A French Tort, African Rice, and Pastel Colored Homes

Charleston’s reputation may be that of a genteel Southern city, but English, French, African, and Jewish immigrants have created a lively tapestry of culture in the Holy City. It seems every corner of Charleston is filled with history, and every menu reflects that.

A Short History

A native tribe of Sewee Indians lived in the area of Charleston when the English began settling “Charles Town,” named for the king, in 1670. French Huguenots, fleeing religious persecution, arrived in 1680.

The Sewee sided with the English against the Spanish, supplying them with corn. The Sewee were active trading partners with the English, but soon became unsatisfied with the terms of trade. So, the Sewee build a navy of canoes and attempted to cross the Atlantic to England to secure more favorable trade terms. The canoes were soon swamped, and the English saved the Sewee from drowning. However, they then sold them into slavery in the West Indies. The rest of the tribe died out soon after from smallpox and other diseases.

Colonists faced attacks from the Spanish and French who disputed England’s claim on South Carolina. Native American and pirate attacks were also common. The famous pirate Blackbeard laid siege to Charles Town for a week in May 1718, plundering ships and kidnapping their passengers, only releasing them after the governor agreed to give Blackbird the ransom of a chest of medicine.

Pirates of Charleston, SC

By the mid 18th century, the city had grown rich, primarily through the trade of humans from Africa and their stolen labor. Slaves were sold in public and imprisoned Africans made up more than half of the population.

Jewish settlers also arrived from the Iberian Peninsula where they were fleeing the Inquisition. Charles Town was home to the largest Jewish community in the colonies.

South Carolina declared independence from England at the Custom and Exchange House. During the Revolutionary War, The British Navy tried to capture Charles Town in 1776, but was repelled. In 1780, British General Clinton laid siege to Charles Town, cutting off supplies to the undermanned American troops, resulting in the worst American defeat of the war. When the Americans eventually won the War of Independence, the name of the city was changed to Charleston.

After the war, Charleston became even more prosperous, due to the stolen labor of African slaves. With the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860, South Carolina seceded from the Union and Citidel cadets fired on a Union ship as it entered Charleston harbor on January 9, 1861. Then, on April 12, 1861, soldiers led by P. G. T. Beauregard, fired on Fort Sumter, starting the Civil War.

Union forces wanted to take Charleston for its strategic port, but were unable to take the city, even though they repeatedly bombarded the city from Navy ships. But, in 1865, we the Confederate Army was crumbling, General Beauregard abandoned the city and troops from two black regiments, 21st Infantry Regiment of the US Colored Troops and the 55th Massachusetts Infantry, entered the city.

With the city in ruins and the economy collapsed, Charleston tried to rebuild. But, a 7.0 estimated magnitude earthquake struck the city in 1886, destroying much of Charleston.

1886 Charleston Earthquake

In a twisted way, this destruction and subsequent poverty may have saved Charleston. With little economic activity or investment, few were interested in building Charleston. So many historic buildings were not torn down like in other cities. Still, many of them remained abandoned and neglected until the 1920’s and 30’s when a strong preservation movement took hold which is still strong in Charleston today.

Foodie Charleston

Charleston has undergone a foodie renaissance over the past few years. Low Country dishes have been elevated to Haute Cuisine at the many high-end eating establishments in the city.

There are ways to experience traditional Low Country favorites in a more casual atmosphere as well.

Red Rice

Present day Senegal and the Niger River Basin is where African Rice (distinctive from Asian varieties) was first cultivated. Senegalese people were so proficient in rice farming that they were enslaved by Europeans and brought to the New World to forcibly work rice plantations.

Rice became a huge cash crop in the colony but today little rice is farmed in SC. The descendants of the slaves are know as Gullah (or, Geechee in Georgia) and because of the community’s isolation on barrier islands and remote parts of the state, developed their own language, customs, and cuisine.

Of course, in our modern society, much of Gullah culture has disappeared. However, The Gullah Society has events, exhibitions, and programs to preserve it.

Charleston band Ranky Tanky takes inspiration from Gullah culture for their music

The most common Gullah dish is Charleston Red Rice, known locally simply as Red Rice. The grain is cooked with crushed tomatoes and bacon or smoked pork sausage. Vegetables like celery, sweet peppers, and onions are also added.

For real Red Rice, Bertha’s Kitchen is a no-frills place that does it right. Martha Lou’s is also an excellent choice. The menus at both places change daily, but Red Rice is almost always available.

Sweet Grass Baskets

Another visible part of Gullah culture is the Sweet Grass Basket. Originally, used by African slaves to carry rice from the field, Sweet Grass Baskets are now an art form all their own. Each basket is a unique piece unto itself, expressing the talent and personality of the artist.

Sweet Grass Basket makers often set up stands and tents along Highway 17 in Mount Pleasant (just over the Ravenel Bridge). Driving along 17 and stopping to check them out is a good way to spend a couple hours.

Story on Sweetgrass Basket Weavers from CBS Sunday Morning

The Mount Pleasant Visitor’s Center at Patriot’s Point (a nice spot for a walk and near the pedestrian access for the Ravenel Bridge) also has an exhibition of Sweet Grass Baskets and vendors selling their work.

Be aware that these baskets are quite pricey. Each are works of art that takes many hours to create. Prices start at $30 for a tiny basket suitable for holding candy to larger works costing several hundred or even thousands of dollars.

Tea Rooms

In Charleston, a Tea Room isn’t what you think. It’s not a cozy business establishment where you sit with your warm beverage and work on your laptop or quietly chat with a friend.

Here, Tea Rooms are held at churches in Charleston each spring. They operate as fundraisers for the church. Started in the 1940’s when Old St. Andrew’s Church needed money to repair the building, Tea Rooms have expanded since then to several other churches raising money for all kinds of charitable endeavors.

Old St. Andrew’s still has a Tea Room each spring. In fact, theirs kicks off the Tea Room season which normally runs from mid March to early June. This is where you can find some traditional dishes that are usually difficult to track down at local eateries.

Grace Church Tea Room

Of course, you won’t be able to find all of these treats at every Tea Room. My advise is to arrive early and ask around. You never know who’s going to show up with your favorite!

Huguenot Torte

The Huguenots were a branch of the Calvinist Protestants in France. Once numbering over one million adherents, the Huguenots were persecuted by the Catholics in charge of France and their numbers soon dwindled to under 100,000. The Huguenot diaspora found a foothold in the Netherlands, Germany, England, Ireland, Wales, South Africa, and the New World, especially Charleston. There is still a Huguenot church in the French Quarter of the city.

Huguenot Church (photo: Brent Petersen)

So, what do the Huguenots have to do with the Huguenot Torte? The Huguenots brought something with them to the New World called the Gâteau aux noisettes, a hazelnut cake. But, because hazelnuts weren’t commonly found in the colonies, pecans were substituted.

The chopped pecans and fruit (often apples, Granny Smith, especially) were baked with custard to make a pie. This custard pie later made its way to the Ozarks where the dessert is called Ozark Pudding. Bess Truman used to make Ozark Pudding and it was supposedly a favorite of her husband, President Harry.

Huguenot Torte from Middletown Place (photo: tasteatlas.com)

Today, it’s not often that you’ll see a Huguenot Torte on menus in Charleston, despite its history with the city, Fleet Landing is one place that has it as does Middletown Place. But, you’re most likely to find the Huguenot Torte at the Tea Room church festivals in the spring around Charleston.

Hummingbird Cake

Hummingbird Cake is a three layer cake with cream cheese frosting, canned pineapple, chopped pecans, and smashed bananas. Yup, it’s awfully sweet, and it’s also a southern tradition.

Hummingbird Cake (photo: tasteofhome.com)

The cake’s history is uncertain, even though the Hummingbird cake is a rather recent culinary invention. The Jamaican Tourist board began sending out Hummingbird Cake recipes as a way to grow tourism on the island as far back as 1968. Others give credit to Mrs. L.H. Wiggins of Greensboro, NC as the inventor. Her recipe was published in an edition of Southern Living in 1978.

Like the Huguenot Tort, the Hummingbird Cake doesn’t often show up on local dessert menus. Local bakeries will make the cake to order and slices are sometimes on offer at Kaminsky’s Dessert Cafe. But, like the Huguenot Tort, the best way to experience the sweet decadence of the Hummingbird Cake is at one of the church Tea Rooms that pops up in Charleston each spring.

Lady Baltimore Cake

The novel “Lady Baltimore” by Owen Wister was first published in 1906 and is set in Charleston during the reconstruction. In it, a character exclaims “But, dear me, this is delicious!” after sampling the Lady Baltimore Cake. Supposedly, Wister was served the cake in Charleston and enjoyed it so much he made it a part of his book.

Legend has it that the cake was invented at the Lady Baltimore Tea Room (sadly, long gone) in Charleston. The cake likely wasn’t called Lady Baltimore, it was just served there, but Wister made it famous in his book and the dessert soon became ubiquitous in Charleston.

Lady Baltimore Cake recipe from Southern Living

The cake itself is made using egg whites (no yolks) and “boiled frosting.” Raisins (and sometimes dates) and pecans are added to the frosting. This makes for a light cake, not nearly as heavy as the Hummingbird Cake.

Sugar Bakeshop will make a Lady Baltimore Cake on special order (Lady Baltimore Cupcakes, too!) but it’s not on their regular menu. So, like the Huguenot Tort and Hummingbird Cake, it’s often best to look for the Lady Baltimore Cake at one of the spring Tea Rooms in Charleston.

Oh, and if you’re thinking of picking up a copy of the novel Lady Baltimore, know that it hasn’t aged well. It does describe Charleston society, but the racist language and depictions are ugly and outdated.

Shrimp & Grits

If there is one dish that defines Low Country cuisine, it’s Shrimp & Grits. It seems every restaurant in town has it on the menu. And, why not? Both ingredients are in abundant supply here. Who knows, maybe someday local McDonald’s will start to carry it.

Back in the day, the dish was called Breakfast Shrimp, because it was usually served in the morning. The grits? Well, they were implied, even if, in Charleston, grits were commonly known as Hominy.

Of course, there many ways to prepare Shrimp & Grits. Bread and fry the shrimp or add peppers & onions, or maybe some hot sauce. And, of course, you can add cheese to the grits to make cheesy grits.

The Grit Counter (photo: gracegrit.com)

But, most purists will want their Shrimp & Grits served simply; Shrimp sauteed in butter with salt and fresh cracked pepper served on a bed of Hominy (grits).

Choices abound when looking for Shrimp & Grits on local menus but Glass Onion makes a mighty good one even if they change the presentation depending on what’s available and in season.

One of my favorite spots is relatively new. Grace & Grit serves grits in every way imaginable. Of course, they offer Shrimp & Grits, but they also have creative takes on grits like the Blueberry Grits, Pecan & Maple Grits, and Pimento Cheese Grits. For the indecisive there’s a flight of four different kinds of grits.

Grits-averse folks can find lots of other favorites on the menu.

My favorite spot for grits in the Low Country (photo: gracegrit.com)

As much as I like Grace & Grits, I like sister restaurant The Grit Counter even better, which is right next door. Open for lunch only, you get to pick your grits, your fixin’s, your sauce, and create your own custom grits bowl. The atmosphere is more casual and the place is filled with workers from nearby businesses grabbing a bite before returning to the grind. Grind? Grits? See what I did there?

Boiled Peanuts

Peanuts were originally domesticated in South America, but took a circuitous route to the southern colonies of the United Sates. The Portuguese took the legume from Brazil and transplanted it in Africa where enslaved people brought it to the New World.

Boiled Peanut Stand (photo: Timbo’s Boiled Peanuts Facebook page)

So-called Green Peanuts, a term used not for their color but for the fact that the peanuts are raw, are boiled, unshelled, in salted water. This gives them a creamy rather than crunchy texture. Boiled Peanuts can also be seasoned with Cajun Spices, hot sauce, ham hocks, or even beer. Boiled Peanuts are so popular that they were declared the official snack food of South Carolina in 2006.

Timbo’s is a great spot to get boiled peanuts and Mike’s Peanuts sets up at several farmers markets selling their boiled peanuts and fried peanuts. Or, sit down at The Wreck of Richard & Charlene who offer boiled peanuts as a side dish on the menu.

Drinking in Charleston

Charleston is a cocktail town. There are great cocktail bars all over the city, especially around King Street, but you can find great mixologists in other parts of Chuck Town and over the bridge in Mt. Pleasant, too.

Moscow Mule

The Moscow Mule, and variations on the mule theme, is by far the most popular drink in Charleston. Who knows why the Mule became the go-to drink here. It doesn’t have any roots in the city, the Moscow Mule was invented in NYC and popularized on the West Coast. And maybe tomorrow a new trend will take hold in Charleston’s drinkeries.

A traditional Moscow Mule is made with vodka, ginger beer, lime juice, and often garnished with a lime wedge. That said, there are lots of variations on the MM, including Prohibition who adds mint, and Tavern & Table who make a Black & Blue Mule with blueberry and blackberry compote.

Variations of Moscow Mule

Some Mule recipes swap out the vodka for bourbon (Kentucky Mule), tequila (Mexican Mule), spiced rum (Jamaican Mule), or even absinthe and cinnamon schnapps (the appropriately named Dead Man’s Mule).

In Charleston, you’re likely to come across a Carolina Mule. The Carolina Mule is just like the Kentucky Mule in that bourbon is substituted for vodka. The only reason I can think of for this being called a Carolina Mule instead of a Kentucky Mule is regional pride. Whatever the reason, you can find the Carolina Mule on the menu at King Street Dispensary.

The #1 spot for a Moscow Mule is The Rarebit on King Street. Maybe it’s the Green Mark Vodka that makes Rarebit’s MM special. Green Door is a Russian Vodka which is inexpensive, but of exceptional quality. The Rarebit also has a nice food menu, which is also not too expensive; less and less common on King St.

Copper Mugs

Moscow Mule’s are typically served in copper mugs. But, copper is a toxic material. And, when copper comes into contact with acidic liquids, copper is released. This is a problem because a Moscow Mule is acidic; both vodka and lime are quite acidic. Even though the amount of copper released when a Moscow Mule is served in a copper mug is small, low dosages can do damage.

Or, you could make your own copper mug

Most establishments will serve their Mules in a copper mug lined with stainless steel to prevent the acidic beverage from coming in contact with the copper. That said, it’s best to check with your bartender and if they are serving Mules in a pure copper mug, ask for it to be made and served in a glass.

Other Drinks

Proof is one of the best saloons in Charleston. They will serve a Moscow Mule, of course, but they also have a unique cocktail called the Knuckleball. This is a bev made with bourbon, cola reduction, orange bitters, and pickled boiled peanuts. Truly unique.

On the roof of the Market Pavilion Hotel is the Pavilion Bar. There’s a great view of the city from here, and heaters if it’s chilly outside. But, if you want to get a Nitrotini, go downstairs to the hotel’s Grill 225. They have several cocktails, including the Classic Nitrotina, that are cooled using liquid nitrogen, making the drink look like it’s smoking.

View from the rooftop Pavilion Bar (Photo: Brent Petersen)

Craft Beer

Charleston’s Craft Beer scene is booming. There’s tons of local brewers taking over taps in Chuck Town’s bars and several breweries that offer their own microbrews.

Palmetto Brewing is the oldest and probably the most popular, local brewery. Founded in the mid 1800’s, Palmetto Brewing operated in the Holy City until 1913, when it shuttered its doors. There was no local beer brewery in Charleston until 1993 when the new Palmetto Brewing started operations on Huger Street. The taproom has many of the Palmetto’s most popular beers along with smaller batch beers. Palmetto beer is also available at many taps across the state and in cans at local stores.

Edmund’s Oast has a huge selection of beers from around the world and a dozen or so of their own brews. They also have an upscale menu to pair with your bevvie.

Taps at Edmund’s Oast (photo: edmundsoast.com)

For adventurous taste buds, Frothy Beard is out of the way, but worth a stop. They have about 20 beers on tap and there’s always something interesting to try like the kettled sour cranberry ale.

Of course, there’s always the option of foregoing the fancy suds and plopping down $1.25 for a can of Pabst during happy hour at The Recovery Room. This dive bar proudly proclaims it sells more PBR than any other spot in the country. And what could go better with a can of PBR than The Recovery Room’s Tater Tot Nachos?

Things to do in Charleston

Walking Tour

Charleston was built around the Charleston Harbor, and it is a very walkable city. Most of the interesting and historic sites are on “The Peninsula,” and easily reachable on foot.

Cemetery at St, Philip’s Church with Spanish Moss dangling from trees (photo: Brent Petersen)

The folks at Walks of Charleston have put together an online self-guided tour that covers the best sites. Of course, you can take a deeper dive by taking their guided walking tour of the Holy City.

The Battery

The Battery is the southernmost tip of The Peninsula and a good place to start a walking tour and then making your way north. Parking can be tough, so if you have a car, I’d recommend going early on a weekday to get street parking on South Battery.

The walk along the sea wall by The Battery (photo: Brent Petersen)

A relaxing stroll along the seawall affords great views of the harbor and rivers as well as Fort Sumter.

The centerpiece of The Battery is White Point Garden. The garden is filled with shady oak trees and a gazebo which is a popular spot for newlyweds to take pictures.

No wedding couples taking photos on this day at the gazebo (photo: Brent Petersen)

White Point Garden was used as a Battery during the Civil War. A couple of Civil War relics are on display in The Battery and White Point Garden along with a hodge-podge of other military bric-a-brac unrelated to the war or South Carolina. There’s also a ridiculous statue dedicated to Confederate soldiers that was erected during the Jim Crow era.

Rainbow Row

Rainbow Row (photo: Brent Petersen)

A series of Georgian style row houses along East Bay Street (starting at 79-81 East Bay and ending at 107 East Bay), Rainbow Row is one of the most photographed spots in Charleston. The houses date to colonial times but after the Civil War, the city’s economy collapsed and the houses fell into disrepair. In the 1930’s, Dorothy Haskell Porcher Legge began renovating some of the houses she had purchased, painting them pastel colors. Other homeowners followed the color palate as they renovated the dilapidated homes on East Bay and Rainbow Row was born.

French Quarter

The French Quarter of Charleston is the oldest part of the city with some buildings dating to the late 1600’s. Even though Charles Town was an English Colony, French protestants fleeing religious persecution were among the first residents. This led to a strong French influence in the city, though the area was never called the French Quarter during this time. It wasn’t until 1973, when Charleston began preservation efforts in the area that the moniker was used and The French Quarter was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Old Slave Mart Museum

Charleston was the main hub of the slave trade in the 19th century. Some 40% of all enslaved Africans were moved through the port city. And, by the mid 19th century, enslaved Africans far outnumbered whites in South Carolina.

Photo: Brent Petersen

Without the stolen labor of the slave population, Charleston would look and feel dramatically different than it does today. That doesn’t mean you cannot enjoy what the city has to offer, but I think understanding this history makes a visit better and enlightening. The planned opening of the International African American Museum in late 2021 will add more texture and vibrancy to this story.

In 1856 public auctions of slaves were outlawed in Charleston. Private auction spaces sprung up around the city and in 1859 Ryan’s Mart, the building that now houses the Old Slave Mart Museum, was used for the buying and selling of human beings. The Union Army took Charleston in February 1865, the slaves at Ryan’s Mart were freed.

The building underwent several incarnations after the Civil War, including uses as tenement housing, a car dealership, and a gallery for African American art. Today, the museum is filled with information on the slave trade in Charleston, though you won’t find a lot of artifacts from this shameful period of history.

French Huguenot Church
Huguenot Church (photo: Brent Petersen)

The Huguenots were a group Calvinist Protestants who fled France due to religious persecution. A group of Huguenots arrived in Charleston in 1680. The current Gothic Revival Church dates to 1844, although at least two other Huguenot Churches were built and destroyed on the same site.

As the Huguenots assimilated into Charleston, fewer people spoke French and the church began offering services in English in 1828. Today, services are still conducted in English although once a year, every spring, there is still a service offered in French.

My favorite contribution of the Huguenots to Charleston culture is the Huguenot Tort, a custard pie made with chopped fruit and pecans.

Waterfront Park
The Pineapple Fountain waiting for you to take a selfie (photo: Brent Petersen)

Taking over a derelict part of Charleston, The Waterfront Park opened to much fanfare in 1990. There is a very nice riverfront walk, pier, and one of the city’s the most popular attractions, the Pineapple Fountain.

Historic Charleston City Market

There’s been a market on this site since the 1700’s. Stands used to sell produce to Charlestonians but now the Historic Charleston City Market is a shopping mecca with clothing, jewelry, gifts, and artwork, much of it locally made. You can even find authentic Sweet Grass Baskets.

Street Art

Shepard Fairey, the famed street artist, was born and raised in Charleston. Shepard created the Andre the Giant “Obey” stickers while a student at RISD (Rhode Island School of Design). As someone who lived in Rhode Island during this time, I can tell you that the stickers were everywhere and people talked about them frequently.

Later, Fairey designed the iconic Barack Obama “Hope” poster.

Shepard returned to Charleston in 2014 and painted several murals in the city, including an homage to his his famous “Obey” sticker on the roof of the Francis Marion Hotel.

Shepard Fairey working on street art in Charleston

There are several other interesting murals in the city and Odyssey has done a good job of cataloging a few of the best.

Meanwhile, chART Outdoor Initiative & Gallery, has a couple of outdoor galleries of art. The folks here work tirelessly on public art projects and provide programs for new and established artists.

For art in a more formal setting, I’ve including a listing of some of the best galleries in Charleston in the Shopping section below.

Ravenel Bridge

Walk across the Ravenel Bridge for some of the best views of Charleston (photo: Brent Petersen)

High, high above the Cooper River stretches one of the iconic symbols of Charleston, the Ravenel Bridge. Technically, it’s the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, named after the politician who spearheaded the movement to build a new bridge connecting Charleston to Mount Pleasant.

View of Charleston from the top of the Ravenel Bridge (photo: Brent Petersen)
View of Charleston from the top of the Ravenel Bridge (photo: Brent Petersen)

Besides the sheer size of the bridge, it’s 2.5 miles long with the diamond-shaped support towers rising 575 feet above the water, the bridge has two design features that make it especially attractive. First, the cables feathering out from the towers give the bridge a distinctive look. But, most importantly in my mind, is the pedestrian and bike path on the east side of the bridge.

All day long, walkers, joggers, and bikers travel across the span and enjoy the spectacular views of the city, Cooper River, and out to the Atlantic Ocean. Access to the bridge is easy. Park at Patriot’s Point and follow the path to the bridge entrance.


There are lots of beaches within easy reach of Charleston. The most popular spots can get crowded and parking can be difficult during the busy summer months, so it’s a good idea to get an early start.

Folly Beach

Folly is probably the most popular beach near Charleston. Surfers frequent a spot called “The Washout” for the tastiest waves. There used to be houses at the washout, but Hugo blew them away.

The Pier at Folly Beach (photo: Brent Petersen)
The Pier at Folly Beach (photo: Brent Petersen)

Non surfers can enjoy the vast beach and water activities like kayaking, paddleboarding, or a boat tour.

Lots of beach shacks serve bites and cold brew. The Washout is a fun hang and they usually have live music at night.

Sullivan’s Island

Folks enjoying the tidal pool on Sullivan’s Island (photo: Brent Petersen)

My favorite beach is at Sullivan’s Island. It gets crowded like the others, but maybe just a tiny bit less so. That said, parking is still a pain.

Sullivan’s Island has a cool lighthouse which is unusual because of it’s triangular shape and protruding lens room. You can walk around the lighthouse and see it from the beach, but there are no tours of the structure, unfortunately.

Lighthouse on Sullivan’s Island (photo: Brent Petersen)

Sullivan’s Island also has the best restaurants and bars of the nearby beaches. Poe’s Tavern plays up a tangential association the island has with Edgar Allen Poe (he was stationed at nearby Fort Moultrie in 1827). Poe’s has lots of fun EAP kitsch to browse while you enjoy a pint and bite.

Poe’s Tavern (photo: Brent Petersen)

My favorite spot on Sullivan’s Island is the Obstinate Daughter. Low Country favorites are elevated to new heights at O/D with fresh, local, and organic ingredients. They make something called Geechie Fries which is grits formed into slabs and cut into thick strips and deep fried. Incredible.

They also have a flatbread. I know, so does everyone, but O/D makes theirs with an incredible butter bean puree I could eat by the gallon. Highly recommended.

Isle of Palms

Although all the beaches on this list are family friendly, Isle of Palms might the most of the lot. There are several resorts and restaurants that cater to families, plus a playground for the rugrats.

Isle of Palms drone vid

Kiawah Island

Kiawah Island is a little further from Charleston (about 25 miles) and has several gold courses. If you’re not a golfer, there is a nice beach and a bird sanctuary at the nearby Deveaux Bank. If you’re planning on going to Deveaux Bank, be sure to check their website as access is by boat or kayak only and extremely limited.

Day Trips


Savannah, Georgia is over a 2 hour drive, or just under 2 hours by train. Rather than a day trip (although you could do it in a day), I’d recommend staying overnight.

Savannah’s famous Forsyth Park Fountain (photo: Brent Petersen)

I’ve written an entire Foodie Travel Guide to Savannah and dedicated an episode of the podcast to The Hostess City of The South.


Georgetown is about 60 miles up the coast from Charleston. It’s a small town with a nice waterfront walk. There’s also a lighthouse on nearby North Island near the entrance to Winyah Bay. The lighthouse isn’t open to the public, and the island is only accessible by boat.

My favorite attraction in Georgetown is the tiny Gullah Museum. The Gullah people were the slaves brought from Africa to work the rice plantations of South Carolina and Georgia.

Quilt at the Gullah Museum (photo: gullahmuseum.com)

Curator Andrew Rodriges is likely to be sitting out front smoking a cigar and keeping his dog Harper (named after Harper Lee) company. Inside the one room museum, Mr. Rodriges can tell a story about every item in the Gullah Museum. He’ll guide you through the quilt his wife made that details Michelle Obama’s heritage (her grandfather was from the area) and was used in the inauguration celebrations of 2009.

Pawleys Island

About a 20 minute drive from Georgetown is Pawley’s Island. More remote and less crowded than Charleston’s beaches, Pawley’s is a good getaway since there aren’t any high rise resorts on the island. Most of the accommodations are small family-run inns or beach cottages.

There’s not much to do on Pawley’s Island, so relaxing becomes your only option. Ahhhh. Just make sure to steer clear of The Gray Man.

“What are you in for?”
“Violation of section 50-21-80 of the Cowabuna Code”
photo: Brent Petersen


The historical section of Chalreston is compact and walkable (albiet with lots of uneven cobblestones). But, if you plan a daytrip, a rental car might be a good idea. Uber and Lyft widely available.

Charleston International Airport (CHS)

Direct flights to many major U.S. cities with seasonal direct service to London.

5500 International Blvd, North Charleston, SC 29418

Ground Transportation

There is a bus from the airport to Charleston. Shuttles, taxis, Uber/Lyft are also available.


Charleston’s bus system serves the city and into Mt. Pleasant, Folly Island, and other parts of Charleston and Dorchester counties.


Amtrak has service from North Charleston south to Savannah and Miami and north to NYC. Note the train station is about 9 miles from downtown Charleston.

4565 Gaynor Avenue, North Charleston, SC 29405

Charleston Bike Share

Charleston’s bike share program. Be aware that in the historic areas of the city, roads are cobblestone and often uneven.

Index of Entertainment in Charleston

Boone Hall Plantation

Explore the history of slavery and the Gullah culture in Charleston.

1235 Long Point Rd, Mt Pleasant, SC 29464

Bulldog Tours

History, ghost, and culinary tours.

Charleston Culinary Tours

Several foodie tours to choose from including the Farm to Table Experience and Mixology Tour.

Walks of Charleston

Walking tours of Chucktown.

Lowcountry Walking Tours

Several tours to choose from.

Tour Charleston

Offering multiple tours including a ghost tour.

Arthur Ravenel Jr. bridge (aka the Cooper River Bridge)

Walk or bike across for spectacular views. Parking at Patriot’s Point.

Ravenel Bridge (photo: Brent Petersen)

Arthur Ravenel Jr Bridge, Charleston, SC 29403

Fort Sumter Tour

Boat ride to the fort with a guided tour.

The Battery

Walk along the seawall and gaze at the stately homes.

One of the homes in The Battery (photo: Brent Petersen)

Charleston, SC 29401

White Point Garden

5.7 acre public park along the waterfront in The Battery.

2 Murray Blvd., Charleston, SC

Rainbow Row

Rainbow Row (photo: Brent Petersen)

Colorful Georgian row houses. Great spot for pictures.

East Bay Road, Charleston, SC

French Huguenot Church

Church of the protestants who left France in the 17th century, fleeing religious persecution.

136 Church St, Charleston, SC 29401

Old Slave Mart Museum

Museum housed in the building where slaves bought and sold.

6 Chalmers St, Charleston, SC 29401

International African American Museum

Both Charleston and a wider history of African American people and culture.

14 Wharfside St, Charleston, SC 29401

Custom and Exchange House

Place where South Carolina declared independence from England during the Revolution. Now a museum.

E Bay St & Broad St, Charleston, SC 29401

Dock Street Theater

Oldest theater in the United States.

135 Church St, Charleston, SC 29401

Piccolo Spoleto Festival

Performing arts festival held each spring at venues all over the city. A few events are free.

Waterfront Park

Beautiful park with a walk along the riverfront and the famous Pineapple Fountain.

Waterfront park walk (photo: Brent Petersen)

Vendue Range, Concord St, Charleston, SC 29401

chART Outdoor Initiative & Gallery

Two outdoor art galleries.

1 Alycia Aly, Charleston, South Carolina 29407

Second Sunday on King Street

Live music, vendors, food.

King St, Charleston, SC 29401

H.L. Hunley Submarine

Confederate navy submarine museum.

1250 Supply St, Warren Lasch Conservation Center, North Charleston, SC 29405-2219

St. Philip’s Church

Oldest Church in the Holy City.

St. Philip’s Church (photo: Brent Petersen)

142 Church St, Charleston, SC 29401

The Commodore

Classy, cool jazz and funk club.

504 Meeting Street, Charleston, SC

Fort Moultrie

Fort where Edgar Allen Poe was stationed.

1214 Middle St, Sullivan’s Island, SC 29482

Sullivan’s Island

Great beach, go to station 12 at sunrise or sunset and you might see dolphins.

Wind surfer at Sullivan’s Island (photo: Brent Petersen)

Station 12 St., Sullivan’s Island, SC 29482

Folly Beach

Nice beach south of the city.

Pier at Folly Beach (photo: Brent Petersen)

Folly Beach, SC

Deveaux Bank Bird Sanctuary

Bird sanctuary on barrier island. Limited access, be sure to check website.

Deveaux Bank, SC

Gullah Museum

Museum dedicated to the Gullah people with an emphasis on Michelle Obama’s Gullah heritage.

123 King Street, Unit 7, Georgetown, SC 29440

Index of Food & Drink in Charleston

Bertha’s Kitchen

James Beard award winner. The place to get red rice.

2332 Meeting Street Rd, Charleston, SC 29405-6114

Sugar Bakeshop

Makes Lady Baltimore Cake and Lady Baltimore cupcakes to order

59 1/2 Cannon Street, Charleston, SC 29403

Middletown Place

One of the only places where you can get a Huguenot Torte

4300 Ashley River Road Charleston, SC 29414

Carmella’s Cafe and Dessert Bar

The place for desserts. Occasionally has Hummingbird Cake.

198 E Bay St, Suite 100, Charleston, SC 29401-2612

Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit

Biscuits served plain or with all kinds of fillings.

Several locations

82 Queen

Famous for She-Crab soup.

82 Queen Street, Charleston, SC

Early Bird Diner

Shrimp and grits

1644 Savannah Hwy, Charleston, SC 29407-7869

Glass Onion

Billed as “soulful food,” Glass Onion uses lots of locally sourced ingredients.

1219 Savannah Highway, Charleston, SC 29407


One of Charleston’s most famous eateries.

232 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29401


Famous for breakfast dishes, available all day.

Multiple locations

Eli’s Table

Elevated Southern Cuisine. Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner.

129 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29401

Blind Tiger

Fun pub, great brunch.

36-38 Broad St, Charleston, SC 29403

Circa 1886

One of Charleston’s finest, and most expensive restaurants. Check out their happy hour for inexpensive wine and cocktails.

149 Wentworth St., Charleston, SC 29401

Timbo’s Peanuts

Trailer serving boiled peanuts.

2484 Ashley River Rd, Charleston, SC 29414-4603

Grace & Grit

Grit-centric menu with good Shrimp & Grits.

320 Wingo Way Suite 100, Mt Pleasant, SC 29464

The Grit Counter

Lunch spot with choose your own Grits Bowls. Sister restaurant of Grace & Grit.

320 Wingo Way Suite 101, Mt Pleasant, SC 29464


Good happy hour and their roasted garlic tomato soup is to die.

863 Houston Northcutt Blvd, Mt Pleasant, SC 29464

The Wreck of Richard & Charlene

Seafood joint has boiled peanuts on the menu.

106 Haddrell St, Mt Pleasant, SC 29464

Jack’s Cosmic Dogs

Retro futuristic space themed hot dog joint.

2805 N Hwy 17, Mt Pleasant, SC 29466

Old St. Andrew’s Church

Home of the first Tea Room each spring.

2604 Ashley River Road, Charleston, SC 29414

Fleet Landing

Has Huguenot Torte on the dessert menu.

186 Concord St. Charleston, SC 29401

Middleton Place

Huguenot Torte on the menu. Note: admission to the plantation site may be required.

4300 Ashley River Rd, Charleston, SC 29414

Kaminsky’s Dessert Cafe

Sometimes has Hummingbird Cake on the menu.

Multiple Locations

The Rarebit

Best Moscow Mule in town.

474 King St, Charleston, SC 29403


One of the best cocktails bars in Charleston. Moscow Mule adds mint.

547 King St, Charleston, SC 29403

Grill 225

The place to get a liquid nitrogen cooled Nitrotini.

225 E Bay St, Charleston, SC 29401

The Belmont

Great bar for cocktails.

511 King St, Charleston, SC 29403


The place to get the Knuckleball cocktail (served with boiled peanuts).

437 King Street Charleston, SC 29403

King Street Dispensary

Southern Mule on the drink menu.

559 King Street, Charleston, SC 29403

Elliotborough Mini Bar

Great happy hour lasting until 10pm.

18 Percy St., Charleston, SC

The Gin Joint

“Cocktail Hour” has some good bargains.

182 E Bay St, Charleston, SC 29401

Moe’s Crosstown Tavern

Surprisingly good food and cheap beer.

714 Rutledge Ave., Charleston, SC 29403

Recovery Room

Claims to be largest seller of PBR in the country. Craft beer, too.

685 King St., Charleston, SC 29403

AC’s Bar and Grill

True dive bar in every way.

467 King St, Charleston, SC 29403

The Royal American

Great dive bar.

970 Morrison Dr., Charleston, SC 29403

High Cotton

Nice bar with an excellent espresso martini. Live music most nights.

Espresso Martini at High Cotton (photo: Brent Petersen)

199 E Bay St, Charleston, SC 29401

Edmund’s Oast

Brewery featuring their own beer and a selection of beers from around the world.

1505 King St #115, Charleston, SC 29405

Palmetto Brewing

Popular local beer with a taproom for tasting.

289 Huger St., Charleston, SC 29403

Frothy Beard

Large selection of adventurous brews.

1401 Sam Rittenberg Blvd., Charleston, SC 29407

Gene’s Haufbrau

Huge selection of beers of tap.

817 Savannah Highway, Charleston SC 29407

The Washout

Beachy restaurant on Folly Beach.

41 Center Street, Folly Beach, SC

Poe’s Tavern

Tavern dedicated to Edgar Allen with all kinds of Poe kitsch.

Fireplace at Poe’s Tavern (photo: Brent Petersen)

2210 Middle St, Sullivan’s Island, SC 29482

Obstinate Daughter

Great restaurant featuring local and organic items.

2063 Middle St, Sullivan’s Island, SC 29482

Tavern & Table

Great views on Shem Creek in Mt. Pleasant. Go for the Black & Blue Mule.

100 Church Street, Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464

Index of Shopping in Charleston

Historic Charleston City Market

Huge hall filled with local vendors selling gifts, clothing, jewelry, and gourmet food.

188 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29401

Charleston Farmers Market

Award winning farmers market.

Marion Square, 329 Meeting Street, Charleston, SC

Sea Island Farmers Market

Saturday farmers market on the campus of Charleston Collegiate School.

2024 Academy Rd, Johns Island, SC 29455

Robert Lange Studios

Voted best studio four years in a row. Contemporary art with some trippy exhibits.

2 Queen Street, Charleston, SC 29401

George Gallery

Contemporary art with several modern impressionist and abstract pieces.

54 Broad Street, Charleston, SC 29401

Corrigan Gallery

Lots of interesting contemporary work with prints and original posters from Piccolo Spoleto Festival.

38 Queen St, Charleston, SC 29401

Sweet Grass Pavilion

Sweet Grass Baskets on display and for sale.

99 Harry M. Hallman Jr Blvd, Mt Pleasant, SC 29464

Pitt Street Pharmacy

Old timey pharmacy/lunch counter/soda shop.

Pitt Street Pharmacy (photo: Brent Petersen)

111 Pitt St, Mt Pleasant, SC 29464

Index of Places to Stay in Charleston

The Vendue

Boutique Hotel in the French Quarter.

19 Vendue Range, Charleston, SC 29401

Harbourview Inn

Luxury hotel right on the waterfront.

2 Vendue Range, Charleston, SC 29401

Hyatt Place Charleston/Historic District

Full service hotel, centrally located.

560 King St, Charleston, SC 29403

French Quarter Inn

One of Charleston’s top hotels. Great location, but pricey.

166 Church St, Charleston, SC 29401

About the Author

Brent Petersen is the Editor-in-Chief of Destination Eat Drink. He currently resides in Setubal, Portugal. Brent has written the novel “Truffle Hunt” (Eckhartz Press) and the short story collection “That Bird.” He’s also written dozens of foodie travel guides to cities around the world on Destination Eat Drink. Brent’s podcast, also called Destination Eat Drink, is available on all major podcasting platforms and is distributed by the Radio Misfits Podcast Network.