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How to Visit the Battery in Charleston, SC | Map, History, and Where to Park

The Battery is one of the best places for a scenic walk in Charleston, but did you know you're literally walking on history?

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

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Explore Charleston, SC Series

This article is part of the Charleston, South Carolina series. Click the button to read more articles, itineraries, and travel guides in the series.

The first steps I took in Charleston were along the High Battery Seawall. It was not a particularly momentous occasion like Neil Armstrong walking on the moon. But it’s still one of my fondest memories of visiting Charleston and the one place I visit every time I’m in the city.

The Battery is a fortified seawall built around the artificial point of the Charleston peninsula. But its location at the point where the Ashley River and Cooper River meet to create Charleston Harbor is one of the best places in the city to enjoy the view. You’ll see Fort Sumter in the distance and Castle Pinckney much closer. The USS Yorktown WWII-era aircraft carrier is easy to spot. And there are always dozens of boats cutting across the choppy water.

Here’s everything you need to know about visiting The Battery in Charleston and some background details that will make you an ace at trivia night.

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Map

How to use this map | Click the icon in the top-left corner to open the Map Legend, then click on any of the legend items to display more information. If you have a Google account, click the (very faint) star at the end of the map’s name to save this map to your account, then access the map from your smartphone during your trip.

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Giant oak trees sprawl across the gravel paths and grass areas at White Point Garden in Charleston, South Carolina.
White Point Garden is a popular public park with large grassy areas connected by gravel paths.

Oyster Point

When Charleston was founded in 1680, the peninsula’s tip was covered in brilliant white oyster shells. But it was outside of the “Walled City” – Charleston was the only British city in the colonies surrounded by a fortified wall for defense. So, for the first hundred years, Oyster Point was largely ignored.

But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t used from time to time. When the “Gentleman Pirate” Stede Bonet was captured in 1718, his execution was carried out at Oyster Point. In front of a large crowd of curious onlookers, Bonet and several of his men were hung until dead. Then, as a warning to other pirates, his body was staked to the ground “below the high water mark but above the low water line,” meaning his decomposing body would be on display during low tide and submerged the rest of the day.

In the mid-1730s, the first development began on Oyster Point. Fort Broughton and Fort Wilkins were built to defend the city from enemies entering the harbor. Both forts were used during the American Revolution and the War of 1812.

Historically, a group of canons in a temporary position was called a battery – the namesake of the iconic seawall today.

READ MORE: When is the Best Time to Visit Charleston, South Carolina?

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People walk along the High Battery Seawall near the Battery Promenade in Charleston, South Carolina.
View from The Battery Promenade north along East Battery.

The Battery Promenade

The promenade is an elevated concrete platform along the wall in the gentle curve at the peninsula’s tip. Until 2022, the Battery Promenade was the point where the High Battery Seawall and Low Battery Seawall met. But after a recent multi-million-dollar project, the two sides of the seawall are now the same height.

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From the promenade, Charleston Harbor stretches out like a vast body of water. It’s two thousand feet across the mouth of the Ashley River to the other side and almost four miles to the shore of Mount Pleasant. The deep-water harbor is constantly crossed by ginormous cargo vessels, Carnival Cruise ships, and personal boats that look like ants in comparison.

In the distance, Fort Sumter stands above the horizon at the point where the freshwater flows into the Atlantic. British ships ran aground on the shoals during the Battle of Sullivan’s Island in 1776. In the mid-1800s, construction began on Fort Sumter. In 1861, the fort was the site of the Civil War’s beginning when South Carolina troops fired on the federal fort.

Castle Pinckney is only a mile from the Battery Promenade but barely noticeable anymore. The abandoned fort never saw combat action but was used as a prison for captured Union troops during the Civil War. Beyond the small spoil island, Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum dominates the shoreline of Mount Pleasant.

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

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A lone person walks along the High Battery Seawall in front of a row of houses

High Battery Seawall

Land on the Charleston peninsula was always at a premium. By the 1700s, the city had outgrown the walled fortification and expanded from the Ashley River to the Cooper River. An idea was hatched to expand the peninsula southward by filling in Oyster Point.

If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. That age-old saying was tested when the city built the first seawall. A simple brick wall designed to keep water away from a new road, the wall was easily toppled during a hurricane in 1797. Construction began on a second seawall, but a hurricane destroyed that one in 1800. And then, a third seawall was destroyed by a hurricane in 1804.

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The engineers finally caught a break during a ten-year lull in hurricanes. By 1818, a high seawall was completed and extended in 1849 to its current location at the Battery Promenade. But in 1893, a hurricane once again destroyed the seawall.

The engineers finally decided to pull out all the stops. A two-foot-thick outer wall was built of concrete, then a three-foot inner brick wall. The space between the two walls was filled with rubble from the previous walls and sand. Scandalously imported from the northern states, flagstones were installed across the top of the walls.

Staircases at pedestrian crosswalks allow visitors to climb atop the High Battery Seawall and walk across those original flagstones. The flagstones are ten feet wide and offer plenty of room for people to casually walk or run along the seawall.

READ MORE: How to Spend an Exciting Day at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens in Charleston, SC

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Low Battery Seawall

In 1836, Charleston Mayor Robert Hayne announced an ambitious project to build a public park on Oyster Point. A new seawall would be built from the end of the High Battery Seawall extending to the northwest end of the peninsula, and the brilliant white oyster shells would be backfilled for the park.

The initial Low Battery Seawall was nothing more than palmetto logs stacked atop each other in a heap. Eventually, a concrete wall was built on top of the logs. But instead of making the wall five feet above ground level like the High Battery Seawall, the city built it nearly level with the ground.

In 1909, Mayor R. Goodwyn Rhett expanded on Hayne’s ambitious plan with one of his own: extend the Low Battery Seawall to the west side of the peninsula and create 40+ acres of real estate property. The plan included a two-lane boulevard along the seawall to allow easy access to White Point Garden.

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The plan was not fully realized as funding became scarce. After years of a missing 1,000-foot section between the Low Battery and High Battery Seawalls, local resident Andrew Buist Murray came to the rescue. He donated $40,000 to the city to complete the project – and in return, the city named Murray Boulevard in his honor.

In 2019, the city began a multi-year plan to repair and upgrade the Low Battery Seawall. The height of the wall was raised five feet above ground level, a new inner wall was built, and the space in between was filled with compacted sand. A new concrete sidewalk was built over the fill, creating a new elevated seawall.

By 2022, the Low Battery Seawall was gone. And the new seawall was still awaiting nature’s ultimate test.

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

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.

A beautiful door and wrought iron decorations of a house
A three-story brick house with large white pillars on the piazza

Who Lives on the Battery in Charleston?

Every house in Charleston has a story to tell, but as with all stories, some are more interesting than others. You won’t find cookie-cutter homes along East Battery, something which I have always appreciated about the varied architecture of homes in this city. Only the elite ever had the chance to build a house in this area, and that’s still true today.

The Porcher-Simonds House at 29 East Battery was built in 1856 by Francis Porcher, a cotton broker. In 1894, John Simonds bought the house and drastically changed it, adding the piazza on the front and a semi-oval wing on the south side facing Atlantic Street. But of all the homes occupants, none were more famous – in hindsight – than Ensign John Fitzgerald Kennedy. In 1943, the home was used as the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence. Kennedy would be stationed in the office, lived in a nearby apartment, and had a lurid affair with suspected Russian spy Inga Arvad during his time in Charleston.

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At 21 East Battery, the Edmonston-Alston House is one of the many house museums in Charleston. Built in 1829 by Scottish-born Charles Edmonston, a local merchant, the Greek Revival style house was the first to be built after the High Battery Seawall was finished. In 1974, the Historic Charleston Foundation purchased the house and converted the first two floors into a museum. Today, Middleton Place Foundation operates the house museum, while the Alston family still lives on the top floor when they visit the city.

The John Ravenel House at 5 East Battery is often called “Charleston’s Pink Palace” because of its signature pastel pink exterior color. It’s a gargantuan 24-room Italianate mansion built in 1848 for Ravenel, the South Carolina Canal and Rail Road president. After his death, his son, Dr. St. Julien Ravenel, lived in the home while pioneering the phosphate industry after the Civil War.

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

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Tips for Visiting The Battery

Over the past decade, I have visited The Battery countless times and walked miles along the historic flagstones on the High Battery Seawall. With a commanding view of the water across Charleston Harbor, the beautiful architecture of the historic homes, and free parking, it’s probably one of my favorite places to visit in the city.

Here are a few tips to make the most of your visit to The Battery in Charleston, South Carolina:

  • Arrive early to guarantee a free parking spot along Murray Boulevard
  • Parking along South Battery is free but limited to two hours
  • There are no public restrooms or eateries south of Broad Street; plan accordingly
  • Bring a chair, blanket, and food to enjoy White Point Garden, but leave the grill at home
  • The Battery is prone to flooding during high tide, the full moon, and severe weather

Getting to The Battery

The Battery is located at the very tip of the Charleston Peninsula, which makes it equally easy to find and difficult to get there. Regardless of which direction I arrive in the city, I prefer taking East Bay Street to The Battery. After passing Broad Street – aptly named because it’s the widest street in the city – there are no more traffic lights, public restrooms, or parking meters.

One of the greatest travel tips I give people comes with a caveat: parking along Murray Boulevard at The Battery is free, but everyone knows it, so the spaces fill up fast. It’s the one time people who despise parallel parking are willing to give it a try. It’s more than just free parking; the nearest parking garage is a twenty-minute walk away.

If you are resigned to using a parking garage, reaching The Battery by foot is perhaps just as easy as driving. One parking garage I suggest is Prioleau Street Garage; located on East Bay Street, it is a twenty-minute walk to the north end of The Battery. Another suggestion is the Queen Street Garage; a twenty-five-minute walk along King Street brings you to Murray Boulevard and the Low Battery Seawall.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is The Battery in Charleston?

The Battery is a seawall at the tip of the Charleston Peninsula around White Point Garden.

Why is it called The Battery in Charleston?

During the Civil War, temporary artillery batteries were built near present-day White Point Garden.

Where is The Battery in Charleston?

The Battery is located at the end of the Charleston Peninsula at White Point Garden.

What is considered The Battery in Charleston?

The Battery is the High Seawall and Low Seawall surrounding White Point Garden. The Battery extends along East Battery Street to Water Street and Murray Boulevard to Tradd Street.

How Long is The Battery in Charleston?

The Battery is five miles long. From the Battery Promenade – the curve where Murray Boulevard and East Battery Street meet – the Battery extends 0.25 miles north to Water Street and 4.75 miles east to Tradd Street.

How Long is the Walk on The Battery in Charleston?

It takes approximately 15 minutes to walk from the Battery Promenade – the curve in the seawall – to the end of The Battery at Water Street.

2 Responses

    1. Megan, if you use the search button at the top of my website you can quickly search for “things to do in charleston” and “things to do in savannah” to find articles I have written about these topics.

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