Once you've admired Charleston's magnificent buildings from the outside, you really need to step inside for the full effect. Several are open as museums, and you can explore their splendour year-round. You can see inside others, which are normally off-limits, during special tours led by the Historic Foundation and the Preservation Society every spring and autumn.
The Low Country
The picturesque peninsulas, channels and sea islands of the South Carolina coast below Charleston are well worth exploring. Huntingdon State Park, with its iconic lighthouse, has pristine beaches, marshlands, forests and great wildlife - including loggerhead turtles. St Helena Island is where you can find out about the area's Gullah community - the descendants of West African slaves.
Take a ride on a ferry across Charleston Harbour to this fort where the first shots of the American Civil War were fired, spotting dolphins in the water as you go. Learn all about the bloodiest conflict in US history and see beautiful views of the harbour and back to the city.
Shop & Eat
There's some great places to get a dose of retail therapy on Charleston holidays. The newly renovated historic City Market has over one hundred vendors, most of them local, and you can see sweet grass basket weavers in action. King Street is where the big names cluster, while Upper King's Design District has antiques and homeware. Stop for traditional Southern shrimp and grits to refuel.
Boone Hall Plantation
Established in 1681, this plantation is operational to this day. See the splendid drive lined with a canopy of 270-year-old oak trees; tour the magnificent house; wander in the beautiful gardens; and explore the cabins where generations of slaves who toiled on the plantation slept.