Traveling to Charleston, SC anytime soon? Be sure to include Fort Sumter into your sightseeing itinerary. I know, I know. The idea of visiting a historical landmark can sound boring and touristy but you be with this one.
During a girls weekend in Charleston last Spring, we tripped over to Fort Sumter for a couple of reasons. First, it’s a chance to get on the water. Who doesn’t want to spend some time relaxing on a boat if it’s a beautiful day? We jumped at the idea when one of us pointed that out. The fort is located in Charleston Harbor and the only way to get there is by boat. Since it was a gorgeous day, we were happy and relaxed as we took the ~30 minute ferry out to the fort.
Second, it wasn’t a huge time commitment. The whole excursion only took a little over 2 hours. Perfect! We came back and stopped for a few late-afternoon cocktails. 😉 Third, this is interesting history. This is where the first shots of the Civil War took place. I’m from the north so I only know the pared-down basics from a grade school textbook. But this, this was real history right in front of me.
(History lesson coming): I didn’t remember this from school, but apparently Major Anderson, head of the federal troops in Charleston, occupied Ft. Moultrie (just across the harbor from Ft. Sumter) in late 1860. When the states started to secede, most of the federal forts in those areas were turned over to that state. Except Fort Moultrie. Naturally this caused a standoff with the state’s militia forces. Realizing Ft. Moultrie wouldn’t withstand an attack by southern forces, Major Anderson secretly snuck over to Ft. Sumter in the middle of the night. Of course, this escalated tensions. When President Lincoln ordered Ft. Sumter to be resupplied, indicating there was no intention of turning the fort over to the state, it resulted in the first shots being fired upon it.
And look at this…those are REAL cannons.
And that’s a real cannonball still lodged in the fort’s wall.
It’s worth pointing out that inside the fort, there’s not much to look at. This was a military fort and the interior structures were mainly flammable and have long since been destroyed. Despite this, it’s beautiful within its walls.
Things to know before you go…
1. I recommend buying your tickets beforehand. The line to purchase tickets at the Liberty Sq. Visitors Center was long on the day we went. Folks who bought online were able to walk straight in and get in line for the ferry. Space is limited on the ferry so it’s worth buying your tickets before the day you plan to go.
2. Technically there are no entrance fees to Fort Sumter but, because it’s only accessible by boat, you pay $22 for the ferry ride to it. For kids age 3-18, it $14.
3. There are two departure points you can choose from – Liberty Square in downtown Charleston or across the harbor at Patriots Point in Mount Pleasant.
4. There are several tour times throughout the morning and afternoon, starting as early at 9:30am and as late as 4:00pm during certain times of the year. I recommend the earlier time to avoid the hot sun during the summer months.