55 Best Things to Do in Charleston SC Before or After a Cruise

We've got 55 of the best things to do in Charleston SC before or after your cruise vacation including tours, restaurants and plenty of sightseeing!

So you’ve booked your cruise. How exciting is that? Now it just so happens that you have a few days left of vacation time, either before or after that cruise. I bet you are wondering what to do with that extra time. Nobody wants to sit around, right? Why not visit the city you are cruising from?

Visiting Charleston Before or After a Cruise

Charleston is a beautiful city. It is teeming with life. There are so many things to do and see! You can discover the history, see some of the future, or just remain in the present. No matter what you love to do, you will find something to do that interests you.

35 Activities That You Are Sure to Enjoy

Although being spontaneous is tons of fun, it is still a great idea to have an idea of what you can do and where to go. Here are 35 activities you can do and places you can go. Have fun!

South Carolina Aquarium

The South Carolina Aquarium is an amazing place to visit. With more than 5,000 animals and exhibits the whole family can enjoy, everyone will leave here happy. This aquarium wants to make sure everyone leaves with a healthy respect and appreciation for marine wildlife.

Conservation is their goal. You can learn all about these wondrous creatures while you explore throughout the exhibits. A touch pool will allow you to get to know some of the animals personally. This may be an aquarium, but you can also visit with a bald eagle and other bird and land-dwelling creatures.

Distance to Port 1 mile
Location 100 Aquarium Wharf, Charleston, SC 29401
Phone Number (843) 577-FISH (3474)

The Charleston Museum

Commonly known as the “first museum” in the US, Charleston Museum is a beautiful representation of Charleston’s love of the South, it’s past, and their own history. It also has wonderful exhibits from around the world. There is something for everyone here.

The history buff can find exhibits and information about the slave trade, the revolutionary war, the civil war, and more. The nature lover will find a home in the natural history section of this museum. Kid storey welcomes children to explore, and you can explore textiles and silver to your heart’s content. There is no way to truly describe all of the possibilities, so you will just have to stop in!

Distance to Port 1.4 miles
Location 360 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29403
Phone Number 843.722.2996

Boone Hall Plantation and Gardens

Boone Hall Plantation and Gardens will leave you breathless. The beautiful working farm still grows and sells crops to this day. You can see what life was like 300 years ago at this spectacular plantation, which has been named the most photographed plantation in America. You can see why. The gardens are stunning, and the home and slave quarters are both rich with history.

Distance to Port 12 miles
Location 1235 Long Point Rd, Mt Pleasant, SC 29464
Phone Number (843) 884-4371

The Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art

Come visit this art gallery nestled within the School of Arts at the College of Charleston. With 3200 square feet of dedicated space and access to other amenities, you will find something to interest you in this ever-changing space. Initially named after the Charleston native William Halsey, this gallery has continuously displayed contemporary pieces by the local artists, and much more.

Distance to Port 1.3 miles
Location 161 Calhoun St, Charleston, SC 29424
Phone Number 843.953.4422

The Battery

The Battery is a historical defensive seawall that is visited by thousands annually. It is most famous for its history as a defensive area in the civil war.

The Battery, Charleston SC
The Battery (Photo: Shutterstock)

People flock here yearly to find the history of the war and to see the beautiful Antebellum homes that follow the route.

Distance to Port 0.9 miles
Location Starts at 40-44 East Bay Street and ends at Murray/King
Phone Number N/A
Website Book a Tour Here

Charleston Harbor Tours

The best-rated harbor tour company visits over 75 historical landmarks and goes over 300 years of history all while you are comfortable and enjoying yourself on their beautiful boat. They have snacks and drinks available on board. They also offer combo-tours which allow you to also have a carriage ride and tour a waterside plantation.

Distance to Port 0 miles
Location 10 Wharfside St, Charleston, SC 29401
Phone Number (843) 402-8719

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens is the oldest public gardens in America. It is also one of the oldest public tourist sites in Charleston. This plantation is gorgeous and its multiple romantic gardens are all meant to go with the flow of nature. You will feel like you are truly a part of the historical landscape when you visit here. The Drayton family has owned this plantation for centuries, and they do a lot for their community. Their pride shows throughout this beautiful place.

Distance to Port 13 miles
Location 3550 Ashley River Rd, Charleston, SC 29414
Phone Number (843) 571-1266

Walks of Charleston

Walks of Charleston is a family-owned and operated walking tour guide company located in downtown Charleston.

Downtown Charleston
Downtown Charleston (Photo: Shutterstock)

They offer plenty of route and tour options, and will even customize your route for you. They are all well versed in the history, architecture, and sites of the great city of Charleston.

Distance to Port 0.5 miles
Location 45 Pinckney St, Charleston, SC 29401
Phone Number (843)478-7573

Angel Oak Tree

The Angel Oak Tree is nestled in Angel Oak Park on Johns Island. It is estimated that this beautiful, sprawling oak tree is anywhere from 400-1500 years old! It is 28 feet around and the shade from these trees limbs that measure up to 187 feet long encompasses over 17,000 feet. It is a must-see, and since it is free there is no reason to miss this historical natural monument.

Distance to Port 13.5 miles
Location 3688 Angel Oak Rd, Johns Island, SC 29455
Phone Number N/A

Joe Riley Waterfront Park

The Joe Riley Waterfront Park Is a lovely place to spend an afternoon. There are fountains that light up at night, meditative gardens, and more. The park benches line the walkway so you can look out at the ocean, and the swings are family-sized so families can enjoy the park together. If you need a free and relaxing place to relax and unwind, this is a great option.

Distance to Port 0 miles
Location Vendue Range, Concord St, Charleston, SC 29401
Phone Number 843.724.5003

Old Slave Mart Museum

The Old Slave Mart Museum is an homage to the men and women who were sold from this very place into slavery for the plantations and farms. It is staffed by people who can trace their lineage back to local slaves, and the interview with a former slave will take your breath away. This is not an entertainment stop, it is a historical site. It is important to remember our history, and up to 40% of US slaves got here by being forcefully brought in through Charleston.

Distance to Port 0.5 miles
Location 6 Chalmers St, Charleston, SC 29401
Phone Number 843-958-6467

Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum

Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum calls itself a “hands on history” experience. There is an aircraft carrier, destroyer, and submarine. There are also historical aircraft and over 40 interactive exhibits. This place changes all the time, and provides hours of endless entertainment, no matter what your age! 

Distance to Port 5.7 miles
Location 40 Patriots Point Rd, Mt Pleasant, SC 29464
Phone Number 843-884-2727

Fort Sumter National Monument

Fort Sumter National Monument is the historical site on which the first battle between the North and South in the Civil War. Listen to the guides as they explain and describe what it was like back then, and soak in the feelings of deep-rooted history.

Distance to Port 0.9 miles
Location 340 Concord Street, Charleston, SC 29401
Phone Number (843) 883-3123

Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry

Bring your child to explore the interactive exhibits and lessons throughout the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry. They change their programs often, but you can always find the medieval castle and pirate ship ready and waiting!

Distance to Port 1.5 miles
Location 25 Ann St, Charleston, SC 29403
Phone Number 843.853.8962

Gibbes Museum of Art

This art museum has a beautiful and extensive collection of both American art and art specific to the Charleston area. You could wander their galleries for hours taking in all of the history and emotion that has gone into the specially curated pieces here.

Distance to Port 0.6 miles
Location 135 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29401
Phone Number 843.722.2706

Nathaniel Russell House

This magnificent home was built by one of the wealthiest merchants of the time, Nathaniel Russell. It has been restored to its former glory and is now used to show us how the rich and wealthy used to live. You will see period furniture, opulent architecture, and information on the 18 slaves who maintained the property and the family who lived there.

Distance to Port0.7 miles
Location 51 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29401
Phone Number(843) 723-1623

Aiken-Rhett House

Visit the Aiken-Rhett house to get a good idea of the life of a politician in the old south. Governor and Mrs. William Aiken lived here in the 1830s.

Aiken-Rhett House, Charleston
Aiken-Rhett House (Photo Shutterstock)

It is a beautiful and well-maintained look back into the urban lives of the rich and political forces of the early years in our country.

Distance to Port1.4 miles
Location 48 Elizabeth St, Charleston, SC 29403
Phone Number(843) 723-1159

H.L. Hunley Submarine

Come visit the first successful combat submarine in the world! You can explore this vessel and learn all about its history from the dedicated people who have lovingly done all they can to restore it. Once sunk and now found and restored, this submarine is a one of a kind visiting experience to be had by all.

Distance to Port 6.2 miles
Location 1250 Supply St, North Charleston, SC 29405
Phone Number 843-743-4865

Charleston Music Hall

The Charleston Music Hall holds a variety of events and concerts. Visit their website to find out what exciting things are happening during your trip!

Distance to Port 1.5 miles
Location 37 John St, Charleston, SC 29403
Phone Number (843) 853-2252

Charleston Chefs’ Kitchen Tour

Spend 3 hours wandering the streets and the kitchens of Charleston’s finest. The chefs will show you their kitchens, allow you to sample their popular items, and tell you all about their inspirations and ideas. This fun and exciting tour is perfect for any foodie. Check the details here.

Distance to Port1.5 miles
Location 29 Ann St, Charleston, SC 29403
Phone Number843-259-2966

Calhoun Mansion

The Calhoun Mansion is a completely renovated and luxurious example of what the architects in the 1800s could do. Originally built for George Walton Williams, this home is open for viewing to the public and full of exquisite pieces for your viewing pleasure.

Distance to Port0.9 miles
Location 16 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29401
Phone Number (843) 722-8205

Drayton Hall

Drayton Hall is the oldest plantation house still preserved and open to the public. Come explore the halls and view the amazing Palladian architecture of this 1700s mansion and learn about the history of the owners and slaves who made it what it is today.

Distance to Port 12.4 miles
Location 3380 Ashley River Rd, Charleston, SC 29414
Phone Number (843) 769-2600

Folly Beach

Folly Beach
Folly Beach

Folly Beach offers it all. They have fishing, surfing, swimming, and more. Come alone and relax by the water, or bring your family to have fun in the sun and build some sandcastles all day. This beach is fun for everyone.

Distance to Port 12.1 miles
Location Arctic Ave., Folly Beach, SC 29439
Phone Number N/A

Sullivan’s Island

Sullivan’s Island is a small town located along the Charleston Coast. They offer a serene and calming beach, civil war historic sites, and much more. This is a great little day trip getaway to enjoy alone, with your partner, or as a family.

Distance to Port 9.8 miles
Location N/A
Phone Number (843) 883-3198

Bike Rides

Bring or rent a bike and ride around Charleston to enjoy the sites. There are many mapped out routes, but the best thing to do is to just enjoy the ride! Check out the French Quarter, follow Rainbow Row, or go along the coast. Check online for meetups and riding groups.

Charleston City Market

Charleston Cty Market is one of the country’s oldest open markets. They offer more than 300 vendors and are open 364 days a year. People come from all over the region to shop at this historical and eclectic shopping center.

Distance to Port 0.3 miles
Location 188 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29401
Phone Number (843) 937-0920

Charleston’s Brews Cruise

Take a trip through Charleston and visit the best breweries. This company wants to support the local economy and by taking tourists and locals on different tours throughout Charleston’s bar scene. Sample local craft beers and more with Charleston’s Brews Cruise.

Distance to Port 1.3 miles
Location 375 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29401
Phone Number (843) 860-9847

Theatre 99

Do you love to laugh? If you do, Theatre 99 is the place to be when you come to Charleston! Theatre 99 offers stand-up comedy shows and improv for your entertainment, and if you have time, you can participate in one of their classes!

Distance to Port 0.8 miles
Location 280 Meeting St # B, Charleston, SC 29401
Phone Number (843) 853-6687

Charleston Charter and Yacht

Charleston Charter and Yacht is a great company that offers regularly scheduled harbor cruises, fishing trips, and more. You can also schedule events and group cruises with your friends and family. If you want to go out on the water, no matter what the reason, call Charleston Charter and Yacht! Don’t forget your travel binoculars for this type of activity.

Distance to Port 3.3 miles
Location 95 Ashley Point Dr, Charleston, SC 29407
Phone Number (843) 327-1600

Charleston Kayak Tours

Let Nature Adventures take you on one of their exciting and extensive kayak tours throughout Charleston’s waterways. You can choose a 2, 3, 4, or 5-6 hour long kayak expedition or you can choose an overnight camping trip! They offer a variety of kayaks to fit your personal preferences. Give them a call today!

Distance to Port 5.8 miles
Location 1 Shrimp Boat Ln Mount Pleasant, SC 29464
Phone Number (843)568-3222

Ravenel Bridge

The Ravenel Bridge is an eight-lane cable bridge with diamond-shaped towers that allow boats to pass through.

Ravenel Bridge
Ravenel Bridge

This bridge is a dream for runners and those who love to take long walks. It has a walkway running across that allows you scenic views of much of Charleston’s beautiful skyline and islands.

Distance to Port 5.9 miles
Location Arthur Ravenel Jr Bridge, Charleston, SC 29403

Nature Adventures Outfitters

The Nature Adventures Outfitters Adventure Center is a nature tour company committed to the conservation of the environment. They have camping, kayaking, hiking, and more! Take one of their guided tours or reserve one of their cabins for an amazing outdoor experience.

Distance to Port 33.4 miles
Location 8257 N Highway 17 McClellanville, SC 29458
Phone Number 843-697-2075

James Island County Park

James Island County Park allows daily admissions and has campgrounds available. They are packed with family fun with a climbing wall, kayak and boat rentals, saltwater fishing, crabbing, a waterpark and so much more! If you want adventure and fun all in one place, this is a great place to go!

Distance to Port 7.4 miles
Location 871 Riverland Dr, Charleston, SC 29412
Phone Number (843) 406-6990

Cypress Gardens

Cypress Gardens has been used to film multiple movies because it has such beautiful natural scenery. Take a look inside their swamparium, which features reptiles and amphibians from all around the area. Explore where they come from along the hiking trails. Finish up at the sweet butterfly house. You can easily spend an entire day here exploring.

Distance to Port 29.3 miles
Location 3030 Cypress Gardens Rd, Moncks Corner, SC 29461
Phone Number (843) 553-0515

Anglin Smith Fine Art

Betty Anglin Smith opened up her gallery in 2000, and it has been a center for fine art ever since. The art in the Anglin Smith Fine Art gallery is often for sale and curated from local artists. Visit this gallery to see wonderful pieces by talented people!

Distance to Port 0.6 miles
Location 9 Queen St, Charleston, SC 29401
Phone Number (843) 853-0708

10 Restaurants to Visit

The Codfather, Proper Fish and Chips

The Codfather claims to have the best fish and chips west of the UK! Come check out this authentic fish and chips restaurant for crispy cod and awesome fries. Check their Facebook Page here.

Distance to Port 7.6 miles
Location 4254 Spruill Ave, North Charleston, SC 29405
Phone Number (843) 789-4649


The Workshop is an “exploratory food court” that offers a wide array of food that is rotated all the time. New chefs and restaurants all get a chance to experiment and serve up new and unique dishes. It is a new experience every time!

Distance to Port 3.4 miles
Location 1503 King St, Charleston, SC 29405
Phone Number (843) 996-4500

Tattooed Moose

This pub/dive bar is known for having tasty sandwiches and a fun atmosphere. It is a favorite among locals and tourists and has been featured on the Food Network.

Distance to Port 2.8 miles
Location 1137 Morrison Dr, Charleston, SC 29403
Phone Number (843) 277-2990

Butcher and Bee

Butcher and Bee pride themselves on having an amazing food culture. They offer unique eating experiences at their locations, and they make it a point to always use locally produced farm fresh meats and produce.

Distance to Port 2.7 miles
Location 1085 Morrison Dr, Charleston, SC 29403
Phone Number (843) 619-0202

Little Jack’s Tavern

Little Jack’s Tavern is a classic American tavern serving up burgers, steaks, and ice cold beers and wine. It has an old fashioned charm and a classy atmosphere while simultaneously feeling down to earth and comfortable.

Distance to Port 2.7 miles
Location 710 King St, Charleston, SC 29403
Phone Number (843) 531-6868

Nana’s Seafood and Soul

Nana’s Seafood and Soul is an amazing hidden gem among the many restaurants in Charleston. There is an amazing atmosphere of love and comfort, and the food is comforting and delicious.

Distance to Port 3.3 miles
Location 176 Line St, Charleston, SC 29403
Phone Number (843) 937-0002

Bishopp’s Chicken Biscuit

Bishopp’s Chicken Biscuit is a tasty and affordable restaurant that specializes in delicious biscuits that they add different meats for sandwiches to. Stop by and try their amazing food and walk out with a biscuit. Or a dozen. Who’s counting?

Distance to Port 1.4 miles
Location 83 Mary St, Charleston, SC 29403
Phone Number (843) 608-3561

Blade and Bull Axe Throwing

Come visit this fun spot, where you will find a bar and lounge upfront and an ax-throwing range in the back! Ax throwing has become popular recently. This may be because it relieves stress, or it may be because of Jason Momoa. Who knows. Either way, enjoy!

Distance to Port 8.5 miles
Location 1077 E Montague Ave, North Charleston, SC 29405
Phone Number (843) 996-4587

Cafe Roux

Cafe Roux is located in the Workshop on a regular basis and offers traditional Cajun cuisine made with local ingredients.

Distance to Port 3.4 miles
Location 1503 King St, Charleston, SC 29405
Phone Number (843) 996-4500

Free Reign

Free Reign is described as a restaurant that specializes in “wood fire coastal cooking”. They offer seafood and other delights on their menu. Check them out at the Workshop!

Distance to Port 3.4 miles
Location 1503 King St, Charleston, SC 29405
Phone Number (843) 996-4500

10 Shops and Stores You Must See

Miss Maddies

This cute pet boutique is the perfect place to pick up a souvenir for your favorite fuzzy buddy!

Distance to Port 24.8 miles
Location 805 N. Cedar Street Summerville, South Carolina 29483
Phone Number (843) 810-0069

Terrace Oaks Antique Mall

Do you love to find old treasures? Is antiquing your jam? Come to the Terrace Oaks Antique Mall and spend the day browsing through 10,000 square feet and 90 booths!

Distance to Port5.4 miles
Location 2037 Maybank Hwy, Charleston, SC 29412
Phone Number(843) 795-9689

Antiques and Interiors Market

This group of antique shops and galleries is a great place to spend a lazy day wandering around and picking up pieces of history.

Distance to Port2.2 miles
Location 648 King St, Charleston, SC 29403
Phone Number (843) 805-4613

Hokus Pokus Costumes

Who doesn’t love a costume shop? Pop in and visit the best-rated costume shop in the area to have some fun!

Distance to Port4.8 miles
Location1015 St Andrews Blvd, Charleston, SC 29407
Phone Number(843) 556-6607

Indigo and Cotton

This shop is known for its well-made items and carefully curated products. It has become popular due to the great quality of everything they sell. Take a look here.

Distance to Port 2.4 miles
Location 79 Cannon St, Charleston, SC 29403
Phone Number (843) 718-2980

House of Sage

House of Sage offers unique and affordable boho-style clothes. Visit this intimate, relaxing store today!

Distance to Port 13.9 miles
Location 186 Seven Farms Drive, Charleston, SC 29492
Phone Number (843) 573-7256


Worthwhile showcases fashion from around the world. You never know what you may find to wear during your cruise vacation from Charleston!

Distance to Port 0.8 miles
Location 268 King St, Charleston, SC 29401
Phone Number (843) 723-4418

Blue Bicycle Books

Blue Bicycle has been voted the best used book store in the area, and for good reason! They have an amazing selection of titles at great prices. Stop in and check out this unique store!

Distance to Port 1.4 miles
Location 420 King St, Charleston, SC 29403
Phone Number (843) 722-2666

Charleston Harbor Marina Store

Visit this nautical store for all things ocean themed! Find everything you need for a cruise vacation or a day at the beach.

Distance to Port 6.1 miles
Location 32 Patriots Point Rd. Mount Pleasant, SC 29464
Phone Number 843-284-7020


If you enjoy finding unusual and spiritual items, this store needs to be one of your first stops. The selection is awesome and the staff is amazing and super helpful. More details right here.

Distance to Port 6 miles
Location 217 Lucas St suite e, Mt Pleasant, SC 29464
Phone Number (843) 352-2983


Going on a cruise is awesome, but even more awesome is being able to relax and unwind for a few days before, or for a few days after. The best way to do that is to spend time getting to know this amazing and cruise port city!

Cruises out of Charleston: The Pros and Cons

FAQ on Things to Do in Charleston

What is Charleston SC famous for?

Charleston South Carolina is famous for many things. The two primary things of note you will find in Charleston are the sprawling plantations and Civil War history. History buffs from all over come for those two reasons in particular.

What’s the nearest thing to do near Charleston cruise port?

There are many fun things to do right near the port! The closest things to do are to visit the Battery and to take a walk into the French Quarter to visit the Old Slave Mart Museum.

What is the best time of year to visit Charleston SC?

The best times to visit Charleston SC are late spring and mid-fall. Throughout the summer it may be very hot and humid. In the winter and it can get wet and everything can feel very dreary. Spring and fall are both beautiful times to walk around the beautiful city!

A dedicated cruise blog keeping readers informed on the latest news, informative cruise-related articles, forums and keeping track of the very latest ships. Find out more about us here.


Free expert cruise tips and news from Cruise Hive! We'll send you the latest cruise updates daily to your inbox.

Cruise Hive Awards 2023
Copy link