miss the Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site. A short 11 minute drive from downtown, the park sits at the location of the first English settlement in South Carolina before Charleston was relocated in 1680 to its current place on the peninsula. Charles Towne Landing opened in 1970 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the landing and even features a full-scale replica of a 17th century trading ketch,” notes Triple Bar Coffee.
Pay a visit to the Angel Oak Tree
Located on Johns Island, the Angel Oak Tree is estimated to be between 400-500 years old and stands over 65 feet tall, with a trunk that is 28 feet in circumference. The tree’s sprawling canopy provides shade and shelter over an area of 17,000 square feet, making it one of the largest live oak trees in the world.
“We would recommend the Angel Oak Tree,” shares Minero Johns Island. “It has so much history as one of the largest and oldest oak trees.”
Take a stroll down Rainbow Row
Rainbow Row is one of the most iconic and colorful streets in Charleston. Located in the historic French Quarter, Rainbow Row is a series of 13 brightly painted historic antebellum homes that date back to the 18th century. The homes were originally built as mercantile properties, but were later converted into residences in the 20th century. The buildings are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places and are a popular spot for photos and sightseeing.
Visit the Battery and White Point Gardens
The Battery and White Point Gardens feature stunning views of Charleston Harbor and Fort Sumter, as well as a number of historic homes and mansions. White Point Gardens is a popular spot for picnics, strolls, and relaxation, and is home to a variety of monuments and statues that commemorate Charleston’s history and culture. The area is also a great place to learn about the city’s military past, with a number of cannons and military memorials located throughout the park.
Take a ghost tour
Charleston is also known as one of the most haunted cities in America, and a ghost tour is a thrilling way to learn about the city’s spooky past. Often taking place in historic homes, jails, or cemeteries, ghost tours are typically led by knowledgeable and entertaining guides who will share spine-tingling stories about the city’s haunted history, including tales of pirates, wars, and tragedies. Visitors can explore some of Charleston’s most haunted sites, such as the Old City Jail and the Unitarian Church Cemetery, and learn about the spirits that are said to haunt them.
Attend a Charleston RiverDogs baseball game
The Charleston RiverDogs are a minor league baseball team that play at the Joseph P. Riley Jr. Park in downtown Charleston. The stadium features stunning views of the Ashley River and the city skyline, and offers a variety of entertainment options in addition to the game itself. Visitors can enjoy delicious ballpark food and drinks, participate in between-inning contests and activities, and even watch a post-game fireworks show on certain nights. The RiverDogs also offer various promotions throughout the season, such as theme nights and giveaways.
Visit Fort Sumter National Monument
Fort Sumter National Monument is a significant historical site that offers visitors a fascinating glimpse into the American Civil War. Located on an island in Charleston Harbor, this former military fort is where the first shots of the war were fired on April 12, 1861, marking the beginning of a conflict that would shape the nation’s history. Accessible by ferry, visitors can explore the well-preserved fortifications, examine original cannons, and learn about the events leading up to the conflict through informative exhibits and guided tours.
Must visit bucket list stores and restaurants in Charleston
Explore The Tiny Tassel
The Tiny Tassel is a charming and colorful boutique located in the heart of Charleston that features a variety of handmade tassel jewelry, accessories, and clothing designed by local artists.
“The Tiny Tassel is a can’t-miss shop on Spring Street, just a block off King Street. It’s the brightest, friendliest shop for gifts & accessories,” shares Bachelorette decorating services Kay and Co Weekends.
Sample seafood at Delaney Oyster House
Delaney Oyster House is a popular and trendy seafood restaurant located in the heart of downtown Charleston. The restaurant’s menu features a variety of delicious seafood dishes, including fresh oysters, shrimp, crab, and fish, all sourced locally and sustainably. Delaney Oyster House is particularly known for its extensive selection of oysters, which are shucked to order and served with house-made sauces and accompaniments.
Taste the best of Southern cuisine at Husk
Husk offers a truly unique dining experience that showcases the best of Southern cuisine. Acclaimed chef Sean Brock meticulously crafts dishes using only the finest locally sourced ingredients, ensuring the menu changes daily to reflect the freshest seasonal produce. In a beautifully restored historic building, Husk combines a warm, inviting atmosphere with a dedication to culinary innovation. This award-winning restaurant has garnered national recognition for its approach to reinventing traditional Southern dishes, making it a must-try destination for food enthusiasts seeking an authentic taste of Charleston’s rich culinary heritage.
Have tasty steaks at Hall’s Chophouse
From the moment you step into Hall’s Chophouse, you’ll be greeted with warm Southern hospitality and a cozy atmosphere. But it’s not just the ambiance that makes Hall’s Chophouse a must-visit restaurant in Charleston, the menu is filled with mouth-watering options, including perfectly cooked steaks, fresh seafood, and homemade desserts.
Grab a bite at the Wreck of Richard and Charlene
The Wreck of Richard & Charlene is a hidden gem in Charleston, providing an authentic and relaxed seafood dining experience that captures the essence of the Lowcountry. Nestled along the picturesque Shem Creek, this eatery is named after a local fishing boat that was wrecked during Hurricane Hugo. The restaurant takes pride in serving fresh, locally caught seafood, cooked simply to highlight the natural flavors. It was even a filming location for the tv show Outerbanks.