Charleston is the oldest and most historic city in the US state of South Carolina. This coastal city was one of the first English colonies to be established on the east coast of America. As such, it’s a wonderful destination for anyone interested in learning more about the intriguing past of the region, with many local tours available which will transport you back through the ages.
With year-round hot weather, Charleston is a pleasant place to enjoy walking tours led by locals and boat cruises along the beautiful waterfront of the Atlantic Ocean. Classic history tours will lead you through the city’s most historic sites and buildings while giving you a sense of the importance that Charleston has played through southern American history over the years.
Take a tour of the best restaurants, meet local chefs leading the vibrant culinary scene, or if you dare, take on an after dark ghost tour to unearth the spooky secrets of Charleston. To help you plan your trip to Charleston, here are our favorite tours to do in the city.
1. Charleston Historical Walking Tour
With its founding taking place far back in the mid 17th century, Charleston has hundreds of years of history just waiting to be discovered. This was once the busiest city in the American colonies. Charleston has played an often under-appreciated role in the continent’s history, including during the Revolution and the Civil War and all the years in between.
On this tour, a local guide will show you through not only Charleston’s most well-known, historical sights but to a few hidden gems that only the residents know are there. This is a great way to start your trip to Charleston, with an intriguing tour that helps set the scene and allow you to understand the city’s long history.
2. Charleston’s French Quarter Guided Walking Tour
If walking tours are your sort of activity, then your opportunities in Charleston are truly abundant. With a knowledgeable guide, take an informative stroll through Charleston’s French Quarter, one of the most charming districts within the old city.
Charleston was a walled town when it was originally constructed. The French Quarter became one of the most colorful and vibrant places within that historic area. Admire the pink colonial townhouses and walk the ramshackle cobbled streets, accompanied by a storytelling local.
3. High Ropes Adventure Park in Charleston, South Carolina
If you’re into adventurous, outdoor pursuits more than your historic walking tours, then waiting just outside the city center is a challenging high ropes adventure park that will leave you dangling amongst the trees.
Here you can find over 70 obstacles suspended along a high ropes course, with different levels and heights available for a range of ages and abilities. It’s a fun-filled, adrenaline-fueled day out for everyone.
4. Charleston Historic Harbor Cruise
Visitors looking for a more relaxing experience during their time in Charleston may want to join a cruise of the historic harbor. Board a classic replica steamer from the 1920s – the Carolina Belle – before setting off onto the water for a 90-minute journey along Charleston’s seafront.
On the historic steamer, this is a cruise that focuses heavily on the local history; you can see the many landmarks found along the harbor, including the infamous Fort Sumter, where the American Civil War began in earnest in 1861.
5. Charleston Two Hour Speedboat Adventure
For a fast-paced ride through Charleston’s historic harbor, look no further than a thrilling speedboat adventure. Join your own private tour, with a local guide and boat captain who not only know their history but also how to handle a speedboat.
Enjoy the sights of the harbor as you speed along the coastline. If you feel the urge, you can even try piloting the boat yourself under the guidance of your captain. It’s a great way to experience Charleston from the water and have some fun.
6. Charleston: Savor the Flavors Small Group Tour
Take a food inspired walking tour through Charleston’s historic districts as you trace not only the origins of the city, but the origins of the delicious local cuisine found here in restaurants today.
Alongside a local foodie fanatic, you will be guided to some of the best eateries in the city, many of which you probably wouldn’t even have noticed without the help of a guide. Learn how the first English colonists survived and the meals they cooked, then chart the evolution of Charleston’s food and dishes as you sample different bites across the city.
7. Charleston 3 Hour Secret Food Tour
Foodies will want to join this excellent three-hour tour through Charleston’s hidden little gems. This is a truly local experience; this tour is led by a chef who hails from Charleston and calls the city home. You will visit Charleston Village – one of the oldest areas of the city – to explore the local restaurants and eateries. Along the way, you will try everything from crab and shrimp to cornbread and chicken wings, sampling the whole array of local cuisine and learning about its unique origins.
8. Charleston Chef’s Kitchen Tours
For a true culinary experience, this excellent tour will see you visiting local kitchens and meeting with chefs in their workplace. This is an immersive cultural and foodie tour that will leave you impressed. You’ll be in awe at the work done by the chefs in their hot Carolina kitchens, and at the intricacy that goes into the local dishes, as you see them toil in the heat to prepare food firsthand.
This walking tour takes you to five separate local restaurants, each with their own unique take on the historic and contemporary food scene in Charleston. You’ll be eating at every stop, so be prepared to leave this tour feeling extremely full – and hopefully much more knowledgeable about the workings of Charleston’s kitchens.
9. Charleston 90 Minute Ghost and Dungeon Walking Tour
If you have an interest in ghosts or just want to be thrilled during your stay in Charleston, join this eclectic walking tour that takes you into the strange otherworld of the city. This tour mixes fact, history, legend, and myth liberally, but will give you an exciting insight into the superstitions of the locals in years past and how those legends arose in the first place.
Through the historic sections of Charleston, you will be taken to the more unusual destinations, including the city’s first graveyard, the Provost’s Dungeon that used to hold prisoners, and many more locales with supernatural myths behind them.
10. Charleston: Dark Side of Charleston Walking Tour
This is a tour for adults and for people with an interest in the darker underbelly of Charleston. This walking tour takes you into the dark history of the city and is utterly uncensored. It’s quite unlike any other tour in Charleston, but be prepared for graphic tales and unflinching history.
11. Chilling Charleston Ghost Tour
Charleston is a city with a long and turbulent history and that has led to many a tale of ghosts and the paranormal being sighted over the centuries. This intriguing tour leaves after dark. In the night, you will find yourself exploring the hidden secrets of Charleston’s tales of ghosts from local guides, who may well believe in the very stories they are spinning.
12. Charleston Mystery Walking Tour
For a more unusual tour of Charleston, join this mystery walking tour. This is part game, game tour, as you follow a classic Murder Mystery setup that allows you to both explore Charleston and have a bit of fun along the way. The game leads you through the city’s history, using local legends and characters to bring Charleston’s past to life.
13. Charleston 3 Hour Amazing Scavenger Hunt Adventure
This Scavenger Hunt will take you across the best of the city’s sights and attractions as you follow a quest to unearth the answers to the puzzles posed during the game. It’s a wonderful way to experience Charleston and be led to interesting parts of the city that you might otherwise never see.
14. Magnolia Plantation Tour With Transportation From Charleston
Take a trip outside the city itself with this day tour to the Magnolia Plantation. This is a piece of history and beauty not be missed; this plantation dates back to well before the American Revolution and can claim to be one of the oldest in the country.
15. Boone Hall Plantation Tour From Charleston
Take on another exciting Plantation tour from Charleston as you visit Boone Hall, a historic estate that dates far back to the colonial days. Here, you can enjoy the pleasant gardens while also learning about the long history of the region.