Charleston, South Carolina is one of the most romantic cities you can visit, where hospitality and Southern charm combine with a variety of outdoor activities and adventures to enjoy with that special someone.
The oldest city in the state offers plenty of must-see and -do places and activities to capture Charleston romance, whether it’s under the whispering leaves of shady trees, meandering historic streets atop a horse-drawn carriage for two, under starlight strolls at water’s edge, or toasting bubbly on a picturesque skyline rooftop. From parks and museums, to beaches and quaint alleyways, there are endless ways to indulge the heart.
Picnic Under Sprawling Shade
Aristotle’s quote best describes the awe you’ll feel standing under the Angel Oak: “In all things of nature, there is something of the marvelous.” Start your romantic weekend under this majestic 300+-year-old tree located on John’s Island, a short 12 miles from downtown. Its striking scope and scale towers over 65 feet, with a massive 25-foot circumference. Many of the Angel Oak’s limbs lay directly on the ground, common for trees of this healthy age, and a picture-perfect setting to capture your sweetheart’s smile.
Settlers and toilers enjoyed respite under its massive canopy — covering over 17,000 square feet of ground — now you too can cozy up and savor the shade. The park includes dedicated picnic areas and a gift shop, the perfect mix for memories and a Lowcountry keepsake trinket; maybe a frame for the photo a fellow tourist would happily take of you two?
She’ll Look Sweet Upon the Seat
Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer do….she’ll look sweet upon the seat of a carriage ride made for two. And in the name of love you can afford a carriage. Arrange a private couples tour through areas rarely seen by group guides, along with boutique-lined shops, antebellum homes, quaint gardens, and historic establishments. Rated as one of the most romantic things to do in Charleston, SC you can’t beat the winning combination for sightseeing and snuggling.
For an extra special occasion, go for the evening tour and watch the city’s magic come alive under flickering gas lamps featured on many streets and homes. Several companies offer a variety of tours for groups and couples, by day or night:
- Classic Carriage Company operates from the Old Brick Barn, the oldest active stable in town; tours include Civil War and Slavery to Freedom themes
- Charleston Carriage Works accepts dogs so your four-legged companion can join the ride
- Carolina Polo and Carriage Company owned & operated by native Charlestonians descended from 1700s settlers, they provide combination carriage and walking tours
- Old South Carriage Company: guides proudly display the trademark Red Sash, their symbol of quality and tour assurance; ask about their romantic “Intimate Tour”
- Palmetto Carriage Works: established in 1972, it’s Charleston’s oldest carriage company
Stroll Centuries Old Gardens for Old Fashioned Charleston Romance
If a beautiful setting, fresh air and magical vistas are what you’re looking for, consider strolling the grounds of one of the country’s oldest and most beautiful gardens, Magnolia Gardens. Picturesque bridges present exquisite photo opportunities as boardwalk paths meander from one breathtaking vignette to the next. Unlike formal, orderly or controlled gardens, Magnolia’s acre upon acre of tranquil landscape emulates nature’s harmony.
Some sections are over 300 years old but still burst and flow with flora and fauna throughout the year. Springtime is the most bountiful blooming season for Charleston romance, but fall through winter is equally showy with 20,000 Camellia displays.
When your feet tire, rest on the Tram Tour across the estate’s wetlands, lakes, forests and marshes while the naturalist guide points out wildlife habitats and activity. From alligators and turtles to egrets and herons, more than 600 acres are home to a multitude of species. In addition to wildlife and garden views, you’ll see and learn about cabins where the enslaved — who built and maintained the plantation — lived, along with rice ponds and a Native American ceremonial mound.
Before leaving the peaceful garden oasis, stop for a light bite at the Peacock Cafe then visit the gift shop featuring Lowcountry artisans and memorabilia. Better yet, take a bit of the gardens home with you; the Gilliard Garden Center sells many of the native heirloom species.
Toast the View, and Each Other
This relaxing outdoor pastime tops the list of locals’ most romantic things to do in Charleston, SC. Sip a cocktail with your sweetie at a rooftop bar and take in sublime panoramas. The only one that captures Charleston’s harbor and skyline from a distance — Charleston Harbor Bridge Bar — is just across the Ravenel Bridge in Mount Pleasant and definitely worth the quick drive. Back on the peninsula, one of the classic champagne toasting sites is the Rooftop at the Vendue Inn, a boutique art hotel near the Waterfront Park with sprawling harbor views. Go early to grab a cozy table for two.
Nearby, The Pavilion Bar at the Market Pavilion Hotel offers sweeping views and plush lounge or bar-top seating choices surrounding a cascading pool. A few blocks past the market and you’re atop Meeting Street at Eleve at The Grand Bohemian Hotel, a glitzy, true to its namesake, upscale French-themed bar.
An easy arm-in-arm stroll up Meeting Street takes you to The Citrus Club, sprawling along the 8th floor terrace at The Dewberry Hotel, featuring citrus-inspired cocktails on the highest rooftop in Charleston. Crossing Marion Square brings you to the exclusive Fiat Lux at The Hotel Bennett where sweeping skyline views and expansive spirit selections await; many guests appreciate the dress code too.
Back on King Street, The Cocktail Club offers craft cocktails in a comfortable, rustic atmosphere. While taking in upper King’s eclectic nightlife scene, hop up to only Charleston rooftop with a 360-degree view, Stars Rooftop & Grill Room, serving creative cocktails and tap wines.
Tip: Why not experience more than one romantic view? If walking is too much (after all, she’s wearing her favorite heels), take it easy on your feet and hail one of the many roaming rickshaws — Charleston’s charming bicycle taxis. Consider an evening finale by asking your pedaler to take a longer, scenic route back to your hotel.
Cruise Charleston’s Picturesque Harbor
Sail away, sail away, sail away! Whether Enya’s tune evokes a magical mood, surely sailing on The Schooner Pride will incite romantic vibes. Modeled on 18th-century trading schooners that were once commonplace in Charleston’s harbor, she sails daily, offering charter tours, dolphin sails, sunset sails, and special events. Picnics are welcome with beer, wine, soft drinks, and light snacks available for purchase. Tours are un-narrated, so sit back and enjoy the sea, salt air, and each other’s company, or try your hand at raising the sails.
The sunset sail is a two-hour cruise past sites like Fort Sumter, or take the wine tasting sunset cruise that includes four to five hand-selected wines. For a more dramatic experience, reserve the Moonlight Cruise, featuring live music and a sparkling view of the onshore city lights aglow.
When Was The Last Time?
When was the last time you did something for the first time? Darius Rucker was born and raised in Charleston; naturally his famous song, “When Was the Last Time”, has special meaning to Lowcountry folks — what better inspiration to do something for the first time while melting your man’s hidden heart? Grab your portable Bose, favorite soundtrack and tell him it’s a surprise. Don’t dare give it away until your feet are in the sand, then pull a Sadie Hawkins and ask him for a dance.
The barrier islands of Charleston have plenty of sandy stretches to choose from, each with its own personality. Sullivan’s Island — one of the smaller islands — offers plenty of charm. Showcasing stunning sunsets, it’s perfect for strolling hand in hand after a slow dance or two.
Tip: Parking on Sullivan’s can be tricky; if luck is on your side, you’ll find a spot at the Breach Inlet bridge lot, just before Isle of Palms. Otherwise, check out Marshall Boulevard, but be very mindful of signage. Make it an impromptu picnic supper — order some tasty Shrimp Rolls and Chocolate Pistachio Cake to pick up en route from The Obstinate Daughter and a wine bottle of infamous Frose from The Co-op IOP. After leaving the beach, head over to The Windjammer beach bar on Isle of Palms for a nightcap.
Stroll The Battery
One of the most iconic Charleston sites is The Battery, a waterfront promenade atop the old fortification seawall. Not only is the view of the sea worthy of the walk, but the jaw-dropping homes lining its stretch are definitely worth ogling and dreaming. You wouldn’t be the first couple to fall in love with more than each other and decide to make Charleston your home!
Other features on the waterfront include Civil War artillery cannons, towering oak trees, a captivating gazebo (notice: selfie photo opp!), views of Fort Sumter, and the Sullivan Island Lighthouse. But don’t stop there: stroll through the surrounding neighborhood. A few blocks away you’ll find Rainbow Row, a colorful row of 13 pastel homes that are one of the most photographed attractions in Charleston.
Blend the Perfect Bouquet
Take a wine blending class with your sweetie to create the perfect bouquet in a glass. On the first floor of the elegant Grand Bohemian Hotel, ’Classes by Kessler’ offers a 90-minute history of winemaking blended with wine tasting and hors d’oeuvres. By the end of the class, you’ll have a bottle of your own custom-labeled red wine and a creatively fun memory to take home.
If muscadine wine is more your thing, head over to Deep Water Vineyard on Wadmalaw Island. The 48-acre vineyard produces muscadine wine and California varietals they bottle on-site, as well as draft meads on tap. The vineyard offers self-guided tours and annual events like Vine-O-Palooza and a Grape Stomping Festival but for a special date, schedule a private tasting.
Let Loose Together
Add some relaxation to the mix when you’re looking for romantic things to do in Charleston. The city is home to several spas that offer relaxing couples treatments.
- Relax in the Thoroughbred Lounge with a cocktail and light fare after massages at downtown The Spa at Belmond Charleston Place.
- The Sanctuary Spa at Kiawah Island offers a package with two rounds of golf and two spa treatments.
- Stop by Earthling Day Spa downtown for rejuvenating facials and relax awhile by the spa’s cascading fountain with a cup of herbal tea.
Share the Love of Art
Art lovers discover new treasures while wandering through the wide network of Charleston art galleries along downtown streets, conveniently located within walking distance of the central market. A few of our captivating favs:
- Edward Dare Gallery: “artwork that celebrates the colorful tapestry of southern coastal culture”, plus a contemporary sculpture garden;
- John Carroll Doyle Art Gallery: hailing from the ’70s, the late (and renowned) Mr. Doyle painted Lowcountry themes ranging from prolific nature to Gullah culture; the gallery represents other well-known artists worthy of admiration for their mediums in bronze and wood burl, and hot glass casting sculpture;
- Lowcountry Artists Gallery: representing acclaimed local and national artists in traditional Lowcountry landscapes, contemporary, abstract, still life, and figurative work, from life-size copper frogs to miniature construction and jewelry;
- Charleston Artist Guild: a 600+ group of artists and members in a non-profit organization showcase original framed works; a portion of proceeds benefit community outreach programs.
After gallery hopping, seek out the many museums. The Gibbes Museum of Art features American works of art that have a Charleston or Southern connection. Its collections include over 600 miniature portraits from the 18th century to the Revival Period in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Lowcountry Artists Gallery features works by nine-member artists and 12 guest artists covering a wide variety of subject matter and media.
Learn more about Gullah culture at The Gallery Chuma where indigenous Gullah artists present aesthetics and lifestyle education. Award-winning artist Jonathan Green — whose work has exhibited at major national and international venues, and appeared in numerous fine art and literary publications — captures African American history and culture in the Lowcountry. The Grand Bohemian Gallery, in the upscale boutique hotel of the same name, hosts monthly exhibitions and displays works ranging from paintings and glass to wood and contemporary jewelry. In similar style, The Vendue is known as Charleston’s art hotel, boasting beautiful artwork displays throughout their first floor.
Savor The Savory (And Sweet!)
A special dinner date is a popular choice for Charleston romance and the city boasts an abundance of restaurants to choose from. The pint-sized, convivial Chez Nous packs a wallop with its elevated dining experience. A daily changing menu features refined favorites and new creations from southern France, Northern Italy and Spain, complemented by impeccable service and selective wines.
Dine al fresco on seasonal prix fixe tasting menus at the elegant Wild Common — Chef Pagan’s finesse impresses from the first to last course. Regardless of seasonal fare, rave reviews always follow. Don’t skip the wine pairings, they’re consistently well matched to every course. Reserve the Chef’s Counter to watch his culinary team’s kitchen finesse and incredible plating detail.
In the Historic District, follow a quaint iron-gated brick path into the Peninsula Grill, the on-site restaurant for The Planters Inn, South Carolina’s only Relais & Châteaux hotel. Dine in the restored 1844 building featuring velvet-lined walls and cypress molding—or enjoy the romantically lit garden courtyard. Be sure to save room for a slice of the oh-so-decadent 12-layer coconut cake, but order one for each of you — after the first bite you’ll be glad you’re not sharing.
For a little old-world ambiance, dine at Circa 1886 in the carriage house of the Wentworth Mansion. Its award-winning seasonal menu focuses on local ingredients and southern flavors. For an extravagant evening, book the Nights of Romance package and take advantage of the panoramic views from its 5-story high cupola.
No matter what attraction, tour or activity you chose, you and your sweetie are sure to savor romantic sweetness in Charleston’s charming city.
Please be sure to contact each establishment to verify opening hours, reservation policies, health requirements, and any other variations.