A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit Charleston. It was a fabulous trip. As part of a multi-day trip, I was able to visit Fort Sumter and get another cancellation in my National Park passport!
The visit was part of a girls trip weekend. Up until planning for the vacation, I hadn’t considered a visit to Charleston. I’ve been to Savannah before, and wanted to go there again with friends. One of my other friends suggested Charleston, and that’s the city we finally settled on.
Once I started researching the city, I learned that’s where Fort Sumter National Historic Park was located. Of course, I already knew about the famous fort from U.S. History class. In 1861, the bombardment of the fort by confederate forces, and the return fire by U.S. troops started the Civil War.
In order to visit the fort, you must go via ferry. You can buy ferry tickets at one of two visitor centers, one in Charleston and the other is located at Mount Pleasant. During our trip, we arrived at the visitor center at 10am. Having missed the 9:30am ferry, the other opportunities to catch the ferry was at noon, 2:30pm, or 4pm. Hours for the ferry vary by time of year and location. The Fort Sumter website has all the ferry times.
People wanting to visit the fort do have to purchase tickets for the ferry. National Parks passes do not give you a discount for the ferry passes. There’s no entrance fee to the park, but adult ferry tickets are $23.00.
We opted for the 4pm ferry. That would give us ample time to walk around Charleston, and we could end the day with the tour. We were staying just north of Liberty Square so it also meant less of a back and forth for us.
Things to do
It ended up being a great decision. If you take the 4pm ferry, you can watch the flag lowering ceremony. The ranger does a short talk ahead of the ceremony about the bombardment of the fort and the significance of US flag flying over the fort then and now.
There is also a gift shop and museum at the fort. If you do take the last ferry and want to buy something at the shop, make sure you do that quickly, as the shop closes.
There’s a lot of information in the museum, and I felt a bit rushed at the end. You can also stroll the grounds. Check out the cannons, but don’t climb on them or inside them!
There is also a museum at Liberty Square in Charleston, where we bought our tickets. I did not get a chance to tour that museum. Of course, there’s also a junior ranger program. Since this was a girls trip, I visited without my little ones, so they didn’t participate in the program.
Charleston is full of history. Nearby and also a national historic park is Fort Moultrie. Unlike Fort Sumter, it is accessible by car.
Charleston is a beautiful city. It is both a ocean front town with palm trees and rainbow painted houses, but also a quintessential southern city, with great food, beautiful homes and gardens. It’s also a city that was defined by the Trans-Atlantic slave trade and it seems like it faces its past head on.
There’s an old slave mart that has been turned into a museum. The tours we took of some of the restored civil war home confronted its legacy with slavery. These beautiful homes, buildings and gardens wouldn’t have existed without the wealth that was made off of slaves as well as the enslaved people physically building these structures.
We also passed by Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston. The church, which is said to be the oldest African Methodist Episcopal Church in the south was the site of a mass shooting that took place on the evening of June 17, 2015. In the aftermath of the shooting, the South Carolina legislature voted to remove the confederate flag from the the statehouse grounds.
Everyone I met in Charleston was so friendly. The food we ate was amazing! We did not have a bad meal during our stay! In addition to a few small souvenirs I bought for my kids at Fort Sumter (my oldest collects pins from national parks), I bought a gullah sweetgrass basket from the city market.