A splurge-worthy extravagance, a unique experience, or perhaps something exceptionally comforting? Curious to know the Charleston-centric response, we queried our Facebook and Instagram fans for their favorite local indulgences—large or small, expensive or priceless—and these are the results. Look for their quotes throughout this roundup of things (listed in no particular order) that make living here all the richer


The 4,000-square-foot “Eye of the Storm” house on Sullivan’s Island | Photograph courtesy of the Pareto Group
A Hurricane-Proof House arrow_upward
closeA Hurricane-Proof House

What could be better than an oceanfront house? a hurricane-proof one, of course. For a cool $4.9 million, you can hunker down in “The Eye of the Storm”—colloquially known as the “Star Wars house”—on Sullivan’s Island. Built in 1992 after Hugo had ravaged our coast, this 650-ton concrete and steel dome structure purportedly can WITHSTAND cat four winds and has recently undergone an extensive interior renovation. Just think, about $25 grand per month could buy a lowcountry landmark with Unparalleled views—and peace of mind.

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Photograph by Melissa Sommer

While we can’t attest to the detoxifying or beautifying properties of this ubiquitous—and quite pungent—goo, we do know that the rich sediment is an essential element of a healthy saltwater marsh, providing food and shelter to a multitude of creatures, seen and unseen. And that includes razor-sharp oysters. If you’re set on taking a pluff bath, we suggest heading to a safer beachside zone, such as on the south side of Folly Beach County Park, to paint yourself in the stinky brown ick. Credit: Photograph by Melissa Sommer


Photograph by BernoPhoto
The sculptural presence of the Ravenel arrow_upward
closeThe sculptural presence of the Ravenel

It's hard to picture Charleston Harbor without the lofty sails of the Ravenel Bridge. And it’s even harder to believe that just 13 years ago, the drive over the Cooper to the peninsula included a white-knuckled roller coaster of a ride across the narrow, two-laned Grace Bridge.

When the state transportation powers decided to finally replace the circa-1929 rattletrap—and her midcentury utilitarian twin, the Silas N. Pearman—“they could have erected an ugly government-designed bridge with no pedestrian or bike lanes,” Walter Seinsheimer reminded us. Instead, they delivered a $632-million work of art. The third longest cable-stayed bridge in the Western Hemisphere—complete with an eight-lane expanse, a 12-foot-wide pedestrian and bike path, and two diamond-shaped towers that rise nearly 580 feet above the water line (that’s about the height of a 57-story building)—has become an iconic Charleston landmark that can be glimpsed from Isle of Palms to Folly Beach.
Credit: Photograph by BernoPhoto


Peninsula Grill’s Ultimate Coconut Cake, 12 layers covered in whipped cream cheese frosting and freshly toasted coconut | Photograph courtesy of Peninsula Grill
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Locals know where to seek out the sweet stuff. From the simple pleasure of sampling nutty pralines along King Street to indulging in Peninsula Grill’s magnificent Ultimate Coconut Cake—a dessert featuring 12 frosted layers and a thick coating of toasted, shredded coconut—there are endless ways to get your sugar fix. Some recommendations: Instagram follower @rlphilbr13 suggests S.N.O.B.’s coffee and coconut cream cake, @emilylcnc17 adores the fresh raspberry macaron from Macaroon Boutique on John Street, Renae Brabham gives a thumbs-up to Christophe Artisan Chocolatier, and Isabel Picus loves the Bourbon-glazed doughnuts from Sweet Lulu’s Bakery on Archdale Street. Food-and-bev pros weighed in, too: Swig & Swine owner Anthony DiBernardo likes Kaminsky’s, a Market Street standard that serves up baked treats and boozy milkshakes; while Lowcountry Local First’s Jordan Amaker goes for gelato at Beardcat’s on Sullivan’s Island.


Photograph courtesy of Charleston Music Hall
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Remember when this John Street institution sat dark most nights, hosting only a few random shows throughout the year, plus the Charleston Christmas Special in December? Folks weren’t queuing up every day, running into old friends and bonding over a shared interest in comedy (The Second City’s coming up September 27) or tunes (see the Squirrel Nut Zippers September 29). It wasn’t until 2012 that the energetic Charles Carmody took the reins and began to bring national touring acts to town as well as encouraging local creatives—like the talents behind the Women & series, who present Women & The Beatles on September 6—to take to the stage against the starry-night backdrop. So when Mary Austin cheered, “Best venue ever and amazing music,” we couldn’t have agreed more!

VIDEO: Watch a performance

National Geographic filmed Gullah storyteller Theresa Jenkins Hilliard on Edisto Island | Still from National Geographic YouTube video

Listen to our city’s unique soundscape: there’s the symphony of Sunday morning church bells, the subtle low-tide chorus of oyster shells clicking in the marsh, the rumble of tires on cobblestone, and certainly the rhythmic poetry of Gullah echoing on downtown streets and through the countryside.

The native tongue of Sea Islanders and descendants of enslaved West Africans, Gullah is a delicious, often mysterious, authentic auditory signature of this Place. Its singsong pace and cryptic intonation speaks to a rich heritage and living history; it is the sound of Charleston.


Photographs by Jackie Levesque

“Spectacular cloud shows created by the Lowcountry climate and big, open, 360-degree views”—Jackie Levesque


Photograph by Mac Kilduff
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Nancy Griffith remembers the first time she threw a cast net and caught shrimp: “It felt like I was in the ‘I made fire!’ scene in the movie Castaway,” she says. The salty magic of shrimping, of tossing out a wish and hauling in a catch, whether from a johnboat or knee-deep in pluff mud on a tidal creek, is a treat like no other, “a landlubber luxury for free in our backyards,” affirms Karen Mae Black. Shrimping is a Lowcountry rite of passage, and one true measure of our “net” worth. Once you’ve caught some, we suggest preparing Jimmy Hagood’s simply perfect recipe that highlights their fresh-from-the-creek flavor.

Rockville Boiled Shirmp Recipe

Click here for more shimp recipes


Photograph by Nicholas Skylar Holzworth

“Boating to a deserted island for the day. Pure escapist luxury…” —Jessica Schmidlapp


Photograph by Nicholas Skylar Holzworth
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On a clear night at the liminal hour, our low-slung horizon becomes the wide-screen for a magnificent show that requires no Netflix membership. Numerous readers wrote in that for them, the ultimate reward was being moonstruck. “Cocktails on a Rainbow Row or High Battery rooftop to watch the moon rise” does the trick for Rhett Ramsay Outten. For Madeleine McGee of Sullivan’s Island, true perfection is a two-fer: “being out in the harbor on one of those special nights when the sun sets and the full moon immediately rises.”


Photograph by Melinda Smith Monk
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Necklaced around homes and gardens, balustraded on balconies, embracing churchyards and public parks, Charleston’s wrought iron fences and gates stand sturdy and stately. And they make an ironclad statement that beauty matters.

With an elegance forged from fire and craftsmanship, an ornamental curve here, a graceful swirl and twist there, the city’s ironwork is more Charleston’s essence than embellishment. It is our monogram of style, a symbol of our time-honored imperative for artistry, for form over function. Here, not just any gate will do. A Sword Gate, pretty please. A Philip Simmon’s snake gate, perhaps. A filigreed flourish that will stand the test of time.


The seafood docks on Shem Creek | Photograph by Kate Thornton
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Briny oysters; sweet creek shrimp; feisty and meaty blue crabs, right off the dock. Lowcountry waterways offer up an opulent seafood buffet, endless waves of the freshest, tastiest fish and shellfish, ours for the eating. Treat yourself to a membership in the region’s only CSF, Abundant Seafood’s community supported fishery, for regular doses of sustainably harvested fish—the same catch that our top chefs buy. And for the ultimate in waterfront dining, Becky Marion Blakeney suggests, “Pick up fried shrimp takeout from Shem Creek Bar and Grill and enjoy while drifting in the harbor.”

Click here for seafood recipes


Photograph by Nicholas Skylar Holzworth

“No wonder a Lowcountry birth confers upon one more than an address: it’s an identity forged from this matrix of rivers, marshes, maritime forest, and urban antiquity. Early on, a native absorbs the rhythm of long, hot days and witnesses the fantastic fertility of the place, where wild cabbage palmettos, scrub oaks, yucca, bay laurels, wax myrtles, mosses, prehistoric alligators, herons, terrapins, and cormorants still flourish. Here, wildness is still honored; wilderness still possible. Bobcats, horned toads, red-tailed hawks, sea oats, sand dunes, and fiddler crabs are the distinguished faculty in this seductive, sensory curriculum….” —Barbara Hagerty, from “Odes to the Lowcountry,” January 2010


An intricate flower basket by Elijah Dumas of Mount Pleasant | Photo courtesy of the Sweetgrass Cultural Arts Festival Association
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closeA sweetgrass basket—no greater treasure

These works of art—painstakingly hand-crafted from native grasses, palmetto fronds, and longleaf pine needles—don’t come cheap, nor should they. The skills for “sewing” the vessels have been handed down from generation to generation of Gullah families for more than 300 years. And don’t forget that a single basket can take weeks to complete. Begin your own collection by visiting a sweetgrass basket-making hub (near the corner of Broad and Meeting streets, the City Market, stands alongside Highway 17, and Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park’s Sweetgrass Pavilion). Peruse the variety of styles among the artisans and spend the money: You’ll gain a one-of-a-kind treasure while investing in the continuance of an important heritage.


Photograph by Eva Gruendemann
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Some people mistakenly believe Spoleto and riotous azaleas are why Charleston feels so alive and festive come springtime. But locals, especially those guarding passed-down receipts (that’s Charlestonese for “recipes”), know otherwise. Spring is tearoom season, when the essence of Holy City hospitality is in full bloom, and from-scratch shrimp salad and okra soup are served up not by surly college students but by sweetly aproned church ladies. Truth be told, though, “lunch” and “tea” are misleading—any God-fearing diner worth his or her deviled eggs knows the real draw to the nearest fellowship hall is the decadent lineup of homemade desserts.


Photograph by Nicholas Skylar Holzworth

. “A 75-degree January day at the beach with no tourists”—Melinda Smith Monk


Photograph by Allston McCrady
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“From plucking out a drippy whopper to uncovering a tiny pink crab (the Lowcountry’s edible pearls), oysters make for far better small talk than past or future weather conditions. Even the severely antisocial can get along at an oyster roast. With head down and hands busy, the silent oyster shucker is assumed to be stoically reflecting on his work. There’s a place at the table for everyone.

Truthfully, I can’t imagine Charleston without oyster roasts. I’m not talking about the big roasts…. I mean the backyard parties on Sunday afternoons, when there’s no football left to watch and we can almost (but not really) complain about the temperature, but we’re still happy to be outside.” —Stratton Lawrence, from “Odes to the Lowcountry,” February 2014


Photograph by Nicholas Skylar Holzworth

“We’d let the rush of the changing tide pull us. I’d strap on flippers and jump in, swimming against the flow, and then turn around and let the water pull me back to the boat. It was such easy floating. And whenever I dunked under, I would hear so much life. Unlike freshwater lakes, where all you hear is your own splashes, the riverbed offered up a constant clicking (of crabs? oysters?) and bubbles rising. The creek water on my lips tasted salty and thick, like a tea of pluff mud and decaying marsh grass.” —Sandy Lang, from “Odes to the Lowcountry,” January 2010


“A downtown parking place” —David Halsey


Photograph by Jackie Levesque
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In fall, it’s the sweetgrass. Steer onto Lockwood Boulevard and bam, a million whispy purple plumes against a blue-water backdrop. Camellias steal the show in the New Year, making a weekend stroll through Hampton Park the best cure for winter blues. Azaleas kick off the spring color riot that blazes through White Point Garden, Colonial Lake, Cannon Park, and countless more public spaces. But Charleston’s walkability means our neighbors’ Loutrel Briggs- and Sheila Wertimer-designed gardens are also ours to enjoy (from a polite distance), and often it’s these that surprise with heady wafts of tea olive, Confederate jasmine, and magnolia in the milder months. “Passing through the floral scents of blossoming trees and bushes” is the greatest of luxuries, shared Jackie Levesque, and one absolutely free to all.

DINING OUT arrow_upward

Admit it, we are ridiculously spoiled when it comes to restaurants. But that indulgence comes at a price: choosing where to dine out in Charleston these days is not for the faint of heart, or appetite, nor is keeping up with the latest openings and James Beard nods (63 nominees and semifinalists from the Holy City in the last 20 years—and counting). Then nabbing a reservation can be a sport unto itself. Splurge-happy reader Sheldon Kramer opts for “lounging with a glass of something cool on the Zero George veranda, then dinner at FIG, followed by jazz at Charleston Grill.” Or keep it simple with “almond croissants from Baguette Magic and dinner at The Lot,” suggests Sarah Hamlin-Hastings, putting in a plug for oft-overlooked James Island. The true luxury: you pretty much can’t go wrong.

Click here for our Dining Guide

Click here for our Restaurant Reviews


Photograph by Justin Morris
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“Morning surf session on Folly Beach. Post surf beers at Woody’s and Chico Feo” —Tim McManus

This longtime local surfer knows how fortunate we are to live where many people vacation: “To be able to drive to the beach, early in the morning, and jump in the ocean is an incredible privilege,” he says, noting that mornings are best because typically the wind is calm, the water is glassy, the traffic is light, and the crowds are low. “To paddle out into the lineup and share waves with familiar faces makes you feel like part of a community. Surfers may be slightly irreverent, but they are also passionate and dedicated people who support each other and act as stewards of the environment. And after a few great waves, there’s nothing better than catching up at our favorite beach bars over a couple of cold beers.”


Photograph by Sarah Alsati
The Pitt Street Bridge arrow_upward
closeThe Pitt Street Bridge

Once a passageway linking Mount Pleasant to Sullivan’s Island, the Pitt Street Bridge no longer arcs fully over the water, but its charming wooden pier and beautiful grass-lined walkway are used plenty for fishing, biking, sunset-watching, and simply strolling. According to Renae Brabham, a perfect afternoon in the Lowcountry begins with an old-school ice cream cone from nearby Pitt Street Pharmacy and ends with a walk down to the bridge “to look at our beautiful harbor, sky, boats, marsh, birds, fishermen and -women, and all the dogs.” Its position across the Cooper helps alleviate Pitt Street from throngs of tourists, making it a meeting ground for neighbors and friends. Nicole Wallen takes her time getting there through the Old Village, catching up with pals on the way. “After stopping for a few chitchats, I let my seven-year-old wild child run ahead,” she says. “I love feeling the breeze on my face.”


Longitude Lane | Photograph by David AvRutick
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“It was then that I realized I could find my way in a city that harbors such hidden places. That it is here, along these little pathways in an old city of big things, that I discover glimpses into Charleston’s inner life, where tender details trump showy façades, where the heat and crowds give way, where her hushed grandeur lies.” —Stephanie Hunt, from “Odes to the Lowcountry,” January 2010

Click here for our walking map


Paul Cristina’s show at Beresford Studios | Photograph by Beresford studios
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closeLocal artists & gallery hopping

Charleston’s arts scene has undergone a quiet renaissance of late. Evidence is all around: just saunter down Broad Street on a First Friday and poke your head into a few open-doored galleries, or breeze through the recently expanded Redux Contemporary Art Center during an open studio night and chat up a budding painter over a PBR. But an encounter with Lowcountry creativity doesn’t always require a dress code, or even a gallery for that matter. Local poet and painter Joseph “P-Nut” Johnson hosts a weekly “Art Happy Hour” right on his Simons Street front lawn, selling volumes of original poetry and punchy paintings hung from his fence. As his Instagram declares, the invitation is for all: “Stop by for art, poetry, and neighborhood chats. Bring a beer and stay a while.”


Photograph courtesy of Nano Farms
LOCAL PRODUCE arrow_upward

The only thing possibly more delicious than homegrown vegetables is enjoying them without having to get your hands dirty. Thanks to a hearty crop of AREA farmers (many of whom are nurtured by Lowcountry Local First’s Growing New Farmers program), we have year-round access to freshly harvested, locally grown goodness. From collards and kale in the wintertime to berries and tender lettuces in the spring, to insanely juicy John’s Island tomatoes to save us come summer, the pickin’s are plentiful, as are the Farmers Markets, including the roving Lowcountry Street Grocery.

farmers markets and CSAs

“Keeping some of our secrets…”—Carol Meyerson Rice