Colonial Charm & More (Charleston)
Colonial Charm & More
“Oozing charm from every pore,” goes the song lyrics from the famous movie and play My Fair Lady. This description could just as easily fit the characteristically southern city Charleston, South Carolina. Historic homes, flowering gardens, winsome churches, cobblestone streets and tiny courtyards create a sense of timeless fantasy. Conde Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards, the gold standard in the travel industry, named Charleston the “Top City in the U.S.” based on six categories: atmosphere and ambiance, culture and sites, friendliness, lodging, restaurants and shopping. With a buildup like that, who wouldn’t want to honeymoon here?
A good way to begin your exploration is by taking a horse or mule-drawn carriage through the old District. Clippity-clop back to colonial times on a one hour tour, immersing in 300 years of antebellum sights, facts, folklore and humor. historic homes abound within a 30-block area, such as the perfectly preserved mansion and collection of outbuildings named the aiken-rhett house. Dating from the early 1800’s, these structures stand as the most intact showcase of urban pre-Civil War life in Charleston. a step inside immediately transports you to a bygone era. Today it is a public museum.
Since 1808 visitors have admired the grand Federal house of Charleston merchant nathaniel russell. Set amid spacious formal gardens, the gorgeously preserved home is widely recognized as one of america’s most important neoclassical dwellings. The graceful interior with elaborate ornamentation, geometrically shaped rooms and magnificent free-flying staircase is among the most exuberant in early america. The house is furnished with period antiques and artwork that evoke the gracious lifestyle of the city’s merchant elite.
A simple stroll down the winsome streets becomes an outing in itself, providing glimpses of secret gardens, delicate wrought iron balconies, charming side streets, hidden alleys, fountains and church spirals, as well as the scent of lush flowers in bloom.
Charleston also evokes the memory of another ultra-famous movie Gone With The Wind. honeymooners simply cannot leave without a dip into the eighteenth-century world of plantation life. Your honeymoon To-Do list should include a visit to a real-life version of the movie set planation Tara.
Get your camera ready! “magnolia Planation is one of the most inspirational gardens i visited,” (photo 2) notes Jennifer Trehane, former Director of the international Camellia Society, a non-profit organization devoted to nurturing this stunning species. magnolia Plantation, founded in 1676, has survived the centuries and witnessed the history of our nation from the american revolution through the Civil War and beyond. it is the oldest public gardens in the USa, first opening its doors to visitors in 1870, beckoning with thousands of exquisite flowers and plants. The plantation has been owned by the same family for more than three centuries and each generation has added their own personal touch to the gardens, expanding the variety.
Boone hall Plantation is another movie set-perfect location. in 1743, the son of major John Boone planted two evenly spaced rows of oak trees at the entrance to his homestead. Centuries later, this spectacular approach would come to symbolize the epitome of Southern heritage. Today, 90 moss-draped oaks stretch three-quarters of a mile, massive branches meeting overhead to form a canopied corridor that is the quintessential symbol of the old South.
Boone hall is one of america’s oldest living plantations, continuously growing crops for 320 years. once known for cotton and pecans, it still actively produces strawberries, tomatoes, pumpkins and other fruits and vegetables for visitors to enjoy. The main house can be viewed on a variety of tours conducted by guides dressed in period clothing. The gardens of another plantation, middleton Place (photo 4) built in 1755, reflect the elegant symmetry of 17th century european design. Sculpted terraces and reflection pools inhabited by swans are highlights of the intricate design. rare flower species blaze with brilliant color during differing seasons. a tour of the estate interprets the middleton family’s vital role in american history. in the stable yard, a blacksmith, potter, carpenter and weaver recreate the activities of a self-sustaining low Country plantation.
Moving from terraced gardens to watery topography, the city of Charleston sits on a harbor with a wonderful view of Fort Sumter, (photo 5) the island fort where the Civil War began. Today it is a national Park. Tour boats to the island offer a 30 minute cruise along Charleston’s bustling waterfront, providing panoramic vistas of the atlantic ocean. a narrator explains the many points of interest. once on the island, historians give detailed information about the fort’s pivotal role in the War Between the States. There’s also a small museum and gift shop.
To experience the sea in a different venue, head to the South Carolina aquarium for a close-up look at turtles, stingrays, sharks, otters, alligators and colorful fish. The Great hall offers an impressive introduction to the South Carolina coastline with a large wall map illustrating the regions of the state represented in the aquarium. The facility’s theater combines 3-D imagery, interactive experiences and special effects to enable visitors to feel gusts of wind, splashes of water and movement under their feet.
To get even more intimate with the sea, there’s nothing like the nearby beaches for a wet-and-wonderful adventure. Folly Beach (photo 8) is a beautiful barrier island only 15 minutes from downtown Charleston. The public park is located at the east end of the isle and includes outdoor showers, restrooms and picnic areas. morris island lighthouse stands 300 feet off shore, creating a perfect photo op.
Walking along Kiawah island’s ten mile stretch of undisturbed sandy beach, guests find it hard to believe the city of Charleston is a mere 21 miles away. Kiawah island is an idyllic private community with beach admittance primarily limited to property owners and resort guests. however, public access is available at Beachwalker County Park, located on the west end. natural beauty abounds from endless acres of marsh to thick pine forests, magnolias and massive oaks. The Travel Channel named Kiawah’s beach among the nation’s Top Ten.
Another choice is isle of Palm, just 12 miles away. Boating opportunities include kayaks, canoes, sailboats, fishing boats and even luxury harbor cruises. Personal watercraft like Jet Skis can be rented to explore nearby islands. Getting around is easy; most roads have marked bike paths. Bicycle and rollerblade rentals are available. Tennis and golf can be pursued on the island with two world class golf courses. The Charleston area also has many well-known courses.
For more information on everything from sightseeing to outdoor recreation, world class cuisine and hotel accommodations, visit www.charlestoncvb.com