Perhaps no other city in America has enjoyed as much celebrity as Charleston, South Carolina. Named after King Charles of England, Charleston was not only the "Holy City," but also a city steeped in history and romance. Charleston's energy and vitality is virtually palpable, and the arts, food, culture, gentility and variety of Charleston are unsurpassed on the East coast.
What to do in Charleston, South CarolinaIf coming into Charleston Cruise Port from out of town, consider extending your visit by a couple days. You’ll need at least that to appreciate the sights and sounds of this romantic, southern gem. You’re likely cruising to the Caribbean or Bermuda, so save the beach excursions for those destinations. Immerse yourself in the historical sites and bathe in the southern hospitality that is Charleston, South Carolina. Here are some key attractions you’ll want to consider on the front or back end of your cruise.
Walking ToursWalking tours are high on our list of things to do because they slow down the action. On foot, you can take your time and truly appreciate the little things. And Charleston has plenty to take in. You’ll find the expected museums, historical houses, and beautiful architecture. However, you’ll likely be surprised by the paranormal twist to these shore tours. The city has been around for a long time… supposedly, they’ve collected some ghosts over that period. If planning to do a self-guided tour, just know that you might not be completely alone.
MuseumsThere are so many museums within visiting distance of the Charleston Cruise Port. No matter your interest, you’ll find a museum scratching that itch. From the Old Slave Art Museum to the Museum of Dental History, they’ve got you covered. Some of the most popular include: Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum; Fort Sumter; Charleston Museum; Provost Dungeon; Confederate Museum and the Postal Museum.
Beach ItIf cruising into or out of Charleston Cruise Port, you’re likely headed to the Caribbean or Bermuda. There, you’ll have plenty of options to hit up the beach and soak in some sun. If you just can’t wait, or want to compare southern to tropical, you have a few beach options. Kiowah Island is an excellent option. There’s also Folly Beach, Sullivan’s Island, Isle of Palms and Seabrook as alternatives. Just make sure to apply that SPF so you don’t burn before ever leaving port.
Plantation LifeYou’ll find numerous options to explore plantations around Charleston Cruise Port. Some of the most popular include Magnolia Plantation, McLeod Plantation, Boone Hall, Middleton Place and Charleston Tea Plantation. All offer a unique perspective on the era and feature attractions showcasing life during that period. You’ll also find stunning lakes, gardens and historic buildings during your excursion to these properties.
Historical SitesAre you a history buff? Well, sir / madam, welcome to your dream-port. Steeped in rich history, Charleston offers historical museums, Fort Sumter, dozens of Colonial-era churches, Middleton Place, and numerous other sites. Please leave your musket at home.
Shopping in Charleston, South CarolinaShopping near Charleston Cruise port is almost an excursion in and of itself. The most popular shopping areas include beautiful sections of historic downtown Charleston. You can even combine the two (shopping and sightseeing) off your “things to do” list when visiting the following retail districts.
City MarketThe Charleston City Market is another of the port city’s most popular shopping districts. Stretching from N. Market Street to S. Market Street, you’ll find exquisite 19th century buildings now serving as a retail corridor. In addition to the stunning architecture, the shops offer a great variety of local vendors. This is a great option to pick up a unique Charleston souvenir.
King StreetOn King Street, you’ll find high-end boutiques, romantic bookstores, antique shops, and interesting music stores. All situated within a street boasting over 300 years of stories. The thoroughfare was actually named after the British King Charles II. While the retail area is steeped in history, you’ll find trendy restaurants and shopping options not as reminiscent to the Revolutionary days. Depending on your cup of tea (insert British joke), you’ll likely gravitate towards a specific section of King Street. There are three. Lower King Street is where you’ll find Antiques. Middle King Street is the Fashion District. And Upper King Street is known for its design and restaurant options.
Attractions in Charleston, South CarolinaCharleston things to do center around its romantic, southern charm and rich history. It was one of the most important locations during the country’s colonization, Revolutionary period, and Civil War days. Also pivotal in the shaping of America and has the attractions to prove so. From museums to plantations to artifacts, Charleston has some incredibly interesting things to do while in port. Here are some suggestions on best attractions near Charleston Cruise Port.
The BatteryThis is a great option to tour beautiful southern homes. You can start your excursion in the large, public park on the city’s waterfront. There you’ll find a giant pineapple most recognizable from almost every postcard sent from South Carolina. From the park, you can take E Battery Street for roughly a mile before arrive at White Point Gardens (home to multiple Civil War attractions). The stunning mansions along your mile-long walk will take you back to the olden days.
Middleton PlaceYou might recognize Arthur Middleton’s name if you’ve recently been perusing the Declaration of Independence. His name is on there and you can check out the mansion that he called home during these pivotal times. Attractions at Middleton Place include stunning gardens, historic relics, carriage rides, farm animals, and even live re-enactments.
Fort Sumter National MonumentDo you remember when the first shot was fired of the Civil War? Not, like personally, but from history books? If so, then you know it took place at Fort Sumter in Charleston. Explore the site where it all began. The tiny island is located a short ferry ride away from Downtown Charleston. Expect to pay roughly $20 for the ferry ride, but visiting Fort Sumter is free. During your excursion, you can check out the actual cannons used as well as a bunch of other artifacts from that time.
Magnolia PlantationMagnolia Plantation is one of the oldest in the southern U.S. Located on the Ashley River, this iconic landmark made it through both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. On your tour, you’ll experience amazing gardens, nature center, Slavery to Freedom exhibit, water features and more. For an organized cruise excursion with transportation, guided walk, tram ride, and house tour, here your best option - <a target="_blank" rel="nofollow" href="//www.partner.viator.com/en/11376/tours/Charleston/Historic-Magnolia-Plantation-Tour-with-Transportation/d4384-48614P1">Magnolia Plantation Tour with Transportation from Charleston</a>.
Charleston Naval Base & H.L. Hunley SubmarineThis is the world’s first submarine successfully created for combat use. It was built by the Confederate Army in 1864 and went missing until it was found in 1995. The submarine and crew’s remains were recovered and the H.L. Hunley was restored and now on display. The Old Charleston Naval Base is recommended more-so for the history and Military buffs than for the entire family looking to soak in some historical sites
Best cruise excursions in Charleston, South CarolinaWe've analyzed tens of thousands of cruise tours to find your ideal attraction while in port. Based on these reviews, here are the Best Cruise Excursions in Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston, South Carolina cruise port map
Charleston, South Carolina Cruise Port TerminalsThe cruise ship terminal is closer to the southern tip of The Peninsula when compared to the rest of the cargo shipping activity nearby. A total of six docks exist supporting incoming vessels, but only one is reserved for cruise ships. Currently, the only major cruise line with a ship dedicated to Charleston Cruise Port is Carnival.
Union PierUnion Pier Cruise Terminal is the only dock within Charleston’s shipping port dedicated to cruise ships. Itineraries departing from this location mostly cruise to the Caribbean or Bermuda. The port is capped at roughly 100 ship visits per year, so you won’t need to worry about crowds at any point int he near future.
While Union Pier is one of the most active cargo shipping ports in the country, it’s still conveniently located within the Downtown Charleston area. You’ll have quick access to the many amenities and attractions offered within the vibrant city. Walking is most certainly an option, but a historic carriage ride might be a more fun way to get around.