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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.
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.
Soon, we arrived at the 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.
The exhibits explain the events leading up to South Carolina’s succession and the Civil War.
These exhibits helped us to explain to Kristin what we were about to see and why the fort was important.
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.
The 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.
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.
The cruise is enjoyable and informative. Soon we docked at the fort!
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
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.
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.
The fort is fascinating.
I love that we can bring Kristin to historical sites so she can have these hands-on experiences.
You can explore freely, and park rangers are around to answer questions and discuss aspects of the fort.
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.
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.
After the ceremony, it was time to head back to the ferry. You can see the Ravenel Bridge in the background.
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!