On our way down the East Coast after visiting home for the holidays, we made sure to stop in the beautiful city of Charleston, South Carolina. Staying at a nearby Passport America campground, it luckily wasn’t too far of a drive to downtown and dare I say – easy. After two hour drives fighting traffic each way into cities like Chicago and San Francisco, we’ve come to dread and avoid difficult day trip commutes into major metropolitan areas from campgrounds. Smaller cities though, or simply cities that are surrounded by a greater abundance of undeveloped or agricultural land, are not too difficult to navigate.
We tend to mostly like to walk around downtowns and take in the scenery and culture, and historic Charleston was perfect for that. We parked in a city run parking garage downtown and started over at City Market, an indoor/outdoor covered marketplace with vendors selling homemade culinary goodies, trinkets and souvenirs.
After buying some postcards, we walked down to Waterfront Park while practically drooling over how gorgeous the houses and business fronts were along the way. We also passed some historical reminders of the city’s not-so-pleasant past. Once we reached the park, we walked around, soaked up some sun and watched people fish from one of the swings lining the pier.
We had heard that a visit to Charleston would not be complete without a visit to White Point Gardens, otherwise known as “Battery Park”. After walking the namesake Civil War era “battery” seawall and admiring the adjacent historic antebellum buildings, we picnicked in this gorgeous, live oak tree-lined park that lived up to its hype.
Continuing to walk around the quite small and walkable downtown, we made the interesting observation that this was not a very casual town. I’m not sure if it was because it was Sunday and many people were headed to or from church or some sort of gathering, or if it was because many of the residents in this mostly residential downtown live in multi-million dollar homes, but I felt sort of underdressed in my practical spring jacket and sneakers! I made note that if we ever came back and weren’t doing as much walking to definitely pack as many cute outfits as possible. Adding to the fanciness, we also noticed that some porches that were so large they had their own doors to get to them from the street. Now that’s a Southern porch!
We made a final stop at Kaminsky’s Dessert Cafe, which serves cocktails, coffee, and huge desserts at the bar or in their sit-down style cafe. We loved this premise for a business!
Our second day in the area, we made a quick stop to North America’s only tea plantation, where we were able to take the short video tour of the facility, sample some tea and walk around their beautiful grounds. The plantation was dormant for winter, but it was a unique place to say we went and the drive alone down the oak-lined country roads of Wadmalaw Island made the trip worth it.
The even better stop of the day was historic Charles Towne Landing. Charles Towne Landing was the site of the first colony in the Carolinas by English settlers in 1670. The grounds were donated to the state in the 1970s by the Legare – Waring family, whose now vacant beautiful antebellum residence is still on site primarily as an event venue.
Admission was $10/person and the park’s hours primarily business hours. The park contains a rather extensive interactive family-friendly exhibit on what the lives of colonists, slaves, servants and Native Americans were like at the time, walking/biking trails, gorgeous gardens and landscaping, historic replicas of cabins, artillery, the battery wall, and even a ship, several monuments, and a small zoo containing animals that the settlers encountered as they arrived in foreign lands.
All in all, this park way exceeded our expectations! We actually learned a good amount from the exhibits and from the replicas, and came to have a newfound appreciation for how tough things were back then and how cushy our lives are today. We also love anywhere that has a zoo. Most of all though, I think my eyes almost exploded just from how pretty everything was. Rows of huge live oak trees covered in Spanish moss, gorgeous ponds with fountains, views of nearby Charleston, azaleas, magnolia trees, and tons of camellias (we were simply in shock that flowers could bloom in January)! If I lived here, I would definitely come here all of the time to decompress or have a picnic lunch.
Though our time in Charleston was brief, it certainly was not short on scenery or Southern charm.