Charleston is quickly becoming one of the most popular tourist destinations in the U.S.
But did you know there is a secret Charleston that only the locals know about? You won’t find Charleston’s most hidden treasures in just any guidebook. To find them, you’ll need to ask a local.
Tips to Find Secret Charleston Sites
Book a Walking Tour
Not to brag, but our tour guides happen to be familiar with even the most uncharted areas of the city!
We offer a walking tour geared to visitors who want to dig a little deeper into Charleston’s history. While you’ll see many of the tourist sites on the tour, you’ll hear stories that aren’t told by most guides.
Our most popular tour, Charleston’s Alleys and Hidden Passages , will show you another side of the Holy City. Want to get even further into secret Charleston? Book a private tour. You can request to see specific sites or some of our guide’s favorite off-the-beaten spots.
Just tell us what you’re into and we’ll create a tour around it!
Wander Off the Beaten Path
It’s easy to want to stick to Charleston’s main thoroughfares.
Because so many beautiful major arteries (such as King Street) run through our fair city, we understand that you may not want to stray too far away! Yet, there’s so much more here than what you might see on the surface.
Many of the most beautiful parts of Charleston lie behind its most beautiful buildings. And we’re known for our many secret alleys and passages. We’re also known for our gardens, courtyards, and parks. All of which you may not see from the main streets.
If you want to find secret Charleston, wander off the beaten path. But don’t wander too far! You don’t want to end up in an area that isn’t open to the public…
Ask a Local
If you really want to find secret Charleston sites, just ask a local! We’re kind of known for our hospitality here.
Most workers in restaurants, stores, or museums will tell you their favorite spots in Charleston — if you ask nicely!
Our guides also happen to have a few favorites here, and they’re happy to share them with you at the end of the tour. If you need quick answers, check out our blog. Here, we detail our favorite things to do in Charleston, including our favorite restaurants, activities, self-guided walking tours, and more.
Leave the Historic City Center
Yes, it’s beautiful! But there’s so much more to see in Charleston if you hop in a car or on a bike.
Head west of the Ashley River to get to some of the most beautiful neighborhoods in Charleston, including Northbridge, the Crescent, and Avondale. You’ll get to see what life is really like in South Carolina while getting away from the hustle and bustle of Downtown.
One easy way to see some secret Charleston sites is by booking an outdoor activity, such as a kayak tour. Or, go on a hike to see some of the city’s wetlands and wildlife.
We’re home to several sanctuaries where you can see South Carolina wildlife. Charleston is also home to the Southeastern Wildlife Exposition, where you can see hundreds of species of birds, reptiles, and mammals.
If you don’t have a car, visit the Animal Forest at Charles Towne Landing. Not only will you see beautiful plants and nature, but you’ll also get close to bears, bobcats, and bison.
7 Secret Charleston Attractions
Alleyways and Passages
One of the most charming secret Charleston attractions is its alleyways and passages.
Behind some of the most famous buildings lies a network of alleyways that were used by both commoners and the privileged alike. Walk down one of these alleyways and you’ll find some of the most picture-perfect paths in the city.
Some of our favorites include Philadelphia Alley, Longitude Lane, and Stoll’s Alley.
Secret Gardens and Courtyards
If you wander down one of Charleston’s hidden alleyways, you’re sure to find a secret Charleston garden or courtyard too.
Yet if you don’t have time to wander aimlessly through the city, we recommend checking out a few Charleston restaurants with al fresco dining. Many of these outdoor dining rooms happen to be located in Charleston’s many secret courtyards.
Guarding some of Charleston’s most secret alleyways are ornate gates, made of iron.
They were designed and created by Philip Simmons, the son of enslaved African Americans, who at the age of 12 became an apprentice to a local blacksmith.
Simmons would go on to create hundreds of these gateways throughout the city.
One of the most atmospheric spots in Charleston is Cypress Gardens. If you’ve seen the movie The Notebook (or one of the other many movies filmed in Charleston), you’ll recognize this spot.
This 170-acre preserve and gardens is home to a blackwater bald cypress and tupelo swamp that’s accessible by foot trails and by boat.
One of our favorite nearby plantations is McLeod Plantation. While this is one of the “big five” plantations near the city center, it’s one of the lesser-visited ones.
At McLeod, you’ll learn about the history of slavery in South Carolina as well as the Gullah-Geechee heritage in the state.
Pitt Street Bridge
The Pitt Street Bridge was once a trolley bridge that connected Mt. Pleasant to Sullivan’s Island.
Though the bridge no longer stands, there is a Pitt Street Walk, a two-mile walkway that was created from the remains of the bridge. You’ll get beautiful views of Sullivan’s Island, The Cove, and the tiny islands that dot the area.
Morris Island Lighthouse
Head down to Folly Beach to get a great view of the Morris Island Lighthouse. Though the original lighthouse was destroyed in the Civil War, the one that still stands was active until 1962.