Charleston is a photographic gem of a city in South Carolina. There are so many great places to shoot. With a historic downtown, river, beaches and plantations, there is great diversity all within a short drive. We spent a decent chunk of time in Charleston, but there was no way we could visit everywhere we wanted so we reached out to other travel bloggers, Instragrammers and lots of locals to create the most comprehensive guide to the best photo spots in Charleston you can find on the Internet. We hope it is helpful.
All of the locations we feature can be found on the map below to help you plan your visit. Once you have finished with Charleston, be sure to check out the rest of our awesome photography and Instagram guides for cities across the world.
Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge (Cooper River Bridge)
The Arthur Ravenal Jr. Bridge, frequently referred to as the Cooper River Bridge, dominates the view along the east coast of Charleston or the west coast of Mount Pleasant as it connects the two across the Cooper River. Construction of the bridge was completed in 2005. The massive bridge is one of the longest cable-stayed bridges in the world.
The light trails shot from the bridge with sunset colors makes a beautiful and creative shot from photographer Cayla Corum.
The fun shot below from FitWomensWeekly trainer Kindal shows off the whole bridge.
This last shot comes from local Victoria Chorney. The bridge is popular for pedestrians and makes for a great photo op, but be aware, it is a long walk!
Ravenal Waterfront Park
Apparently, this Ravenal name is pretty popular. Not far from the bridge, is the Ravenal Waterfront Park. The park stretches for 8 acres along the waterfront in downtown Charleston. It is home to a long pier great for dolphin watching, two fountains, a row of trees and lots of green space.
The most popular feature at Waterfront Park is the huge pineapple fountain. The image below is one I took while my kids were playing in the fountain, which is actually like three feet deep. I had to time it for when they were on the back end of the fountain.
The fountain is a popular place for pictures and during busy times, you will often find a small line waiting to take a turn. The image below is from Faith Pietryga.
Another great shot from the pineapple fountain comes from Farin Doran.
Right by the pier is a second fountain that is better for kids to play in and will be full of them on a hot day. The great shot below came from Rob MacDonald.
Angel Oak Park
Angel Oak Park is located on John’s Island just west of Charleston. It actually takes a bit longer to get there than I expected as the roads are not great–single lanes with lots of traffic. I was happily surprised that, although there were a lot of people there, parking was not an issue.
They call this a park, but it is really just a fenced area around the tree. I was hoping for a bit more to do, but don’t expect anything other than to chill under the tree and take a few images before taking off. There is a small gift shop, but it wasn’t very exciting. The tree, by itself, though, is well worth the visit!
–Caution, the park is closed Wednesdays as of the writing of this article.
The Angel Oak is considered the largest oak tree east of the Mississippi. It is believed to be 300-400 years old. it is 65 feet high, has a 25.5 foot circumference, and shades an impressive 17,000 acres!
The biggest bummer about visiting Angel Oak is it closes before sunset and they don’t allow tripods. Since you can always expect a crowd of people around the tree, it is tough to get a good shot without a tripod. The best method is to take a bunch of images over time and then blend them in Photoshop to remove the differences (I explained the process for this in this post). To make the shot below, I found a little nook on a branch where the camera fit decently well, increased the ISO so I could increase my shutter speed to cut back on motion blur and then took about 15 images over 5 minutes. It wasn’t perfect and I still had to do some cloning out after I removed all the differences, but overall I am pretty happy with it (just wish it was better lighting!).
The awesome shot below came from Instagrammer @christine.unseen. I honestly have no idea how she got this angle without people in it, but I love the different view that really shows off the massive trunk of the tree and features some Spanish Moss as well.
Here is another shot I really like. While it has a few people in it, they help to show the scale of the tree and you can see a lot more of the entire tree as well. This shot comes from Cooper Christensen.
Rainbow Row is the name given to thirteen colorful houses in downtown Charleston, located just southwest of Waterfront Park on your way to the Battery. The beautiful houses, which constitute the longest stretch of Georgian row houses in the United States, have all been restored and present beautifully.
Part of the fun of Rainbow Row is learning all the different legends about how they got their colors. The explanations range from more plausible owners choosing a colonial Caribbean color scheme to the more fun stories: painting them bright colors helped drunken sailors to find their way home; the unique colors helped slave masters give directions to illiterate slaves.
Regardless of how and why they were painted beautiful colors, Rainbow Row makes for a great photo spot. The biggest hurdle with Rainbow Row is that it is along a street where there are always cars parked in front of the houses, and even large dumpsters and other things that just ruin images, so you have to be creative.
Photographer Jennifer Catalano does an absolute great job in the image below of framing Rainbow Row to exclude all the distractions and get all the focus on those bright beautiful colors. I also love that she captured the lamps, which still burn a real flame.
Rainbow Row is a great place to grab a good portrait as it is easy to pop against those bright colors. The image below shows a great example of the opportunities. It comes from dancer Megan Watters.
Magnolia Plantation and Gardens
Magnolia Plantation is a beautiful garden estate about 30 minutes northwest of downtown Charleston along the Ashley River. Dating back to 1676, Magnolia is one of the oldest plantations in the United States. Magnolia Plantation started with the Drayton Family and remains in the family, currently owned by the fifteenth generation.
It started as a rice plantation; however, rice plantations were no longer feasible after the end of slavery. A massive garden was curated in the 1840’s to help the wife of Reverend Drayton, a city girl, find more happiness on the plantation. After rice was abandoned, the 25 acre gardens became a tourist destination and the main source of income for the plantation.
The highlight of the gardens are the ponds, giant trees and picturesque bridges. You can see one of these idyllic scenes in the image below from Kaylin Jo Goepper of @goepperfamilyadventures.
The biggest bridge is pictured below with a bright Magnolia tree in the foreground. The image was provided by local photographer Deborah Paez.
Although much of the gardens are full of flowers, the ponds are home to beautiful cypress trees. The light coming through the trees in the below image from photographer Cami M is just magical!
The beautiful garden is full of nice pathways through the flowers and trees. You can see one of the paths in the great image below from Kelly Fitzgerald.
While most of the bridges are white, there is a beautiful red bridge near the entrance of the gardens. The shot below from Instagrammer @felishiia shows off the red contrasting against the deep greens that surround it.
Another great shot of the bridges, ponds and trees comes from photographer Wayne Eads.
Below is an image of our family in front of the house at Magnolia Plantation. The current house is the third house to be at the plantation. The first, and greatest, house was burned by by Union troops during the Civil War. The second house built was also burned down. The final house was more of a hunting cottage before it was expanded to double the size and turned into more of an entertaining home. The outside is quite impressive with the huge veranda, but the inside is surprisingly small and unimpressive, although we did enjoy our tour thanks to a great tour guide.
Audubon Swamp Gardens
The Audubon Swamp Gardens are connected to the Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, and cost an extra $8 per person to access. It is the place to go if you are a bird lover, but I would say it is not worth it otherwise. I am pretty sure you can see most of area and plenty of birds and alligators just exploring trails around the area without actually accessing the paid part of the gardens.
A good chunk of the swamp gardens is on a boardwalk through the swamps. Having visited a few places in the South, these swamp boardwalks are always great for photography. The great image below came from photographer Mary Katerina.
I took the below image in the swamp gardens. It is probably my favorite bird picture I have ever taken. I wish I could have gotten the faces of the baby birds better, but you can’t do anything about branches being in the way.
There are also plenty of alligators to see in the Swamp Gardens. Most of them are pretty small and spend their time sun bathing on wooden platforms, which isn’t as fun to shoot in my opinion. I made this image below of one of the few we found actually in the water.
Charleston was nicknamed the Holy City due to all the churches in the downtown area. As you view it from a boat coming in, there are steeples dotting the entire skyline. There are a view that stand above the rest, however, and one of my favorites is St. Michael’s. It is easily distinguished due to its giant white steeple.
St. Michael’s was built in the 1750’s and remains an Anglican Church. It’s funny but I didn’t even realize there were Anglican churches in the United States until I visited Charleston.
The beautiful aerial shot below comes from Mike Gauthier and shows off how St. Michael’s towers over the surrounding buildings.
There is a classic old cemetery on the grounds of the church that helps add a great foreground to help your image have a lot more interest. The shot below was provided by Instagrammer Hannie.
The interior of St. Michael’s is exactly what you would expect from seeing the outside. Tall white walls with lots of dark wood show that this church dates back to the beginning of the United States. The shot below was provided by local tour company Totus Tours.
The image below from David Wachholz, shows some more of the details in the pulpit and stained glass.
Cathedral of St. John the Baptist
The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist is a massive red brick church in downtown Charleston. It is, of course a Catholic cathedral. Dating to 1907, it is one of the newer big churches in Charleston. The reason is actually quite interesting. Charleston has always been about the money and had a charter welcoming almost all religions to encourage settlers, traders and business. About the only people forbidden from settling in Charleston were Catholics. It was long time before they were allowed to build churches in Charleston.
Mike Gauthier provided another beautiful aerial shot for us. This is the best view of the Cathedral you will find. Due to the height and surrounding neighborhood, it is very difficult to capture the whole Cathedral from the ground.
The below image, from photographer Hans Meier, shows the steeple of the Cathedral rising above the beautiful homes of the area.
This straight-on shot from travel blogger Briana does an excellent job showing the beautiful front of the Cathedral.
The interior of the Cathedral is quite stunning. Dark wood, marble columns and painted ceilings look beautiful in the image below, also from travel blogger Briana.
St. Philip’s Church
Dating back to 1681, St. Philip’s is oldest European-American religious congregation in South Carolina; however, the current building is from 1836, although the spire wasn’t completed until 1850. Speaking of the tower, it is quite impressive. It makes sense when you learn it used to actually serve as a lighthouse.
I can’t thank Mike Gauthier enough for providing the fantastic aerial images of all these churches. The shot below shows how impressive the tower is and also includes the beautiful water backdrop.
The size of the tower is even more imposing in the image below, which is another image from local photographer Hans Meier
The aerial shot below from local photographer Nick S. Holzworth shows more of the tower and highlights the greenery that you don’t get from many other angles.
St. Philip’s also as great little cemetery. These crosses below make a strong foreground in the image from Liz Vos.
The image of the cemetery below from Geoff Kabaservice shows off the great detail in the headstones and I love the composition under the Spanish Moss.
I don’t love the interior of St. Philip’s as much as some of the others, but the large columns and vaulted ceilings and all that white makes for a great image, as you can see below in the shot from Edwin De La Cruz.
French Huguenot Church
The French Huguenot Church looks a bit different than Charleston’s other churches, with its Gothic architecture built in 1844. Besides the unique architecture, the French Huguenot Church also stands out with its pink paint.
There aren’t a lot of great opportunities to shoot this church, but probably the best place can be seen in the image below from blogger Haley Eby.
Another shot from the same location comes from Mike Gauthier. This one shows the difference with some overcast weather where the pink isn’t in direct sunlight.
Old Village Historic District
If you are looking for some older houses that aren’t the giant houses you get in downtown Charleston, the streets of the Old Village Historic District in Mount Pleasant are worth a stroll.
Photographer Hans Meier captured a gem with this little picturesque house.
Old Sheldon Church Ruins
This is probably the furthest site we have included from Charleston, about an hour west of town. The historic site is home, of course, to the ruins of an old church. While it is disputed, legend has it the church was burned down by the British during the Revolutionary War, rebuilt, then burned down again by Union troops in the Civil War.
The ruins are now a popular place for photographers, and you can see why in the image below, another great shot from photographer Hans Meier.
This shot below, from Matt Pickard, shows a good idea of what is actually left of the church.
Middleton Place is a historic plantation along the Ashley River north of Charleston not too far from Magnolia Plantation. Unfortunately, Middleton Place is another location where Union troops burned the Plantation house. Without the plantation house, the main draw of Middleton Place is is the manicured gardens and remaining other buildings that are spread across the site.
Middleton Place is dripping with history, being the birthplace of one of signers of the Declaration of Independence. The Middleton were big players in South Carolina and nation, one even being the President of the First Continental Congress.
Below is pictured one of the most photogenic of the remaining buildings. It is our final shot from photographer Hans Meier.
The lakes and trees at Middleton Place are obviously great, but the wildlife is great too. The white egret is easy to spot, but don’t overlook the alligator in the shot below from Kimberly Cole Britt.
The beautiful lands with lots of open spaces and distant backgrounds are great for family photo shoots. I love the shot below from Ekaterina.
Another example of the great landscape for portraits is seen below in the image from Diantha McKenna.
Charleston City Market
The City Market of Charleston dates all the way back to the 1790’s. It now stretches four blocks of shopping stalls. The City Market isn’t the best photo location along its four blocks, but the head of the market is housed in an amazing Greek-Revival Style building, which is now home to a museum.
You can see the great architecture and striking yellow and green colors in the image below from Mike Gauthier.
Chalmers Street is a super picturesque cobblestone street that runs east and west down by the Slave Mart.
The combination of cobblestone and colored row houses are on full display in the image below from Alexis.
Another great shot of the colored houses and cobblestone, adding in an awesome streetlight, in the image below from Rachel Oxley.
The cobblestone street also makes for a really great portrait spot, as you can see in the image below from blogger Mrssouthernpriss.
Patriots Point is a Naval and Maritime museum located on the USS Yorktown. The USS Yorktown is an aircraft carrier from World War II. The cool part is you don’t just get to explore the carrier like with a battleship, you also get to see various military jets and helicopters. The USS Yorktown is huge and you can easily see it across the river from Charleston in Mount Pleasant.
You can see one of the cool jets with the beautiful USS Yorktown in golden light in the image below from Stefanie Butler.
If you are going to Patriots Point, don’t focus on getting there so much you forget to get a shot of the USS Yorktown from the shore. The shot below from Clins Varghese shows why.
Such a fun shot below from Ashley Boyd, getting ready to shoot some artillery.
Nathaniel Russell House
Savannah is loaded with historic houses, all with something unique to offer. The Nathaniel Russell House is located at 51 Meeting Street. This house features an amazing spiral staircase, as you can see in the image below from Chad Moreland.
You can’t go to Charleston without going to Fort Sumter. It is such an important historic site. The history at Fort Sumter began in the War of 1812, but it really got interesting in the civil war. Fort Sumter is considered by many to be the start of the war after the South Carolina Militia fired upon Union troops stationed at the Fort. Ultimately, a siege led to the the Union troops abandoning the Fort. The Union would attempt to retake the Fort two years later, but failed in its attempt.
The only way to reach Fort Sumter is by ferry, leaving from either Liberty Square or Patriots Point. The ferry runs about a half hour and offers great views of the Charleston skyline. I took the shot below from the ferry as we approached Fort Sumter.
Here is a shot of our girls at the entrance to the Fort. The walls, unfortunately, aren’t as high as they used to be, but it is still an impressive site.
You get about an hour on the island, which is plenty of time to listen to the Park Ranger’s lesson, explore the entire island and take some family shots.
One of the best parts of Fort Sumter is its collection of canons. There are many of all different sizes dating to the Fort or from the time period. This canon overlooking the water is a great place for a good shot as it is away from where the crowds gather. The shot below was provided by Daniel Shettel, who you can find as dreamy_scenes on Instagram or Dreamy Scenes Photography Facebook.
The views from the Fort are also quite awesome, even if everything is a bit in the distance. In the shot below from Patrick Cardenas, you can see the ferry and the Ravenal Bridge.
Fort Moultrie sits opposite Fort Sumter along the coast on Sullivan’s Island. Fort Moultrie’s history goes all the way back to pre-Revolutionary War, when it was named Fort Sullivan. The British took control of the Fort and renamed it Fort Arbuthnot. Finally, the Fort was renamed after the hero of U.S. Patriot Commander of the Battle of Sullivan’s Island.
Fort Moultrie sports a nice array of historic canons as well.
Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon
The Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon is another place with a ton of history. Most importantly, the upstairs room at this building is where South Carolina ratified the United States Constitution.
The Dungeon, however, is the most interesting part of building. Entry to the museum comes with a short guided tour of the Dungeon where you learn about how British forces kept prisoners in filthy conditions.
You will also learn a couple great stories about the Charleston Tea Party and how Patriot forces hid a supply of gun powder behind a false wall and the occupying British forces never found it, leaving it ready for Patriot forces to use after the British lost Charleston.
With its location along the coast, Charleston is close to so many awesome beaches. The most popular local beach is probably Folly Beach located on Folly Island south of Charleston. The highlight of Folly Beach is the long pier, under construction as of 2021 Spring, because the rest is just pure sand.
Folly Beach is great for a sunset if you get good light, and the Pier is a great backdrop, as you can see in the image below from Instagramming flight attendant Savannah.
Folly Beach is fully developed so no nature here, but it is the closest you will get to a resort-type beach. Here is another great sunset shot, this one from another Instragramming flight attendant, Andrea.
When the Pier is reopened, it will make for a great photo spot again. You can see it in the image below from Charleston blogger Angela.
Under the Pier is always a favorite shooting location for me. Make sure you go at low tide though because you can’t get under the Pier at high tide. The great image below is from Instagrammer Izzy.
Kiawah Island is another barrier island beach location. It is about 40 minutes southwest of Charleston. You have less private beach options on Kiawah Island as much of it is private beach and golf courses, but if you get out there, it is beautiful, as you can see in the below image from Two Beauty Babes on Instagram.
Like its neighbor, Folly Beach, Kiawah Island has long stretches of nothing but sand, as you can see in the below image from Instagrammer @kcoleman415.
Sullivan’s Island is just to the east of Mount Pleasant and across the river from Charleston. It is only twenty minutes from Charleston and is the most natural beach you will find that is close to Charleston. There isn’t a lot of development, just a lot of sand. It also gives you an easy stop at Fort Moultrie.
Sullivan’s Island has great areas of grass and nature, giving you more great photo opportunities you don’t get at plain sand beaches. The foreground makes the below shot much more interesting than plain sand. It was provided by Zoë Kurtz.
Another example of how you can use the nature around Sullivan’s Island to get a more interesting beach shot. This one is from local photographer Riv+Roe Photo.
The grass can also make a background that is much nicer than buildings! I love the earth tones and golden light in the image below from local blogger Megan Stokes of meganstokes.com. You can also see more from her on Instagram.
Boone Hall Plantation
Boone Hall Plantation is about 20 minutes northeast of Charleston. It is recently famous as the wedding venue for Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds, but it has a rich history much longer than than that. It was also in the movie the Notebook of course. In reality though, it is one of the oldest Plantations in the United States, is historically significant for its street of slave cabins and features a beautiful oak alley.
You can see the beautiful oak alley at Boone Hall in the image below from Edward Crews.
Another shot of the oak alley in different light. This one was provided by Suhail and Hebah from @nextdoornabers.
The oak trees make for a great portrait, as you can see in the below image from Katie Anderson.
One of the great architectural draws at Boone Hall is the wonderful curved brick fence. You can see it below, in another shot from Edward Crews.
Boone Hall Farms
Boone Hall Farms is off the 17, not far from Boone Hall Plantation. Boone Hall Farms offers different photographic opportunities depending on the season. The biggest draws are the sunflowers and the pumpkins. You can see the huge sunflowers in the below shot from Ashley Blaire.
United States Custom House
Immediately east of the City Market is the United States Custom House. It is quite the impressive building and an easy photo location that we unknowingly stumbled into. The Custom House dates all the way back to before the Civil War. Construction wasn’t finished prior to the War and was not completed until 1879.
The shot below is from the water side of the building as my little boy ran up and down the stairs working off some post-dinner energy.
The next shot shows the other side of the Custom House, which looks exactly the same. I hung out here with my kids while Mallory did some last minute shopping at the City Market.
Cypress Gardens is about 40 minutes north of Charleston off Chicken Creek, which breaks off Back River, which breaks off the Cooper River. Cypress Gardens is a 170-acre garden preserve centered around an 80-acre swamp full of cypress trees.
The Gardens were originally part of the Dean Hall rice plantation, later being separated, developed and donated to the City of Charleston. There are footpaths to explore, but the best method of exploring is by flat-bottom boat.
You can see the absolutely stunning beauty from a boat excursion in the image below from Instagrammer Calan Quate.
Another image showing the beautiful portrait opportunities from a boat. This one comes from Mandy Williams.
Another highlight of the Cypress Gardens is the half-circle white bridge, which you can see in the below shot from @speech.friend on Instagram.
Photographer Lilly captured the beautiful reflection the bridge offers in the fantastic image below.
Shem Creek is a popular waterfront district in Mount Pleasant. It has a nice boardwalk with lots of dining options, view of the harbor and a park. It is one of the best places nearby to shoot great fishing boats, as you can see in the below image from photographer Roy Allen Howell of The Pursuit of Places.
The boardwalk at Shem Creek is the great place for a new Instagram shot, like the one below from graphic designer Maddy Hoffman.
Another great image from this location showing the boats in the background was provided by local realtor Hannah Hollifield.
North Charleston Fire Museum
If you are staying anywhere near the airport, I recommend spending an hour at the North Charleston Fire Museum. It was pretty cheap and very interesting, with lots of old fire trucks. It also shares a building with the visitor center, where you can purchase discounted tickets to many of the big attractions in or near Charleston.
The old white fire truck below was one of my favorite trucks at the museum.
The kids had a great time at the fire museum. They made sticker badges and picked out their favorite trucks. The lighting is far from ideal inside the museum, but makes for a fun challenge.
Another old “truck” that my kids had fun posing in front of.
Charles Towne Landing
We visited Charles Towne Landing at the recommendation of the person who helped us at the North Charleston Visitor Center. It proved to be a good recommendation. There is a pretty decent little zoo that our family really enjoyed. What we thought was a historical town ended up being a few random old buildings with a lot of walking between. That part was underwhelming. What we weren’t expecting was a beautiful old house and matching gardens.
As you can see in the image below, several parts of Charles Towne Landing rival the much more expensive plantations of the area.
Although we didn’t love the old settlement portion, there was some good teaching opportunities. We should have brought some tomatoes to help the lesson sink in!
There are a few cemeteries near Charleston that all offer some beautiful photographic opportunities. We chose to feature Bethany Cemetery, but all are good options. I especially like the small chapel at Bethany Cemetery that you can see in the shot below from Vicki of @2bagsfull in Instagram.
Bethany Cemetery is also home to some magnificent and unique trees, which you can see in the image below from Epitaph Images.
Two Meeting Street Inn
Two Meeting Street Inn is an incredible 1892 mansion across the street from White Point Garden. It currently operates as an upscale Bed & Breakfast. It is such a photogenic building, as you can see in the image below from Matt Henesy.
The greenery all around Two Meeting Street Inn adds so much to the scene, as you can see in the following shot from Katie Clark from @homesweetcarolinas.
The Mills House
The Mills House is a hotel in downtown Charleston that was built in 1853. It has been the resting spot of famous guests such as Teddy Roosevelt. Also, from its balcony, Robert E. Lee spotted an incoming fire and got the warning out in time to save the hotel. It is currently operated by Wyndham.
The draw of the Mills House is the fantastic pink color. On a building that big, it definitely makes a statement. I took the shot below from our carriage ride.
Here is another portrait showing some more of the building. This image below was provided by flight attendant Andrea.
If you want a water view and insane houses, the Battery is for you. The Battery is a defensive sea wall and promenade at the southeast end of Charleston.
Here is another shot from the same area showing more of the houses and some different lighting. This one was provided by local photographer Mark Swick.
The background of the Harbor from the Battery is great for minimalist portraits, like the one below from photographer Ellen Charis.
This next shot shows some of the background you can find at different places along the Battery where there is more than just water. This shot comes from local Allison.
Another shot the Battery showing another different setting. This one came from Instagrammer @cassidykmetz.
For an example of the amazing houses you can find along the Battery, we turn to Shazia for the great image below.
South of Broad
South of Broad is the area south of Broad Street, in case it wasn’t obvious. This is where the old-time riches of Charleston are with huge houses, fancy gardens and beautiful images to be made.
The giant trees along the streets are awesome, as you can see in this shot from local Kim Clemens.
Legare Street is one of the main roads full of beautiful homes in the South of Broad area. This beautiful garden on Legare Street was shot by local hobbyist photographer Hans Meier.
There is one beautiful house on Legare Street that stuck out to me and it was captured beautifully in the image below from photographer Kristi Meeuwse.
I shot the same house from our carriage tour, but the conditions just don’t do it justice at all. That’s why I reached out to Kristi for the image above!
Tradd Street is another popular street in the South of Broad area. The beautiful image below was provided by Charleston wedding photographer Lauren Myers Gnip.
Dock Street Theatre
The Dock Street Theatre is an underrated photographic gem located in the historic French Quarter of downtown Charleston. It was originally built as a hotel in 1809 before being converted to a theater in 1935.
You can see the beautiful Dock Street Theatre in the image below from photographer Bent Bjørnskov.
The Watch Rooftop at the Restoration Hotel
One of the best views to be had in Charleston comes from the Watch Rooftop, which is located on the roof of the Restoration Hotel in downtown. You can see the beautiful view of the Ravenal Bridge in the image below from Natalia Tovstik.
Botany Bay is a little bit out of Charleston, about 45 minutes south, but I couldn’t leave it off this list because it is honestly one of the coolest places I have ever scene and is an absolute paradise for photographers.
Botany Bay is a nature preserve that includes the ruins of an old plantation, an old ice house/carriage house, some waterways and a beach known as Driftwood Beach. There is a failure quick self-guided tour to drive through with a handful of stops and then you go to Driftwood Beach. You can also skip the tour and head straight to the beach if you prefer.
There is a half-mile walk from the parking lot to the beach along a boardwalk that crosses over beautiful marshland. Keep your eye out on the walk because you will likely see egrets and other birds. Also look in the mud near any water and you will see hundreds of small crabs that blend in quite well.
Because it is a nature preserve, you are not supposed to take shells or driftwood so the beach is covered with both. You can see some of the driftwood with a beautiful sunset in the image below from local photographer Grainne Kelly.
While it is mostly driftwood, there are also some trees still standing upright, which are magical when the tide comes in. The great image below comes from Erik Speer.
When tide is out, the scene is also pretty magical, as you can see in the image below from local nature and wildlife photographer Katrina Floyd.
As a landscape photographer, I get caught up on the amazing compositions at Driftwood Beach, but look at this shot from photographer Heidi Florence. Is that not one of the coolest couple shots you have ever seen?!
No matter who you are, you can’t go to Botany Bay and not take a shot for Instagram or wherever you share images! Another great shot below from EmilyAnna Smith.
Mallory fell in love with exposed root system of this tree that was twice as tall as us.
One of the prettiest non-beach places in Botany Bay is the drive into the Preserve, which features this beautiful scene that was provided by photography guide Mountain to Sea Workshops.
While it is not plantation house, the Ice House is worth the stop and it is not far from the Beach if you wanted to check it out, but not do the whole tour.
The Heyward-Washington House is another of Charleston’s great historic houses. Built in 1772, the house was home to Thomas Heyward, Jr., who was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. The Washington in the name comes from it being the place where George Washington stayed during his 1791 visit to Charleston.
The biggest photography draw at this House beautiful garden leading up to the house. You can see it in the image below that was provided by the Historic Charleston Foundation.
Here is another shot from the same place with different lighting. This one is from Landscape Designer Patrick Sunbury.
Here is another image from the garden showing a slightly different angle. This one is from historian Benjammin.
I really like this shot below from popular Instagrammer Vasanthi Sara because it really shows the design of the house, which just screams history.
Morris Island Lighthouse
The historic Morris Island Lighthouse dates back to the Civil War, but is sadly out of commission now. You also can’t tour the lighthouse which is a bummer. Unless it is at very low tide, the lighthouse is completely surrounded by water. It is located off the coast between Morris Island and Folly Beach.
This is an iconic sunset shot of the lighthouse from photographer KC Garver.
Trade the sun out for a moon and you get another great sunset shot at the lighthouse. This one is from photographer Michael aka @themilkywaychaser. Don’t miss the dolphins in the foreground either.
Here is a shot showing the lighthouse at low tide and I love the long exposure. It was provided by photographer Taylor Franta.
Old Slave Mart
The Old Slave Mart is considered the last extant slave auction site in South Carolina. It currently houses a museum. As you can see in the image below from Photographer Shawn Lehman, it lies on the cobblestone Chalmers Street.
This next shot of the Old Slave Mart was provided by from Instagrammer @sayruh_t.
I love the old lamp in this image from photographer Leilani Velasquez.
This next image featuring a fun bike came from traveler Stacey.
The cobblestone street makes for a great portrait against the historic exterior of the Old Slave Mart. This image was provided by traveler Kayu Tai.
College of Charleston
The College of Charleston, located downtown, is the oldest municipal college in the United States and the thirteenth oldest institution of higher learning in the country. Founded in 1770, the campus is full of historic buildings and old trees.
The image of the College below was provided by traveler Travis Green.
The next shot showing the great architecture came from Kerri Ross.
The avenues of old trees are a great place to pose, as you can see in the image below from Audrey Dickson. I also love the green shutters on the building.
Uptown Social is an upscale pub in northern downtown that features a rooftop deck and a fun butterfly mural that is a great place to get a shot.
You can see the mural in the fun shot below from Taylor Shea.
The Citrus Club
The Citrus Club, across from Marion Square, is another great place to get an aerial view of the city.
You can see the view from the Citrus Club’s great rooftop in the image below from marketer Caroline Wright Turnipseed.
The church steeple makes for a great foreground in the view from the rooftop as you can see in the great shot below from Instagramming flight attendant @jetsetv.
The Citrus club is a great place to catch the sunset and grab a group shot like this one from Molly Colvin.
The Citrus Club also offers a great view of the Ravenal Bridge with lots of green in the midground. You can see it below in the image proved by Emma Gosselin.
Mount Pleasant Pier
The Mount Pleasant Pier extends 1,250 feet under the Ravenal Bridge from the Mount Pleasant side of the Cooper River. You can get a variety of great views from the Pier, like this beautiful image from photographer JLF Photographs.
Caw Caw Interpretive Center
The Caw Caw Interpretive Center is a county park on the grounds of a historic rice plantation. It features an extensive trail system, a boardwalk through a swamp and lots of wildlife. It is located 20-30 minutes west of downtown Charleston.
You can see the boardwalk through the swamp in the image below from local Paola Robelo.
I have grown to love a good swamp shot with trees in it. I especially love all the stumps in the below image from Mike Quinn.
Below is another great swamp image featuring the boardwalk that is just screaming for a walk. This image was provided by Joe Kowaleski.
Finally, one last beautiful image of the swamp. This one comes from Jennifer Banas.