Contributed by Jenna Donleavy, traveler and pet parent of three rescue dogs: Knox, Bear & Harper
Recently, my mom, sister and I decided to take a girls’ trip to see the wildly popular cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages and stunning pastel antebellum homes of Charleston, SC. And since I’d never even think about hitting the road without a pup, Bear came along to test out the pet-friendly things to do in Charleston! It’s safe to say we were not disappointed.
First thing’s first: finding a pet-friendly hotel in Charleston that would suit my dog-loving family’s needs. We stayed at the Belmond Charleston Place, which is right in the heart of Charleston. This pet-friendly hotel is conveniently located in downtown, making it a walkable distance from sought-after restaurants and all the activities we had planned. The hotel itself is super—and I mean super!—upscale with extensive facilities (for humans) including a bar and lounge, day spa, health club, indoor/outdoor heated swimming pool with a rooftop bar, two restaurants and 24-hour room service. Our room comfortably housed three adults, plus the dog.
It’s also important to note that Belmond Charleston Place accepts two dogs of any size for an additional fee of $150 per dog, per stay. Although it is a high cost that only covers cleaning and no extra amenities, the staff was extremely welcoming and affectionate towards Bear as well as the handful of other dogs we saw around the property. During our four-night stay, Bear enjoyed himself. My only complaint was the lack of grass or potty areas around the hotel. This slight inconvenience made walking him at night a touch more complicated.
A few other pet-friendly hotels in Charleston are John Rutledge House, Wentworth Mansion, and for a more inexpensive option, Best Western Charleston Inn.
Pet-Friendly Things to Do in Charleston
During our Charleston visit, I wanted to make sure to incorporate Bear in as many activities as we could without missing out on some of our must-sees. Fortunately, Charleston is extremely dog-welcoming, and we were able to do a handful of activities, as well as eat at some highly recommended restaurants with Bear at our side. Here are some of our favorite pet-friendly things to do in Charleston:
Take a Walk in the Park
If you’re up for walking the city and also want to enjoy the beautiful Charleston Harbor view, head to Riley Waterfront Park. Bear and I made this easy 15-minute walk from our hotel to the park, where we watched the ships passing and even got a glimpse of Fort Sumter. We saw children and their families splashing in the wading fountains, and dogs and their owners enjoying the grassy areas. While you’re walking through this park, don’t miss the famous Pineapple Fountain and the exquisite view of the waterfront mansions that dot the perimeter.
Explore Beautiful Historic Gardens
Just outside of the city, located on the Ashley River, is the historic Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. The property is dog-friendly, but with some slight caveats. Pups that can be carried are allowed inside the plantation house itself, as well as on the tram tours. Bigger dogs are limited to the walking tours and exploring the gardens, which is exactly what we did. If you have a big pup and are going to Magnolia’s strictly to see and soak up the history of the plantation house, I’d suggest leaving your four-legged bestie at home. Bear, who’s 70 pounds, walked around the nature trails as well as different sections of the gardens (some more than 325 years old) and sniffed out various varieties of flowers. We were only able to view the plantation house from the outside, but the rural setting was still gorgeous.
Check Out the Local Farmers Market
Before arriving, I read a lot on pet-friendly things to do in Charleston, and the dog-friendly Charleston Farmers Market made it to the top of my list. The Farmers Market is open on Saturdays throughout the year and on Sundays only in December. While time permitted us from making it here, the market came highly recommended by the dog-loving community. From what I have heard and read, the market is held in Marion Square, hosting aisles upon aisles of local vendors’ fresh veggies, artisanal cheeses and crafts. There is even live music, and dogs are welcome on-leash.
Take a Day-Trip to the Beach
Another day trip outside of the city with your BFF that I highly recommend is going to the beach at Sullivan’s Island. We drove out of Charleston one sunny afternoon and followed the road to Sullivan’s beach, where we parked on the side of the street close to the beach access—for free. Be sure to check the parking signs, as many say “No parking allowed” and “Keep tires off pavement.” There are significant signs at each beach access with dog rules and hours of when they are allowed; be sure to read them thoroughly, as they vary from season to season. We kept Bear on-leash, as off-leash hours are from 5- 10 a.m. One thing to note if you’re spending the day or longer here—dogs must have a town-issued dog permit that costs $35 per dog and lasts for the whole year.
A Few Favorite Pet-Friendly Restaurants
After a long day of exploring pet-friendly things to do in Charleston, it’s important to find shade and comfort for both you and your pooch. Our two favorite restaurants that proved to be dog-friendly and delicious were:
This is one of Charleston’s oldest independent culinary establishments. The restored Victorian house, which sits on charming Queens Street, is named after a pooch, of course. In 1888, the original owners sold their home and moved away. But a Southern dog named Poogan quickly laid claim to the porch. He was a neighborhood fixture who roamed from porch to porch, so when the house was converted to a restaurant, Poogan installed himself as the official greeter. The owners decided it was only right to name the restaurant after him, and his legacy lives on. We could immediately tell this establishment was dog-friendly. As soon as we sat down, they brought Bear a water bowl and tons of belly rubs. There was plenty of shade for him to relax in while we enjoyed their famous warm, homemade buttermilk biscuits and fried chicken. Seriously, they were to die for.
Leon’s Oyster Shop
Located a bit outside of the city, this dog-friendly restaurant is housed in an old body shop and serves delectable and comfortable soul food. We sat on their outside patio with Bear, which had the perfect balance of sunshine and shade for him. We were immediately greeted by our extremely friendly waitress, who brought him a water bowl with ice—his favorite! While we enjoyed their celebrated hush puppies and more fried chicken, our waitress brought Bear out a cup of soft-serve vanilla ice cream that he thoroughly enjoyed. Two paws up for Leon’s!
Our trip to the oldest and recently voted #1 small city in America was a success, and I definitely deem the area Bear-approved!