When I booked our reservations at an RV park in Yemassee, South Carolina, I was thinking only of getting my feet in the Atlantic Ocean for the first time ever. As our visit there came closer, I realized that we were only about an hour’s drive from Charleston, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia – two additional places neither Brian nor I have ever seen. Awesome!
The Angel Oak
We started off the day by stopping on John’s Island to see the Angel Oak tree. It’s a massive live oak that is estimated to be between 400 and 500 years old (some say much older.) I cannot tell you how excited I was to see this tree that I’d seen photos of for years! It is its own park and is free for entry, so it fits right into any budget and should be on your bucket list.
We arrived about 20 minutes after the stated opening time on the website to a full parking lot and cars lined up along the side road. The Angel Oak is surround by a chain link fence to protect it. Once you enter, the tree fills up about half of the park space with some picnic tables and benches scattered around the surrounding lawn.
Walking up to the entrance, you can see the tree and you do get this sense that it’s big and cool. When you walk inside, though, and turn to face it, you see this amazing, huge, ancient oak that should be part of an old Celtic fairy tale. We didn’t stay long. If you can, I’d suggest going on a weekday when it might not be so crowded. There were a lot of people there and a worker yelling at people to stop leaning on the tree, so it wasn’t the most relaxing place to be. It was absolutely worth the short side trip to see such an amazing, ancient tree.
We didn’t really do any previous research on what to do in Charleston, so we parked a couple blocks up from the waterfront and decided to just walk around there and the historical area.
The first stop we made was for a quick light bite at a rooftop bar. This is a thing in the South, and it seems especially so in Charleston. I read somewhere that Charleston has at least 25 rooftop bars, which I think is pretty cool. We went to The Rooftop at The Vendue, which was packed at mid-afternoon on a Sunday! I think this is where people go after church, or maybe it’s like tea-time in Britain. Whatever the reason, the food was good and the servers were on it. We were in the middle of the roof and unable to get a good view photo, but I did get this lively little bird who knew exactly how to get an easy meal.
From there, we walked the remaining block to Charleston Waterfront Park and out onto the pier. Realize that Charleston itself is not technically on the Atlantic Ocean, it’s actually on an inlet of the Atlantic that is also where three main rivers end, so it’s more of a riverfront feel than being at the ocean. Although people were everywhere, hanging out with friends, chatting, and strolling, it didn’t feel crowded. After a little time on the pier, my heat-sensitive body needed out of the direct sunlight, so we did some of that strolling ourselves. The park has two walking paths that are more like small boulevards. One is more open to the sun and the other is under beautiful shade trees. Of course, we chose the shaded walk. You get a similar view since they run parallel to each other, and the shaded one gives you a closer look at some of the beautiful buildings there. I loved that they have little courtyards separated by low hedges with wrought iron benches scattered throughout. It certainly adds more of the legendary Southern charm to the area.
As we started to turn uphill, we came across some odd signs next to a low brick wall. It turns out that the people of Charleston decided to surround their city with a wall for protection back in the mid-1700s. Within a few decades, much of the wall and other fortifications were either destroyed or covered due to the growth of the city – so much so that people forgot all about it. It wasn’t until relatively recently that people started discovering bits of the wall, which then prompted the city to investigate. Now there’s a whole team of people, including archaeologists, working to learn more about it and preserve what they can.
We walked further uphill through the historic district. I actually used Google Trips to check some things out and found the historic district that way. It was a great way to spend the afternoon, just walking and checking out some of the homes and buildings. Each one had a placard on the exterior giving a little information about when it was built and what it had been. We came across Rainbow Row, a collection of homes and shops that were originally built before the Revolutionary War (though most had to be rebuilt after a fire claimed part of the town in 1778.)
We decided on a certain tavern for dinner and, as we wandered back toward it, found St Michael’s Church. It’s the oldest church building in Charleston and claims to have two signers of the Constitution buried in its graveyard: Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, presidential candidate and Minister to France, and John Rutledge, who was a Governor of South Carolina.
Look at that wrought iron design work on the gate!
We arrived for dinner at McCrady’s Tavern, which is also a National Historic Place that was built in 1788. Another claim to fame of theirs is that they one hosted a dinner party for President George Washington. Beyond the historical value, they served some beautiful food. We recommend stopping there if you’re in the area.
I loved just wandering around historic Charleston! The energy was what I think of as stereotypically the South – relaxed – and we learned quite a bit about the town’s history while simply exploring outside. We both said we needed more time there, and hope to be back some day!
Thanks for joining us as we live our journey…