Charleston itself is a bit of an off-the-beaten-path destination. We abhor crowds and generally treat travelers like you’re family here. You could kind of say, we’re more about experiences than tourism in the Holy City. But if you’re looking to really get off the grid, we’ve got a few ideas to help keep your trip even more low-key. These off-the-beaten-path Charleston attractions are worth taking the road less traveled.
Off-the-Beaten-Path Charleston Tour: Walks of Charleston
Why try to find all the off-the-beaten Charleston activities on your own when you could take a tour instead? Our Off-the Beaten-Path Tour takes you on a tour of Charleston’s most historic sites — just not in the way you’d expect.
This tour will start at the Four Corners of Law and you will see the famous mansions along the Battery, but you’ll also hear some of the lesser-known stories of Charleston’s history and elite families and explore the less traveled streets in the historic district that only a local would know to visit. Call to inquire about availability.
Off-the-Beaten-Path Museum: Macaulay Museum of Dental History
If you really want to get off the beaten path, we recommend heading to the Macaulay Museum of Dental History. It’s also a little strange, truth be told. The museum is full of dental tools used throughout history.
We’re not sure if we really wanted to know what some of these tools looked like. But we were pleasantly surprised (and a little delighted) to see that the dentist’s office hasn’t changed that much since the early 1900s — thanks to the recreation of an office from that time period.
No matter what your relationship is with the dentist, if you’re into unusual museums, this one will give you some serious brag points with your friend group.
Off-the-Beaten-Path Plantation: Hampton Plantation
When it comes to plantations, you’ll have your pick of ones to visit in South Carolina. If you want to understand the history behind these majestic homes — without the lines and crowds — head to one of Charleston’s lesser-known plantations, Hampton Plantation.
Most Charleston plantations aren’t located in the city proper, and this one is no exceptions. You’ll need to travel a little less than an hour up the coast to get here. But it’s worth the drive.
You’ll get the chance to see a historic plantation grounds and home. The grounds are free to visit, and there are plenty of live magnolia trees to ooh and ahh at. The house admission costs under $10 for adults, and visitors can enjoy a peek into plantation life in the 19th century.
Off-the-Beaten-Path Charleston Beach: Morris Island
Charleston is known for its miles of sandy, pristine beaches. Visitors flock to our beaches all year long, thanks to our mild winters and hot summers. If you’re hoping to score some fun in the sun without fighting the crowds, you’ll want to get creative. We recommend heading to one of Charleston’s lesser-known waterfront wonders, Morris Island.
The only way to get here is by boat, which means you’ll have your pick when it comes to waterfront relaxation spots.
Off-the-Beaten-Path Southern Food: Olde Colony Bakery
Charleston is known for iconic foods like oysters, she-crab soup and barbecue. The food you might not associate with the lowcountry? Benne wafers. These famous little sweets have been famous in Charleston since Colonial times.
A cross between a cracker and a cookie, benne wafers are salty-sweet snacks that are made of sesame, which was brought to Charleston from East Africa.
Head to the Olde Colony Bakery, a spot that’s been making benne wafers for over 70 years.
Off-the-Beaten-Path Hike: Seewee Shell Mound
Thousands of visitors head to Charleston each year for outdoorsy activities. Here, we’re known for our hiking, biking, swimming and kayaking.
Want to enjoy nature without running into another soul? Head to the Seewee Shell Ring, a park that is home to a hiking trail that features hundreds-and-thousands-year-old shell mounds.
Off-the-Beaten-Path Charleston Road Trip: Yamassee
Hello! Please meet Evans on the N side of the Old Exchange Building at 122 E Bay St a few minutes before 2pm for the tour. Enjoy
For many visitors, Charleston is merely a stop on a much longer trip. If you’re planning on road tripping here, we recommend spending at least a few days in the Holy City. But we do recommend heading to a few Charleston day trip spots nearby, too.
If you really want to visit an off-the-radar church, head to Yamassee — especially if you’re planning on visiting Charleston for its many steeples.
The Old Sheldon Church ruins in Yemassee are only about an hour west of the city. Built between 1745 and 1753, ruins are all that remains of Prince William’s Parish Church. The church was burned down during the Civil War, but you can still visit the site.
Off-the-Beaten-Path Architecture: Fireproof Building
The Fireproof Building at 100 Meeting Street was the first of its kind when it was built back in 1827.
As the name suggests, the building is indeed fire protected and is believed to be the oldest building with such features in the U.S. It was built by Robert Mills, who was the first trained architect born in the country. He also constructed the Washington Monument.
Off-the-Beaten-Path Kid’s Attraction: H.L. Hunley Submarine
Most families head straight for Patriots Point when in search of kid-friendly historic activities. But if you want your kids to be the savviest in the schoolyard, instead you might want to stop by the H.L. Hunley Submarine — the first combat submarine to sink another ship during a war.
Used by the Confederate army, this warship only set out on one mission, though it did sink the USS Housatonic.
Located just north of Downtown Charleston, this famous landmark is easy to reach by car or bus but isn’t as well-traveled as the more famous ships across the Ravenel.
Off-the-Beaten-Path Bridge: Pitt Street Bridge
Instead of spending crossing over the Ravenel Bridge for the umpteenth time (and let’s be honest, you might end up spending some serious time in traffic on that one anyway), head to the Pitt Street Bridge.
What was once an important way for trolleys to get to and from Sullivan’s Island, now offers pedestrians a pretty view from an even prettier footbridge. What better way to end your day than with a few photos from one of the most instagrammable spots in the city?