Charleston's small, peninsular shape gives visitors opportunity to easily explore a variety of neighboring mainland and island beaches, restaurants, and shopping, all within a short dive of downtown. If staying downtown, visitors without cars can utilize the CARTA, Charleston's public bus system, line #401, to reach Mt. Pleasant day trip destinations. Cabs are available downtown, but can be costly.
Start your day with a hearty Southern breakfast at The Boulevard Diner, a no frills spot just over the Arthur Ravenel Bridge in Mt. Pleasant. Known for its breakfast plates and specialties like Shrimp 'n Grits and Country Fried Steak, The Boulevard Diner opens early at 7:00 a.m. to accommodate loyal early-birds. Portions are large, and prices proportionately low.
Photo courtesy of Boone Hall PlantationContinue further down 17 North until signs for Long Point Road point you towards Boone Hall Plantation, just 8 miles from Charleston's downtown. Boone Hall Plantation, open to the public since 1956, is one of "America's oldest living and working plantations." Admission to Boone Hall is $19.50 for adults, $9.50 for kids from 6-12 years old, and free for children 5 and under. Seniors 65+, military, and AAA members' admission is $17.00. Tickets can be purchased online, and include admission to the Black History in America exhibit, 30 minute Plantation House Tour, and motorized Plantation Coach grounds tour year round. Seasonal exhibits and activities include the Slave Street and History Tour, the Exploring the Gullah Culture exhibit, and the Butterfly Pavilion, a favorite for kids. The plantation is open seven days a week excluding some holidays, but also hosts many popular events like the Southeastern BBQ Championships and Lowcountry Oyster Festival, so be sure to call or check the Boone Hall website before planning a visit.
Poe's Tavern — Photo courtesy of Poe's TavernIt's easy to work up an appetite after touring your way through over three centuries of Charleston plantation history! From Boone Hall, take 526 East four miles until a left turn onto Ben Sawyer Boulevard, continuing into Sullivan's Island. Head to Poe's Tavern on Middle Street for an al fresco lunch just two blocks from the beach. This popular spot was named for author Edgar Allen Poe, who lived on the island for briefly in the late 1800's. While known for their Angus beef burgers, Poe's also serves sandwiches, fish tacos, soups, and salads, most named for Edgar Allen Poe's famous works. Poe's has a great bar scene and drink menu as well, with many inexpensive bottled and draught beers. Getting a table outside is worth the wait for great atmosphere and people watching.
Sullivan's Island boardwalk — Photo courtesy of Clare Sweeney After lunch, continue down Middle Street from Poe's Tavern to tour Ft. Moultrie, a major point of action in both the Revolutionary and Civil wars. Or, meander across Middle street and down any of the beach accesses or "stations," and make the afternoon a relaxing one. Sullivan's Island beaches are some of the quietest and least crowded in the area, but lack large waves for boogie-boarding or surfing. Pets and alcohol are also prohibited by ticket or fine on the beach. Walk toward lower numbered stations for views of the Ft. Moultrie and the Sullivan's Island Lighthouse, and to higher stations for a spot where a giant sandbar creates a double beach and tide pool. Keep an eye out for dolphins, as they often venture in very close to the Sullivan's Island shore.
Photo courtesy of Water's EdgeHeading back toward downtown, stop for waterfront dining and sunset drinks on Shem Creek at Red's Icehouse, Shem Creek Bar and Grill, or Water's Edge. These Shem Creek restaurants boast the best marsh views and ocean sunsets in the Charleston area, and are a great place to try local seafood and raw bar items.