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Fort Sumter National Monument

Fort Sumter National Monument

A few months back we spent a day in Charleston, SC. It was a quick trip, which I like to refer to as a “preview trip,” but I instantly fell in love with the beautiful and charming, East Coast city! I already know we will be going back there this summer for more fun, relaxation, and exploring! You can read all about our Charleston explorations in my post 12 Hours in Charleston, SC.

SOOO…. while we were in Charleston, we toured the historic Fort Sumter.

Hubs and I love history and visiting historic sites, and we hope to pass that on to our kids! Plus, we had some family visiting from the West and figured it would be a great sightseeing opportunity while they were here.

If you are not familiar with Fort Sumter, it is an sea fort just off the coast of Charleston, and is where fighting in the American Civil War began on April 12, 1861!

You have to reach the fort by boat, and have the option of by ferry or private boat. At Liberty Square in Charleston, we entered the Fort Sumter Visitor Education Center, where we purchased our tickets for the ferry to the fort. Adults are $21, children are $13 and children 3 and younger are free.

FYI: It is free to get into Fort Sumter, so your National Park Pass will not work here. The fee is for the ferry boat ride out to the fort.

We got tickets for the 12pm ferry and had a little bit of a wait, so we wandered the visitor center, read up on our history walking through the exhibits, and watched the sailboats on the harbor. This was also the kids’ first time seeing the ocean, which was exciting and so tempting, because they just wanted to swim!

The ferry ride was about a half hour, and we were able to entertain the kids by walking around the three decks and watching the water. We saw pelicans diving, lots of sailboats, and took in the gorgeous coastline of Charleston from the harbor.

But my favorite part, and I couldn’t get enough of it, was the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge! It was amazing! The bridge was finished in 2005, stands at 573 feet, and spans over the Cooper River connecting Charleston to Mount Pleasant. It is a total of 13,200 feet long! It is impressive to say the least.

As we approached the fort, it was shocking to me to see how small the island and the fort actually were. I kept thinking, how does that not sink into the ocean?!? But obviously it works, being as it’s been standing there since 1811!

Once we disembarked the ferry, we had 1 hour to explore the fort and the museum on the island.

We learned that on April 12, 1861, the Confederate Army opened fire on Fort Sumter, and after 34 hours they overtook it. After that, the Union would try to retake Fort Sumter for 4 years!

All of the brick on the island is original brick from the fort. In the walls, you can find original mortars and cannon balls that had been fired at Fort Sumter, stuck into the bricks and never detonated. They are now petrified there as artifacts.

The cannons were all found, either at the fort or from across the harbor in Charleston, and restored. Some are as old as 1830! The National Park services even has a program called Adopt-A-Cannon, to help fund conservation efforts.

We got to see where the barracks once were, and where they kept the weapons and gunpowder. There was a monument to the men, and the one woman, who lost their lives that first day when the Civil War started.

We walked, the kids ran, around the entire island as we learned all about the little fort. There was a lot more to see and read about than we were all expecting, and it was easy to keep the kids entertained by pointing out new things.

Little Miss was enthralled by the giant flag, and Bubs LOVED the cannons!

After walking around the fort outside, we ventured into the small museum held inside the fort grounds. It was a little crowded, but we were able to meander thought the displays.

Below is the original flag that had flown over Fort Sumter during the Civil War. Amazing! It was in really good shape considering it was hundreds of years old, too!

That cannon ball was bigger than Bubs head, and he was geeking out! And, he really wanted to hold it haha.

Our hour to explore was over way too soon, and we were hurrying to get back to the ferry boat. It was a very educational experience, and even though the kids didn’t quite understand everything they saw, they both enjoyed looking at the cannons, wandering the ruins, and of course riding the ferry.

Just gotta cultivate that love for learning young, though!!!

On our ferry ride back to shore, we passed by the ENORMOUS battleship, the USS Yorktown. Parked at Patriots Point across the harbor from historic Charleston, it was impressive and intriguing. We decided we didn’t have time for that this day, but it’s on our list for our next trip to Charleston. Can’t wait!

I highly recommend visiting Fort Sumter, with or without kids, if you are ever in Charleston, SC! It won’t take much time out of your day, you’ll learn something new (I guarantee it!), and you will see some amazing sights.

A few tips:

  • Take your own water and snacks– It can get really hot out there walking around, so it’s good to stay hydrated and fueled.
  • Book your tickets for the ferry in advance– You can go online here for ticket info and purchases.
  • The earlier the better– Depending on what time of year you are there, the weather can be a factor, but earlier in the day the better! Less crowds, less heat, and more room for you to explore the fort!
  • Explore the ferry!– While riding out to Fort Sumter, walk around the ferry boat, climb to different decks, and get a different view from all sides! The kids loved it, and you can see from a new perspective if you move around.
  • Leave the Stroller at home– Trying to push the stroller around the ferry boat, along the bumpy yard of the fort, and up and down stairs throughout the whole thing, we wish we would have just left it in the car! Opt for a carrier or let the kids walk and run. You’ll be glad you didn’t make the same mistake we did lugging it around.
Pin it for later!!

Happy Exploring,



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