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When we started planning a short trip to Charleston, I knew we’d love a visit to Fort Sumter.  While reading up on the tour, I soon discovered that Fort Sumter Tours handled the boat rides out to the fort.  Since we were only staying for a night on this trip, I thought it would be best to take the first ride of the day.  You can actually take the boat from downtown Charleston at Liberty Square or across the harbor at Patriots Point in Mount Pleasant; the schedule differs at each location.  Though we were staying in a hotel at Mount Pleasant, Liberty Square had the earlier time, so we chose that tour.  It’s not too difficult to drive across the Ravenel Bridge to Charleston, so we woke up early, checked out of the hotel, and headed to Charleston.  The first tour was at 9:30 am.

Fort Sumter National Monument Sign

Beginning the Fort Sumter Tour From Liberty Square

We parked at a nearby parking garage at Liberty Square.  This parking garage also accommodates those who want to visit the South Carolina Aquarium or other downtown locations.  It was a short walk to Liberty Square.

Liberty Square Sign Charleston Soon, we arrived at the Fort Sumter Visitor Education Center.

Fort Sumter Visitor Education Center

You purchase tickets here, and the ferry launches behind the building.  We didn’t buy tickets ahead of time, but you can purchase them online.  The tour seemed full when we left, but I don’t know if it was close to selling out.  If you want to be sure you get a certain time, you may want to go ahead and purchase tickets in advance.

Once you have your tickets, you can explore the small museum in the Fort Sumter Visitor Center.

Fort Sumter

The exhibits explain the events leading up to South Carolina’s succession and the Civil War.

Cotton bale at Fort Sumter Visitor Center

These exhibits helped us to explain to Kristin what we were about to see and why the fort was important.

Cotton bale at Fort Sumter Visitor Center

The Visitor Center also has a small gift shop.  You can be sure we bought a magnet.

Taking the Ferry to Fort Sumter

After exploring the museum for a few minutes, we heard our ferry boat time announced.  We went outside to the dock to line up.

Ferry boat Fort SumterThe ferry ride is about 30 minutes long, and you can hear a recording with information on the area while you sail.  You could either sit on the upper deck outdoors or lower deck inside with air conditioning.  We spent time on both.  Even though it was morning, we were still visiting in the summer.  And it’s the South.

Inside the Ferry to Fort Sumter

The ferry did have a snack bar.  If you don’t bring water, you may want to purchase some on the ferry.  There was a small gift shop at the fort, as well.

Window on the ferry to Fort Sumter

The cruise is enjoyable and informative.  Soon we docked at the fort!

Fort Sumter

Once you arrive at the fort, you get about an hour to explore.  Apparently, you can arrange for a longer visit if you’d like. Also, sunset visits are available, and those include a BBQ dinner.

Exploring Fort Sumter

Fort Sumter

As we explored, the historical significance of the place didn’t escape us.  Remembering that the first shots of the Civil War were fired here is a little surreal.

Fort Sumter

Later in 1863, Fort Sumter was the center of another battle in which Union forces tried to take the fort back from the Confederates.  The Confederates were able to defend the fort and hold it until Sherman’s March.

Fort Sumter

The fort is fascinating.

Fort Sumter

I love that we can bring Kristin to historical sites so she can have these hands-on experiences.

Fort Sumter cannon

You can explore freely, and park rangers are around to answer questions and discuss aspects of the fort.

Fort Sumter

Fort Sumter

Raising the Flag at Fort Sumter

If you take the first cruise of the day, you can see the flag-raising ceremony at the fort.  This ceremony was really moving.

Fort Sumter

When it’s time, people gather at the flagpole on the opposite side of the fort from the dock behind the building above.  Park rangers lead the ceremony and select people to assist.



There wasn’t a lot of breeze that day to cause the flag to wave, but the ceremony was beautiful.

Fort Sumter

After the ceremony, it was time to head back to the ferry.  You can see the Ravenel Bridge in the background.

Fort Sumter ferry

The tour was about two hours long, and it was well worth it.  I’m so glad we included Fort Sumter in our plans for our quick trip to Charleston.  I want Kristin to appreciate our country, and along the way, I learn to appreciate our country a little more, too.  Be sure to visit Fort Sumter when you’re in the Charleston area.

While you’re in Charleston, visit Poe’s Tavern on Sullivan’s Island!

Fort Sumter
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  1. I loved the flag raising. The park looks like a place we would visit to learn about history.

  2. Lisa Manderino Reply

    I love historical travel. I would love to go to Fort Sumter with my children so they could see too!

    • Nice write up on Fort Sumter. I’m not a big history buff but enjoy touring these forts. There’s so much history that we push to the way back of our minds and touring historic places brings it all to the front. I, like you, appreciate our country and our military more and more every day. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  3. I really enjoyed your article. I find old forts like this so fascinating. Thanks for sharing your families experience.

  4. That was some fancy ferry. We have a fort near us and it’s always fun to go see it. My kids love this kind of learning.

  5. One of my daughters lives very near Charleston and we love visiting Ft. Sumpter! It’s a favorite destinations of practically everyone in the family.

  6. This is fantastic! I would love to take my children here in the near future. We just got back from seeing Fort Jackson in Savannah and it was fantastic (minus the heat!) Pinning for later use!

    • Stacey Reply

      Thanks for pinning! I’ll have to check out Fort Jackson the next time we go to Savannah.

  7. What an interesting stop! We always had to visit forts when I was a kid and I was never a fan, but now as an adult I love checking them out!

  8. I didn’t know about this the last time we visited. I will have to check it out the next time we go. We are big on history.

  9. The civil war is a fascinating part of history so that must have been really cool seeing the place where the first shot was fired. Sounds like a great tour for your family and a great day out.

  10. I have never fully visited SC, only Myrtle Beach. Good to know what to do and see while in Charleston. So much great history in the South. Great pics!

  11. Taci- Life Beyond Zebra Reply

    Looks like a great trip! I need to get out east more for sure

  12. I was planning on visiting Charleston soon and am glad I read about this. Definitely something to consider for the itinerary!

  13. Wish we could have done the stop at Fort Sumter. Hopefully next time. We did just the boat tour. Such a special experience for the flag raising.

  14. We have never been but looks like we should. We will be in NC in a week, I wonder how far it would be to take a day trip. It may be worth looking into.

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