Charleston Harbor Tours | Deals and Discounts

This post covers some of the best ways to save money on Charleston Harbor tours, including important details about how to get affordable tickets for these boat tours and cruises.

 

 

Disclosure: While our recommendations are always unbiased, we may receive a small share of sales through some of the links below at no cost to you. See the full text.

OVERVIEW

There are several different types of cruises and boat tours in Charleston, and in addition to providing basic details about these services, we will also be offering tips on how to save money on tickets.

Each section will include a breakdown of the types of discounts available.

One of the most popular options is to purchase a tourist pass, which allows you to pay one flat price for access to dozens of activities.

There are also discounts for seniors, military, and children, so if you’re planning to take a cruise with your family, this could be an excellent way to save money on tickets.

In addition to these deals, there are also services listed on popular discount sites like Groupon and LivingSocial.

These services typically offer additional coupon codes to help you save even more.

Alternatively, you may also want to consider taking advantage of a combo package.

Some companies offer packages which include their cruises and other tours or activities at a more affordable price when they are bundled together.

If you’re planning to enjoy multiple tours or attractions in Charleston, this might be a good opportunity to pay less for all of your tickets.

Another way to save money is with group discounts, which allow you to pay less per person when you purchase at tickets for at least 15 people.

No matter which method you use, we definitely recommend using at least one of these deals to lower costs for Charleston Harbor cruises.

Although there currently aren’t any teacher discounts or student discounts, you might want to call ahead and ask about these potential savings before buying a ticket.

We also recommend checking for AAA discounts if you are a member.


CHARLESTON HARBOR SIGHTSEEING CRUISES

This section will provide details about each of the sightseeing cruises available in the Charleston Harbor, including the length of the trip, ticket prices, and a short review of each service.

There are currently 6 ways to pay less for Charleston Harbor Sightseeing Cruises:

  • Senior Discount
  • Children’s Discount
  • Free for Kids Under 3
  • Combo Packages
  • Tourist Pass
  • Discount Sites

You can save up to 40% off using a tourist pass, making it one of the biggest possible discounts on any of these cruises. Discount sites and combo packages will also provide a decent savings.


Charleston Harbor Tours 

Charleston Harbor Tours offers a daily tour of the harbor and surrounding area on their Carolina Belle.

The tour is 90 minutes long and features guided commentary by a professional USCG licensed captain. Depending on the time of year, tours run 2-4 times per day.

Sights include Fort Sumter, St. Michael’s Church, stately homes on the Battery, and the occasional dolphin, among other things!

Prices

Discounts

Charleston Harbor Tours is an extremely popular company with many positive reviews, averaging 4 ½ of 5 stars on TripAdvisor (read some of the reviews). 

Guests write that their experience was “well worth the time and money” and “a fun time on the water.”

Several reviewers are especially impressed with the staff, who are praised for being personable and well organized.


SpiritLine Cruises (GrayLine)

Though most of the other tour companies feature recorded commentary or guided narration by the captain, SpiritLine Cruises is the only company to offer guests live narration by a licensed city tour guide. 

This means that guests receive very detailed information about the surrounding areas and visible attractions.

 

 

Included in this commentary are “notable American landmarks, such as Fort Sumter, the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown, The Battery, the Ravenel Bridge, Castle Pinckney,” as well as several other sites. 

Tours depart 3-5 times daily, depending on the season and the tour lasts for about 1 ½ hours total. No tours run from December – February.

Prices

Discounts

  • Children 3 and under ride for free.
  • Tickets for children age 4-11 are $12 off.
  • Seniors are eligible for a $2 discount.
  • Included on the Charleston Tour Pass.

Though not quite as highly rated as their Dinner Cruise, the Charleston Harbor Tour by SpiritLine also receives positive reviews, averaging 4 out of 5 stars on TripAdvisor. 

Most guests praise the interesting commentary and beautiful sites, though some write that they found the narration to be dry.

However, these comments are infrequent, indicating that it’s not the opinion of most visitors.


Adventure Harbor Tours 

Though this company specializes in private tours, they also offer a handful of public tours that run on the weekends. 

The Morris Island Boat Tour is a 2 ½ hour adventure that brings guests to an island that is “unspoiled, undeveloped, and undeniably the ecological jewel of Charleston Harbor.”

 

 

Alternatively, guests can choose one of the “Mild” or “Wild” Sunset Cocktail Cruises.

The “Mild” cruise caters primarily to families and does not allow guests to bring their own booze, while the “Wild” one is BYOB friendly and entertains younger crowds (including many bachelorette parties!). 

Children are welcomed on both, though the Mild Sunset Cocktail Cruise is typically much more popular with families.

Morris Island Boat Tour

“Wild” Sunset Cocktail Cruise

“Mild” Sunset Cocktail Cruise

Discounts

  • Kids under 2 ride for free.
  • Children’s tickets are between $8 – $25 off.

Adventure Harbor Tours receives excellent reviews and maintains an impressive 5 out of 5-star rating on TripAdvisor. 

In fact, of their nearly 1,000 reviews, less than 10 rates the company at 3 or fewer stars.

Some even describe the tour as “the best thing ever” and “absolutely outstanding.”


Sandlapper

If you’re in the mood for a sunset cruise, but you’re not looking for a dining experience, this company offers a service that will take you out on the Charleston Harbor just as the sun goes down.

 

 

During this 2-hour tour, you’ll have the opportunity to see several landmarks from the water and enjoy native wildlife such as dolphins in their natural habitat.

Prices

Discounts

  • Kids under 2 ride for free.
  • Children’s tickets are $15 off.
  • Included on Discount Sites like Groupon and LivingSocial.
  • Combo Packages available including your choice of a cruise and a bus tour, walking tour, or plantation excursion.

Sandlapper Tours currently enjoys a 5 out of 5-stars rating (read reviews here).

Most guests report that the captain and tour guide are very knowledgeable about the area and they provide a lot of historical information about Charleston Harbor.

Many customers were pleased with the sunset, some reporting that the experience was both beautiful and peaceful.


DINNER CRUISES

Those looking for a more luxurious experience should consider taking a dinner cruise of Charleston Harbor.

 

Currently, SpiritLine Cruises is the only company offering this service. There is currently only one way to save money on these tickets, and that is by taking advantage of group rates.


SpiritLine Cruises (GrayLine)

In addition to their standard Charleston Harbor Tours, SpiritLine Cruises also offers a daily dinner cruise.

The price of a ticket includes a 3-4 course dinner, live nightly music, and a 2 ½ hour cruise with spectacular views of Charleston.

Guests can choose between Captain Seating (which is the normal arrangement with 4-6 people per table) or a private table that seats 2. 

There is also a full-service bar and additional amenities (such as flowers or sparkling wine), all of which is available for purchase.

Prices

Discounts

  • The following group rates apply when you purchase tickets for parties of 15 or more.
    • $62.95 per person | Monday – Thursday
    • $71.21 per person | Friday – Sunday

 

 

 

SpiritLine’s Dinner Cruise is especially highly regarded, with a 4 ½ out of 5-star rating on TripAdvisor. 

Guests describe the experience as “amazing”, “wonderful”, and “romantic.”

The food also receives high marks, which is certainly not always the case with most dinner cruises.


FORT SUMTER CRUISES

The very first shots of the Civil War were fired on Fort Sumter by Confederate forces who were outraged by Abraham Lincoln’s successful candidacy.

After a long night of carnage, Union soldiers were forced to abandon their post the very next day, thus beginning the bloodiest war in American history.

Today, guests can visit Fort Sumter to learn more about the incredible history of this tiny island. 

There are currently 6 discounts available for this tour, including the following deals:

  • Free for Kids under 3
  • Children’s Discount
  • Senior Discount
  • Military Discount
  • Tourist Pass
  • Combo Packages

The tourist pass can save you up to 40% off on tickets, making it the best discount available. The combo packages are another great way to save a good chunk of change.

Read our post on Fort Sumter to learn more. 

Fort Sumter Tours

Though most cruises and boat tours pass by Fort Sumter, there is only one company to actually dock at the island.

Fort Sumter Tours, which is an authorized National Park Service concessioner, offers 7 daily departures and 1 evening departure. 

Guests enjoy a 30-minute boat ride out to the island, during which time a pre-recorded audio guide discusses various points of interest, including the history of Fort Sumter and Charleston Harbor. 

Upon arrival, a National Park Ranger greets guests and offers a 10-minute overview of the island.

Then guests are allowed 45-60 minutes to explore the fort and the museum on their own. 

 

 

Guests who opt for the Sunset at Fort Sumter Tour also get to enjoy tasty southern BBQ cuisine during the ride back.

Though there is no guided tour around the fort, there are several signs noting points of interest.

Additionally, those who would prefer a guided tour of the museum can request one through Fort Sumter Tours for no additional cost.

Those who want to learn even more about Fort Sumter’s history should consider taking our Charleston Civil War Tour.

Fort Sumter Tour (departs 5 times daily) 

Sunset at Fort Sumter (departs Fridays at 5:00 pm) 

Discounts

TIP: Fort Sumter Tours also sells combo packages and their basic service is included with the Charleston tour pass. Check out the discounts section of this page to learn more.

Fort Sumter Tours has an average rating of 4 ½ out of 5 stars on TripAdvisor.

History lovers all agree that this is a worthwhile tour with beautiful views and lots of interesting commentaries.


WATER TAXIS

Looking to enjoy beautiful views of Charleston from the water, but not interested in the guided commentary and price tag that comes with a traditional boat tour?

Take advantage of Charleston’s Water Taxi!

 

 

The Water Taxi services 4 different locations: Aquarium Wharf/Maritime Center, Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum, Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina, and Waterfront Park/Market St/Historic District. 

Guests pay a flat fee of $12 for an all-day pass to travel from any departure point as many times as you wish. 

Discounts

In addition to easy transportation and beautiful views of the city, the Water Taxi promises guests the possibility of seeing dolphins along the way.


SAILING TOURS

If a traditional cruise around Charleston Harbor doesn’t strike your fancy, you can opt to take a sailing tour instead. 

There are a handful of companies offering sailing tours of the area, ranging from 90-minute public tours to multi-day private and fully customized trips.
The public tours tend to be upwards of $50 per person, making them more expensive than other cruises.

Private sailing tours, on the other hand, typically cost several hundred dollars, if not more.

Here are a few sailing tours you may want to consider:

Schooner Sailing Cruise

  • $49/Adults | $33/Children
  • Availability: Daily
  • Hours: 1 pm – 4 pm
  • Duration: 2 hours

Schooner Sunset Sail

  • $70/Adults
  • Availability: Daily
  • Hours: 5:30 pm – 7 pm
  • Duration: 2 hours

Discount

Sailing tours typically receive high ratings of around 4 ½ out of 5 stars (read reviews here).

Most guests refer to this experience as a smooth and enjoyable ride, indicating their captain and crew are fun and professional.


SPEEDBOAT CRUISE

If you’re looking for a more exciting trip out on the Charleston Harbor, consider heading out on a speedboat for a fun adventure!

While these excursions are definitely more about having fun, you’ll also receive live narration from a tour guide providing details about the area.

 

 

Best of all, you’ll have the opportunity to drive the boat yourself, as your guide will provide instructions for how to pilot the speedboat.

  • $86.69 per person
  • Must purchase tickets for at least 2 passengers
  • Availability: Daily
  • Hours: 9 am – 5 pm
  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Purchase tickets or learn more.

Discounts

Reviews for Charleston Speedboat Adventures are excellent with an overall rating of almost 5 out of 5 stars (read reviews here). 

Guests report that this is a fun cruise, with some customers saying it was the best money they spent during their entire vacation.

 


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About the author

Guide & Manager | Charleston, SC

Scott has led over 2,000 tours of Charleston and has more than 1000 5 star reviews. He started working in museums at the age of 16 (Unsinkable Molly Brown House) and hasn't looked back. He was the Executive Director of Heurich House and on the historic interpretation/ education staff at Mount Vernon, both in Washington DC, for over 6 years. Scott moved to Charleston in 2012 for a job with the Historic Charleston Foundation and began leading tours for Free Tours by Foot.