Strolling Through Waterfront Park in Charleston, South Carolina

Written by
Jason Barnette
Posted on
September 1, 2017
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Written by
Jason Barnette
Posted on
September 1st, 2017
Share story

Charleston, South Carolina. The heart of the Low Country. Amazing cuisine from renown chefs. Steeped in early American history. Unique and amazing arts and crafts around every corner of a cobblestone street. There is so much to do in Charleston but there is one thing I do every time I visit: take a stroll through Waterfront Park. If you’ve been before you’ll agree it’s spectacular, and if you’ve never been you will want to add this to your itinerary during your next visit.

Still a block away I could already hear the familiar gushing water of the fountain at the park entrance on Vendue Range. One of two water fountains in the park, this one has become infamous as a splash pad for children (and sometimes adults) during the hot and humid summer months. It’s a frequent photographic subject and not the least bit shy with water flowing from powerful jets in graceful arcs twenty-fours a day throughout the year.

TOP: I always got a bit of a kick out of this sign near the water fountain. BOTTOM: This water fountain is a frequent backdrop for portraits and selfies when it’s not overrun with kids splashing around the middle.

Beyond the thunderous water fountain the park features a long pier stretched out across Charleston Harbor. Several covered shelters with porch swings offer the perfect place to kick back on a lazy afternoon and watch the boats move along the water. The end of the pier is just a few feet above the average water level and gives visitors a perfect place to watch dolphins break the water’s surface and pelicans swoop by just inches above. The USS Yorktown aircraft carrier at Patriots Point stands out against the smaller sailboats across the harbor and from time to time you just might catch sight of a Carnival cruise ship docked nearby.

If you happen to be one of those morning people you won’t find a more peaceful and beautiful place to watch the sunrise then the pier at the park. Throughout the year the sun will rise directly across the harbor or swing further south to rise over Fort Sumter. The Civil War-era fort infamously known as the beginning of the War Between the States can be seen far in the distance but look closer and you’ll another fort, a bit more rundown and overgrown. This is Castle Pinckney and it has an interesting history and may be preserved some day soon.

TOP: Benches, tables, and swings offer plenty of ways to relax on the pier in the park. Often times you’ll find young boys here selling beautiful sweetgrass roses for about a dollar a piece. BOTTOM: An early September sunrise across the concrete pier made for a beautiful and peaceful beginning to a day exploring Charleston.

This wouldn’t be a park without a big grassy field to spread out a blanket and spend a day reading a book, and that is exactly what the locals love to do. During the school year students from nearby College of Charleston will frequently take the bus down to this park and spend an afternoon studying for the next critical exam. The grass is kept trimmed so it’s always comfy to sprawl out and take in some sun, especially on those sunny fall and winter days.

Just behind the field is an avenue of oaks creating a canopy of shade over one of the most comfortable outdoor spaces in the city. Groups of four benches create social squares beneath the shade of these massive trees and provide the perfect place to read a book, listen to some music, or even take a nap. It’s also a nice thoroughfare between the two fountains of the park.

Beneath the comfortable shade of the trees, surrounded by the thick trunks, sounds are deadened and an atmosphere of peace and tranquility wraps around you. It’s the perfect place for a break from a day of shopping, exploring, and eating your way through Charleston.

The centerpiece of the park is also near the center of the park: the infamous Pineapple Fountain. This fountain is one of the most iconic features of Charleston and most exciting places to visit. The water cascades down the massive fountain into a shallow pool at the bottom, giving kids another place to get their feet wet. The concrete planter walls serve double duty as benches and offer a pleasant place to sit back for awhile and admire the beautiful design and intricate details of this water fountain.

It’s one of the most often used backdrops for portrait photography in the city. In the early morning and late evening sunlight photographers will swarm the fountain with their clients capturing prom, wedding, engagement, and family portraits. It’s not entirely unpleasant and the photographers are usually generous and cooperative, but if you want to enjoy the fountain more peacefully pay it a visit after sunset when the lights flicker to life and show a completely different side of the artistic beauty.

TOP: The Pineapple Fountain by day with a view of the pier in the background. BOTTOM: The fountain at night with the harbor behind.

This half of the park is certainly the most popular but it continues further south to Exchange Street. The further away from the pier you get the more peaceful and quiet you will find the park on busy summer days and warm winter weekends. Locals love to walk their dogs here from end to end and there is always a good chance of spotting a college student jogging through the park, but tourists tend to stick to the northern half. So whenever you decide to visit for yourself you can decide where you want to start, how much you want to explore, and how long you’ll want to stay.

If you would like to view more of my travel photography from Charleston please visit my website at

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