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The Best Time to Visit Charleston, South Carolina

Wondering about the best time to visit Charleston? There are a few good times each year - and some bad ones. I break it all down here.

By Jason Barnette | Travel writer and photographer with 15+ years of road tripping experience

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my Affiliate Disclosure here.

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Colorful historic homes. History around every corner. World-class restaurants. Shoulder-to-shoulder pedestrians crowding the sidewalks. Sweltering humidity.

Charleston is consistently ranked as one of the top tourism destinations in the country – and often the world. And with a subtropical climate, it’s a year-round destination. More people visit the oldest South Carolina city every year.

So, when is the best time to visit?

The best time to visit Charleston entirely depends on what you want to do – even if you don’t have any idea what to do. There are several good times each year to visit Charleston and a few bad times.

Here’s a breakdown of the best time to visit Charleston for different activities.

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Deep blue skies and puffy white clouds linger over the towering brown steeple of St. Phillips Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
Charleston enjoys a subtropical climate that produces mild winters, blistering summers, and plenty of sunny days throughout the year.
Deep blue skies and puffy white clouds linger over the towering brown steeple of St. Phillips Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
Charleston enjoys a subtropical climate that produces mild winters, blistering summers, and plenty of sunny days throughout the year.

Weather in Charleston

When the first British settlers arrived in Charles Towne, they found the summer heat and humidity so overbearing they began traveling inland for a respite. Some only traveled as far as Summerville – hence the town’s name – while others eventually traveled as far as Pendleton in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.

Charleston’s peak tourism season from June through September have average highs in the 80s and lows in the 70s – it never really cools down. The winter’s hover between highs in the 50s and lows in the 40s with the occasional dip below freezing for a day or two at a time.

But the spring and autumn are sweet spots with highs reaching the 60s and upper 70s, but overnight lows in the 50s. There is nothing better than an evening stroll on King Street after sunset in April.

August is typically the wettest month of the year in Charleston with almost seven inches of rain. November through May are mild in comparison with each month averaging less than three inches of rain – May is typically the driest month of the year.

READ MORE: The Battery in Charleston, South Carolina Offers More Than Just Stunning Vistas

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Hurricane Season in Charleston

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room: hurricane season in Charleston. The Atlantic Hurricane Season runs from early June through late November. Late August through early September is typically the busiest time of year for hurricanes.

Since 1851, only four Category 3+ hurricanes made landfall on the South Carolina coast. However, 200 hundred tropical storms and hurricanes effected the Charleston area since records began.

Although autumn is a great time to visit Charleston for lower prices, comfortable weather, and smaller crowds, it’s also a gambit. It’s safe to plan a short weekend getaway. But if you’re planning a week-long vacation during hurricane season, be sure to keep an eye on the weather reports, buy travel insurance, and be prepared to change your plans at the last minute.

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A narrow brick alleyway between two brick buildings in downtown Charleston, South Carolina.
Lodge Alley is one of the narrow, picturesque alleyways in Charleston that are perfect to explore on comfortable days.
A narrow brick alleyway between two brick buildings in downtown Charleston, South Carolina.
Lodge Alley is one of the narrow, picturesque alleyways in Charleston that are perfect to explore on comfortable days.

March – May

Best Time to Visit Charleston for Good Weather

March through May is the best time to visit Charleston for good weather. Those three months are typically some of the driest months of the year in Charleston. Daytime temperatures begin to rise from the mid-60s into the upper-70s.

The good weather is one of the reasons why the Historic Charleston Foundation hosts the annual Festival of Houses and Gardens from mid-March through mid-April. The festival is an opportunity to tour the private gardens sometimes only seen through gates and step inside the homes attached to them.

The Charleston Wine + Food Festival is held through first weekend of March each year. The festival is held at various locations around the Charleston area in public parks and city streets. The outdoor celebration of craft food relies on good weather – and March is just about the best weather all year for Charleston.

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Strands of lights in a conical shape in the middle of Marion Square balance a nearby church's steeple in Charleston, South Carolina.
A towering conical Christmas tree lights up Marion Square from Thanksgiving until the New Year.
Strands of lights in a conical shape in the middle of Marion Square balance a nearby church's steeple in Charleston, South Carolina.
A towering conical Christmas tree lights up Marion Square from Thanksgiving until the New Year.

December – February

Best Time to Visit Charleston for Lower Prices

Winters are typically very mild in Charleston compared to Denver or Buffalo, but it does get cold. Daytime temperatures hover around the 50s with overnight lows in the 40s. But occasionally, a cold front will plunge the temperatures into the 20s or 30s for a few days.

December through February is the best time to visit Charleston for lower prices on lodging. Hotel rates are their lowest during this period except for Christmas and the New Year. The prices at restaurants, museums, and attractions remain the same throughout the year, though.

December is a great time to visit Charleston for the Christmas holiday season. After the New Year, January and February are typically the quietest months of the year in the Lowcountry.

National Park Week 2024

Learn about the annual celebration of the National Park System and read my travel guides to national park units across the country.

Colorful homes line an empty sidewalk, locally called Rainbow Row, in Charleston, South Carolina.
Weekend getaways after the prime tourism season is the best time to visit iconic sights like Rainbow Row in Charleston.
Colorful homes line an empty sidewalk, locally called Rainbow Row, in Charleston, South Carolina.
Weekend getaways after the prime tourism season is the best time to visit iconic sights like Rainbow Row in Charleston.

September – November

Best Time to Visit Charleston for a Weekend Getaway

Despite the unpredictability of the hurricane season, September through November is the best time to visit Charleston for a weekend getaway. In fact, it’s the perfect time for a short getaway because of the hurricane season. It’s much easier to cancel or reschedule a three-day vacation on the spur of the moment.

Three days are the minimum you should spend in Charleston during a trip. Anything less will make you feel rushed and incomplete. With a weekend getaway, you’ll have plenty of time to visit a few museums, take a scenic cruise or tour, and find fantastic local food.

READ MORE: How to Visit (and the History Behind) the Iconic Rainbow Row in Charleston, SC

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Vibrant yellow leaves in a tree pairs nicely with the deep yellow paint of a building in Charleston, South Carolina.
A few fall colors decorate Charleston in Autumn, but it’s really just a good time to visit for smaller crowds and shorter lines.
Vibrant yellow leaves in a tree pairs nicely with the deep yellow paint of a building in Charleston, South Carolina.
A few fall colors decorate Charleston in Autumn, but it’s really just a good time to visit for smaller crowds and shorter lines.

October – February

Best Time to Visit Charleston to Avoid the Crowds

October through February is the best time to visit Charleston to avoid the crowds. While people flock to the mountains for the autumn colors, it would be the perfect time to visit Charleston for warmer weather and thinner crowds.

During this time of year, you’ll get a table at a restaurant faster, spend less time sitting in gridlocked traffic, and it will be easier to enjoy a peaceful stroll through Waterfront Park.

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A three-decked tour boat docks after taking visitors to Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina.
Taking a tour to Fort Sumter or a sunset cruise in Charleston Harbor are much more comfortable during the summer months.

May – September

Best Time to Visit Charleston for Scenic Cruises

May through September is the best time to visit Charleston for scenic cruises on the water or horse drawn carriage tours around town. The air temperature is typically a few degrees colder over the water and even colder on a moving boat. But from May through September, the temps are high enough to remain comfortable and the wind is a welcome respite from the summer heat and humidity.

READ MORE: Exploring Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park

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The USS Yorktown is an exciting place to visit, but only in the winter when the bowels of the ship don’t feel like an oven.

November – March

Best Time to Visit Charleston for Patriots Point

Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum is one of the most fascinating attractions in the Charleston area – located across the bridge in Mount Pleasant – but it’s also one of the most frustrating to visit. The WWII-era USS Yorktown aircraft carrier was not built to function like a cruise ship, so air conditioning is a premium not available in all parts of the ship.

November through March is the best time to visit Charleston for Patriots Point. During this time of year, the bowels of the ship are comfortable heated. You might get chilly walking across the flight deck, but you can always slip on a jacket. During the summers, though, below decks can become uncomfortably hot with struggling air conditioning and the flight deck is like walking across the surface of a cast iron skillet.

READ MORE: Travel Guide and Tips for Visiting Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum in South Carolina

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A group of paddleboarders and kayakers move along Shem Creek with a view of the Ravenel Bridge in the distance in Charleston, South Carolina.
Spring and Autumn are perfect times of year to go paddleboarding or kayaking at Shem Creek.
A group of paddleboarders and kayakers move along Shem Creek with a view of the Ravenel Bridge in the distance in Charleston, South Carolina.
Spring and Autumn are perfect times of year to go paddleboarding or kayaking at Shem Creek.

March – May or October – November

Best Time to Visit Charleston for Outdoor Recreation

March through May or October through November are the best times to visit Charleston for outdoor recreation. By the end of March, the water temperatures typically reach about 70 degrees and remain that high through about mid-November. It’s a great time for paddleboarding or kayaking on Shem Creek and around Sullivan’s Island.

For hiking or bicycling, the summer months are overwhelmingly hot and muggy. But spring and autumn is perfect for getting outside and enjoying the outdoors without the heat. Go for a bicycle ride around downtown Charleston or go for a hike around Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site.

National Park Week 2024

Learn about the annual celebration of the National Park System and read my travel guides to national park units across the country.

Although it’s the hottest time of year, it’s also the best time of year to visit a beach because of the water temperature.

May – October

Best Time to Visit Charleston for the Beach

May through October is the best time to visit Charleston for the beach. Unless you book oceanfront lodging, it might be difficult to find parking on the weekends. But all the area beaches have at least one public beach access with nearby paid parking.

READ MORE: Leave the Cobblestone Streets Behind for One of These Beaches Near Charleston

Pink blooms cover a bush behind a tombstone in Charleston, South Carolina.
Rhododendron and azalea bushes bloom throughout March and April in Charleston.
Pink blooms cover a bush behind a tombstone in Charleston, South Carolina.
Rhododendron and azalea bushes bloom throughout March and April in Charleston.

March – June

Best Overall Time to Visit Charleston

March through June is the best overall time to visit Charleston is you don’t have any idea what to do.

It’s the best time of year for the weather, although daytime temps and humidity will be uncomfortable at times. The water temperatures are warm enough for any kind of water activity. And it’s well before the hurricane season.

During this time, restaurants, museums, and attractions have switched to their “prime season” schedules and most tour companies are offering full daily schedules. You’ll find plenty to do, but you’ll also find smaller crowds and shorter wait times for the places you want to visit.

READ MORE: The Coffee Lover’s Guide to My Favorite Coffee Shops in Charleston, SC

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Museums like the Old Exchange & Provost Dungeon (top) and South Carolina Aquarium (bottom) are excellent places to visit any time of the year in Charleston.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many days do you need in Charleston?

The number of days you need to explore Charleston entirely depends on what you want to see. You can easily visit two museums or a plantation, go for a scenic drive or walk, and get something to eat at two restaurants per day.

When is the off-season in Charleston?

The off-season in Charleston is November through February.

When is the best time to visit Charleston?

The best overall time to visit Charleston is spring from March through June.

When is the rainy season in Charleston?

August is the wettest month of the year in Charleston.

When is the hurricane season in Charleston?

The Atlantic Hurricane Season runs from early June through late November.

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Do you have a question about travel or road trips? Are you a CVB or DMO interested in working with me? I typically respond to emails within 24 hours. Quicker if you include a good riddle.
Do you have a question about travel or road trips? Are you a CVB or DMO interested in working with me? I typically respond to emails within 24 hours. Quicker if you include a good riddle.
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