I had never much thought about South Carolina as a photography hot spot, but when I attended a photography conference in Charleston, its beauty absolutely blew me away. The scent of flowers blooming in the air, sounds of ocean waves always close by, sights of birds flying overhead, light playing through oak tree leaves, and breathtaking historic architecture – it is a photographer’s daydream. Whether you enjoy landscapes, wildlife, portraiture, architecture, or history – Charleston has a little bit of it all.
I traveled to Charleston in the spring, which was pretty much the perfect time to visit – the summer humidity has not yet arrived but winter is on its way out, mosquitoes were few and far between (they get really bad later in the year), and with all the flowers blooming, it gave Charleston such a romantic air. The romantic vibes could also be caused by the fact that I watched The Notebook at a formative age, so that landscape has always just struck me as enchanting. But I’ll let you make up your own mind! Forget Cabo, here is my destination guide for visiting Charleston during spring break:
What to See
- Downtown: there are plenty of walking tours, even a horse and carriage tour, but you definitely don’t want to miss the historic downtown. And absolutely do not miss Rainbow Row, a cluster of highly Instagramable, pastel colored homes dating from the mid 1700s.
- Waterfront Park: water views, fountains, and walkways make this a perfect afternoon location to visit. The fountains can also make for a lovely sunset shot, backlit with color.
- Boone Hall Plantation: featuring scenic farmland, it is one of America’s oldest working plantations.
- Ravenel Bridge: this bridge continues the stunning architecture of Charleston, but where downtown is historic, Ravenel is modern with beautiful, sweeping lines. It is also a great location to catch a sunset.
- Congaree National Park: technically outside of Charleston, but it is always worth a drive to visit a new National Park! Scenic wooden walkways take you over floodplains, which have very photogenic reflections when the forest floor is flooded. I did one of the hikes through the forest, but I would love to come back when the water level is higher and canoe or kayak through the area as well.
Top Photography Spots
- Angel Oak: one of the oldest and largest oak trees in the area, it looks absolutely magical in morning light.
- Middleton Plantation: fountains, flowers, gardens, oaks, and a lovely waterway make this a fantastic place to try out many types of photography. If you are into portrait photography, the flowers make a stunning backdrop.
- Magnolia Plantation: this was my absolute favorite plantation to visit. Big bursts of blooms were everywhere, and the air was thick with the most wonderful scent. The oak trees were so lush and lovely, that I was completely enchanted. There are also sections to view wildlife and birds, making it a fantastic wildlife photography location as well.
- Folly Beach: I shot both sunset and Milky Way at this beach – a long exposure shot of the pier is fantastic for either sunrise or sunset, and the beach is perfect for Milky Way as faces far enough south to catch the core in the spring and summer.
- Botany Bay / Edisto Island: this was my favorite spot of the entire trip – despite hurricane damage on the beach, the skeletal trees at Botany Bay made for the most eerily beautiful sunrise shot.
What to Eat
- Amen Street Fish and Raw Bar: located in a historic building, I highly recommend the local oysters.
- Husk: a restaurant where the only ingredients are from the South – it’s a bit expensive but it is to die for.
- Butcher & Bee: all your brunch needs, in a modern, Instagrammable setting.
- Bowens Island Restaurant: the best way to combine good seafood with watching a sunset.
Where to Stay
- French Quarter Inn: walking distance to downtown, the Charleston City Market, and more, but very expensive.
- The Vendue Hotel: an artistic hotel that even has a rooftop bar!
- Harbourview Inn: if ocean views are your top priority, look no further.
- Tides Folly Beach: located outside of Charleston, but it features views of the ocean – from your private balcony or from the pool!
- Weather: in the spring, the temperatures were mild, but in the summer, high temperatures and humidity can make travel challenging (bring water!). In winter, be cautious of high winds and heavy rainfall, although winters are usually fairly mild and warmer than the surrounding states.
- Mosquitoes: there was a “mosquito meter” at Congaree that stated the current mosquito level, rated from all clear to war zone – if you can’t avoid the worst of it, make sure you bring lots of repellent.
- Visit the South Carolina tourism board website for more information!
Comment below if this guide inspired you to visit South Carolina for spring break, or let me know what destination you would like to discover next. And definitely don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter to be notified of future blog posts, upcoming workshops, shop sales, and more! Plus, get 5 free Lightroom presets and my free travel packing checklist when you sign up!