Hidden Gems in Charleston, SC
Charleston itself is a little off-the-beaten-path. The Holy City may be the largest in South Carolina, but it still manages to feel like a small town. After you’ve visited some of our more famous sites, we recommend heading to these hidden gems in Charleston.
Visit the less-crowded beaches, eat where the locals do, and get to know the slower side of Charleston.
Hidden Gems in Charleston, SC
Park Circle, North Charleston
Not too many visitors venture north of Downtown Charleston to our north end. And we have to admit, it’s a crying shame, too! North Charleston is home to some of the most authentic lowcountry culture.
While most tourists head here to visit Magnolia Plantation, Boone Hall, and Drayton Hall, there’s so much more to see and do just a few minutes north of Downtown.
Little ones love running around the Fire Museum, and history buffs make a beeline for the Citadel, the famous military cadet school. Riverfront Park offers stunning views of the Cooper River — without worrying you’ll get elbowed in the crowd.
And arguably a destination in itself is the Park Circle area of North Charleston. East Montague Ave is one of the main streets which extends from the circle and boasts trendy restaurants, nightlife, eclectic shops and breweries. It’s definitely a neighborhood hangout with plenty of options for family friendly outdoor activities and dining. We like to consult this interactive map of the area from EATER.COM when trying to choose where to eat: Best Restaurants in Park Circle
Sweet Tea Trail
While you’re up in North Charleston, you might want to continue your journey north before you head back to the city.
Summerville, SC, is the birthplace of the legendary beverage (and one of Charleston’s most iconic eats), sweet tea. What better way to pay homage to this refreshing beverage than to take a trip on the Sweet Tea Trail?
Take in the Sweet Tea Mural, spy your eyes on the largest sweet tea in the world, and try a cuppa-cuppa-cuppa this iconic beverage for yourself.
There are more than 30 stops on the tour, including restaurants, bars, and shops.
H&L Asian Market
If you’re the type of traveler that loves heading to the locals grocery store the minute you step foot in a new city, H&L Asian Market is for you. And if you are already in North Charleston, this is right around the corner.
This market is one of the largest of its kind in the city. It specializes in Asian prepackaged, fresh, and frozen foods.
You could spend an entire day wandering the aisles of this superstore. Should you get hungry, there’s a restaurant located inside the store that serves authentic pho.
Gibbes Museum of Art
Most locals and visitors head straight to the Charleston Museum for their fair share of art and culture. But did you know that Charleston has its very own museum dedicated solely to art?
The Gibbes Museum of Art showcases some of the lowcountry’s most famous artists. On display are pieces that date back to the 17th century all the way up to modern times. The museum is also famous for its collection of miniatures — portraits small enough to fit in the palm of your hand — that were painted right here in Charleston.
The museum is housed in a Beaux Arts-style structure in Downtown Charleston.
One of Charleston’s best kept hidden gems is its network of secret alleyways and passages. Once used by the staff of some of the most prestigious households in the city to gain access to the homes, these alleys hold some of the city’s most interesting stories and secrets.
Possibly one of the most famous of these passageways is Philadelphia Alley. Though it stretches only one block, it has quite the storied past. Gentlemen used to meet here to duel in the 1700s, and there are supposedly plenty of ghosts residing in the alley as a result.
You can hear Philadelphia Alley’s many stories on our Charleston’s Alleys & Hidden Passages Tour.
Another famous narrow street in Charleston is Longitude Lane. Stretching only 540-feet long, this lane offers some of the most charming views of city life. Its name is a little bit of a conundrum, though, as it doesn’t run north-to-south as a line of latitude would.
While its name is confusing, no one can disagree that it’s one of the most quaint and picturesque streets in Charleston — not to mention off-the-beaten-path and extremely photogenic.
While you may run into a few tour groups wandering down this lane, you won’t usually see very many straggler travelers meandering their way along its cobblestoned street.
If you love beaches but hate the crowds, we recommend hopping in your golf cart and heading straight for Kiawah Island.
This island is known for its quiet beaches and private golf resorts. Visitors head here for its five-star amenities and accommodations.
But the best part about Kiawah Island is that you don’t need to be a guest at one of the resorts to enjoy the view. The island is open to the public and offers some of the most scenic views of the Atlantic ocean.
Less than an hour’s drive from Downtown Charleston, this view is worth the trip.
Old Village Mount Pleasant
One of the area’s most beautiful communities is the Old Village in Mount Pleasant, just a few minutes drive from downtown Charleston over the Ravenel Bridge. The heart of the community, Pitt Street, is renowned for its charming personality, small shops and historic homes as well as beautiful views of the harbor. Visit Out of Hand on Pitt Street for all your shopping needs including upscale clothing, shoes, makeup, floral services, gifts and home goods. This shop has it all. Stop in for a glass of wine and charcuterie at Leah’s Old Village Wine Shop offering more than 140 labels of wine. Or for a more nostagic experience, visit Pitt St Pharmacy complete with a soda fountain where you can grab a spot at the counter and order a grilled cheese and a milkshake. The recently reopened Post House Inn and restaurant has been lovingly reinvented by the team at Basic Projects to reflect its historic charm but with thoughtful updates to the restaurant and rooms that are effortlessly chic and modern.
Pitt Street Bridge
And for views of the Sullivans Island lighthouse, Fort Moultrie and the Ravenel Bridge, you can’t beat the scenic Pitt Street Bridge Greenway, just a short drive from the center of the Old Village. The pier was built in 1898 as a trolley bridge to and from Sullivan’s Island and was once the only way to travel from Mount Pleasant to the beaches. Most of the old bridge burned but there is a greenway that leads pedestrians and bicyclists to the old pilings that allowed people to cross the inlet more than a century ago. Walk along the Palmetto tree lined walkway leading up to the remains of the historic bridge, where fisherman gather to cast their lines.
Most visitors head straight for Magnolia Plantation or Boone Hall when they arrive in Charleston. Yet, if you want to avoid the crows (while touring one of the most scenic plantations in the state), we recommend visiting McLeod Plantation.
Located on James Island, it’s a little further off the beaten path than our other beloved plantations. Tour the home, get a glimpse into the daily lives of enslaved African Americans that built this plantation, and learn about the plantation’s Civil War history.
If you want to visit any of these sites and need a local to show you around, please book a private tour with us! We’ll tell you all the secret stories behind Charleston’s hidden gems.