World-Famous Charleston Harbor
What is Charleston best known for? Some may say beaches, the aquarium, or the southern food but the Charleston harbor, an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean, has always played a significant role in the history of Charleston, South Carolina. While there are many ways to experience Charleston by water, none is more exhilarating than a Charleston Harbor Tour with Speed Boat Adventures. You will be piloting your own 14-foot speed boat for 90 minutes while always under the watchful eye of your tour guide. During your unforgettable tour, you will experience Charleston Harbor history through landmarks and waterways, while the guide peppers the tour with tidbits of history over the walkie-talkie.
Charleston Harbor History
In 1663, England’s King Charles II awarded the Carolina territory to eight loyal friends who had helped him regain the throne after years in exile. In 1670, an expedition sailed across the Atlantic and established the province’s first settlement, Charles Town. The name would remain until after the American Revolution when victorious colonists shortened the name to Charleston.
Charleston, South Carolina was the frequent target of pirate activity. For example, the year 1718 saw none other than Edward Teach, a.k.a. Blackbeard, attack several ships trying to enter the harbor. The marauder took hostages and held them for ransom, demanding a chest of medicine for his sickly crew.
A crowd favorite of the harbor will always be Fort Sumter. Fort Sumter was built after the war of 1812 to defend Charleston against a naval attack. While still not complete, Fort Sumter found itself under fire for the first time in April of 1861. In November of 1860, Abraham Lincoln was elected president of the United States. Common knowledge held that the Lincoln administration would be the end of slavery. Since South Carolina neither voted for Lincoln nor held his opinion regarding slavery, the state succeeded from the Union. Lincoln responded by sending warships that exchanged fire with Fort Sumter for 36 hours until the fort surrendered. This is often referred to as the onset of the Civil War.
Along the southern shore of the downtown peninsula lies a uniquely beautiful neighborhood known as the Battery. The Battery served as a defensive artillery point during the American Civil War. Formerly known as Oyster Point due to the many bleached oyster shells piled up at the peninsula’s tip, the Battery was made to guard Charleston’s port during attacks and blockades. Today the Battery is decorated with cannons and statues of prominent military figures. The area starts with a quintessential Charleston park called White Point Garden, then runs along a seawall, past thirteen stunning Antebellum homes, and finally into Rainbow Row. Rainbow Row is a row of colorful houses that line East Bay Street. There are many stories floating around concerning the origin of the multicolored homes. One states that the pastel, the colonial Caribbean color scheme helped drunken sailors identify their lodgings, while another says that shop owners used the colors to identify goods sold in each building to aid the illiterate. The truth is in 1935 a judge and his wife decided to paint their home a lively pink, and their neighbors followed suit.
Formed by the junction of the Ashley and Cooper rivers, the inlet established itself as an epicenter for trade during the 18th and 19th centuries. To this day, the Charleston Harbor still serves as a major port in the United States seeing nearly twenty million tons of trade annually. The entrance to the harbor is flanked by Sullivan’s Island and Morris Island. It is an ideal waterway for commerce.
During the American Civil War, the Charleston Harbor was the site of the first successful submarine offensive in history. On February 17, 1864, the H.L. Huntley sub made a daring night attack on the USS Housatonic,
Decommissioned in 1970, the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier remains permanently docked at Patriots Point where nearly 3000,000 visitors board each year. First put in service in 1941, the Yorktown earned its nickname The Fighting Lady because it would always lead into battle. Weighing over 30,000 tons and topping out at 30 knots, the Yorktown played a significant role in the Pacific offensive against Japan. One of her last missions was recovering the Apollo 8 spacecraft in 1968. Lasting six days this was the first man mission to leave Earth’s orbit, reach the moon and return. Today, a replica capsule remains aboard the ship the forever commemorate the momentous achievement. Our Charleston Harbor tour goes right by the USS Yorktown!
The most noticeable part of the harbor is the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge which spans the Cooper River to connect downtown Charleston to Mount Pleasant. Completed in 2005 the Ravenel Bridge is the longest cable-stayed bridge in the United States. The bridge is supported by two, 575-foot diamond-shaped towers and 128 individual steel cables. The 2.5-mile-long eight-lane bridge is crossed nearly 97,000 times a day. Annually the bridge host the third largest 10K marathon in the United States, The Cooper River Bridge Run.
The harbor is also a popular recreational site. The South Carolina Aquarium, the annual Charleston Maritime Festival, and the Blessing of the Fleet are a few of the awesome recreational activities offered.
Be sure to book a Charleston boat tour right away to get your up close and personal tour and experience Charleston Harbor History firsthand.