For more than three centuries, Charleston, South Carolina, has been a city rich in culture, beloved for its lore and steeped in old-style Southern charm. Its storied past attracts myriad visitors: history buffs (Fort Sumter is a short ferry ride away), serious gourmands (the culinary scene is rooted in tradition with ever-evolving twists), and architecture aficionados (it is a treasure trove of colonial-era and antebellum homes).
Now there is a more contemporary reason to visit Charleston. The city has new pickleball courts in an array of neighborhoods and a network of players eager to welcome newcomers. From rallying on the Isle of Palms to hitting under a high-rise, the pickleball possibilities are numerous and growing.
For a past-meets-present experience, this guide leads you to the latest places to play, stay, dine, drink, and dink, while also exploring the history behind what was at one point the wealthiest city in colonial America.
WHERE TO PLAY
The Wild Dunes Resort tennis center has four new pickleball courts where you can take a match-play clinic with instructor Mary Gastley, a former high school tennis coach, who launched the resort’s program in May 2021 and has taught more than 150 players since then. “It’s a sport for anyone, regardless of age or skill level. No experience is needed to begin to learn and enjoy it.”
Wild Dunes offers clinics Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 11:30 a.m. for the advanced-beginner/intermediate level, and from 12:30 p.m. for intermediate/advanced. Both cost $29 per person.
Rental court fees are $15 per person for 90 minutes of play (843-886-2113).
The LTP at the Daniel Island Tennis Center, about 14 miles from downtown Charleston, has four dedicated pickleball courts. Be sure to check out the pro shop, which sells paddles and other gear. Two-hour open-play sessions take place Sundays at 2:30 p.m., Mondays at 6 p.m., and Saturdays at 9 a.m. Non-members of the club pay a $5 fee and can pre-register online (www.ltptennis.com) or by calling the pro shop (843-849-5300).
The Collins Park facility, located in North Charleston, has 10 dedicated pickleball courts. Open to the public at no charge from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily for drop-in play.
At the General William Moultrie Playground, located near Colonial Lake in downtown Charleston, you’ll find two courts open to the public at no charge and a bleacher conveniently set up for waiting players. Play is restricted to an hour when it’s busy.
WHERE TO STAY
Wild Dunes Resort, set among sand dunes on the Isle of Palms, offers the beach and beauty of the South Carolina coastline while still being close to the action of the city, which is just a scenic half-hour drive away. Here you can relax, swim, and take in the stunning views between pickleball volleys. There are three hotels (the Boardwalk Inn, Sweetgrass Inn, and Residences at Sweetgrass), plus vacation homes and condos for rent. (Hotel rooms start at $350 per night; two-bedroom condos range from $400 to $600, depending on the season.)
To mix culture with court time, stay at The Mills House Wyndham Grand Hotel (it’s bright pink!). Opulent architecture, original iron work, and a location in the historic district near the city’s many galleries, shops, and restaurants make this an extremely appealing home base. The 24-hour fitness center, outdoor pool, and courtyard café are added bonuses. (Rooms start at $250 per night.)
Picture this: historic antebellum mansions along tree-lined streets, lush gardens and architectural details like turrets and arches, sweeping porches. It’s the quintessential Charleston scene, and it’s what you get when you stay at Two Meeting Street Inn, a nine-room bed-and-breakfast in the historic South of Broad neighborhood. Enjoy a delicious pregame breakfast communal-style in the high-end dining room, then let the calm atmosphere rest your body and mind after a match. (Rooms start at $270 per night.)
WHERE TO EAT
Charleston has a thriving culinary scene, emphasizing local cuisine from oysters and okra to crabs and grits. Given the city’s popularity among food lovers, it’s smart to plan ahead with reservations. Luckily, some of the top restaurants have walk-in policies, giving you a great reason to stroll the beautiful streets while you wait for the call that your table is ready. One to try: 167 Raw Oyster Bar, with a menu of oysters, lobster rolls, and a swordfish pastrami sandwich. (Dinner for two with drinks costs roughly $250.)
The Longboard, just minutes from the beach on Sullivan’s Island, has a covered patio and hopping bar inside. Try the Sullivan’s 1040 cocktail, lavender-infused gin mixed with prosecco, Italicus, lemon, and mint, while nibbling on a plate of grilled oysters. (Dinner for two with drinks costs roughly $100.)
For Sunday brunch with real Southern ambience, check out Slightly North of Broad, aka S.N.O.B. Dine on fried chicken with waffles while listening to live jazz. (Brunch for two with drinks and dessert—a shared caramel-crusted crème brûlée—costs roughly $120.)
Come happy hour, hit the Rooftop Bar at the Vendue, billed as “Charleston’s art hotel.” Sit outdoors and take in the bustling scene, as well as a view of the city, while enjoying a Strawberry Basil Lemonade (infused with vodka) and a mezze plate. (Drinks for two with food is roughly $50.)
Coming later this year, Pickle Bar, will feature food, drink, music, clinics and tournaments on their nine dedicated pickleball courts.
OFF THE COURTS
Charleston played a significant role in the Civil War and fight for independence from the British. Get a history lesson on both with a visit to the two forts at the entrance of Charleston Harbor: Fort Sumter, where the Confederacy started the battle on April 12, 1861 with the first gunfire; and Fort Moultrie, where the patriots defeated the Royal Navy in 1776. Fort Sumter is accessible only by ferry. fortsumtertours.com.
The Daniel Island Ferry runs roundtrip excursions between downtown Charleston’s Waterfront Park and Daniel Island, which boasts parks, trails, beautiful neighborhoods, and a quaint downtown. It is also one of the best ways to experience a stunning sunset. Before taking the return ride to Charleston, you might want to squeeze in a refreshing mocktail of spiced apple punch (apple and pear juice, and chai; you can add spiced rum if you want a cocktail) at the rooftop bar of the Kingstide restaurant, mere steps from where the ferry docks. Set sail Thursday through Saturday evenings. ($20 for adults; $12 for children; those under three years old ride free; diferry.com.)
On Sunday mornings, a calm falls over the city as much of the town is either attending religious services (the city has more than 400 houses of worship) or sleeping off Saturday night’s revelry. Take a leisurely horse-drawn carriage tour of the city’s architectural and historical treasures. Several companies offer these jaunts, including Palmetto Carriage Works. Most one-hour tours start at $45 per person.
Then, after relaxing to the sound of hooves on cobblestone streets, get back on those courts and reenergize.