Where to Find the Best Views in Charleston
Charleston is known for many things (churches, food and music). What it’s not known for? Tall buildings. Overall, the Holy City is relatively flat. In fact, church steeples tower over most buildings. We haven’t built skyscrapers or observation decks. What we do have? Plenty of rooftop bars and restaurants as well as waterfront property. While we may not have many high vantage points, we happen to think the following spots offer the best views in Charleston.
Rooftop Bars and Restaurants
We aren’t famous for tall buildings in Charleston, but we have dozens of waterfront buildings with flat roofs. That means we’ve got all the space in the world for rooftop bars and restaurants! We hate playing favorites when it comes to enjoying the beautiful scenery while eating some iconic Charleston food. But if we had to, we’d recommend visiting the following Charleston rooftop bars and restaurants at sunset:
- Aqua Terrace Roof-Top Bar
- Pavilion Bar
- Stars Rooftop Bar & Grill
- Eleve Rooftop Restaurant & Lounge
- Snapper Jacks
- Uptown Social
- Red’s Ice House
- The Cocktail Club
- Henry’s Bar & Restaurant
The one thing the Holy City is known for other than churches and food? Its beaches. We have thousands of miles of beach here in Charleston, and we’re not afraid to brag about it. Luckily, our beaches are pristine and scenic. Some of our favorites in the city include:
- Folly Beach
- Isle of Palms
- Kiawah Island
- Sullivan’s Island
- Seabrook Island
All the sea and sand means that it isn’t hard to get out on a boat in South Carolina! We have so many tour boat companies that there’s a boat ride for every budget here. From ferries to kayaks to yachts, you can see the city in style — regardless of how much time you have.
We happen to love Charleston Harbor Tours because they offer tours of the harbor in only 90 minutes — which means you can see the sights of the harbor while learning a little local history.
Schooner Pride will take you on a sunset cruise of the harbor, accompanied by wine and snacks. Set sail on a wooden sailboat that gets you close to beautiful sights, including dolphins.
The Charleston Water Taxi is our pick for a budget cruise of the harbor. It’ll also get you to other parts of the city that aren’t easy to reach from Downtown, such as Mt. Pleasant and Patriots Point.
If you want a little exercise with your photo ops, we recommend peddling around the harbor on Saltwater Cycle. Since you’re not the one steering the ship (only powering it), you can enjoy a few beers on the water, too.
In a town that’s almost completely surrounded by water, you can be certain you’ll find a few bridges. If you want to get a great vantage point, we recommend heading to the Ravenel or Limehouse Bridges; both are long enough to get you high above the city.
One of the most stunning (and recognizable) bridges in Charleston is the Ravenel Bridge. This 13,000-foot suspension bridge connects downtown Charleston to Mt. Pleasant. You can drive, bike or walk this bridge (though, we recommend biking so you can stop and take photos).
Pitt Street Bridge
The Pitt Street Bridge was once a major bridge in Mt. Pleasant. Today, it’s simply a footbridge that offers great views of Pitt Street Park.
The Limehouse Bridge connects downtown Charleston to West Ashley, via Johns Island. You’ll get a totally different view of the city from this vantage point.
A slightly less orthodox way to get a great view of Charleston is to climb the rock wall at James Island County Park. This 50-foot wall gives you a decent view of the city (though you will need a valid CCPRC Belay Card to belay a fellow climber).
Downtown Charleston Parks
Downtown Charleston is home to many waterfront parks that offer great views of the harbor and surrounding areas. If you want a quick and easy spot to snap a photo, we recommend heading straight to the Battery (Whitehall Gardens) or Waterfront Park.
We know it’s a little odd to recommend heading to a baseball game just for the views. But much like at Oracle Park in San Francisco, RiverDogs Stadium is the perfect place to get a great view. The higher you sit in the stands, the better view you’ll get. The best part? The seats get cheaper the further they are from the field, so the best views of the water are often the cheapest.
Fort Sumter National Monument
If you have kids in tow and want to get some beautiful photos from a vantage point, we recommend taking the ferry to Fort Sumter. The island where the fort is located is maintained by the National Parks Service. It’s also in the middle of the harbor, which means you’ll get some of the best photos in the city here.
The best way to get as high up in the air as possible in Charleston? Taking a helicopter tour. Since we don’t have observation decks here, it’s really the only way to get a 360-degree view of the entire city. We recommend booking with Fly In Helicopters or Holy City Helicopters. Both receive 4.4-to-5.0 stars on Google.
For 15-to-45 minutes, you’ll get the best view of the Holy City — all with a little information from your pilot.