We cruised up the Atlantic coast from Savannah into South Carolina, and since we only had a single night to spare there was only ever one option for where we were going to spend it.
Charleston has been awarded the title of “Best Mannered City in America” 11 times in a row, and it didn’t disappoint on that front. The people of the city named for Charles II are welcoming and friendly.
We stopped at the Vendue Inn, just a stone’s throw from the water and a 5-10 minute walk to Meeting Street – Charleston’s main street. The Vendue is a gorgeous B&B, the rooms are small (at least the one we had was) but very comfortable.
It can be a little noisy because its an old building, but we had no trouble sleeping. Mainly due to the free wine and cheese hour they put on in the afternoon, which we followed up with a trip to the rooftop bar in the next door building. The cocktails were delicious and the views over Charleston at sunset were beautiful. We stumbled back to the hotel to take advantage of the free milk and cookies, before retiring to our comfy bed.
We had lunch at the famous Hyman’s Seafood. There was a little bit of a wait for a table and its a bit pricey, but its worth the trip. We sat at a table once visited by Vanilla Ice (you can tell by the little plaque under your dinner plate), and had fried green tomatoes, grits and their legendary “she-crab” soup – a cross between a bisque and a chowder.
After lunch we had a walk along the waterfront park where you can see the pineapple fountain and if you’re lucky some dolphins splashing about in the bay.
If you’re in Charleston you have to make a stop at the Old Slave Mart Museum on the cobbled Chalmers Street and just round the corner from the colourful Rainbow Row of houses. It is, as the name suggests, housed in the building which was once the slave auction gallery and though it is small, the exhibits are interesting, educational and evocative.
A short drive west of Charleston is Middleton Place, a stunning Antebellum plantation built by ten years of slave labour in the 18th century. It is on the beautiful Ashley River Road, one of the “scenic byways” of America and despite its shameful past it is a very scenic stop. The rolling grounds, with a lake (complete with sunbathing turtles and pretty birds) and a small farm, make for a pleasant stop.
Although only a couple of hours drive from one another Charleston and its coastline cousin Savannah are world’s apart. Charleston is a quiet town and you can really feel the leisurely pace of life there. It’s also quite a bit more expensive so if you’re travelling on a tight budget you might struggle to get a well located place to sleep (and eat!). It’s definitely worth pausing for on a drive up the East Coast though and on a sunny day there are few nicer places for a relaxed stroll.
Rate the State:
Good for: history, architecture, Southern hospitality
Bad for: food and lodging is pricey