Things to Do in Charleston Without a Car
Charleston is known for its slow pace. That means that many Charlestonians choose to walk or bike around the city instead of hopping in a car — especially in the historic downtown area. Luckily, most of our tourist attractions are also accessible without a car. Check out these 9 ‘must-do’ activities by foot, bike, boat and car share.
If you want to make your way into the city without a car, we recommend booking a car share, like Uber or Lyft. Some local hotels offer free shuttles to and from the airport. Or, you could act like a local by taking the bus.
Luckily for you, there are plenty of cheap Charleston, SC, hotels that don’t feel cheap — right in the heart of Downtown!
Stroll Through Downtown Charleston
Even if you only have three days in Charleston, you don’t need a car in Downtown Charleston! And luckily, most of our most popular attractions are right in the historic city center. Thanks to its mild climate and attractions within walking distance, the best time to visit Charleston is pretty much any season! You’ll be able to get to all these spots without renting a car.
You don’t need to buy anything at the Historic Market (but you probably won’t be able to leave empty-handed). This market has been up and running since the early 1800s. Here, you can find lowcountry cuisine and gifts. One of the market’s most popular items is sweetgrass baskets.
You can’t visit Charleston without strolling by these iconic homes. Painted in candy colors, they are the unofficial mascots of the city. Wander down the cobblestones streets and imagine what life was like in Charleston in the 17th century.
Charleston is inextricably tied to the history of the slave trade in the South. One of the major ports in the Slave Triangle until the Transatlantic slave trade was banned in the 1800s, understanding the history of enslaved African Americans in Charleston is a must.
The pineapple fountain doesn’t have any historical significance in the city per se, but it is one of the most photographed sites in the city. The pineapple is a southern symbol of hospitality. Plus, you’ll get a pretty Instagrammable photo here since its right on the waterfront.
Head down to the Battery for more views of the water and of Patriots Point.
Bike Across the Ravenel Bridge
While most Charlestonians and visitors drive across this stunning bridge, but we recommend taking your time by cycling over on a bike.
You can rent bikes from one of the local shops in the city. Or, use the local bike share to save a little cash. Holy Spokes rents bikes for $8 an hour or for $12 a day per bike. You can even buy a monthly pass for only $15 if you plan on hanging out in the city for a while.
Once you get to the other side of the bridge, you can turn around and make the trek back over the Cooper River. Or, stay in Mt. Pleasant for the day.
If you’re biking to stay fit, there are plenty of healthy restaurants in Charleston, SC.
Take Horse and Carriage Ride
We definitely don’t recommend driving around our historic downtown. Yet if you want to get off your feet for an hour, you could always take a horse and carriage ride.
You’ll get a sweet little tour of Downtown Charleston without breaking a sweat.
Downtown Charleston is a city that’s really meant to be experienced by foot. You can’t get into back alleyways and passages by car, and you’d really be missing out on some serious Charleston charm if you miss these areas of the city.
Discover some hidden stories about the Holy City — all while checking out some of the most intriguing sites.
We absolutely love Patriots Point and think it’s one of the highlights of Charleston. The only downside? It’s across the harbor.
The good news? You can take a ferry to get there!
The Charleston Water Taxi can not only shuttle you to Patriots Point from Downtown but also offers great views of the harbor and surrounding areas. Boat guides offer a small amount of narration and you check out wildlife and snag great photos of the scenery.
Charleston has some of the most beautiful beaches in the country, and some of the best Charleston beaches are close to Downtown. If you want to make your way out to Folly Island, we can’t blame you. We wish we were there right now!
This is one instance where you will need some wheels to get you to where you’re going. Luckily, rideshare apps like Uber and Lyft have made their ways to our city, so you don’t need to rent a car to get here.
Yes, technically, this is kind of ‘cheating’ when it comes to a car-free list. But we’d never let you miss out on something special because we’re too busy following arbitrary rules.
Some people only head to Charleston for the food. We know, the nerve!
Actually, we can’t blame them. Sometimes we spend entire days dreaming about shrimp and grits for dinner.
We recommend taking our self-guided food tour to get an overview of the city’s culinary culture. Or, book one of our walking tours and a food tour with our friends at Charleston Culinary Tours and will give you a little discount!
We’re not called ‘The Holy City’ for nothing! You could spend your entire trip visiting Charleston’s many churches, and you still probably wouldn’t see them all.
Some of our favorites include:
- Michael’s Church
- Circular Congregation Church
- Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul
- Emanuel African Methodist Church
- French Protestant Huguenot Church
Some of the area’s best attractions aren’t within walking distance. Luckily, most of the big attractions offer alternate means of transportation to reach them. If you’re headed to South Carolina, we recommend visiting
- Magnolia Plantation and Gardens
- Middleton Place Plantation
- Boone Hall
- Drayton Hall
If you’re not renting a car, we recommend staying at a hotel or Airbnb in the Downtown area. It’s easy to get around in this neighborhood, and you’ll never need to worry about finding a taxi here late at night.
Visiting in the summer? Check out our favorite indoor activities Charleston, SC, to beat the heat.