Carol and Mike Ivey are freelance writers and photographers with a passion for travel. Follow along as they share their travel experiences as 50-somethings that still love adventure and seeing the world at www.CuriousGypsies.com. They are currently based out of Charleston, South Carolina where they live aboard their 53-foot Hatteras Motor Yacht, Gypsy Soul.
Only the locals know that just one of Charleston's eight best waterfront restaurants are actually located in Charleston! The rest can be found after an enjoyable water taxi ride across the Charleston Harbor, or after making a quick drive over the panoramic Ravenel Bridge into Mt. Pleasant.
1. Fleet Landing
Fleet Landing is the only waterfront restaurant actually located on the Charleston peninsula and is one of the city's most unique restaurants. Food & Wine Magazine featured Fleet Landing in their trend-spotting "Where to Go Next" column.
Housed in a retired 1940s naval building on the east side of the Charleston peninsula, Fleet Landing specializes in Southern seafood served in a friendly, unpretentious "maritime chic" setting. Guests feast on their fill of fresh locally caught seafood while enjoying the city's famous hospitality. Sitting on a pier overhanging the marsh, the old maritime building boasts floor-to-ceiling windows allowing diners the occasional glimpse of porpoises frolicking in the harbor.
Fleet Landing is the only waterfront restaurant located within walking distance of downtown hotels, and just down the street from the Charleston City Market.
Don't Miss: Their daily seafood specials which sell out quickly. Grouper cheeks are a popular local favorite!
These next seven restaurants are actually located in Mt. Pleasant, a suburb just across the harbor from downtown Charleston. You will need to catch the water taxi or take a car across the picturesque Ravenel Bridge.
2. Saltwater Cowboys
Saltwater Cowboys is the newest restaurant across the Charleston harbor, located on Shem Creek in Mt. Pleasant. Quickly gaining a reputation for slow smoked BBQ and fresh seafood delivered right off the fishing trawlers located next door, this venue offers both indoor and waterfront seating.
The wait for a table here can be a bit long, but you can relax at one of the 2 outside bars while enjoying an ice-cold beverage. During the daytime, entertainment comes in the form of the diving pelicans, frolicking porpoises, and paddle boarders trying to maintain their balance in the midst of the action.
There are two levels of indoor seating with an open floor plan, white planked walls, high ceilings and spacious seating arrangements. The clean, crisp décor is fresh and inviting, although the noise level can be overwhelming during the busy hours. The indoor bar is a great alternative to a table and serves the full menu.
Don't Miss: After a soul satisfying meal of freshly caught shrimp and locally milled grits, take a stroll to the third floor and witness the most unforgettable sunsets on Shem Creek.
3. RB’s Seafood
RB's Seafood is also located on Shem Creek, next door to Saltwater Cowboys. Offering a more family-friendly setting, the upper deck affords great views of the activity on the creek. Also serving seafood (hey, these are all waterfront restaurants, aren't they?), the menu here is a little more varied than others, offering pasta and steaks in addition to seafood. The crab dip here is said to be "world famous".
RB's has indoor seating on the first floor in a more formal atmosphere. The cozy bar area offers specialty spirits and cocktails. Step outside and you can choose dockside seating or go up to the second floor where there is another bar and swinging bench chairs in which to sit while enjoying the breezes and the view. With a dance floor and a pirate theme, RB's offers a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere.
Don't Miss: The hush puppies are little puffs of heaven that dreams are made of!
4. Red’s Ice House
Red's Ice House is a popular hotspot for the 20-30 somethings. With an open-air, laid-back, rustic setting and nighttime bands, their motto -- "Inside is Boring" -- pretty much sums it up. They are well known for their fried seafood, cold beer, and great views.
Red's building is reminiscent of an old wooden boatshed with some indoor seating and an indoor bar. They also offer fan-cooled outdoor covered seating where dogs are welcome. The outdoor bar can get quite busy, as can the colorful, brightly painted island-like tables overlooking the creek. The second floor offers a great view but is generally only open at night.
If you hire a car to get there, make sure you specify the Mt. Pleasant location since they have another further away on Seabrook Island.
Pro Tip: Don't miss the fried shrimp at Red's. It's some of the best in the Lowcountry.
5. Tavern And Table
If you are interested in a little more upscale venue, the Tavern and Table, also located on Shem Creek, may be to your liking. They describe their menu as rustic but refined -- think plates designed for table sharing. Specialties include Charcuterie plates and creative flatbread pizzas, in addition to more elaborate seafood dishes.
The interior is chic and boasts both an indoor and outdoor bar. Couches and oversized chairs in the dockside area may make you want to stay all night. They have live music on Saturday afternoons and reservations are suggested.
Don't Miss: Pimento cheese with bacon jam and Ritz crackers... need I say more?
6. Water’s Edge
Water's Edge offers lunch, dinner, and Sunday Brunch featuring a varied menu of Lowcountry dishes and seafood specialties. Wine lovers take note: their wine list boasts over 450 selections, and they have consistently been awarded Wine Spectator's Award of Excellence.
With a more casual atmosphere, the second-floor interior seating offers great views. If the temperature is right, you may want to enjoy your cocktails at the outside bar overlooking the creek. Outside seating is also available.
Don't Miss: Oysters -- raw, fried, steamed -- however you like them, they are a specialty here.
7. Vickery’s Bar And Grill
Vickery's is a casual eatery offering indoor and outdoor dining. It's one of the few that also offer boat dockage for diners on a first come first serve basis. They serve a variety of dishes from seafood to burgers. Moderately priced and always friendly, Vickery's décor is a throwback to the 1970's.
The indoor dining areas have floor-to-ceiling windows providing panoramic views of Shem Creek, the harbor and the marsh. The Shark bar overlooking the back marsh has a tin roof and is great place to wait out an afternoon rainstorm. The ground floor bar, Muddy's, can suffer from sand gnats, so try going upstairs and catch the breezes at a table on the outside deck.
Don't Miss: The sandwiches here are especially tasty and you can never go wrong with the daily specials.
8. The Wreck Of The Richard And Charlene
Probably the most unusual on the list, this bare-bones seafood eatery is named after the fishing trawler that was destroyed at the site by Hurricane Hugo. The Wreck, as the locals refer to it, is only open for dinner and their menu is exclusively seafood indigenous to South Carolina. A favorite of locals, they do not accept reservations and their hours are limited, so call ahead.
Plan on a no-frills experience here, with a menu limited to seafood. Two things of note: they are tucked away at the end of a tiny street making them a little hard to find, and, most significantly, they are "naturally air conditioned"-- i.e. no A/C. So this may not be the best choice for peak summer months.
Don't Miss: Locals swear this is the most authentic Lowcountry seafood you will ever eat and the old-time atmosphere reminds you of times gone by.
Whether you choose fancy or laid-back, you should not miss sampling the Lowcountry's seafood at one of these memorable Charleston area waterfront restaurants.