A Dog-Friendly Guide to Visiting Charleston
Cobblestone streets, alfresco dining, and historic architecture all await you in Charleston. But visit without your furry best friend, and you might find yourself thinking more about wet-nose kisses than enjoying the sights and sounds of one of our favorite destinations in the South. Thankfully, this city known for its hospitality is dog-friendly, too. Here's your guide for making sure that you and Rover both enjoy your time in town. Good manners (and the law) require a leash, but he won't mind when he hits the streets with you by his side.
Patio or Porch
Although South Carolina health codes strongly discourage dogs inside eating establishments, chances are, in Charleston, if there's a restaurant with a patio or porch, your dog is welcome—though it's always a good idea to call ahead. Try your luck, or instead, choose to dine at these spots where dogs aren't only permitted, but welcomed.
Fiery Ron's Home Team BBQ Downtown
This local chain has a different vibe at each of its three locations, and downtown's vibe at the moment is "casual downtown hot spot." There is plenty of open-air seating and a courtyard often full of live music, depending on the night. Every day of the week, though, is a perfect excuse for a frozen Negroni and some 'cue. And you-know-who probably wouldn't mind if you dropped a little "by accident."
Although you won't find long lines here like you will at other Charleston restaurants, you will discover a hidden gem of a downtown courtyard with a definite Caribbean vibe. There is bocce ball, grass, a pergola, and a welcoming attitude toward pooches—along with good rum drinks, an open-air bar, and braised pork tacos. Walk your dog calmly through the restaurant to the patio in back, or, if you prefer, ask the hostess to meet you around the side and unlock the gate.
Kudu Coffee & Craft Beer
Steps away from Marion Square and the College of Charleston, Kudu can get really busy during peak times, but the expansive courtyard handles overflow—and furry friends—well. You won't be able to go inside to order, but the staff keeps an eye out and will come to you. Note: This is such a popular place to bring your dog that it's likely yours will have others to play with, too.
This classic Lowcountry restaurant is named after a dog who still visited the porch after his owners had moved out and the structure was converted to a restaurant. Call ahead for reservations on the porch (brunch is a beloved option for the buttermilk biscuits and gravy) and let them know you'll be bringing your pet. They'll make sure and point out Poogan's statue for a photo op after dinner.
The Charleston peninsula is by its nature walkable, and there are plenty of jasmine-scented streets with ample shade in the historic district. But if you are looking for a little more interaction for your dog, try these spots.
Charleston Farmer's Market
Every Saturday morning in Marion Square from April through November, this market is packed. Tourists come to browse and purchase local crafts. Locals, many of whom bring their dogs along, fill the park to shop for local foodstuffs, grab a bite to eat, listen to music, and just generally visit a bit. It's sort of like Charleston's front porch every Saturday, so your dog will see a lot of people, probably get a lot of pats, and be able to chill out in the shade.
James Island County Park
If your dog needs a full-on play session to wear him out, then take a short drive to James Island for a visit to this protected slice of natural marsh and maritime forest. There's a campground, a climbing wall, fishing dock, water park, and plenty of trails, but for Fido, there is the most popular dog park in the county. It includes a fenced-in area for smaller dogs, but its claim to fame is a lake and a beach where dogs can swim and play in the sand.
For more exercise and a killer view, try a walk in Waterfront Park, which winds along the Charleston Harbor. This is where that oft-photographed pineapple fountain is located, but the narrow strip of greenspace extends well beyond that landmark, with easy walking paths and plenty of fresh air.
There are several beaches within a 20-minute drive of the peninsula, and each has its own rules. From April through September, dogs are only allowed at non-peak times, and that includes Folly Beach, Isle of Palms, Kiawah Island Beachwalker County Park, and Sullivan's Island, which requires a dog permit for both visiting and resident dogs.
Charleston is in the middle of a hotel boom, but these properties are some of the most pet-friendly, with pet concierges who can help your pooch have fun even when you're not around.
Belmond Charleston Place
This well-known luxury hotel, which first opened in 1986 in the heart of the historic district, just underwent a $30 million renovation. That includes high-tech touches and white marble bathrooms. Dogs are welcomed in the common areas and on the patio, as well as in private guest quarters, of course. Pet fee: $150 for stay.
John Rutledge House Inn
A black-and-white tiled entrance signals that you've arrived at this lodging on Broad Street that was once the home of John Rutledge, one of the signers of the U.S. Constitution. A gracious b&b experience, this inn has designated pet-friendly rooms. Pet fee: $25 per night.
If you're seeking an iconic property for your stay, the Wentworth delivers. Located away from the main arteries of the city, it's still easily distinguishable as the biggest "house in the 'hood," its cupola visible above the tree canopy. Garden rooms on the first floor are designated as pet friendly, and since it's another Charming Inns property, the same fee applies. Pet fee: $25 per night.