Home > Travel Ideas > Charleston > Top 10 Accessible Charleston Attractions
Top 10 Accessible Charleston Attractions
By: Danielle Max | May 16 2017

Charleston was voted “Best City in the World” by “Travel + Leisure” magazine in 2016, which is some provenance. This is certainly a city that takes pride in its history and heritage. As the locals like to say, Charleston is located “where the Cooper and Ashley Rivers come together to form the Atlantic Ocean.” With so many historical houses, plantations and old cobblestone streets, Charleston is not the easiest place to navigate in a wheelchair, but with a reputation for friendliness and hospitality, it’s well worth the effort.


Pineapple Fountain | Photo: Doug Hickok/Courtesy Charleston Area CVB

1. Fort Sumter
Liberty Square’s Fort Sumter Visitors Center, 340 Concord St. Charleston, SC 29401
1. Fort Sumter
Liberty Square’s Fort Sumter Visitors Center, 340 Concord St. Charleston, SC 29401
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Fort Sumter | Courtesy of the Charleston Area CVB, ExploreCharleston.com

Stand on the very ground where the first shots rang out in the U.S. Civil War (also known as the War Between the States down in these parts) during a one-hour tour of Fort Sumter. The fort is only accessible by boat, giving you a chance to enjoy the short ride through Charleston Harbor. The tour offers enough time to explore the well-preserved fort, which stands in the mouth of the harbor, and also shop for souvenirs before re-embarking and heading back to Charleston.

There are two departure points for Fort Sumter – Patriot Points in Mt Pleasant and Liberty Square in downtown Charleston.

There is limited accessibility from Patriots Point. Due to changing tide conditions, the journey require a minimum of four steps and may require as many as 20 steps. 

The Liberty Square departure point is accessible. The tour boat is equipped with an elevator and accessible restrooms.  The boarding ramp can accommodate electric and manual wheelchairs and scooters, except in extreme tide situations. 

Fort Sumter is accessible via a ramp system. However, due to routine maintenance, unexpected repairs or adverse conditions, the system could be unavailable. Contact Fort Sumter Tours on the day of your visit at 843-722-2628 to make sure everything is fully accessible.

A wheelchair is available at no cost and can be checked out at the visitor center.

A museum guide is available upon request featuring all of the museum text, images, quotes, and pictures of artifacts on display in the museum and upper level of the Fort.

The historic parade ground level of Fort Sumter is accessible. Several interpretive wayside exhibits are located throughout this level and a park interpreter is available to provide a history talk and answer questions.

The water fountain, restrooms, museum, museum store and the observation level are not wheelchair accessible. The tour boat remains at the Fort, allowing access to the restrooms on board.

Parking: For Downtown Charleston Liberty Square’s Fort Sumter Visitors Center the adjacent Aquarium Wharf garage is recommended. Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum has adjacent parking for $5 per vehicle.

Public Transportation: DASH to Aquarium stop (1-minute walk).

Top Tip: The National Park Service, which runs Fort Sumter highly recommends visitors purchase their tickets a day in advance to avoid disappointment.

 

2. Drayton Hall
3380 Ashley River Road, Charleston, SC 29414
2. Drayton Hall
3380 Ashley River Road, Charleston, SC 29414
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Drayton Hall | Courtesy of the Charleston Area CVB, ExploreCharleston.com

Drayton Hall is where all your antebellum fantasies can come true. This National Historic Landmark, founded in 1738, is not only the oldest unrestored plantation house in America still open to the public, but it is the country’s earliest example of fully executed Palladian architecture. In addition, the African American cemetery, which is one of the oldest in the nation and is still in use, makes this an incredibly rich historical site. Drayton Hall offers daily guided house tours that begin on the half hour and last about 50 minutes allowing you to get a good glimpse into the past.

The grounds, restrooms, museum shop, raised English basement of the Main House and the “Connections: From Africa to America” program are all accessible.

A video tour is available for those who are unable or prefer not to join the tour.

Written tours are also available.

If you have any questions about site accessibility or if you anticipate needing special assistance, email or call 843-769-2600.

Find out more here.

Parking: On-site parking.

Top Tip: If you are taking a house tour, arrive at the front gate at least 20 minutes before the start of the tour to allow for ticket transactions, parking and check in. 

3. The Charleston Museum
360 Meeting Street, Charleston, SC 29403
3. The Charleston Museum
360 Meeting Street, Charleston, SC 29403
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The Charleston Museum | Courtesy of the Charleston Area CVB, ExploreCharleston.com

A visit to the Charleston Museum is a lesson in history all by itself. Founded in 1773 (on the eve of the American Revolution!), it is commonly regarded as “America’s First Museum” and was inspired in part by the creation of the British Museum, although it didn’t open to the public until 1824. These days, the museum’s mission is to educate visitors about the natural and cultural history of the South Carolina Lowcountry through collections, exhibitions, preservation, programs and research.

The museum is accessible to both manual and electric wheelchairs. Courtesy wheelchairs are available on a first-come-first-served basis from the Admissions desk.

The museum’s historic houses are not accessible. There are photographic tours of the houses available for visitors unable to climb stairs.

All videos are closed-captioned.

Find out more here.

Parking: Visitor Center Parking Garage 73 Mary Street.

Public Transportation: DASH to Visitors Center on John Street (2-minute walk).

Top Tip: Buy a combination ticket if you intend – and are able – to visit more than one of the museum sites.

4. South Carolina Aquarium
100 Aquarium Wharf, Charleston, SC 29401
4. South Carolina Aquarium
100 Aquarium Wharf, Charleston, SC 29401
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South Carolina Aquarium | Courtesy of the Charleston Area CVB, ExploreCharleston.com

Water you waiting for? Discover South Carolina’s native animals and plants with a visit to the South Carolina Aquarium. Experience diverse regions, including swamps, salt marshes and the coast. You can touch and feel several species of invertebrates or even feed the stingrays (they eat shrimp; in case you are wondering). If you want more than the usual aquarium experience, upgrade your visit with a tour of South Carolina’s only Sea Turtle Hospital. Take a look a close-up look of the current patients and discover the special care sick and injured turtles receive. Tours are offered daily at 12:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m.

Courtesy wheelchairs are available.

Parking: A parking garage operated by the City of Charleston is located at 24 Calhoun Street, Charleston, SC 29401. Metered parking is located along Washington Street and Concord Street.

Public Transportation: DASH to the Aquarium.

Top Tip: If you are looking for a quiet(er) time to visit, aim for weekdays before 11:00 a.m. or after 2:00 p.m.

5. Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry
25 Ann Street, Charleston, SC 29403
5. Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry
25 Ann Street, Charleston, SC 29403
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Children's Museum of the Lowcountry | Courtesy of the Charleston Area CVB, ExploreCharleston.com

There’s a whole world to discover at the Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry. With nine hands-on interactive areas, kids can race boats down rapids, climb aboard a Lowcountry pirate ship and drive an antique fire truck. The museum is aimed at kids up to age 10 and their families and aims to engage young children’s potential through play to inspire creativity and encourage lifelong exploration.

The museum is wheelchair accessible. There are accessible restrooms and water fountains.

Find out more here.

Parking: Paid metered parking on the streets around the museum or the Visitor’s Center Parking Garage or the Camden/Exchange Parking Garage.

Public Transportation: DASH to Visitors Center on John Street (4-minute walk).

Top Tip: Start your trip in the art room, so your budding artists can give any masterpieces ample time to dry.

6. The Gibbes Museum of Art
35 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29401
6. The Gibbes Museum of Art
35 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29401
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The Gibbes Museum of Art | Courtesy of the Charleston Area CVB, ExploreCharleston.com

The Gibbes Museum of Art is Charleston’s only visual arts museum. With a collection that incorporates the story of Charleston, the museum connects the city and region’s artistic past to the current vibrant contemporary art scene. The first floor of the museum is free and open to all, with paid tickets required for the second and third floors.

The museum is wheelchair accessible. Access is via three ramps and elevators.

Courtesy wheelchairs are available at the Visitor Services Desk on a first-come, first-served basis.

Find out more here.

Parking: Paid parking located one block from the museum at 85 Queen Street.

Public Transportation: Bus #20 to Meeting Street / Cumberland Street stop (1-minute walk) or DASH to King Street / Clifford St (3-minute walk).

Top Tip: Proving that size isn’t everything, don’t miss the more than 600 pieces in the museum’s miniatures collection. These tiny paintings (most can fit in the palm of the hand) were first painted in Charleston and were often made to commemorate life’s important milestones.

7. Charleston City Market
188 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29401
7. Charleston City Market
188 Meeting St, Charleston, SC 29401
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Charleston City Market | Courtesy of the Charleston Area CVB, ExploreCharleston.com

If you are looking for a true Charlestonian souvenir, there’s only one place to come – Charleston City Market. The market, one of the oldest in the U.S., plays a leading role in the preservation time-treasured customs and vibrant American history. The market is the epicenter of sweetgrass basketry. More than 50 resident artists create these baskets, which are made from indigenous bulrush, a strong grass that grows in the sandy soil of the coastal region.

The market is wheelchair accessible, with accessible restrooms. Access ramps are located at the front of the market.

Parking: Metered parking spaces are located throughout the market area. Parking is also available at three nearby garages: Church Street Garage, Hassel Street Garage and Cumberland Street Garage.

Public Transportation: The DASH makes several stops in the neighborhood.

Top Tip: It’s never too late to visit the market. The night market runs on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights from 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.

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Folly Beach Pier | Courtesy of the Charleston Area CVB, ExploreCharleston.com

South Carolina has some gorgeous beaches and, luckily, there a number in easy distance of Charleston. Chief among them is Folly Beach, located on Folly Island. The island offers six miles of white sand beaches to explore. Once you are done with the beach (or when you can finally drag yourself away), check out the Edwin S. Taylor Folly Beach Pier, one of the best places to go saltwater fishing in Charleston (or to watch other people go fishing).

There are nine places that allow easy access to the beach at West End County Park, The Washout, 2nd Street East, 5th Street East, 1670 East, 110 East, 3rd Street West and 9th Street West.

The West Ninth Street access on West Ashley is a wheelchair accessible ramp that begins just off the parking lot.

The City of Folly Beach has three beach wheelchairs available on a first-come, first-served basis. Stop by the public safety building at 106 West Cooper Avenue or call 843-588-2433 to inquire about wheelchair rental.

The Edwin S. Taylor Folly Beach Pier is accessible with wheelchair ramps from the ground level to the pier’s top deck. The restrooms at the pier are also accessible.

Find out more here.

Parking: Park close to the West Ninth Street access on West Ashley for easy access to the beach.

Top Tip: The water at Folly Beach is often warm into November, so don’t miss the chance of dipping your toes – or your wheels in the water.

10. Charles Pinckney National Historic Site
1214 Middle Street, Sullivan's Island, SC 29482
10. Charles Pinckney National Historic Site
1214 Middle Street, Sullivan's Island, SC 29482
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Some of America’s founding fathers are better known than others. One you might not have heard of is Charles Pinckney, a South Carolina delegate to the Constitutional Convention. Pinckney introduced a complete plan of government during the opening days of the convention. Many of his recommendations were adopted, earning him the nickname of “Constitution Charlie.” While Pinckney’s main residence was in Charleston, the National Historic Site that bears his name was the location of his Snee Farm plantation. The house that stands on the site is located where the original house once stood, although it’s not the original house.

The museum and grounds are wheelchair accessible. The half-mile walking trail around the grounds is paved.

Access to the porch and house interior is via a small outdoor elevator.

Find out more here.

Parking: On-site parking.

Top Tip: Stay safe! Beware of fire ant mounds and bring plenty of insect spray in the warmer months. There are plenty of mosquitos, ticks, chiggers and gnats about. 

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