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Charleston Harbor

Charleston Harbor: Our most recommended tours and activities

Charleston: Fort Sumter Entry Ticket and Ferry Ride

1. Charleston: Fort Sumter Entry Ticket and Ferry Ride

Enjoy a ferry ride to the grounds of Fort Sumter and explore the grounds at your own pace. Pass by the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge and take in the sights of Charleston’s stately Rainbow Row and Battery homes. As you approach Fort Sumter, graceful sailboats and playful dolphins add to the photogenic scene. If you depart from Mt. Pleasant you will enjoy views of the USS Yorktown Aircraft Carrier from up-close, while tours embarking from downtown will see Aquarium Wharf as they depart and return. Arrive at The Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park, which sits prominently at the mouth of the Charleston Harbor, a strategic location that was crucial to its defense.  While here, explore the grounds of Fort Sumter. Stand on the grounds where America’s deadliest war began at Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park. The first shots were fired here, igniting a conflict that saw more than 700,000 casualties. Experience the opening battle of the American Civil War and explore its origins with a National Park Ranger. Your approximate 1-hour visit to Fort Sumter allows ample time to explore well-preserved fort ruins and browse Museum Store souvenirs. A visit to Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park provides a window into the life and trials of America’s heroes, from the Civil War to today’s modern conflicts. Learn about the events leading to the war from knowledgeable National Park Rangers who will relay stories of courageous heroes in action from the Civil War’s first battle. Walk in the steps of those who shaped this nation alongside a National Park Ranger. Then enjoy the beautiful views of the city as you ride the ferry back to Charleston.

Charleston: Daytime or Sunset Historic Harbor Cruise

2. Charleston: Daytime or Sunset Historic Harbor Cruise

Cruise through the Charleston Harbor on an old-fashioned 1920s-Bay-Steamer-replica yacht. Enjoy live narration from the captain and purchase treats from a fully-stocked drink and snack bar. See the Civil and Revolutionary war sights and keep an eye out for dolphins. Relax in the enclosed observatory or on the partially-covered upper deck. Listen carefully as your captain guides you on a journey through more than 300 years of American history. You’ll pass by 75 landmarks and points-of-interest on this 20-mile trip. Get close-up views of the “Holy City,” including Fort Sumter - where the first shots of the Civil War were fired. Glide past Confederate and Union army forts and see the famous “Fighting Lady” of World War II. Pass by remnants of the Civil and Revolutionary wars and look for local wildlife like dolphins and pelicans splashing nearby. Choose between indoor or outdoor seating.

Charleston: Historical Downtown Tour by Horse-drawn Carriage

3. Charleston: Historical Downtown Tour by Horse-drawn Carriage

Ride in a traditional horse-drawn carriage through historic downtown Charleston on a guided tour. Listen to live commentary about the city as you pass by the Charleston Harbor, Rainbow Row, King Street, White Point Gardens, and Charleston Battery. Begin the tour at the activity provider's stables. Board a beautiful custom-built carriage and depart from the barn. Ride toward the city gate, located in the Old City Market. Learn about the city's rich history from a professional guide while traveling aboard a unique vehicle. Gaze at vibrant neighborhoods and elegant buildings from your seat. Experience the highlights of the historic downtown area, such as Charleston Harbor, Rainbow Row, 4 Corners of Law, King Street, White Point Gardens, and the Charleston Battery. Take in informative and entertaining commentary from your guide, before arriving back at the stables.

Charleston: Historical Walking Tour

4. Charleston: Historical Walking Tour

An exciting walking tour of the only English walled city in North America - Charleston! Once the leading seaport of the thirteen colonies and later the United States, historical Charleston is waiting to be discovered. On this 2-hour walking tour, you will learn about the intriguing history of Charleston from veteran guide Al Ray. See pre-and-post colonial homes, storefronts, churches and public buildings while Ray recounts the rich tales and legends of Charleston's proud and turbulent past. Learn the meanings of the ancient symbols on the tombstones, the city's history of rapid growth and rampant piracy, and the rise of the rice planters. Listen to your charismatic guide describe the numerous disasters, such as seven major fires, numerous hurricanes, epidemics, sieges and bombardments, plus a major earthquake, that have struck the city over its long and colourful history.

Charleston: Historic City Tour and Harbor Cruise

5. Charleston: Historic City Tour and Harbor Cruise

Discover 300 years of Charleston history from land and sea with passionate licensed tour guides. Experience a 90-minute narrated tour of Charleston in a climate-controlled luxury coach and then head to the water for another perspective of the city from Charleston Harbor. Learn fascinating historical facts about Charleston while you cruise the gentle waves of her harbor. Knowledgeable and entertaining tour guides are licensed by the City of Charleston and are eager to share their knowledge with all guests aboard the cruise. Don't forget your camera as you will see all that the Holy City has to offer: Charleston's Historic Homes and Churches, the Old Market, Rainbow Row, Fort Sumter, USS Yorktown, and incredible views from Charleston Harbor.

Charleston: Schooner Sailing Harbor Tour & Dolphin Watch

6. Charleston: Schooner Sailing Harbor Tour & Dolphin Watch

Experience the wonder of sailing on a classic, 84-foot tall ship in the idyllic setting of Charleston Harbor. As you cruise, marvel at the power of the wind filling the sails and the tranquility of the sea. Catch glimpses of historic landmarks, like Fort Sumter, and dolphins gamboling on the waves. Begin your sailing excursion at the Aquarium Wharf. There, meet your captain and crew of the striking, 3-masted ship known as the Schooner Pride. Admire the character and class of this authentic model of the classic coastal trading schooners. Next, prepare to set sail and help the crew as you begin to pull away from the dock. Once the sails are raised, sit back and relax on the benches lining the main deck. Enjoy views of Charleston Harbor stretching out before you. Continue your tour as you cruise past Charleston highlights, such as Fort Sumter, Fort Johnson, and Yorktown Point. Onwards, discover the historic waterfront area of Castle Pinckney. Sail further on waters that Blackbeard once traveled before returning to Aquarium Wharf.

Charleston: City Tour and Museum Combo

7. Charleston: City Tour and Museum Combo

Feel the past come alive on this combination tour in Charleston. Ride in comfort on a climate-controlled coach and discover Charleston's 300 years of living history with passionate licensed tour guides. Follow your bus tour with a visit to the Charleston Museum, one of the oldest museums in the United States. On your bus tour, experience the Old Market area and admire the historic homes and churches where generations of Charlestonians worked, lived, and worshipped. See and hear about Fort Sumter, the Harbor of History, and the Aircraft Carrier Yorktown at Patriots Point. Make sure to take your camera as you will have the opportunity to stop at the famous Battery Seawall and enjoy the spectacular views. Keep your camera handy when you pass by the colorful houses on Rainbow Row, too. Finally, dive into the history of the Holy City at the Charleston Museum, which was opened to the public nearly 200 years ago. Explore the exhibitions that cover the American Civil War, the natural history in the area, and much, much more.

Charleston: Patriot's Point Haunted USS Yorktown Tour

8. Charleston: Patriot's Point Haunted USS Yorktown Tour

Come aboard the USS Yorktown and hear the stories of the American heroes who lived, died, and are still rumored to be here today. Commissioned in 1943, the Fighting Lady was once manned by over 3,000 people and designed to fight off enemies all over the globe during WWII. Learn about the ultimate sacrifice and heroism of the people who once inhabited this ship.  This tour gives you exclusive nighttime access to areas of the ship that are usually closed to the public, including the flight deck after dark. Don't forget your camera, you never know who or what you might capture.

Charleston: Tour Pass with 40+ Attractions

9. Charleston: Tour Pass with 40+ Attractions

Save 40% or more off of Charleston's top tours and attractions, pay zero to enter, and simply show your Mobile Pass. Choose a 1, 2, or 3-day pass with admission to Fort Sumter, Ghost Tours, Plantations, Museums, Carriage, and Bus Tours, Historic House Museums, Cultural sites, and much more. After purchase, you'll receive a text and email to start using the pass on your smartphone where you can choose from a selection of hand-selected tours, attractions, and historic sites. The Mobile Pass provides instant access to over 40 of the city's top tours, attractions, and historic sites where admission is included. Reserve tours in advance before arriving. Multi-day passes can be used on non-consecutive days. Choose between: 1-Day pass: Choose 2 featured tours plus visit unlimited walk-in or standard attractions for 1 day. 2-Day Pass: Choose 3 featured tours plus visit unlimited walk-in or standard attractions for 2 days. Featured Tours (requires reservations which can easily be made within the mobile pass) • Fort Sumter Tour • Carriage Tour • Boone Hall Plantation • Drayton Hall • Charleston Harbor Tour • Haunted USS Yorktown Guided Tour • Charleston History Walk • Choose from 6 different Ghost Tours • Hunley Submarine Tour (weekends only) • Mini-Bus Guided Tours Standard Attractions (no reservation required, can be visited anytime during operating hours): • Aiken Rhett House Museum • Heyward Washington House Museum • Joseph Manigault House Museum • Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site • Caw Caw Interpretive Center • Nathaniel Russell House Museum • Charleston Fun Park ($20 value) • Charleston Museum • Gibbes Museum of Art • Charleston Water Taxi (all-day ride pass) • Museum at Market Hall • Deep Water Vineyard (free tasting + wine glass) • McLeod Plantation • Old Exchange & Provost Dungeon • Slave Mart Museum • Powder Magazine • South Carolina Historical Society Museum • The Grit Counter ($7 lunch voucher per person) • Glazed Gourmet Doughnuts (free doughnut per person) • North Charleston Fire Museum

Charleston Harbor 2-Hour Speedboat Adventure

10. Charleston Harbor 2-Hour Speedboat Adventure

Take the wheel and become the captain of your very own speed boat with this one-of-a-kind adventure tour. Experience driving your own boat while taking in the views from the Charleston harbor. This fully narrated tour takes you 13 miles through the world-famous Charleston Harbor. See everything while listening to a highly trained and professional guide through a two-way communication system.   You will have a once-in-a-lifetime view of the Battery, USS Yorktown Aircraft Carrier, Arthur Ravenel Jr Bridge, the downtown Charleston skyline, Waterfront Park, South Carolina Aquarium, the cruise ship terminal and all the wildlife that call Charleston Harbor home.  This is a great adventure for all ages.

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Other Sightseeing Options in Charleston Harbor

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What people are saying about Charleston Harbor

Overall rating

4.6 / 5

based on 4,215 reviews

Can be a little chilly sitting outside on the boat in winter, but the ride out to Sumter is nice. Everything is so wonderfully explained that you don't need more than the hour you have after the boat docks. I wish more of our youth would appreciate this kind of history in America. It's not easy to talk about but it is VERY important.

Linda was our guide for this excellent walking tour of Charleston. She was so knowledgeable of the history of Charleston and just a pleasure to spend 2 hours with. Highly recommend Linda

A must do to see Charleston historic district. Open air, in a delightful carriage. Learning history while seeing iconic architecture. A perfect experience for all ages.

One of the best harbor tours we have taken! Highly recommend!

Great day. Wonderful location lots of history well executed.