We had planed to take the first ferry on Friday morning to Fort Sumter. It is only accessible by ferry and the ferry leaves from either Charleston or Mt. Pleasant. We chose Charleston as we planned to head to the historic area after our visit.
Getting there was a challenge! We had a brochure but there were no addresses for the ferry locations to put into the GPS. We were kind of headed in the correct direction with Husband saw a highway sign to exit for Fort Sumter. Then we followed the signs like tourists to the Fort Sumter Visitor center area. Like all the tourists we pulled into the drive to find out you cannot park there! Now its 9:20, we are not parked and we do not have tickets. I did not buy them online before in case of rain. (If it rained Friday we would go Saturday instead.)
You need to park in the ramp on the left side of the street as you head to the Fort Sumter Visitor Center. The same ramp as the Aquarium which is next door to the visitors center if you want to visit both attractions. Its 9:25 when I am hustling up the steps to the ticket window on the left side of the building entry. I think we boarded the ferry at 9:28 and it was very full.
We found two chairs together toward the back of the deck. (The chairs are arranged three wide on the side rows which left many single open seats.) Since we arrived late we missed the talk that was taking place describing what we will see on the way to the fort. Do yourself a favor and plan to park at 9am. Then you have time to walk to the tickets, maybe look at the visitors center and be seated on the boat by 9:15.
Tickets are $18 for adults, $16 for seniors, $11 for children 3-11, and under 3 is free. You can book tickets up to 45 days in advance here: https://webrez.spiritlinecruises.com/scripts/webret.dll?greet=FSOPEN!group=b
The boat ride was nice, once it was underway we went down to the lower deck and watched the dolphins. A narration tells you what you are passing the harbor and about the local area. It was VERY windy on the boat, it was hard for Husband to keep his hat on. Just something to keep in mind. The ride was not rough or choppy but there was a constant Charleston wind!
Approaching Fort Sumter
You are given an hour at the Fort. We listened to a National Park employee speak for fifteen minutes about the Fort and its past. She was very informative and interesting. And we visited the museum that is also inside.
There are still several shells embedded in the walls.
Here is the ferry boat you take, very cute!
Here is the ferry schedule:
We took the first boat, when we arrived back in Charleston at 11:30 the dock area was packed with people for the noon departure. It was crazy and we both said we were glad we took the first boat out!
Once you exit the parking ramp you are about a mile from the historic Charleston area. We parked in a ramp near the market and stayed there for the rest of the day. Others were staying parked in this aquarium/ Sumter visitor center ramp and taking the free Charleston bus to the historic area. For me I wanted the convenience of having the car right there when we were done for the day and not taking the trolley back. I figured you are paying either way to be in a parking ramp.
We had fun at the Fort and would definitely take our Daughter there if we visit again. She was learning in-depth civil war at the same time as our visit, she was disappointed she missed it.
Here is more information on Fort Sumter: http://www.nps.gov/fosu/planyourvisit/fosudirections.htm