When we travel to a new area we always make sure we find the places with historical significance and go exploring. On our recent weekend trip over to Charleston, South Carolina, we knew that one of the top places to visit was Fort Sumter, the place where the Civil War began. But we didn’t realize that Fort Sumter National Monument had so much connection to other events in American history. Plus, Fort Sumter is only available via boat – so this National monument gets you out on the water as well!
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Fort Sumter National Monument Tours
Most people who have studied any American history in elementary school will recognize Fort Sumter as the place where the Civil War began but few people realize that this Fort also played a role in other pieces of American history.
The History Channel states that after the Civil War, Fort Sumter was restored by the U.S. military and manned during the Spanish-American War (1898), World War I (1914-18) and World War II (1939-45).
Fort Sumter is an island accessible only by boat. So even though admission to the historic site is free, there is a charge to take the tour on the boat. You can board the boat from Patriots Point where you also can tour the USS Yorktown, Clamagore, USS Laffey and the rest of the museum exhibits or you can board the boat from downtown Charleston.
When you purchase your tickets online, you can choose which place you want to board the boat from. I recommend you board from Patriots Point if you are touring the USS Yorktown. That way you only have to pay for parking one time.
Fort Sumter is approximately 4 miles out in the Charleston Harbor so the boat ride takes about 35 minutes out to Fort Sumter. Once you arrive at Fort Sumter, you have the opportunity to tour the fort for about an hour before re-boarding to come back to Charleston. You have the opportunity to sit inside the enclosed boat where there are restrooms and a snack bar or you can sit on the top level of the boat and enjoy the wind and scenery.
Remember that the temperature on the boat and out at Fort Sumter will be approximately 10 degrees cooler than in Charleston. So you might want to pack a light jacket.
There are restrooms on the boat as well as on the island.
On your ride out to Fort Sumter, you will go around the USS Yorktown and get a sense for how large the aircraft carrier is. You also get a beautiful view of the Ravenel Bridge and the Charleston Harbor as you ride out to Fort Sumter.
Touring Fort Sumter
When you arrive at Fort Sumter, you will cross over to the island on a bridge and then have the opportunity to tour the Fort.
There will be a brief park ranger led introduction to the history of the fort and then you are given the opportunity to explore on your own. But remember that most of the Fort is original, so no climbing on the walls, cannons and definitely don’t collect any souvenirs from the fort.
There is a museum inside the Fort where you can learn more about the history and view the flag that was flying when the Fort was first attacked.
Find Fort Sumter Tours
Liberty Square’s Fort Sumter Visitors Center, 340 Concord St. Charleston, SC 29401
*Departure Location of choice if you are also touring Patriots Point
Patriots Point, 40 Patriots Point Road, Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464.
Have you ever toured Fort Sumter? What is your favorite National Monument to visit?
If you are in Charleston, make sure you check out Palmetto Carriage Works and take a carriage ride through the historic streets of downtown Charleston!