Got a day to spend in Charleston, and not sure whether you want to go by land, as in the old parts of the city, or sea, as in the harbor where the Ashley and Cooper rivers meet the Atlantic? If you're staying on the lower peninsula near downtown, our itinerary below lets you experience both turf and surf. All you need is a comfortable pair of shoes (remember, ladies, cobblestones are not heel-friendly) to help you traverse the few blocks between each stop.
Hit The Press on the first floor of the Vendue Inn for your favorite cup of Starbucks, a red velvet cupcake and the newer eatery's Wi-Fi. Once your newly found burst of energy kicks in, walk a block and a half to Waterfront Park and the dock at the end of its pier—as you watch brown pelicans swoop for fishy snacks along the harbor marsh on the way—to catch the Charleston Water Taxi. With the taxi's hop-on, hop-off service, you can ride through all four to five stops—Waterfront Park, the SC Aquarium Wharf Maritime Center, Patriots Point/Yorktown, and Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina, with Shem Creek added in the afternoons—as a harbor tour. Or, catch a ride aboard the taxi to the aquarium, Patriots Point or a Shem Creek waterfront restaurant to sightsee and hop back on later.
After the one-hour tour option aboard the Water Taxi, it will be about 10:30, just in time for you to walk a few blocks to a big, red barn that belongs to Palmetto Carriage Works for a one-hour, mule-driven tour of the Holy City's residential district. Perhaps you'll be led by mules Libby and Aladdin and tour guide Mark R. Jones, who, in our experience, combined for a relaxing, well-informed tour of roughly 30 blocks of the city, including Battery Row.
It's just a few more blocks—and you can browse the Charleston Market on the way if you'd like—before you arrive at Slightly North of Broad, known affectionately as "SNOB" by locals, for an open seat at the bar and a big bowl of some of the finest shrimp and grits in the Lowcountry, accompanied by sweet tea and cornbread. This is perfect fuel for your next walking leg of just a few blocks to King Street, home to many of Charleston's finest shops. National brands such as the Apple store are located there, as are such splendid, independent boutiques as the Finicky Filly, a ladies-apparel-and-accessories favorite. Blend in an art gallery or two—Atelier and Principle are a couple of newer King favorites—before perusing gifts and books at the Preservation Society of Charleston's Book & Gift Shop, 147 King, and the works of art at the Gibbes Museum, just a block away at 135 Meeting St.
Just around the corner from Gibbes, at 76 Queen, sits Husk, the newest restaurant under James Beard Foundation Award-winning chef Sean Brock. He uses strictly Lowcountry ingredients in his dishes and is fond of saying, "If it doesn’t come from the South, it’s not coming through the door." The menu can change often as a result, but examples of what one might expect during a Husk seating include Benne and Honey Lacquered Duck with Pickled Blueberries and Chanterelles or Rabbit-Pimento Loaf with Husk Mustard, Pickles and Rice Bread. After such an adventurous meal, it's time to return to the Vendue Inn and its Rooftop Bar, where you can raise a toast to the harbor that started this adventurous day.