Charleston’s Parks & Squares

Orange leaves on a tree in a picturesque park in Charleston, SC.

Not only are Charleston’s numerous parks and squares a pleasant and shaded respite from the city, but they are also an integral part of its historic landscape.

Some of Charleston’s open spaces date back to the 18th century, and most of them serve as a repository for monuments and memorials to the figures and events Charlestonians have considered important over the centuries since its founding.

White Point Garden, the Battery, Marion Square and Waterfront Park are probably of most interest to tourists, offering sea and river views, historic interest and beautiful surrounding architecture, but any of the city’s parks provide an ideal place to relax, enjoy a picnic or just to take a quick break from sightseeing.

Marion Square and Hampton Park, the latter a little way north of the Historic District, also serve as backdrops for some of Charleston’s best events, from big food and music festivals to the city’s popular weekly farmers market.

See also:
Festivals in Charleston
Charleston’s old graveyards and cemeteries
Historic house museums
Things to do in Charleston
Things to do near Charleston

White Point Garden

White Point Garden (sometimes also referred to as Battery Park), located at the very southern tip of the Charleston peninsula, is one of the oldest public recreational spaces in the United States. The park was built on an area of landfill created over the former marshes: its name comes from the masses of white oyster shells that once were found there.

The small, shaded park offers views out over the river and the harbor. It is also the site of several monuments, including a memorial of the spot at which Stede Bonnet and other pirates were hung; the Fort Moultrie Monument, depicting Revolutionary War hero Sergeant William Jasper; and a memorial, as yet not removed, to Charleston’s Confederate soldiers.

Charleston Battery

Charleston’s Battery is a historic promenade constructed on top of the city’s sea walls, erected in the 1830s. The half-mile walkway, accessible by steps at various points along its length (step-free access is available at either end), consists of two parts: Low Battery runs to the south of White Point Garden; High Battery follows the eastern edge of the lower peninsula.

Both parts of the Battery offer harbor breezes and views out over the river and bay, but the High Battery is the highlight, lined with some of Charleston’s most splendid historic mansions. During the hottest times of the year, the unshaded promenade is best enjoyed in the morning or evening.

Marion Square

Marion Square is one of the larger of Charleston’s downtown park spaces, located north-east of the intersection of King and Calhoun Streets.

Its earlier name, Citadel Green, reflects its historical association with the military in Charleston, the space used as a parade ground by the South Carolina State Arsenal. The Old Citadel building still stands on the north side of the square, currently occupied by a chain hotel.

Marion Square is the site of the Horn Work, a relic of the city’s 18th century fortifications, and a monument in remembrance of the Holocaust.

The park is the site of several major annual festivals, including the Charleston Wine and Food Festival, and a weekly farmers market, held every Saturday from April through November, with additional holiday markets in December.

Upcoming events in Marion Square

Washington Square

This small, shaded park right next to Charleston’s “Four Corners of Law” dates back to the early 19th century. Originally known as City Hall Park, it was renamed in George Washington’s honor in 1881, the centennial of the surrender of the British at Yorktown.

Since then it has become the repository of many monuments to figures important in the history of Charleston, with monuments to local poet Henry Timrod, Confederate General Pierre Beauregard, and George Washington. In the center of the park is a memorial to the Washington Light Infantry, notable for being a smaller reproduction of the national capital’s Washington Monument.

Wragg Square

Wragg Square, one of Charleston’s smallest downtown parks, has been open to the public since 1801, when the space was gifted to the people of Charleston by the Wragg family.

The small, fenced park, located in front of the Second Presbyterian Church, is one of Charleston’s quieter public spaces, a contrast to the much busier Marion Square only a few yards away. Two blocks north-west is block-and-a-bit-long Wragg Mall, part of the same benefaction to the city, offering a shaded walkway and a place to sit.

Joe Riley Waterfront Park

Riley Waterfront Park, located on the east of the Charleston peninsula a little beyond the end of Broad Street, is a more recent addition to the city’s downtown park space. Originally known simply as Waterfront Park, it was later renamed in honor of former Mayor of Charleston Joseph P Riley, Jr.

It is most notable as the site of Charleston’s Pineapple Fountain (the pineapple is the symbol of hospitality) but is also an ideal spot for a picnic or a rest while sightseeing, providing a shaded place to sit alongside the river.

A palmetto-lined promenade fronts on the Cooper River, with views out over salt marshes and the river and bay. You can also see the naval ships over at Patriots Point on the opposite bank of the river. The Riley Waterfront Park pier has additional shaded seating, plus picnic benches and swing seats.

Hampton Park

60-acre Hampton Park is one of peninsular Charleston’s largest parks, located a little over 2 miles northwards of downtown.

Originally a horse racing track, Hampton Park was created out of the grounds of the city’s 1901-1902 South Carolina Interstate and West Indian Exposition. The park is popular as a neighborhood recreational space, with beautiful flower displays and a historic rose garden.