Planning on visiting Fort Sumter Charleston? Here you will find a first-hand experience of touring the grounds! Enjoy a visit during a weekend in Charleston, or maybe you want to explore the city for longer and plan for a whole week.
Fort Sumter is located in Charleston, South Carolina, and is best known as a significant structure of American history. It was the first battle of the Civil War and this sea fort has witnessed events that shaped America’s story.
Come along as I take you through what to expect when you are planning a visit to Fort Sumter!
History of Fort Sumter
The first thing to know before you go is the history! This post is divided into different headings, so if the history doesn’t interest you, you can skip ahead! To me, this is the best part about visiting.
The historical significance of Fort Sumter has become a name that will always remain in American history. This fort is located on a man-made island near Charleston Harbor in South Carolina. Exploring here is one of the best places to visit Charleston.
The construction of Fort Sumter started back in 1829, a time when the United States started investing heavily in fortifications after the War of 1812.
The fort was named after Thomas Sumter, a Revolutionary War hero and one of South Carolina’s famous sons. It was an engineering advancement of its time. It was built from thousands of tons of granite and bricks. With its five-sided layout and an interior large enough to house 650 defenders and 135 guns, it became a symbol of American military strength.
However, Fort Sumter is most famously known as the start of the American Civil War. On December 20, 1860, South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union.
Five days later the federal troops stationed in Charleston moved into Fort Sumter. Which effectively turned it into a Union stronghold in Confederate territory and started the battle of Fort Sumter.
The tensions came to a head on April 12, 1861, when the Confederacy fired on the US garrison of Fort Sumter. These first shots marked the official beginning of the American Civil War. Which lasted four years and cost the lives of more than 620,000 Americans.
Planning Your Visit to Fort Sumter
When to Visit Fort Sumter in Charleston: The ideal time to explore Fort Sumter is from March to May or from September to November. This is when the weather is perfect to spend the day in the sun.
Duration of the Visit: A typical visit to Fort Sumter, including the ferry ride to and from the island, takes about 2-3 hours. The boat ride through the stunning Charleston Harbor is one of the things to do in Charleston!
Accessibility at Fort Sumter: Fort Sumter has accessibility for all visitors. There is a lift at the fort for those with mobility issues. However, it is still recommended to tell Fort Sumter Tours on the day of your visit for any specific accessibility needs.
Thinking is Fort Sumter worth a visit? The answer is always yes! The best times are during the spring and Fall in South Carolina!
Reservations and Tickets For Fort Sumter
Do you need a reservation for Fort Sumter? While it’s not mandatory to make a reservation for visiting Fort Sumter, it is highly advised. Buying your ferry tickets online in advance on the day of your visit will help ensure your place. Keep in mind that tour times vary depending on the season you are visiting.
Getting inside of Fort Sumter itself is free. But getting the ferry ride does have a small cost. Tickets for the ferry can be bought both at the departure locations as well as online.
But, due to the popularity of the Fort and the limited space of the ferry. It’s highly recommended to book your tickets in advance to ensure you get reservations for Fort Sumter on the right date.
In addition to the regular tours, you can also choose to add on extras like a sunset dinner cruise around Charleston Harbor.
Once you reach the fort, you’re free to explore the national monument and its museum at your own pace. If you plan to visit the nearby Fort Moultrie, keep in mind that there is a separate fee.
Tour Of Fort Sumter vs. Guided Tour
When planning your visit, one of the top questions is, can you go to Fort Sumter without a tour? And the answer is yes! You will have the choice between a Fort Sumter guided tour vs self-tour.
I have done both types of tours, and the best choice for you will depend on your personal preferences, how much time you have, and your interests.
A self-guided tour of Fort Sumter allows you to explore the fort at your own pace. You will receive a brochure when you arrive with a map of the site and information about the points of interest. This type of tour is great if you prefer a slower pace, want to stop for photos and enjoy the history without being rushed.
You can also learn more about the fort by visiting its museum, which has numerous exhibits about the Civil War and the fort’s history. There is plenty to learn and read while exploring Fort Sumter without a tour.
On the other hand, booking tickets for Fort Sumter guided tour offers a more insider experience. You will be led by a knowledgeable guide, these tours provide very detailed information about Fort Sumter and its role in the Civil War.
The guides often share fascinating stories and lesser-known facts that will not be on the signs.
Also, guided tours typically follow a set route and schedule, which will help you see all the key points. However, they may not offer as much freedom to explore independently.
Practical Tips For Touring Fort Sumter
When planning your visit there are several things to do at Fort Sumter to make the most of your trip.
The only way to get to Fort Sumter is by boat. Ferries are operated by Fort Sumter Tours and actually depart from two locations. They are the Liberty Square in Charleston and Patriots Point in Mount Pleasant. It’s a good idea to secure your ferry tickets in advance as they do sell out fast.
Your trip to Fort Sumter could be paired with other nearby attractions for a full day of exploration. For instance, Patriots Point, one of the ferry departure points, is also home to the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum. Here you can tour the USS Yorktown and other historic naval ships.
There are also plenty of beaches in Charleston nearby to explore!
Unfortunately, there are no food services at Fort Sumter. But you are allowed to bring small coolers with snacks and drinks! There are water fountains available for refilling your reusable water bottles. You have to pack out all of your trash because there are no trash cans on the island.
You could always fill up at one of the best restaurants in Charleston before you head out on your tour of Fort Sumter.
Fort Sumter offers so many great opportunities for amazing photography. If you have a wide-angle lens it would be the best lens to bring. It will help capture the entire fort and its surroundings! The lighting conditions are typically best in the early morning or late afternoon.
You will want to avoid the harsh mid-day sun if you can! If you head to the fort early in the morning you could always enjoy a good brunch in Charleston afterward!
Time Spent at Fort Sumter
When visiting Fort Sumter Charleston you may be wondering, how long should you spend at Fort Sumter? You will want to plan to carve out about 3 hours. This includes the ferry ride to and from the island. This gives you enough time for the 30-minute ferry ride each way and at least one hour on the island to explore.
Additional Tips for Visting Visiting Fort Sumter Charleston
- Wear comfortable shoes! You will be doing a lot of walking around the fort.
- Bring sun protection. This can be a hat, sunglasses, or sunscreen. This tip is crucial, especially during the summer months.
- If you’re visiting with your children, consider picking up a Junior Ranger Packet at the Fort Sumter Visitor Education Center. It’s a great way for kids to learn about the site.
- Respect the site as a national monument by leaving no trace when you leave.