Perfect Charleston 3 Day Itinerary for First Time Visitors

Charleston south carolina
Chilling at The Daily

Think pastel houses, cobbled streets, horse drawn carriages, delectable cuisine, elegant French quarters in a upscale coastal town – That’s Charleston for you. This city in South Carolina is a major tourist destination and I chalked out this ‘Charleston 3 day itinerary’, based on my visit to this stunning town, last week.

Charleston 3 Day Itinerary – Things to Do For First time visitors

3 days in Charleston are too few indeed, ideally, you would need at least a week to soak in the vibes of this coastal town with its grand antebellum houses. Just walking around the Frech quarters, rainbow row and the waterfront can be a treat in itself. Plus, it’s a mecca for foodies so it’s easy to while away time exploring restaurants and indulging in unique Southern cuisine.

There are so many cool Charleston tours to try and here is my handpicked selection

Charleston fort entry and ferry, Charleston harbour luxury dinner cruise, Horse carriage history tour, Magnolia plantation tour & Haunted carriage history tour.

charleston fire department

Randomly posing outside the fire department – Didn’t cause any damage 😉

After spending a week in the bustling New york city though, this seemed less rushed because of the laid back vibes and if you are pressed for time, a couple of days can indeed give you a good flavor of the town.

Charleston is a lovely 10 hour drive from Tennessee, where I spent a month with my friend. With friends in tow, we crossed the amazing Great Smoky Mountains national park en route which offered lush green rainforests perpetually covered in mist (Hence, the term “Smoky”). After a lovely ride, our cute Airbnb in Charleston was a pleasant base for our next 3 day adventure.

Charleston airbnb

Our lovely living area in the centrally located Airbnb

While we were in Charleston, it was raining on and off. Luckily, we experienced just around an hour of drizzle and no heavy downpour. However, when the skies were overcast, we would simply keep ourselves busy indoors. There are plenty of things to do in Charleston when it rains especially if you are with friends. Our Airbnb was nice and cozy so we spent some time playing board games and watching Netflix.

Tip Always use a VPN when browsing or watching movies online during your travels. We were using our Airbnb secure wifi but this is still always a better idea. Get a reliable VPN with fast 4k streaming, ad blocker and unlimited devices by clicking here

With a VPN, you can access blocked websites, all your favorite streaming platforms from across the globe, to get better travel deals (big perk as your IP gets locked if you search same airfare and trying through a VPN can change results) – all this and more with complete safety, security and anonymity.

Charleston Itinerary Day 1 – Walk around

In this carefully curated 3 day Charleston itinerary we were spoilt for choice. Food was top priority for my friends and exploration was my agenda. So, we tried to mix both into our short time here and make the most of our Charleston trip.

So for all the foodies, you will find excellent options in this post too.

Our day started with a hearty breakfast in the chic coffeehouse – The Daily. Their pita sandwich with chicken shawarma was a clear winner for me, though their smoked salmon toast was a close second.

Charleston south carolina

Chilling at The Daily

After our filling meal we headed out to explore Charleston on foot, since we are not big fans of horse drawn carriages. Though they seem to be quite a rage in this town.

We crossed the historic district, the famous rainbow row and the lovely french quarters. They are all within an hour walk of each other and the cobbled streets, moss-covered trees and pastel houses kept us busy with pictures all along.

Charleston french quarter

The famous ‘red house’ you see in pictures of French Quarter

Charleston rainbow row

Pastel houses at the Rainbow Row

Since it was blazing hot, we started looking for AC and chilled beer – Big John’s Tavern came to our rescue. After some finger food and a few cold ones, we headed out again.

Big John's Tavern Charleston

Big John’s Tavern Charleston

Next we took a peak inside the famous Charleston Candy Kitchen as one my friends has a big time sweet tooth. After a quick look and few free candy samples, we walked to the city market in the historic district. This huge marketplace had everything from souvenirs to local trinkets and even Christmas decorations (Already!).

Charleston Candy Kitchen

Charleston Candy Kitchen

Our next spot (And also my favorite) was – The waterfront. At the waterfront we watched Pelicans diving and catching fish, the quiet and pretty laid back side and of course the more popular part near the Pineapple fountain. The waters were clear blue and the landscaping was pretty. Surely one of the top Instagram spots in Charleston, SC.

charleston waterfront

Walking along the Charleston waterfront

Pineapple fountain

The cute Pineapple fountain

charleston waterfront

Watching Pelicans with my soul mate and of course we end up posing in the interim 🙂

Ofcourse I had to make a video of my walk around Charleston so here’s my short Insta reel. 

For dinner, we picked one of the most popular restaurants in Charleston – The Darling Oyster Bar. It didn’t quite live up to our expectations but the classy decor and impeccable staff added to the charm. We enjoyed some seafood here and the Crab cakes were certainly our favorite.

the Darling oyster bar

Enjoying my Lobster sandwich at The Darling

Please note you need reservations beforehand for most chic Charleston restaurants so be sure to call beforehand and check especially if you just have a weekend at hand. 

It is very easy to cover all of these in one day without feeling rushed. It was a perfect day one in Charleston for us and we were already raring to see what else the city had to offer. Since we had covered most of the town, we decided to check out the suburbs next.

charleston church

So many architectural delights 🙂

Tip – Ghostwalking tours are all the rage in Charleston and must add to your itinerary. We did something similar in Savannah, Georgia (Click to read about the spooky experience) but if you haven’t tried these, you absolutely must. Its like a spooky history tour filled with interesting urban legends. Plus these tours are at night so you can easily try something else apart from Charleston nightlife for the night owls. 

Book Charleston Ghosts and Dungeon walking tour here! 

Charleston Itinerary Day 2- Boone hall plantation

Boone hall is one of the best plantations in Charleston. Spread over 800 acres it boasts of many species of birds, Spanish moss covered trees, lovely horses and amazing tours. Once you pay the entry fees of $28, you can stay all day and vibe with nature. There is so much to do at Boone hall that you can easily spend 4-5 hours here.

boone hall plantation

Cute butterflies at the Butterfly pavilion

butterfly pavilion boone hall

Makes for a pretty picture too!

Must do tours at Boone hall are – the farm/ nature tractor tour, house tour, introduction to Gullah cultural, Black history exhibit, Garden tour and the lovely butterfly pavilion.

gullah tour boone hall

Introduction to Gullah culture at Boone hall

We even stopped at their cafe for a quick bite, a cold one, and some souvenirs.

For me, the best part was just walking under the moss-covered trees and exploring at my own pace. They even nature walks around alligator-infested water bodies.

horses at boone hall

Trying to get the horsies to come closer so we could play with them, but they didnt oblige :/

Tip – There are many other plantations in and around Charleston though since once of my friends had visited Boone hall, we picked this. However, for those who like to explore, Magnolia plantation is the other popular option which is closer to city as well. Then there is Mcleod and Dryton hall. 

Day 2 in Charleston turned out to be equally interesting for us. For dinner, we reserved a spot at one of the poshest restaurants of Charleston – Magnolias. I ordered the ratatouille which turned out to be a bad decision. We were definitely expecting more and were disappointed yet again with the cuisine of Charleston.

charleston restaurants

Ratatouille at Magnolias

However, the beautiful city made up for it. At night we decided to do our own version of the Charleston ghost walking tour. The spookiest spot we found was in fact the campus grounds of the College of Charleston. Walking around the campus was fun, spooky and magical in its own way.

All in all, it was a day well spent!

Charleston Itinerary Day 3 – Visit Isle of Palms

Day 3 and our last day in Charleston so I decided I needed some beach time. Being a big-time beach bum, I didn’t mind that the stunning Isle of Palms was in the suburbs and a good 40 mins drive from downtown. However, it was totally worth it with its white sands and lovely warm waters.

Also this gave us an excuse to visit the amazing Five loaves cafe in Mt Pleasant which is en route to Isle of Palms and boasts of excellent brunch sandwich options. Their freshly baked choco chip cookies were to die for.

We ended up having an amazing beach day and it was an excellent way to bid adieu to a lovely destination.

After being disappointed with Charleston cuisine so many times, I decided I needed guaranteed good food on my last night in the city. So, we decided to try the Indian restaurant – We picked Spice Palette Indian cuisine and it was one of the best meals of our entire trip, hand’s down! We devoured Kurkuri bhindi, Samosas, Lamb biryani, Mutton organ josh and a variety of naan breads.

Charleston indian restaurant

Spice Palette Indian cuisine

Indian food in Charleston

Yummy Indian food in Charleston

Surely one of the most full-filling meals I had during my entire time in the states. Ofcourse, I am partial towards Indian food but it was as authentic as you can get outside India so color me impressed.

Tips for Visiting Charleston, SC

  1. Be prepared for rains – carry good shoes, rain jacket and some board games for those indoor nights. You can also try an escape room in Charleston on those rainy days.
  2. For ease of traveling around the city and esp visiting places that are away from town, rent a car in Charleston for a couple of days to ensure full freedom of movement.
  3. Always, always carry your travel insurance. I use the annual multi-trip insurance by Heymondo which is just perfect for my nomadic needs. I don’t have to buy or renew before every trip and its valid worldwide, plus it covers Covid 19 too. Click here to buy this annual worldwide insurance for 5% off as a WanderWithJo reader. You can also get this 5% discount on single trip or long stay policies here.
  4. Get your US E-Sim beforehand to avoid issues at airport/ in the city. I used Holafly eSIM for USA. Here’s my full review. Use coupon code “WANDERWITHJO” for additional 5% off 😉
  5. March to May or September to November are the best months to visit Charleston, SC. We visited in August and experienced a little downpour which I didn’t mind at all.
  6.  Get the Charleston tour pass which gives you admission to 40+ tours & attractions and a whopping 40% discount. Skip the lines and embark on your cultural journey with this pass.

Where to Stay in Charleston SC

While Charleston is known for its eclectic art and culture and award-winning restaurants and rich history it also offers local and international visitors the best accommodations in all budget categories. 

Luxury Accommodation in Charleston, SC

Hotel Bennett Charleston

Located in the heart of the city, Hotel Bennett Charleston offers the best luxury stay experience you can get in Charleston, South Carolina. With its historic architecture and plush interiors, the hotel has the best city views. The property is just 18 kilometers from the Charleston International Airport and is close to Charleston Museum, Marion Square and Cannon Park.

The Charleston Place

If you’re a couple looking for a luxury stay in Charleston you can look forward to your stay at The Charleston Place. This historic property offers the best luxury and comfort with best-in-class facilities and amenities. The hotel offers 3 iconic restaurants, 4 bars, an indoor and outdoor saltwater pool, a fitness center and a full-service concierge on site. 

The Beach Club at Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina

Looking for a room with a view? The Beach Club at Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina offers luxurious deluxe rooms that come with a patio and the best view of the marina. The property is an ideal getaway for couples looking to bask in the pleasant Charleston weather and go cycling or enjoy direct harbor access. The property also accommodates various on-site dining options where you can enjoy sustainable local seafood.

Mid-Range Accommodation in Charleston, SC

Crowne Plaza Charleston, an IHG Hotel

With spacious rooms and proximity to the Charleston International Airport, Crowne Plaza Charleston is a great mid-range accommodation that has a lot to offer. With modern interiors and best-in-class facilities and amenities, the hotel also features an outdoor pool and 24-hour fitness center. 

Hampton Inn & Suites Charleston Airport

Looking for a mid-range stay option in Charleston that offers great accessibility to local attractions? Hampton Inn & Suites Charleston Airport is just 4.2 kilometers from Charleston airport. The rooms are spacious and furnished with the best amenities to offer you a pleasant stay. The hotel also features a 24-hour front desk, a shared lounge, a shuttle service, a business center and vending machines onsite. 

Staybridge Suites – Mount Pleasant

With super clean and spacious rooms for stay, Staybridge Suites – Mount Pleasant is a great stay for business professionals and couples looking for mid-range accommodations. With best-in-class amenities and facilities, this property is close to various local attractions like Fort Sumter Ferry – Patriots Point and I’On Club. 

Budget Accommodation in Charleston, SC

Hyatt Place North Charleston

With just a 15-minute drive from the Charleston International Airport, Hyatt Place North Charleston offers spacious rooms furnished with the best-in-class facilities and amenities. Couples looking for a great budget stay with excellent food options can make the most of this accommodation. 

DoubleTree Hotel & Suites Charleston Airport

With an outdoor pool, fitness center and two excellent on-site restaurants and a full-service bar, DoubleTree Hotel & Suites Charleston Airport is a great property for couples and business executives. Located close to local attractions in North Charleston it offers the best accessibility options.

SpringHill Suites by Marriott 

Being close to the Charleston International Airport, SpringHill Suites by Marriott Charleston Airport & Convention Center is a great budget accommodation. With spacious suites furnished with quality facilities and amenities, this property offers a 24-hour front desk and luggage storage space. 

So, friends, this was our Charleston 3 day itinerary. Have you visited his cute little town? If so, share your tips in the comments below.


  1. Ahh this is perfect. I love Charleston so much. This is where I got married.

  2. Charleston looks so charming! I love all these old houses and a walk along the waterfront must be so nice. 🙂 Thanks for sharing this great itinerary.

  3. One of my dearest friends just moved to Charleston so I’ll be visiting there soon! Thanks for the suggestions. I know we’ll both enjoy the town!

    • I cant wait for you to visit. Do lmk what you thought of it 🙂 I am sure you will love it – and I am so happy your friend moved there 🙂

  4. I’m originally from NYC, but moved to Charleston 15 years ago. I laughed when u said u were disappointed with the food. Ppl don’t believe me when I tell them the food here is very over rated. I’m sorry you didn’t get a chance to get to a few of the good ones. But, Five Loaves is a good one!! Next time u r here, go to The Lost Dog on Folly Beach for Breakfast/Brunch. If u come in the winter, go on the carriage ride, they are great as u learn about the history of Charleston. Best time to come is in April when everything is in bloom. And not hot. Another good restaurant is The Post House. And for seafood, Hanks. Hope you come back.

    • Hi Lynn, so good to read your comment. My friend was also telling me I am posting contradicting info in the article – I mean it “IS” supposedly a food lovers paradise, but I wasn’t thrilled with the options or maybe I picked them wrong. So yes there is a bit of contradiction in my own article but that’s exactly how I felt haha.
      Five loaves was good indeed and noted the other options for our next visit 🙂 I bet you enjoy living in Charleston though, especially after NYC? My trip started in NYC so I got a flavor of big city chaos as well from the get go.

  5. I have never had a meal in Charleston when I have been disappointed. I guess you did choose the wrong items. I have lived in Charleston since 2003.

    • Oh so good to hear and my friends in the states agree 🙂

      • Ive lived in Charleston for 20 years. They DEFINITELY hype up downtown restaurants (I haven’t eaten at any of those) The hidden gems are scattered around the area and do not get the credit they deserve!

        • Oh damn, now I wanna know all the cool underground spots for my next visit. I should’ve guessed they were all tourist traps 🙁

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