Charleston is one of the South’s prettiest towns, located on a peninsula between two rivers. Originally named after Charles II, the city was founded in 1670 before becoming a wealthy colony for the tobacco, rice and indigo trades. It’s these riches that still shine through today in grand period architecture.
All this has made Charleston something of a time capsule. Whether it’s Georgian townhouses, antebellum mansions or neoclassical flourishes, you’ll be forgiven for thinking that you’d stepped back into the 18th century. Take a stroll along the Gateway Walk, a garden path that will bring you between the city’s finest churches, before turning out to the surrounding plantations. Here, weeping willows bend over long gravel drives, delicate gardens make for delightful strolls and grand houses whisk you back to yesteryear.
You’ll even be able to stand where the first shots of the Civil War were fired at Fort Sumter, a 19th century pentagon island in the city’s harbour. But Charleston’s more shameful past is memorialised too, in the superb Charleston Museum and the unnerving Old Slave Mart. There’s even the Provost Dungeon, a real life pirate prison. And the best way to see it all? A horse and carriage tour, of course, as you play the role of the landed gentry.
You’ll also want to linger longer for the city’s unique geography, formed by the confluence of the Ashley and Cooper Rivers running into the Atlantic. This dynamism has formed a collection of idyllic beaches – ideal for everything from sandcastles to surfing. Perhaps take to the water in an 84-foot tall ship schooner to explore Charleston’s coastal islands, divided by arterial waterways.
Top itineraries in Charleston
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They say The Carolinas is a land of contrasts and it's true – atmospheric mountainscapes vie with pristine beaches for your attention in a region of incredible natural beauty. This seldom-travelled part of the USA provides nature, relaxation, adventure and history in abundance.
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From historic cities to island retreats, experience the best of the Deep South and Florida with this selection of handpicked tours
Top places to stay in Charleston
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