When you visit Charleston, South Carolina, you’ll notice the way this city demands your attention. The coastal city has an unmatched charm; You'll be hooked once you visit and see what Charleston has to offer! New residents are flocking to the area (around 12,000 people a year!), making it a diverse haven for those interested in a rich history, a vibrant art and cultural scene, a thriving economy, and affordable housing.
Since tourism is a massive industry for the city, residents benefit by having access to some of the world's best recreational activities with an endless list of things to do. If you're considering relocating to this beautiful community, here's everything you need to know about moving to and living in Charleston, SC.
Charleston, South Carolina, is located along the eastern coast of the United States of America, roughly situated in the middle between Miami, Florida, and Washington, D.C. Charleston is part of Charleston County, which is in the southeastern part of S.C. Found on a peninsula between the Ashley and Cooper rivers, the Charleston Harbor is about seven miles long into the Atlantic Ocean. The entrance to the harbor has two islands, Morris Island to the south and Sullivan's Island to the North.
As of 2020, Charleston is home to just over 137,000 residents. The city has a unique vibe and is a significant tourist attraction that is rich with history, and with preserved cobblestone streets and historical landmarks, you may feel like you're visiting a few different cities all in one place. It's simultaneously a beach town with eclectic homes, a place where art can thrive, and a luxury haven that offers the best shopping, dining, and estate homes.
In 2016, Charleston took the top spot on the list of friendliest cities in the U.S. With such a welcoming community, you'll find that many people are willing to provide a helping hand or strike up a chat, truly redefining what being a good neighbor means.
Charleston has a prominent nickname and is often called the Holy City. It earned the nickname due to the history of religious tolerance and the sheer number of places of worship in the area. Charleston has a diverse religious community with over 400 places of worship that home various faiths.
Charleston absolutely delivers an incredible climate all year long. The city is an excellent option if you want to move somewhere with warm summers and mild winters. You'll rarely see snow, and the summer months are a comfortable mid-70s to low 90s. The coastal breezes keep the islands a little cooler but comfortable.
There are approximately 230 days of sunshine each year, making it a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. If you love to spend time outdoors, you'll have plenty of opportunities to enjoy nature, embark on activities, and spend time at the beach.
Charleston has plenty of must-see places across the city, so there's always something new to explore. Beaches like Seabrook, Isle of Palms, and Kiawah, offer all the water sports and activities you can imagine. Work on your putting at Wild Dunes, Charleston National Golf Course, PGA world renowned Kiawah Island, and other world-class courses that people travel from all over the world to come and play on. Visit the Cypress Gardens, Waterfront Park, and the Angel Oak Tree to learn a little bit more about this charming city.
Residents who have been in Charleston for a while will tell you that living here is all about kicking back, relaxing, and really enjoying life. Travel + Leisure Magazine has named Charleston as the best city in the world more than a few times. Due to its dynamic character, the city has won many awards and accolades for its quality of life. There’s no denying that this is the place to be.
In Charleston, there really is something for everyone when it comes to real estate. If you're looking for an affordable starter home or a luxury estate home, you'll find it here. The median home price is around $470,000, and homes range in price from $300,000 to $7 million. The housing market has seen some steady growth in the first half of 2022 and will continue to rise based on trends.
The city is becoming more popular because of the excellent job opportunities, great neighborhoods, walkability, fantastic restaurants and amenities, golf, tennis and all the numerous things to do. You're never too far from everyday essentials, shopping, and delicious food.
Charleston has a lot of history, and if you're interested in learning more, you'll be surprised at how much there is to know. Visit Drayton Hall and be transported back to 1738, where you can view and tour an unrestored plantation house. Dive deep into the Gullah culture with Black History tours. Take a trip to the Boone Hall Plantation, check out one of the oldest working farms in the country, and have some of the freshest, most delicious fruit you’ve ever tasted.
History buffs will be enthralled while visiting Fort Sumter, which is known as the place where the Civil War began and where the first shots were fired. Take a tour of the grounds and learn how the Civil War came to be, how the artillery crew worked, how it was built, and so much more. Visit the only tea factory in America when touring the Charleston Tea Plantation. You'll admire thousands of tea bushes (and maybe even take a sip!).
The current sales tax rate in Charleston is 9%. South Carolina offers some great property tax breaks for those who qualify. Those currently serving in the U.S. military and on active duty qualify for the Military Exemption. The Homestead Exemption is for those over 65, legally blind, or disabled. The Legal Residence Exemption is for those whose primary residence is in Charleston County. You must apply for these exemptions as they are not automatically given.
Here are some things you may not know about Charleston:
Moving to a new city involves plenty of research and preparation. Finding a new job in a new city is a big part of the decision to move. Many people would find and secure a new job or at least look at the job prospects of the city they're interested in relocating to. Luckily, those interested in Charleston won't have to look hard for employment opportunities.
Charleston is home to an innovative and growing economy, and employers are always on the hunt for new talent and experience.
Whether you're set in your profession or looking for a fresh start in a new field, Charleston is bursting with options. With plenty of growth expected for healthcare, service, tourism, marketing, administrative, aviation, tech, and sales jobs, there's plenty of variety if you want to try something new.
It's expected that Charleston will see a 35.9% increase in jobs over the next decade. The U.S. national average is 33.5%. As of February 2022, Charleston has an impressive unemployment rate of just 3.6%. The average annual income in the city is around $40,400.
With new residents arriving daily, economic growth is following suit. Charleston is a leader in the aviation industry, which has helped to attract businesses of all sizes to the area.
Charleston offers a diverse economy with a wide range of top industries. A few of these include automotive, aviation, IT, energy, defense, and life sciences. It's also an excellent place for entrepreneurs to take their careers into their own hands and build a successful business.
In the Automotive industry, the Mercedez-Benz Vans assembly warehouse is located in North Charleston. The likes of Cummins Turbo Technologies and Behr Heat Transfer Systems have also moved into the Charleston area.
Aerospace and aviation are the leading industries, as Boeing has one of three international locations in Charleston. Wide-body jets are assembled at the Boeing facility, creating many jobs for residents. The Trident Technical College is home to the South Carolina Aeronautical Training Center.
Healthcare is a vital industry in Charleston, with over 50 research and development labs and 30 medical device and pharmaceutical manufacturers. The Medical University of South Carolina is located in the heart of the city, and it's an esteemed school that's the oldest medical school in the Southern U.S.
Although Clemson University is around four hours away from Charleston, the city is a significant contributor to Clemson University's SCE&G Energy Innovation Center. The facility is home to a state-of-the-art wind-turbine drivetrain testing facility.
The IT and defense industries are poised for growth, especially with the Atlantic branch of the Naval Information Warfare Systems Command (previously known as SPAWAR), which has annual contracts that total around $2 billion.
The top 24 employers in Charleston include:
The Charleston County School District serves over 50,000 students. Schools within the district are consistently in the top 20% in South Carolina.
Downtown Charleston's Buist Academy is one of the best public schools in the city. It has a lower acceptance rate than Yale, Harvard, and MIT. The elementary school specializes in the language arts and serves kindergarten to grade eight students.
The Ashley River Creative Arts Elementary School is another top-rated school in Charleston with a heavy arts focus. With the belief that the arts enhance learning, the school provides a challenging learning experience in a supportive and positive environment.
Laing Middle School of Science and Technology is one of the highest-rated middle schools in the city. The nationally recognized STEM school is a superb option for students looking to move into those areas of study.
Moultrie Middle School has an excellent report card rating for the 2021-2022 school year. The teachers and faculty are raved about for providing a fantastic learning experience for kids in grades six through eight.
Thomas C. Cario Middle School is located in Mount Pleasant and is a terrific option for students in the area. Serving 1,300 students can be challenging, but not for the faculty at Thomas C. Cairo. With consistent excellent performance, the school has achieved Palmetto Gold status. It is considered one of the state's highest performing and comprehensive schools.
Academic Magnet High School is considered the second-best high school in the nation and the top school in Charleston. The faculty at the school encourage students throughout the rigorous curriculum but have high expectations. Students are motivated to be compassionate community members, adopt a sense of global responsibility, and respect cultural diversity.
Charleston School of the Arts serves grade six to twelve students. With eight art majors for middle school students and nine art majors for high school students, there are plenty of options to have a rich and creative education at this top-rated high school.
Wando High School in Mount Pleasant is ranked third in the state for school. They may serve over 4,000 students but provide a welcoming, connected atmosphere and an excellent education.
Charleston is bursting with incredibly desirable neighborhoods in every corner of the city. You'll be able to find a great neighborhood that meets all your wants, needs, and lifestyle. From budget-friendly beach homes to ultra-luxe estate homes on the water, there's something for everyone.
Mount Pleasant is bound to be on every list you'll find when you're looking to find the best Charleston neighborhoods. While it's not directly in the city, it's a suburban town that is incredibly popular for many wonderful reasons. It's nicknamed 'magic across the bridge,' and those who live there love it.
Mount Pleasant has a laid-back suburban vibe, but it also has a lot of excitement. Since it's a bit removed from the city, it has its own personality compared to Charleston. You don't have to sacrifice city living when choosing Mount Pleasant, as you can have the best of both the big city and small-town living.
If you love food and nightlife, Mount Pleasant delivers. With a prominent food scene, you'll find some outstanding local eats. You're also not far from the excellent options that Charleston offers. The Shem's Creek boardwalk is home to some delicious eats and drinks with a view.
Schools in Mount Pleasant are further some of the best around. Thus, you can feel confident in your child's education from kindergarten to high school.
Lastly, properties in Mount Pleasant are diverse. The community primarily offers single-family homes, but condos and townhomes are also available. Prices range from $195,000 to $7 million.
If you're looking for beautiful Ashley River views with plenty of housing options, West Ashley is a must-see community. You can find a modest starter home, a massive luxury estate home, and everything in between. The primarily residential area is located west of the peninsula, and it's one of the largest suburbs in the city. Properties range in price from $300,000 to $3 million.
Given its proximity to downtown, West Ashley is one of the more affordable communities. It's close to a vibrant nightlife and dining scene, so there's always something to do if you're a night owl. If being close to downtown is important to you, but you have a smaller budget, West Ashley is a great option.
Who doesn't want to live on an island? Just 20 minutes from the city, Sullivan's is a haven for beach lovers. The community's tranquil atmosphere is the perfect escape from big city life. Access to great schools means something for everyone in this community.
Outdoor enthusiasts love what Sullivan's Island has to offer. Spend the day at the beach, soaking up the sun, or visit the local Poe's Tavern for lunch and a drink. While the community becomes busier during the summer tourist season, the winter months are quiet.
Since Sullivan's Island is a popular tourist spot, residents can access some of the best amenities. Homes on the island range in price from $680,000 to $11 million, but most properties are in the $1 million range.
James Island is another secluded beach town close to Charleston. You'll have everything you need at your fingertips on this island across the harbor from downtown. Home prices range from $125,000 to $2 million.
There's plenty of entertainment on James Island and several must-try local restaurants. You'll find plenty of people at the Charleston Crab House for a waterfront dinner with every seafood option you want. Residents also rave about Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint for the best BBQ and pulled pork you've probably ever had.
The James Island County Park has plenty of green space to walk, jog, ride bikes, and take the family. Take a walk with the dog in the 640 acres of trails or rent a boat to go for a ride on the water.
If you love the lifestyle that comes along with downtown city life, South of Broad is the community for you. Homes in the area are pricier, starting in the $900s and soaring up to $7 million.
The community spans from Broad Street with the Cooper River to the north and the Ashley River to the south. It's the southernmost point in the Charleston peninsula and is home to the famous Rainbow Row and Battery Park.
You'll find plenty of charm, history, and excitement in South of Broad, especially in the housing. You'll be close to the hustle and bustle of city living, but you'll also be able to admire the quieter moments.
There's so much to love about Harleston Village, especially if you're a student. The College of Charleston calls Harleston Village home, and the community is packed with great restaurants, bars, and entertainment but strikes a nice balance with low-key residential streets.
The Grand Wentworth Mansion, which is one of Charleston's most luxurious and oldest hotels, is located in the community. Colonial Lake is one of the selling points of the area. The community borders three major streets and the Ashley River.
If you're looking to be close to everything you need in a pedestrian-friendly and extremely walkable area, Harleston Village is a great option. You can walk to shopping, dining, parks, the River, and so much more. Homes in Harleston Village range in price from $350,000 to $6.5 Million.
The list of best communities in Charleston wouldn't be complete without Folly Beach. The laid-back surf town is perfect for beach bums. Folly Beach is paradise if you've always wanted to live close to the salty ocean air.
The community is a major tourist attraction, and it's not uncommon for the summers to be quite busy. The pier is bustling, and many surfers are trying to catch the next great wave. The otherwise sleepy town takes on a whole new life in the summer months.
Homes in Folly Beach range in price from $440,000 to $6 million. A diverse community of retirees, families, students, and single individuals make up the year-round residents.
Everyone loves a good restaurant or local food spot. Luckily, Charleston has a diverse food scene with endlessly delicious options.
Charleston is known for its fresh seafood, so many of the best restaurants in the city specialize in incredible seafood and southern-inspired eats. However, you can definitely find every kind of dish you're ready to devour.
Hank's has been named the best seafood restaurant in Charleston for 20 consecutive years. You'll love Hank's if you're into high-end and upscale seafood options.
For modern Vietnamese cuisine with various pho, noodle dishes, and submarines, you'll love this spot.
Middleton Place is an experience. The farm-to-table style restaurant offers seasonal, locally-produced fare. They're open for lunch and dinner; you can even book a picnic-style meal.
Husk is a restaurant in downtown Charleston that puts a modern spin on classic southern food.
As one of the top restaurants in the city, this fine dining establishment is the perfect place for celebrations, delicious cocktails, and an elegant atmosphere.
Since 1946, Bowen's Island Restaurant has been a staple in the Charleston community. If you're looking for simply delicious seafood that's as fresh as it gets, Bowen's is a great place for a meal.
Located in North Charleston, Nigel's Good Food is the quintessential southern establishment, and its slogan is "just what your soul needs."
Jackrabbit Filly is the place to go if you're on the hunt for Chinese food. The cuisine is Chinese with an American and Japanese twist.
Charleston is a food-lovers paradise, from BBQ and southern fried chicken to fresh fish and oysters. Charleston is also home to the world's largest oyster festival. Over 80,000 pounds of oysters are enjoyed along with live entertainment and the best neighbors.
There are food tours you can participate in if you want to try some spots you may have never noticed or had the chance to try before.
Charleston has a buzzing nightlife scene. There's always somewhere to grab some drinks, dance among friends on the dance floor, and have a great time. If a pub is more your pace, you can find plenty of great ones. Concert goers will love the Pour House. Sip on some great beers, wine, or liquor and watch incredible live entertainment.
There are some excellent rooftop bars, bowling alleys, clubs, and spots to get a unique cocktail. Whatever you're interested in, Charleston has it.
Getting around the city doesn't have to be a chore. Luckily for residents who don't have vehicles, there are plenty of options beyond walking to get around.
If you have a vehicle, getting around Charleston is easy. There are also plenty of parking garages downtown and metered parking areas everywhere. However, it might be a bit challenging to find during peak hours. Popular parking garages include Visitor's Center Garage, Aquarium Garage, Majestic Square Garage, Cumberland Street Garage, and Prioleau Street Garage.
Charleston offers both Uber and Lyft in the area, so you can easily download these apps to get a ride at almost any time in the city.
Pedi-Cab or Bike Taxi
You'll likely see plenty of bike taxis around the city. Tip them generously and settle on a rate before you hop on.
Charleston Water Taxi
TourPass offers water taxis with four locations across the harbor in Charleston and Mount Plesant. Waterfront Park, Aquarium Wharf, Habor Resort Marina, and Patriots Point Maritime Center have stops available. Check out their schedules and rates on their website.
For mobility-impaired individuals, Tel-A-Ride service is available. You must fill out an application to be eligible, but there is service to Charleston peninsula, Mount Pleasant, James Island, Isle of Palms, West Ashley, Sullivan's Island, and North Charleston.
The public transit system in Charleston is comprehensive and offers services to popular areas. With regular routes, express routes, DASH, and airport service, there are many options to get around the city promptly.
CARTA Dash Downton Trolley
If you're looking to get around the downtown area, the free trolley will take you everywhere you need to go. There are three routes to choose from, and they do pick-ups every 15 to 20 minutes.
One of the best characteristics of Charleston is its diversity of communities that touch on all interests. No matter what you enjoy doing or your hobbies, there's a community of people who enjoy the same things. The climate and location lend themselves well to the nature lover, the restaurants and nightlife are ideal for the extrovert, and the history buff has so much to learn about with the many museums and historical sites. If you want to try something new, you’ll easily find a welcoming community to help you learn about your newfound hobby.
Middleton Place is ranked the top thing to do in Charleston. This historic landmark is the oldest landscaped garden in America. The site spans 110 acres of gardens that began in 1741 and has Stableyards, Eliza's House, and House Museum to learn more about the incredible history of this area.
The South Carolina Aquarium is a fun adventure for all ages. With over 5,000 creatures, you can meet many cute, interesting, and creepy species. Check out the loggerhead sea turtles, sharks, birds, and sea critters.
Fort Sumter is a fantastic and informative place to visit for those who love history. As the site of the beginning of the Civil War, the on-site Museum is filled with an impressive collection that's sure to teach you a thing or two, and you can take a deep dive into the county's history.
The Charleston City Market is filled with extraordinary, handmade items from local vendors, trinkets, and souvenirs. You'll find Charleston's signature sweetgrass baskets that are hand-woven by incredible artisans whose skills were passed down from the enslaved West Africans in the 1500s.
The beaches around Charleston are unmatched. You'll want to spend all your time on the sandy coastline or the beautiful parks surrounding each beach. Battery Park, Joe Riley Waterfront Park, and Folly Beach are some of the most popular areas. With piers, shops, dining, incredible views, and a famous pineapple fountain, you can spend days exploring the beauty of Charleston.
Near the pineapple fountain, you can find the City Gallery. You'll find some amazing artwork by local, regional, and international creators. Feasting your eyes on their creations will move you. The Gibbes Museum of Art is another must-see attraction for art lovers.
There are plenty of annual festivals in Charleston. Many food-focused ones like the Oyster Festival or the Charleston Wine and Food Festival, but there are art, music, and cultural festivals. The 68th Annual Festival of Houses & Gardens and the Charleston Jazz Festival are huge in the city. You can also ring in the new year with the Bill Murray Polar Bear Plunge.
Each year, the Spoleto Festival USA visits Charleston. For 17 days, performers of every medium you can imagine showcase their talents. You'll see theater, opera, dance, and much more.
At the end of the day, Charleston has plenty to offer. With one unique vibe and activities galore, you won’t regret moving to and living in Charleston, SC.