Learn more about this historic city by taking one of the many Charleston tours. You can take a one hour carriage tour, a 90 minute Charleston Harbor boat tour or a 90 minute mini bus tour. You can also take one of the many guided walking tours which include ghost walks, history tours, pirate tours, art tours, pub tours, architectural tours and culinary tours. If this is your first time visiting, you may want to take a tour on your first day because it will help introduce you to the city and you will get a chance familiarize yourself with other things to do in Charleston SC.
One of the things that you must do when you are in Charleston is to take a guided Carriage Tour. There are several companies that offer guided carriage tours in the historic downtown district. Most of the tours last around an hour and you will learn about buildings, history, architecture and the people of Charleston. I've taken several tours and all of the guides have been friendly and very knowledgeable about Charleston. The guides also encourage you to ask questions so this is a great way to get an insiders view because most of the guides are residents so they can let you in on the best places to eat and the best attractions to visit. The tickets for the group carriage ride are about $25 and the tickets for a private carriage ride for two are $135 -$150. I recommend purchasing tickets online because most of the carriage companies give discounts for purchasing tickets in advance online. Also remember to take your camera so you can take lots of pictures. Be advised that after your carriage is loaded, the tour guide will go to a designated location where a random lottery system is utilized to choose which route your carriage will take. This ensures that there are not too many carriages in the same part of town at the same time which can back up traffic. Unfortunately this also makes it impossible to choose in advance which part of town you want to tour.
Charleston Tours - Carriage Tours
Old South Carriage Company - A licensed guide in Confederate Uniform will take you on a one hour narrated tour that covers about 30 city blocks. The residential tour is $25 for adults and $15 for children. They also offer 30 minute tours and private tours for 2-5 passengers.
Classic Carriage Works - Classic Carriage Works offers the Standard one hour narrated tour that will cover about 30 city blocks. The tour is $25 for adults and $15 for children. They also offer a discounted early bird tour, an adults only tour, a Slavery to Freedom Tour and a Civil War Tour.
Palmetto Carriage Works - Palmetto Carriage Works is the oldest carriage tour company in Charleston. They offer the one hour Residential District tour where you will see gardens, mansions, churches and parks. The tour is $25 for adults and $15 for children. They also offer evening carriage tours, Haunted History Tour and a Trot and Walk Combo Tour.
Charleston Carriage Works - Charleston Carriage Works offers an hour long narrated tour that covers 3-4 miles of Charleston’s residential Historic District. The tour is $23 for adults and $15 for children. They offer early tour specials for the morning tours if you book through the company’s website.
Carolina Polo and Carriage Company - Carolina Polo and Carriage Company offers a one hour tour of historic downtown. The tour is $25 for adults and $15 for children but you can receive a discount for buying tickets through their website.
A really fun thing to do when you visit Charleston is to take a Charleston boat tour. Charleston is such a beautiful city and there is no better way to experience it than from a boat. The boat tours offer a complete view of the city’s waterfront along with many historic landmarks and points of interest. Many of the boat tours are narrated and you will learn about the history, architecture, and people of Charleston. Some of the boats offer a climate controlled area to sit and some sell snacks and refreshments. The boat tours are a very relaxing alternative to walking around the city, so climb aboard, take a seat and experience this beautiful, historic city from the water.
Charleston Tours - Boat Tours
Charleston Harbor Tour - Take a 90 minute cruise aboard the Carolina Belle where you will see over 75 landmarks and points of interest. The boat has two decks, a climate controlled main deck with large windows and an outdoor observation deck. Tickets for the tours are about $24.
Spiritline Cruises - Spiritline Cruises has been operating ships in Charleston Harbor for over 50 years. Entertaining, licensed guides will narrate your trip through Charleston Harbor. Fort Sumter, the USS Yorktown, and the Cooper River Bridge are just a few of the landmarks you will see on your 90 minute tour. The ship has an outside main deck, an enclosed air conditioned area, restrooms and a snack bar. Tickets are $22.
Sandlapper Water Tours - Sandlapper Water Tours is a locally owned and operated tour company. They offer a sunset cruise where you can see the sun set over Charleston's unique skyline, an evening ghost tour where you can learn why Charleston is one of America's most haunted cities, and an Eco Tour where you will travel to Morris Island to explore and search for shells. Soda, wine and snacks are available. Tickets are $23-$32 depending on which tour you choose.
Adventure Harbor Tours - Adventure Harbor Tours offers a 90 minute sunset and dolphin cruise and a 3 hour Morris Island beach trip. Be sure to bring water, sunscreen, bug spray and a bag for shells. Water and soda are available on the boat and you are allowed to bring coolers for snack and beverages (alcohol is allowed). This is one of the few tour companies that allow dogs on the boat. The dolphin tour is $25 and the Morris Island Beach tour is $55 for adults and $30 for children. So come out and enjoy a unique experience while listening to the music of Jimmy Buffett and Bob Marley.
Schooner Pride - The Schooner Pride is an 84’tall ship that holds 49 passengers and offers daily afternoon dolphin sails, evening sunset sails and night time moonlight sails. Please be advised that these tours are NOT narrated. The ship sails for up to two hours and every trip is different depending on the winds and tides. Guest may bring a picnic lunch aboard but beverages are prohibited - sodas, water, beer, wine and snacks are available to purchase. You can choose to help raise and trip the sails or just sit back and relax. Cruises often sell out early so I recommend purchasing advance tickets online.
Charleston Water Taxi - The Charleston Water Taxi connects Mount Pleasant (Patriots Point or Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina) and downtown Charleston (Waterfront Park or Aquarium Wharf). The Water Taxi runs on a continuous loop around Charleston Harbor between Patriots Point and Downtown Charleston from 9am to 8pm. You can purchase an all day pass for $10.
Spiritline Dinner Cruise - Take a 2 hour evening dinner cruise through Charleston Harbor while enjoying spectacular views and while being entertained by local musicians. Guests will choose from five fresh prepared entrees, made to order on the ship and accompanied by She-Crab soup and a freshly prepared salad. After your meal, you can choose from assorted desserts for an additional charge. The dress code is “nice casual” and the rates range from $54-$60 depending on the day of your cruise. I highly recommend buying advance online tickets because cruises fill up fast.
If you you want to tour Charleston and see the sights but you aren’t really interested in doing a lot of walking, then you should consider a mini bus tour. The tour buses are climate controlled so you won’t have to worry about the heat and humidity in the summer, the cold in the winter or the rain in the spring. Many of the bus tour companies also offer combo tours where you can tour the city and then they will drop you off and pick you up at other nearby attractions including Patriots Point, The Charleston Museum, The Charleston Aquarium and all of the local Plantations. This is a good way to tour the city and also visit other attractions without having to drive, take a cab or use public transportation. Some of the tour companies offer discounts for booking in advance online.
Charleston Tours - Motor Tours
Charleston Venture Tours - Enjoy a 90 minute tour of Historic Downtown Charleston while riding in an air conditioned tour bus with extra large windows and soft comfortable seats. Tours are $22 for adults and $12 for children. After your tour ends, they will drop you off and pick you up at other nearby plantations and attractions for a fee.
Sites and Insights Tours of Charleston Day Tours - Take a 1, 2 or 2 ½ hour tour of Charleston narrated from a black perspective. Charleston tours are given by licensed tour guides who are very knowledgeable of the Gullah culture. Tour prices are $13-$23 for adults and $10-$18 for children depending on which tour you choose.
Gray Line of Charleston - Take a guided tour of historic Charleston in a climate controlled mini bus with over 100 points of interest. See beautiful antebellum mansions, lush gardens and beautiful parks. The tours are $22 and you can also purchase combo tickets.
Adventure Sightseeing - Experience true Southern hospitality while enjoying a 90 minute narrated tour of Charleston in a comfortable, climate controlled bus. Tickets are $22 for adults and $13 for children. You can also purchase combo tickets for other attractions.
Talk of the Towne - This minibus tour covers most of the same areas as other Charleston tours and you will see many of the same landmarks but with Talk of the Towne you get experience. Most of the tours are narrated by the owner who has been giving tours for over 25 years. The tour is $19 for adults and $12 for children.
Charms of Charleston Tours - Journey back in time and see over one hundred locations in historic downtown Charleston. You will learn about secession and learn about how the first shots of the Civil War were fired in Charleston Harbor. You will then learn about reconstruction and hear how Charleston was rebuilt after the Civil War. The tour is 90 minutes long, and the rates are $20 for adults and $12 for children.
If this is your first time visiting Charleston and even if it isn’t, you will really enjoy taking a guided walking tour. You will learn a lot of interesting facts about this beautiful, historic city and see a lot of stunning architecture. The advantage of taking a walking tour is the ability to visit places and see things that you aren’t able to see while on a carriage tour or a mini bus tour. Depending on your interests, you will find tours on history, architecture, pirates, art, food and ghosts, just to name a few. One of my favorite tours is the night time Ghost Walks. You will learn about some of the most haunted houses, businesses and graveyards in Charleston. I’ve taken several of the Bulldog Tours and I have always had a great time and the guides are always very knowledgeable and entertaining.
Charleston Tours - Walking Tours
Janice Kahn Tours Ed Grimball's Walking Tour