Charleston, Off the Beaten Path
Updated: October 25, 2023
Charleston is one of the most popular destinations in the South, but head slightly off the beaten path during your trip. You’ll find places where locals go, multifaceted historic sites and fun things to do with kids.
Angel Oak Tree
3688 Angel Oak Rd., Johns Island, S.C.
Just several minutes from downtown on Johns Island (but on land owned by the city of Charleston), this immense oak—66.5-feet tall and 28 feet in circumference—catches the eye and is presumed to be anywhere from 400 to 1,500 years old. It’s popular with locals as well as people who want a unique thing to do in Charleston. There’s even a gift shop to buy souvenirs located on-site.
Courtesy of Charleston Convention & Visitors Bureau
1500 Old Towne Rd.
Though historic Charleston doesn’t have a beach per se, there are plenty of places to go to enjoy the sun and surf; think barrier islands, which are a short drive away. Where to go mostly depends on preferences and available time. You can book a waterfront resort with luxurious amenities, go out to eat at a local restaurant or take a laid-back trip to relax on the beach. Each of these places to go has a different vibe. Destinations include Isle of Palms, Folly Beach, Kiawah Island, Seabrook Island and Sullivan’s Island.
Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site
If you’re arriving or departing from Charleston International Airport, this is a great state historic site to see on the way. With beautiful water views, a visitor center with a museum, trails, and bike and kayak rentals, this area offers recreational things to do with a historical legacy. It was where the first English settlers of Charleston landed circa 1670. If you’re traveling with kids, check out the 17th-century replica vessel known as a trading ketch.Read More
Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim
90 Hasell St.
This 1840 Greek Revival synagogue is just one of the congregations located in downtown Charleston, underscoring the city’s “Holy City” nickname. What you may not know is its reputed background as the second oldest and most continuously used synagogue in the nation. It also has the distinction of being one of the founding congregations of Reform Judaism.Read More
Magnolia Plantation and Gardens
3550 Ashley River Rd.
The often-overlooked history encompassing enslaved Africans and the Gullah culture is interpreted at one of the most visited plantations in Charleston. While a house tour is very popular, the 45-minute "From Slavery to Freedom: The Magnolia Cabin Project Tour" also is well worth your time. It's included with an all-inclusive pass (subject to availability) or by additional fee. The guided tour will help you leave with a fully rounded perspective through a focus on five restored cabins. These were occupied from the 1850s through the 1990s and reflect life around the Civil War and Reconstruction as well as segregation under Jim Crow.Read More
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Sherry is an experienced #AAAEditor and former journalist who enjoys writing informative travel articles and reviews. Her commitment to making meaningful connections with people and places fuels her work for AAA. Sherry's favorite activities range from skiing to backpacking abroad and taking ghost tours.