Fort Sumter Tours: How to Visit the Fort Sumter National Monument and Patriots Point
Fort Sumter National Monument and Patriots Point are two Charleston attractions that are popular with history buffs, nature lovers, and photographers. While the exhibits at Fort Sumter focus mostly on Civil War history, the attractions at Patriots Point revolve primarily around the history of World War II and the Vietnam War.
You can take Fort Sumter tours or visit on your own.
Patriots Point and Fort Sumter National Monument can be visited in tandem or separately. Yet many visitors choose to visit them on the same day because Fort Sumter can be reached from Patriots Point by the Ferry to Fort Sumter. There is also a water taxi that shuttles passengers to Patriots Point from Downtown Charleston.
Fort Sumter Tours: Visiting the Island
Fort Sumter National Monument is one of the most popular historic attractions in Charleston. The site of the shots fired that marked the official start of the Civil War, Fort Sumter is a physical reminder of the events leading up to this moment. Built just after the War of 1812, the fort also features exhibits on its design.
Why Visit Fort Sumter National Monument
Not only was this the site of the start of the Civil War, but it was also the site of the Second Battle of Fort Sumter in 1863, where the Union Army attempted to reclaim control over the fort. Visitors can learn about the military history of the island while appreciating stunning views of Patriots Point, Downtown Charleston, and the Ravenel Bridge.
How to Get to Fort Sumter
The only way to get to Fort Sumter is by boat. One company, Fort Sumter Tours, runs the ferries that shuttle passengers to and from the island via Downtown Charleston at Liberty Square or from across the harbor at Patriots Point. The ferry to Fort Sumter ride is 30 minutes long each way, and ferry schedules vary throughout the year but generally run several times a day from Downtown Charleston and at least once a day from Patriots Point.
What to See at Fort Sumter National Monument
Once you arrive on the island, you’ll have 60 minutes to tour the fort and surrounding areas. A National Parks ranger will greet you at the island and offer a general overview of the island’s history and attractions. Fort Sumter Tours offers a full island tour for an additional fee.
Food and Drink
The ferry to Fort Sumter has a snack bar, but there is no food sold on this island. There are several water fountains on the island where you can fill up a water bottle.
How to Visit Patriots Point
Patriots Point is home to the USS Yorktown, an aircraft carrier that served in both World War II and the Vietnam War. The carrier is docked at a naval and maritime museum that offers visitors a glimpse into the history of an aircraft carrier, a battleship, and a submarine. Anyone interested in naval history will appreciate a visit to Patriots Point.
Why Visit Patriots Point
In addition to the USS Yorktown, you’ll get the chance to see the USS Laffey, a battleship, and the USS Clamagore, a submarine. All three vessels can be toured, and there are plenty of photo opportunities in each one. Both adults and kids find the living quarters impressive on these vessels — especially the barber shop and mess hall.
How to Get to Patriots Point
If you have a car, you might want to take a drive to Patriots Point. Only about 10 minutes from Downtown Charleston, the drive is worth it. Crossing over the impressive Ravenel Bridge is an attraction unto itself.
If you don’t have a car, don’t worry — you can get to Patriots Point via the Charleston Water Taxi too. It departs once an hour and takes a little over 30 minutes to reach the other side. You can also choose to stay on the ferry to Fort Sumter for the entire route, which takes approximately 60 minutes. A local company also offers helicopter rides to and from Patriots Point.
What to See at Patriots Point
The biggest attraction at Patriots Point is the maritime museum that features three vessels:
- USS Yorktown
- USS Glamagore
- USS Laffey
There are also a few other attractions that appeal to visitors, including:
- Cold War Memorial
- Waterfront park and pier
- Patriot Point Links golf course
You should plan to spend at least three hours here if you want ample time to visit all three vessels and time to take photos of the surrounding areas.
Food and Drink Near Patriots Point
There are plenty of places to grab a bite to eat while you’re at Patriots Point — and one of them even offers great views of the water! Whether you’re looking for a quick bite or a sit-down meal, you can enjoy some authentic Lowcountry cuisine at these three spots.
Page’s Okra Grill
Comfort food doesn’t need frills, bells, or whistles. When it’s good, you can just taste it. For those looking for a little more substance (at a lower price point), Page’s Okra Grill serves up some stick-to-your-ribs comfort without putting on its fancy pants.
You’ll find some classics, like fried chicken and waffles, fried green tomatoes, pimento cheese, and shrimp and grits here. Most dishes are between $5 and $9.
For a more “elevated” experience that doesn’t take itself too seriously, go to Graze. The minimalist décor is still homey and features plenty of clean, crisp lines and muted colors. Menu items include lobster mac and cheese, spicy tuna tataki, and crispy chicken livers. Most meals are served with a side of hand-cut pomme frites.
The Bridge Bar
If you want to enjoy some lighter fare or a cocktail, head to the Bridge Bar at the Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina. From here, you’ll get fabulous views of the Ravenel Bridge, USS Yorktown, and Downtown Charleston. You can also nosh on fresh fish, crisp salads, and homemade soups — including the local she-crab soup!
If you are headed back to Charleston after your trip to Fort Sumter or Patriot’s Point and are craving more history, you will have plenty of time to join us on one of our afternoon walking tours. The Charleston History Tour leaves from City Hall at 2 pm and our Alleys & Hidden Passages Tour leaves from the Old Exchange Building at the same time.
If you’re not ready to head back to city life after your trip to Patriots Point and Fort Sumter tour, head further inland to Shem Creek and Sullivan’s Island. These areas offer water sports, some of the best beaches in South Carolina, and even more restaurant options. Stay tuned for our next blog post with details!