My absolute favorite way to get to know a city is to explore by bike. When I moved to Charleston from the small, one-major-road island town of Key Largo, I got lost all the time. The narrow cobblestone streets and gorgeous, gated victorian homes all looked the same to me. Finally, my roommate at the time, a born and raised “Charlestonian” led me on a bike tour that would change the way I travel in the Holy City. Biking around Charleston quickly became my favorite way to travel, explore, and meditate. Whenever friends would visit, we’d rent bikes from my favorite neighborhood bike shop, Affordabike, and we’d cycle the cobblestone streets and historic alleyways. I’ve mapped out my suggested route of biking the Holy City, based on sights and safety. The red roads are high-speed areas I suggest avoiding, and the ⭐️stars represent things to see and do. Below the map, there’s a brief description of each of the sights and what you can expect.
I feel it’s super important to add that like in any other city, you should always yield caution when Biking Charleston. Cars are faster and more powerful, and often the driver does not realize this seemingly obvious point.
► Ride like cars, on the street, not on the sidewalk.
► Stop at stop signs and red lights, and wait for them to turn green.
► Use your arms as your blinker.
► Always wear a helmet.
► And always lock your bike if you’re getting off of it.
- Of course there are several bike shop and rental options in Charleston, but I specifically suggest Affordabike for it’s convenient location. Located at the top of King Street’s most popular area of bars and restaurants, it’s the perfect starting and ending point. From here, head with traffic, straight down King Street. A couple delicious places to stop if you’re hungry: Callie’s Hot Biscuit, Beech, Glazed Donuts.
- Marion Square is a large green area right in the center of the peninsula. On Saturdays, stopping at the Farmer’s Market is a must-do. There are tons of locally-made tasty treats and gifts, eclectic breakfasts, and an excellent selection of fruits and veggies. Any other day of the week, the square is usually just a big park. If you catch the right time of year, you’ll come across the Charleston Wine and Food Festival, Southeastern Wildlife Expo or Spoleto Arts Festival.
- Believe it or not, the College of Charleston is one of Charleston’s oldest monuments. Founded in 1771, the historic “Cistern” has been used for over 200 years of graduations! When I was a student at “C-of-C,” as we call it, my favorite part of the day was walking through the “Cougar Mall” and the cistern. If you enter the Cougar Mall from St. Philip Street, you can bike around and make your way to the cistern, and then make your way back to the road on George Street.
- Only a block from the cistern is my #1 most recommended lunch spot, Circe’s Grotto. Drawing inspiration from his South Shore Massachusetts roots, owner and manager Nick Stella curates the most delicious combinations in sandwiches, wraps and salads. His breads is baked daily at the local EVO Bakery. Nick will tell you the Turkey Melt is the most popular sandwich on the menu, but you truly can’t go wrong with any of them. After this, head one block to King Street to continue your ride.
- As you bike down historic King Street, you’ll eventually come to historic Broad Street. Broad street is the mecca of historic preservation in this 300 year old city. It’s where, at the perfect moment of “golden hour” you’ll catch the sun peering through the palmetto trees, illuminating the historic cathedrals that give the city its nickname: “The Holy City”. Simply put, Broad street is gorgeous spot to admire historic architecture before heading down to The Battery.
- “The Battery” is the term Charlestonians use when referring to White Point Garden, a large park which sits at the tip of the peninsula. The Battery is a fascinating spot due to its location and its history. The Battery is a promenade of sorts, bordering the southernmost end of the peninsula. On a sunny day, of which Charleston has about 300, you can see up the Cooper River, beyond the Ravenel Bridge to Port Wando, up the Ashley River to historic Charlestowne Landing and even historic Fort Sumter protecting the harbor where it opens up into the Atlantic. The Battery is also the location of the American Civil War artillery.
- Rainbow Row is, by far, the most recognizable landmark in Charleston. Famous for it’s pastel façade, Rainbow Row is truly the icon of the city. The story of Rainbow Row, I learned on a walking tour, is that the buildings were slums after the war. They housed too many people, fell under duress and eventually abandonment. In an attempt to revive the French Quarter, a Historical Preservation Society renovated the buildings and painted them a coordinating gorgeous pastel pattern.
- If you head down the short cobblestone road adjacent to Rainbow Row, you’ll reach Waterfront Park, and you’ll be glad you did. With a view almost as good as the Battery, Waterfront Park is a popular place for locals and tourists alike to admire the famous “pineapple fountain” and to run around in the park.
- The Historic City Market is one of the oldest monuments in the city still used for its intended purpose today. In the 18th century, the market was the gathering point where locals residents and plantation owners would meet to trade and sell their rice, beef and other produce. Since then, the market has allowed local creators and purveyors to sell their unique goods, including the famous Gullah sweetgrass baskets. The market vibe tends to shift around sundown, when the daytime merchants pack up and make room for the night market merchants.
- If you’re not yet exhausted from the busy day, the last spot on the peninsula I suggest you visit is the Wharf. If you aren’t visiting the aquarium, there isn’t too much to do here, but it is a beautiful green space with an excellent view of the Ravenel bridge and the Cooper River.
From the Wharf, you’ll navigate to King Street for an easy and picturesque ride back up King Street to Affordabike.
Have questions about the route or any Charleston destinations? Have any other favorite spots to ride to in the Holy City?? Drop a comment!
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