Charleston Year 'Round
The Charleston area is a year-round feast for the senses. Spring smells like tea olive, summer is salty breezes, fall tastes like slow-cooked collard greens, and winter is a hearty bowl of shrimp and grits. While certain aspects of Lowcountry life are constant no matter what the time of year – the rustle of palmetto fronds, crashing surf and the peal of church bells – each season ushers in unique sensations.
When azalea buds burst with color, spring is officially sprung and scores of private residences open their doors for the Historic Charleston Foundation’s annual tour of houses and gardens. The sound of standing ovations says it’s late spring, and Spoleto Festival USA and Piccolo Spoleto – the annual compendiums of acclaimed international and regional artists – are enlivening the area’s theaters, churches, parks, galleries, sidewalks and event venues with 17 days of performances.
Sand between the toes means summer is in full swing, and family vacations are unfolding at area beaches. The scent of oysters roasting beneath wet burlap is synonymous with fall. Come during the Christmas season to experience some of America’s most historic homes and beloved plantations illuminated with candlelight, starlight and the sounds of spiritual music.
No matter what the month, there’s always something special waiting to be discovered.
Charleston, South Carolina Highlights
For your first visit...
Heirloom crops, plantation era recipes and local seafood have defined Lowcountry cuisine since the late 1600s. Experience the Charleston area’s food pathways by visiting working farms, hiring a fishing guide, shopping at a farmers’ market or taking a behind-the-scenes culinary tour.
Only have one day here?
Take a guided tour with a licensed tour guide! The cobblestone streets are a roadmap through time, while Carolopolis Award plaques, copper lanterns and hitching posts that hint at a bygone era.
Don't leave without tasting...
- In 2008, Firefly Distillery launched sweet tea vodka, a spirit with southern roots that put Wadmalaw Island, south of Charleston, on the map. The locally owned company now produces four flavours of sweet tea vodka (mixed with tea grown down the road at the Charleston Tea Plantation), sweet tea bourbon and southern lemonade vodka
- Bringing the flavours of the Gullah culture to kitchens everywhere, Gullah Gourmet Shrimp and Grits’ easy-to-use food bag includes fresh yellow stone ground grits and a gravy packet.
Where locals go to relax
More than 90 miles of coastline. Barrier islands and pristine beaches. Nature trails, bicycle paths and climbing walls. Fishing guides and golf pros. Pack your swimming costume and trainers for a great outdoor experience.
You might be surprised by...
The only tea grown in America! The Charleston Tea Plantation is the home of American Classic Tea. It is located on picturesque Wadmalaw Island in the heart of South Carolina's Lowcountry.
Top photo opportunities
The Battery, which includes White Point Gardens park, stretches along the shores of the Charleston peninsula, bordered by the Ashley and Cooper Rivers. Fort Sumter is visible from the Cooper River side and the point, as are Castle Pinckney, the World War II aircraft carrier USS Yorktown, Fort Moultrie and Sullivan’s Island.
Your child will always remember...
- Marvel at the South Carolina Aquarium’s great ocean tank before trekking to the beach for a real sea-life immersion experience with shorebirds, seashells and horseshoe crabs
- Cruise across the bustling harbour to Fort Sumter, a historic island fort half an hour from the Charleston peninsula
- Take a picnic to the 1,500-year-old Angel Oak tree, then explore the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry’s multisensory Treescape exhibit
- Kids will feel as though they’ve been transported to Hogwarts with a visit to the Center for Birds of Prey, home to free flight demonstrations.
The Charleston City Market, one of the oldest public markets in the nation, recently underwent a $5.5 million (£3.4 million), three-year renovation. In addition to restoring the architectural integrity of a sprawling venue housing more than 100 vendors, new construction created a corridor of micro-boutiques dubbed the ‘Great Hall’. Featuring only locally owned retailers with a focus on locally made specialty items, the City Market is the best place to pick up Gullah souvenirs, including sweetgrass baskets and benne wafers.
History happened here
Stand at dusk in the footprint of Drayton Hall, the meticulously preserved but largely unrestored plantation house, as the sound of native Gullah spirituals drifts across the Ashley River.
One awe-inspiring building
Ornate plasterwork, period antiques, panelled ballrooms and formal gardens illustrate the grandeur of colonial wealth, a bygone era expertly preserved at the Aiken-Rhett, Edmondston-Alston, Heyward-Washington, Joseph Manigault, Nathanial Russell and Thomas Elfe House museums. Throughout the year, private dwellings and gardens are open to the public thanks to Historic Charleston Foundation and the Preservation Society of Charleston’s annual tours.