When I travel to a new city, I absolutely love going on tours because it helps me gain a greater appreciation for the area. So here are 9 Best Charleston Tours to help you experience Charleston to the max!
Charleston Boat Tours/ Harbor Tours
You can’t fully experience the area until you’ve been on a boat tour in Charleston. I recommend choosing the sunset or dolphin sail with Schooner Pride Charleston.
On one of our first evenings in Charleston, we were welcomed aboard the Schooner Pride and throughly enjoyed being able to see the area from the sea.
Not only did we witness a breath-taking sunset, we also got up close and personal with two dolphins that jumped alongside the ship.
They have drinks on board available for purchase and plenty of seating. However, you don’t have to stay seated as you can easily walk around to enjoy all areas of the ship.
Book a tour with the Schooner Pride! It will be a highlight of your trip, as it was for us.
Charleston Carriage Tours
There’s a lot of companies that offer carriage rides in Charleston. I’m sure they are all great, but we decided to go with the Carolina Polo & Carriage Co.
Why? Because it is a family-owned business that is run by local Charlestonians. (Can you believe that their families have lived in Charleston since the 1600’s! Pretty incredible.) I loved their local take of the area throughout the whole tour and learned so much!
You can either choose a group tour or a private tour when booking with them. We were welcomed to join a group tour and enjoyed an hour that was fully narrated (with a healthy dose of humor) by an awesome tour guide.
If you’re looking for a more personal experience, their private tour allows you to see Charleston in one of their intimate vis-à-vis carriages. I can’t say enough good things about this tour!
Charleston Moke Tour
What’s a moke? Don’t worry, I didn’t know what it was either until arriving in Charleston. A moke is a “A 20th-century collectible car reinvented with 21st-century green-friendly electric power”. (Mokeamerica.com)
My definition? A freakin amazing way to tour Charleston with your vacation buddies! Slow Ride Charleston rents these vehicles out for you to enjoy during your trip. It’s the perfect vacation vehicle as it’s open-air, very quiet, and great for the environment.
I absolutely loved driving up and down along the coastline, through charming neighborhoods, and eventually finding outdoor restaurants that we could pull the Moke right up next to. Don’t miss this unique way to self-tour Charleston!
These moke rentals reminded me of an open-air jeep ride while exploring Monument Valley, Utah!
Charleston Ghost Tours
Want a unique tour that gives you a more in-depth look at all things supernatural in Charleston? Then you’re going to want to book a Ghost Tour through Bull Dog Tours.
A few things that you’ll see is jail cells where some of the worst criminals were locked up, the Provost Dungeon, and centuries-old graveyards. The whole time you’re exploring, the tour will be narrated with ghost stories and haunted tales.
Exploring these cemeteries and graveyards had me reminiscing of the opportunity that I had to tour one of the most famous prisons in Philly.
Charleston Walking Tours
Walking tours are a great way to really get to know South Carolina’s oldest city. I recommend going with Walks of Charleston because all of their tour guides are licensed by the city, so in short, they know their stuff (including stories that you won’t find in history books).
You have several walking tour options with their company including the Charleston History Tour, a Private Tour, or an Alley and Hidden Passages Tour.
The most popular is the Charleston History Tour where you’ll get to experience Rainbow Row, the French Quarter and the Battery.
What I love about these walking tours is that you’ll get an up-close and personal approach to the well-preserved architecture, incredible views, and the colorful history of Charleston, South Carolina.
Charleston Trolley Tours
If you’re looking for more of a self-guided tour of Charleston that cuts out a lot of walking, then consider using the DASH (downtown area shuttle) trolley that is run by CARTA. It is free to use and has many hop on and hop off stops.
You can park at the Charleston Visitor Center and jump on one of their three routes from that location. Here’s a map that will help you decide which route you want to take.
If you have time, I would try to take each route during your trip to Charleston because they each lead to different parts of the town that are worth exploring. A few examples include Waterfront Park, King Street, the College of Charleston, the South Carolina Aquarium, and Marion Square.
Charleston Plantation Tours
There are many different plantations in Charleston and some of the best Charleston plantation tours include Boone Hall Plantation, Middleton Place, Charleston Tea Plantation and the Magnolia Gardens.
Each plantation has its’ own unique tour. For example, at the Boone Hall Plantation they offer tractor tours from one end of their farm to the other.
Another unique tour is jumping on a thirty minute trolley ride at the Charleston Tea Plantation to discover the history of tea and learn what it takes to continue to make it.
My tip would be to pick which plantation you want to see and then go with the tour that they offer on-site.
Charleston Sightseeing Tours
If you’d still like to see Charleston but walking is not your thing and maybe the weather is poor so you don’t want to sit in an open carriage, then the Gray Line Tour of Downtown Charleston is the tour for you.
You’ll take your journey in an air-conditioned minibus throughout Charleston and be able to see the top sites of the city including historic homes, churches, and graveyards.
Charleston Food Tours/ Culinary Tours
Spend a couple of hours finding out where “cuisine and history meet” on a Charleston Culinary Tour! Their tours feature local cuisine and cocktails that will have your tastebuds screaming for more.
There are several tour options including a King Street tour or a downtown Charleston tour. Whichever you choose, those couple of hours may be the most heavenly you spend in Charleston. These tours can be fun for the whole family, couples, or even a bachelorette party!
Additional Information for Charleston
Where to stay in Charleston
There is no shortage of Hotels, Bed & Breakfasts, and Airbnbs available in the Charleston area. If you are going to be spending more time in the city, book a place near downtown so you’re close to all the action. However, if you foresee yourself spending more time at the beach, you’ll want to book a place that is closer to Folly Beach, Sullivan’s Island, or Isle of Palms.
I stayed in an Airbnb designed by Seersucker Cottage who exclusively does interior design for vacation rentals and short-term properties. (Side note- If you’ve got a short-term rental property that you need help designing, hire them to help you design a space that will have people lining up to stay in!) Trust me, it’ll be the best investment that you make.
Want $50 off of your next airbnb stay? Use this coupon code!
Where To Eat in Charleston
There are SO many restaurants to choose from in Charleston that it can get a bit overwhelming! Here’s a site that lists the top restaurants in every category like fine dining, lunch options, cheap eats, moderately priced restaurants, etc.
How To Get Around Charleston
Should you rent a car in Charleston? Although Charleston is a great town to walk around, I still recommend having a car! You can great the best deal on a rental vehicle by booking through Booking.com.