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Charleston’s mix of history, beauty, and nature is irresistible to those who love the American South. Here are 5 fascinating sites you cannot miss in Charleston, South Carolina.

5 Fascinating Attractions You Can’t Miss in Charleston, SC

charleston South Carolina oak lined streets

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens

If you have time to tour only one plantation in Charleston, Magnolia is the one to see. It was established on the Ashley River in 1676 by Thomas and Ann Drayton, and family ownership has continued to this day. Magnolia Plantation will be a hit with everyone in the family because there are tours and activities for all age groups. The best plantation for wildlife, it has a zoo that includes petting the animals. You can tour the Drayton family home, visit the gardens, take a nature tram through the grounds, and learn about the history of slavery and freedom. I thoroughly enjoyed my day there, especially at the zoo. I enjoyed photographing the rare white peacocks and petting every animal I could get my hands on.

petting wildlife at magnolia plantation garden

magnolia plantation gardens white peacock

Isle of Palms

Twelve miles southwest of Charleston is the beach community of Isle of Palms. Consider renting bicycles; it is a great way to get around and see the area. Seven miles of pristine beach at the Isle of Palms provides opportunity for swimming, lounging, sandcastle building, and bicycling. The island celebrates the nesting Loggerhead turtles with events such as the Hatchling Scavenger Hunt. Isle of Palms is also a popular birding area. After a wonderful family vacation, I recommend staying on the island for a few days to get the feel of this low-country beach town.

riding bikes on the beach in south Carolina

isle of palms

Wild Dunes is a popular resort on Isle of Palms. Learn more about this family-friendly destination in this post.

The Charleston Battery

The Charleston Battery is a famous defensive sea wall and promenade that is a must-visit in Charleston, South Carolina. Stately antebellum homes stretch along the Cooper and Ashley Rivers, which meet to form the Charleston Harbor. Fans of antebellum architecture and pristine gardens will love strolling along the promenade and visiting White Point Garden. Be sure to bring your camera as Fort Sumter is visible from the Cooper River. You’ll also find the World War II aircraft carrier USS Yorktown, Fort Moultrie, and Sullivan’s Island there.

Historic East Battery in morning light. Charleston, SC

Fort Sumter

Visiting American historical sites is always worthwhile, and Fort Sumter is no exception. Fort Sumter is a National Historical Park. When South Carolina seceded from the Union, the South Carolinian belief was that federal property within the state now belonged to the Confederacy. The United States of America did not agree. The Confederacy fired on the US garrison of Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, opening the Civil War. Visiting Fort Sumter takes you back to the beginning of the war between brothers.

Fort Sumter South Carolina

Angel Oak

No visit to Charleston, South Carolina, is complete without visiting the Angel Oak on Johns Island. The name of the tree comes from the Angel Estate where it stands, but legend says that the spirits of former slaves visit the tree as angels. The tree is one of the oldest living trees east of the Mississippi. It is 65 feet tall (6 stories) and 28 feet in circumference. It shades an area of 17,000 square feet! The Angel Oak is a quite a sight to see.

angel oak charleston South Carolina

Additional Information for Visiting Charleston 

  • There are entrance fees for visiting Magnolia Plantation and Gardens and Fort Sumter. Check their website and know before you go.
  • The Angel Oak and Isle of Palms require transportation out of Charleston.
  • The Charleston Battery is available to all.

Final Thoughts on Charleston

Charleston is a southern treasure, I have visited many times and look forward to visiting again. The history of the Civil War permeates the city and the its attractions. Anyone visiting needs to understand that. I hope you will include Charleston when you visit the American South.

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