CHARLESTON, once a rollicking mining boomtown of around 18,000 people, now has a mere thirty residents. From the Charleston Tavern Underworld Adventures (Tel:0800/116 686, Web: www.caverafting.com ) run the Nile River Rainforest Train (3–4 daily; $20) a 25-minute interpretive journey on a modern narrow-gauge train through some nice limestone country. The train journey forms part of Underworld Rafting (4hr; $135) a caving trip which also involves a bushwalk through a dramatic valley of limestone bluffs before delving underground decked out in wetsuit and caver's helmet and lugging a rubber inner tube. An informative guided walk through the Metro cave system finishes with a final drift down a flooded glow-worm cave and out through a gorgeous ravine into the Nile River. None of it is tremendously arduous; if you like caves and water, you'll like this. For the more timid there's the Glow-Worm Cave Tour (3hr; $80), while adrenalin seekers should opt for the full-on Adventure Caving (5hr; $270) which explores the Te Tahi cave system by means of a thirty-metre abseil, plus numerous squeezes and climbs.
If they stay at all, many choose to free camp beside Constant Bay, where there are toilets and water. More formal alternaives cluster together on the main road: Pounamu Backpackers (Tel:03/789 8011, firstname.lastname@example.org; shares $23, rooms Price: $50-69); the modest Charleston Motel (Tel:03/789 7599, Web: www.charlestonmoel.co.nz ; Price: $70-99); and the Charleston Motor Camp (Tel:03/789 email@example.com; camping $10, cabins Price: $under $50). The Charleston Tavern dishes up suitably modern fare of nachos and grills and has a tiny shop for very basic supplies.
Downtown Charleston has a lot for visitors to see and do. Besides the historic churches, buildings, and landmarks, there are plenty of opportunities for shopping. Visitors find that Downtown is a convenient starting point for getting to know Charleston as it is a vibrant combination of old and new, offering diverse attractions suitable for just about anyone.
The Historic District is the oldest part of town and a lot of the buildings and houses have been preserved. Tours are available, like the Historic Homes Walk , which will allow you to learn more about the amazing architecture dating back to the mid-18th century. Charleston is also known for its cuisine. You'll be able to find great options throughout the city and especially in this district, such as Il Cortile del Re and Hyman's Seafood Restaurant .
Founded in 1680 and located to the East of Charleston, Mount Pleasant is known for its fine dining. Whether it's breakfast, lunch, or dinner, you will find that this area is packed with all different types of eateries. Mount Pleasant is also the home of one of the biggest naval & maritime museums in the world, Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum . Tour boats are available from Mount Pleasant to view Fort Sumter , the site where the Civil War began. This historic city also has Patriots Point Golf Links , a challenging and beautiful golf course.
North Charleston is the main business and transportation location for the southern half of South Carolina. Both the International Airport and Amtrak Station are located here. Adding to the bustle of North Charleston is the 14,000-seat North Charleston Coliseum , home of the South Carolina Stingrays hockey team. Also, a 2,250-seat Performing Arts Center showcases touring Broadway shows along with other music concerts and performances.
Charleston's eclectic character makes dining downtown a memorable experience. The city is home to a variety of eating establishments offering local and global fare. For a unique Southern flavor, you can order salmon and grits from Hyman's Seafood Company or enjoy "imaginative American cuisine with a Southern flair" at The Library at the Vendue Inn . Station 22 is the oldest continuously operating restaurant on Sullivan's Island. It offers a gallery of nostalgic black and white photographs of the island's history. Charleston's waterfront is where you should go if you are in the mood for seafood. A.W. Shuck's offers crab soup, raw bar and stuffed shrimp. Anson , which is only open for dinner, also serves up she-crab soup along with light entrees. For a different taste, try their shrimp and grits or their cashew-encrusted grouper. California Dreaming boasts an excellent surf and turf selection and waterfront dining. The Wreck is a cash-only restaurant overlooking Shem Creek, seafood. Fans of the film Forrest Gump will want to stop by the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. on Market Street. For a taste of upscale Southern cuisine there is Charleston Chops, where you can listen to live piano music while savoring steak, seafood and wine. The Charleston Grill on Main Street is the place to go for local game, seafood and produce. There you can sample some baked grits or Vidalia hash pie. Southern cooking is an art at Magnolia's with shrimp sausage and grits, down-south egg roll and veal meatloaf. Poogan's Porch is highly acclaimed and many celebrities have sampled their upscale cuisine. For local ingredients and a good, modestly priced wine, try The Old Post Office Restaurant on Edisto Island. Peninsula Grill serves more conventional items and boasts an award-winning wine list. Spirit of Carolina offers a dinner cruise through Charleston Harbor. Cypress is an upscale restaurant without the upscale prices. It is housed in a building constructed in the 1830s and jackets are required downstairs. If the taste of city life is not for you, you can escape without traveling too far. More classic Southern meals can be found at places like Hominy Grill , which serves shrimp with brown gravy and fried green tomatoes. Charleston's Cafe , formally known as The Bookstore Cafe, provides country cooking for breakfast and lunch as well as catering services in its Mount Pleasant location. Jestine's Kitchen is another excellent place to go for an old-fashioned meal at affordable prices, while Rosebank Farms Cafe offers something more eclectic. Even with its regional character, Charleston remains cosmopolitan as evidenced by the international flavor found in its eateries. 39 Rue de Jean is an authentic French Bistro. A Taste of India serves North Indian dishes for lunch and dinner. You will feel like a Polka after sampling the Wiener Schnitzel at Max & Moritz Restaurant . Come to the Athens Restaurant & Grill for a wide selection of Greek fare. Charleston has several fine Italian restaurants; some of the best are Capriccio Restaurant and Fulton Five . Wasabi Japanese Restaurant , Sushi Hiro , and Tsunami are good places to go should you feel like sushi or other Japanese fare. Want to stop for a cold one? 82 Queen is a favorite watering hole for the Broad Street business professionals, and the Blind Tiger Pub takes you across the Atlantic to an English-style establishment. There is something for everyone to eat in Charleston, and you do not have to be a native Southerner to appreciate it, though you may feel like one when you leave.
One of the best ways to experience Charleston is through tours of the town and surrounding areas.
The Original Charleston Walks is a company that provides a series of different tours. It includes its basic, the original Charleston Walk , which shows you the old and the new as you stroll through Charleston's history from its days as a young colony, through the American Revolution and Civil War. Charleston works to preserve its past as one can see when they visit the city's oldest church, the harbor, Fort Sumter , John C. Calhoun's grave and more. Charleston has endured much and its tenaciousness and longevity is apparent. Charleston's Pirates & Buccaneers , subtitled "The War Against The Pirates," will take you back in time to the earliest decades of the 18th century, when Charleston not only faced war with the Native Americans on the land, but also from fierce scavengers on the sea. The excursion introduces the tourist to Blackbeard, Captain Kidd and Anne Bonny as you rediscover the Walled City, Pirate Tavern and buried treasure. In December of 1860, Charleston was the site where South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union. Four months later, Charleston again became a focal point when it witnessed the fall of Fort Sumter in its Harbor in the first battle of the Civil War. The Civil War Walk relives the siege of Charleston. The tour takes about two hours. The Ghosts & Legends Walk is the first year-round ghost tour of Charleston's Historic District. You can learn about the Gullah Boo Hag or the ghost in City Hall. This 90-minute tour is one of Charleston's most popular walking tours. Or head to Bulldog Tours for another spooky tour. The Bulldog Tours has exclusive access to several infamous sites, including touring a graveyard and a haunted jail. Charleston was instrumental in the American Revolution. The Patriots of Charleston will show you places and introduce people who helped win America's independence including the Old Exchange Building & Provost Dungeon and "The Swamp Fox." The Historic Homes Walk takes a slow saunter through Charleston's Historic District where you can see some of the most beautiful homes in the South. Along the way you will see the Heyward-Washington House , the Edmonston-Alston House and many others. Classic Carriage Tours provides one-hour day and twilight tours through the city. Evening tours are available by appointment. Private, group and special occasion tours are also available. The carriages are pulled by award winning Percheron Draft Horses, extending a 300-year-old tradition. Taylored Tours of Charleston offers four motorized tours of Charleston. The General History Tour is a 75-minute, fast-paced tour of the city and covers 110 points of interest including City Market, the Dock Street Theatre , Charleston Battery and the Old Citadel. This is a very popular tour for the general tourist. On the Plantation Tour, you will get round-trip transportation to either Middleton Place or Magnolia Plantation and Gardens . On the General History/House Museum Tour, you can see some of Charleston's finest homes. This covers 90 minutes of general history and a 30-minute tour of the Edmonston-Alston House, Heyward-Washington House , Nathaniel Russell House or the Aiken-Rhett House depending on which tour you take. Finally, the Special Interest Tour of Charleston takes 90 minutes and can be tailored to specific sites. This is great excursion for history buffs.
Gabriel Manigault studied architecture and designed the Joseph Manigualt House for his brother Joseph. Built in 1803, this estate almost failed to survive the onslaught of surrounding development to be enjoyed. The Charleston Museum maintains the home. Drayton Hall is the oldest preserved plantation in the United States still open to the public. The house, relatively unchanged in over 250 years, sits on 630 acres and has seen seven generations of family ownership. Boone Hall Plantation is the most photographed plantation in America. It has been the backdrop for Hollywood many times. Middleton Place is home to the oldest landscaped gardens in America, and once housed Arthur Middleton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Tourists will want to spend a long time at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens , which was build in 1676. A wide variety of activities are offered on the grounds. Aside from the plantation house itself, you can also tour the vast grounds via the Nature Train or Nature Boat.
On The Water
Fort Sumter Tours offers tours from the deck of the Spirit of Carolina. During the Charleston Harbor Tour, you will see the city through a 90-minute tour of the Battery, Cooper River Bridges, Charleston Waterfront Park , Fort Moultrie National Monument and more. Also offered is the Spirit of Carolina Dinner Cruise , in which you will be served a gourmet dinner while listening to live music and cruising the harbor. Alongside several vessels, the Yorktown is the main attraction of Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum . A keystone of America's role in the Pacific during World War II, the aircraft carrier is a wonderful exhibit of the good and bad fortunes of life on the sea during wartime.