When Charleston, South Carolina won the 2016 Best City for Pet Travelers tournament, we couldn’t wait to high-tail it up there and see what all the woofing was about. We’d heard about the stunning beaches, tranquil parks, mouth-watering eateries, and unique attractions that roll out the “pets welcome” mat, and Ty and Buster were positively drooling to get their paws in the top pet friendly destination of 2016!
Turns out there are oodles of pet friendly hotels in Charleston, and even more restaurants that welcome pets on the their patios, so you’ll have no trouble covering the basics. In fact, the only disappointment of our trip was that we hadn’t planned to stay longer – there was so much to do and see in this historic city that we couldn’t get to it all! We don’t want the same thing to happen to you, so to help you plan your next pet friendly vacation, we’ve gathered the top 11 dog friendly things to do in Charleston.
1. Stroll King Street – One of the most interesting aspects of Charleston is its architecture, specifically the elegant old homes that line the streets. Many residences date back to the days before the Civil War and speak to a more cordial, less hectic life. The grand side porches facing Charleston Harbor that were built to catch the evening breeze, and the impeccably kept side yards they overlook wait like hidden treasures to be discovered as you pass by them on the sidewalk.
2. White Point Garden – At the bottom of King Street, where the thoroughfare meets the harbor, you’ll find White Point Garden, a lush park overlooking the point were the Ashley and Cooper Rivers empty into the Atlantic. Historical cannons and mortars dot the periphery, a reminder of the city’s instrumental place in Civil War history, but now this is an oasis of serenity in the bustling city.
From dawn-9am and 5pm-11pm, this 5.7 acre park is an off-leash dog area, and there are plenty of dog-savvy squirrels here to give your pup a run for his money! Keep in mind that this park is not enclosed by a fence, so dogs that play unleashed here need to have a reliable recall.
3. The Battery – Exit White Point Garden toward the harbor and you’ll find yourself at The Battery – a fortified seawall protecting the tip of the peninsula that was an important defense for early Charleston. Now the seawall is a promenade, lined by antebellum homes, and serving up views of Fort Sumter, Sullivan’s Island Lighthouse, and Castle Pinckney.
It’s a lovely place to take a walk with your dog when it’s not too hot or crowded. And watch over your shoulder for the dolphins that like to play just off the shore.
4. Waterfront Park – Heading up East Battery will bring you to Hazel Parker Playground, where you’ll find a fenced off-leash dog run, and continuing north, Waterfront Park. This award-winning, 12-acre park stretches for a half mile along the Charles River and serves as Charleston’s front yard. Whether you’re looking for a spot to play frisbee, a shady corner to curl up with a book, or a ruckus time splashing in the fountain, Waterfront Park has you covered.
5. Charleston’s Dog Friendly Restaurants – From small cafés to fine dining restaurants, Charleston has oodles of options when you’re looking for a bite to eat on a dog friendly patio. Ty and Buster recommend Kitchen 208 for a lovely breakfast on the shaded patio, and I met Harley from Groovy Goldendoodles at the fabulous Fuel Cantina to celebrate his and his Doodle brother’s big win in the Best City for Pet Travelers tournament.
6. James Island County Park – When your dog is really ready to cut loose, take the short drive to James Island Park and watch his eyes light up when he sees the four-acre dog park and beach. The admission fee of $2 is money well spent as you watch all the delighted pups bound in and out of the water, chasing balls and doing belly flops with wild abandon.
James Island County Park also has a campground and RV park, and a series of paved trails where dogs are welcome. It’s a fantastic place to stay for anyone traveling with a pet.
7. Charleston’s Dog Friendly Beaches – Charleston is situated on a peninsula surrounded by islands, which provides the perfect geography for a fantastic selection of beaches! From Sullivan’s Island and Isle of Palms to the north, to Folly Beach and Kiawah Island’s Beachwalker Park to the south, there is is a perfect beach for everyone!
8. Angel Oak Park – One of the most breathtaking trees we’ve ever seen is growing in a small park about 12 miles west of Charleston, past James Island, on Johns Island. It’s called the Angel Oak and its estimated to be 300 to 400 years old. It’s enormous branches spread into a magnificent crown – some reaching for the sky and other lying lazily across the ground. Dogs are not allowed under the tree’s canopy, but can admire it’s beauty from the picnic area.
9. Charleston Tea Plantation – About 20 miles southwest of the city, past Johns Island, is the Charleston Tea Plantation – one of only a small handful of places were tea is grown in the United States! If you’re curious about how tea goes from the field to your cup, this is a stop you won’t want to miss.
They have a lovely front porch where your dog is welcome to join you while you and a buddy take turns stepping inside to visit the tea bar, and enjoy a video tour of the production facilities. Then get your tickets for the informative trolley tour (dogs ride free) through the tea plantation and to the greenhouse
10. Fort Moultrie – Built by South Carolina’s early settlers, Fort Moultrie was started in 1776 to protect Charleston Harbor. The original structure was constructed of palmetto logs, which are soft and did not crack under bombardment – in fact, it’s said that cannonballs bounced right off!
Dogs aren’t allowed inside the fort, but paths that spiderweb out around Fort Moultrie and Battery Jasper allow you to explore the cannons and interpretive exhibits with your canine companion. The grounds also provide excellent views of Fort Sumter (sadly, not pet friendly) and downtown Charleston from the rocky beach.
11. Magnolia Plantation and Gardens – Nestled on 464 acres along the banks of the Ashley River, Magnolia Plantation dates back to 1676, when Thomas and Ann Drayton built a house and small formal garden on the site. Originally a rice plantation, the gardens were developed by Reverend John Grimke-Drayton after he inherited the property in the 1840s.
The property was opened for public tours in 1870, and your dog is very welcome to join you in exploring the gardens. Dogs are even welcome on all the guided tours, with the exception of the house and zoo tours.
We hope that gives you a good starting point for your next pet friendly trip to Charleston. If you know of any great pet friendly spots that we didn’t include on this list, please share them in the comments below!
We were lucky enough to get back to Charleston and spent a whole day touring Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. We’re happy to report it’s even more pet friendly than we originally thought, and you can read about it here: South Carolina’s Top Pet Friendly Attraction: Magnolia Plantation and Gardens.