Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Charleston, South Carolina

If you have never been to Charleston, you need to go. We spent four days here and it was not enough time - there is so much to do and see. In one day alone, we visited the only tea plantation in North America, the oldest museum in America (the Charleston Museum), the oldest living thing (a tree) on the east coast, and a vodka distillery/winery. Whew, we were exhausted!
Charleston riverfront.

The city of Charlestown is a captivating mix of American history, culture, and architecture. It is a city where you can stroll down palmetto and azalea lined streets in front of antebellum homes and be transported back in time. The “Museum Mile” captivates visitors with first-class museums illustrating Charleston’s history, art, African-American culture, and American military history. A trip down King Street will delight discerning shoppers and provide them with the opportunity to browse a delightful mix of antique, art, and fashion shops. If you still need more to do, take a narrated carriage ride through Charleston’s historic district or a boat ride along the riverfront to get a view of the city.
View of the shopping district on King Street.

When you stop to eat, you will find an eclectic mix of quaint restaurants proudly serving South Carolina favorites like shrimp and grits, fried green tomatoes, fried chicken livers with onions and crab cakes.

Fort Sumter National Monument.
A trip to Charleston would not be complete without visiting Fort Sumter National Monument. The fort is only accessible by boat. A relaxing 45-minute ferry ride takes you down the Cooper River which delights visitors with a great view of the Charleston waterfront and James and Sullivan Islands. The Fort claims to be the starting point of the American Civil War. In 1860 South Carolina had seceded from the Union. But despite this, Union forces occupied Fort Sumter which lay strategically at the entrance to Charleston Harbor.
"Ranger Nate" providing an
history lesson to interested tourists.

Entrance to Fort Sumter.
When the Union forces refused the South’s request to vacate the fort, a single shot was fired over the fort to announce the impending bombardment. Union troops surrendered after a two-day battle and South Carolina Confederate troops regained control of Fort Sumter. But as American history tells us, this war was far from over.

The lure of big ships and maritime history drew us to Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum. This is a complex of naval ships and museums anchored by the USS Yorktown, a WWII-era aircraft carrier. Visitors can tour the ship and see a collection of aircraft used in wars and conflicts from WWII to Desert Storm. On board the ship is the nation’s only Medal of Honor Museum, a proud tribute to those who have earned the distinction. Also located on-site are a submarine, a destroyer, a replica of a Vietnam Support Base and a Cold War Submarine Memorial.

USS Yorktown at Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum.

The Charleston Tea Plantation.
Tea bushes.
While in Charleston, make the drive to Wadmalaw Island to visit the only tea garden in the United States. The Charleston Tea Plantation is home to American Classic Tea, the only tea stamped “Made in America.” The hot, humid climate found on the Island creates ideal growing conditions for the Camellia sinensis plant used in the production of black and green tea. At the plantation, visitors are invited into the factory to see how tea plants are transformed into a popular beverage. An old-time trolley takes visitors into the heart of the tea garden, where over 320 tea varieties are growing. The narrated 20-minute trip explains how the plants are grown and harvested. While at the plantation, you are welcomed with unlimited free samples. After leaving The Charleston Tea Plantation, take the short 10-mile drive to the Firefly Vodka distillery to sample their popular sweet tea vodka. (See the former post “Sweet Tea and Fireflies in South Carolina!” for more information.)

Also located on Wadmalaw Island is the “Angel Oak.” Angel Oak is a live oak tree that is reportedly the oldest thing, living or man-made, east of the Rockies. The overall size of the tree is enormous for a live oak. The trees’ limb span and wide canopy were said to present the aura of an angel thus giving the tree its name. Believed to be nearly 1,500 years old, the tree is 65 feet high, and boasts a trunk circumference of 25 ½ feet. Some branches are so heavy that they have to be supported with cables – the largest being over 85 feet long and 11 feet in circumference.

"Angel Oak"
We finished our trip to Charleston by saying that we need to come back. There are so many other attractions that we did not have time to see. Next time we come, we will take in the American Military Museum, the Citadel, the Postal Museum, the Old Slave Mart Museum, the South Carolina Aquarium, a downtown historic walking tour, and visits to Folly Beach and Kiawah Island. South Carolina Lowcountry will see us again … and we will see and learn even more.

More pictures of Charleston follow.
Charleston riverfront.

Beautiful Charleston Custom House built in the mid-1800's

Row houses in downtown Charleston.

Downtown Charleston home.

Charleston houses along the harbor.

Downtown home.

Charleston home with sun porches.
While on the ferry ride to Fort Sumter, we passed the New Orleans Express!
Inside Fort Sumter.

The flag pole at Fort Sumter looking out into the Atlantic Ocean.

A row of 6.4-inch (100 pounder) Parrott rifled cannons from the 1870's.

Museum at Fort Sumter.

Many military aircraft are displayed on the USS Yorktown flight deck.

Bunks in the USS Yorktown.

USS Yorktown galley....looks like it could feed 3,000 people.

Nancy and some plane ... we don't remember what it is called, but it is cool.

Nancy if front of a "Dautless."  A highly-effective, navy plane used in dive bombing Japanese warships in WWII.  
In front of the Charleston Museum stands the "Hunley" an early submarine
that rammed boats with its proboscis.

Inside the Charleston Museum.
Nancy's all-time favorite culinary delight - fried pickles.
Fried green tomatoes, pepper salsa, and arugula salad.

Hoppin' John.

Cupcakes in Charleston.
Tea bushes and the custom made harvester.  The harvester trims the new growth from the
top of the bushes and those cuttings are used to produce tea.

Hundreds of acres and varieties of tea.


  1. Charleston is a great city! I absolutly love it and can't wait to visit some of these spots next time I go visit my parents. They just moved there a year ago. I'm really interested in visiting the Tea Plantation. If you're in the area again let me know we have some good contacts with the South Carolina Aquarium and could probably get you in to see behind the scenes and the Sea Turtle Rescue Center!

  2. Love Charleston! Be there again in June.
    If you haven't discovered this trick yet, plug your crockpot into the inverter, place it in the sink, and cook a meal while you travel.
    We did this during a trip to Alaska (not many good places to eat along that route), and most often were overcome by the great aromas and ended up having early lunches/dinners.
    Keep on keeping on! Regards...Hal


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