There are so many great things to do in Charleston, so much history, architecture, natural beauty, food and beaches that visitors can’t help but enjoy all the “touristy” things.
If it’s your second, third or fifteenth trip, maybe you’d like to go off the beaten path just a bit. Below are five spots that draw locals as well as visitors:
1. The internationally-renowned Center for Birds of Prey 20 minutes north of Charleston is a privately run sanctuary. Get close up and personal with raptors saved from harm or death from around the world. There is an informative guided tour and an awesome flight demonstration. Soar with the eagles, ospreys, owls, falcons, vultures, kites and more. Open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
2. The world’s first submarine to sink an enemy vessel was the CSS H. L. Hunley in 1864.
The Hunley sank shortly thereafter with everyone aboard and wasn’t raised until August of 2000. It is now preserved at a conservation facility at the former Charleston Naval Base in North Charleston. Tours are available Saturday from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. and Sunday, noon – 5:00 p.m. Learn about the legendary gold coin that saved the captain’s life.
3. Want a break from the hurly burly? Beidler Forest is a natural oasis preserved by the Audubon Society about an hour northwest of Charleston. Meander the 1.75-mile elevated boardwalk through this old-growth forest for glimpses of spectacular flora and fauna.
At 16,000+ acres, Beidler is the largest remaining stand of virgin Bald Cypress and Tupelo Gum swamp forest left anywhere in the world, featuring 1,000-year-old trees in a pristine sanctuary untouched for millennia.
Canoe or kayak through the blackwater swamp with an Audubon naturalist, or take a guided tour or bird walk along the path. Open Tuesday-Sunday 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
4. Charleston Tea Plantation is the home of American Classic Tea, the only tea grown in America. Located on charming Wadmalaw Island, the 127-acre plantation features factory tours and a trolley ride through the tea fields.
Like Fort Sumter, Charleston Tea Plantation is unique: you can’t visit a tea plantation anywhere else in this country.
Open Monday-Saturday from 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. and Sundays from noon – 4:00 p.m.
5. Charlestowne Landing – The first permanent European settlement site in South Carolina, one of only a handful of original settlement sites that still exist in the United States.
First settled in 1670 and named for King Charles, the site introduces visitors to the very earliest colonial period with hands-on exhibits, 80 acres of gardens, an historic house and a zoo housing animals native to the area at the time.
Located west of the Ashley river, Charlestowne Landing is open 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. daily.