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Fort Sumter Tours | How To Get There

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This post covers how to take a Fort Sumter tour, how to reach the boats, and a visitors guide for when you are on the island. 


TOURS OF FORT SUMTER 

Tours on Fort Sumter are very limited. Fort Sumter Tours, a local tour company, is the only authorized concessionaire of Fort Sumter.

They offer 1 - 3 tours per day, depending on the time of year.

The tours include a 30-minute ferry ride to and from the fort and 60 minutes on the island. The total length of the tour is just under 2.5 hours.

During the 30-minute boat ride out to the island, a pre-recorded voice discusses various points of interest, including the history of Fort Sumter and Charleston Harbor. 

Since you won't be allowed to bring your own snacks with you there is a snack bar available onboard the ferry.

Upon arrival, guests are greeted by a National Park Ranger who provides a 10-minute overview of the island. Guests are then given 45-60 minutes to explore the fort and the museum on their own.  

Save some time and listen to the NPS ranger talk here.

There is no guided tour around Fort Sumter. However, signs label different points of interest, and if interested, the Fort Sumter Tours can arrange a guided tour through the museum for an additional cost.

If you would like a more in-depth tour of the history and significance of Fort Sumter, consider taking our Charleston Civil War Tour.

The tour is a nice complement for those planning a trip out to the island. It details the Fort Sumter Battle, as well as many other sites around Charleston that were significant during the Civil War. 


FERRY DEPARTURE POINTS

Fort Sumter is on an island and is only accessible by boat.  Tours have ferries that leave from Liberty Square and Patriots Point in Charleston.

It is suggested that guests book reservations in advance. Again, Fort Sumter Tours is the only concessioner of Fort Sumter.

Fort Sumter Ferry

TICKET COST/SCHEDULE

There is no charge for visiting Fort Sumter, the museum, or Exhibit Hall in Charleston. However, there is a fee for transportation to and from the island.

Departure times depend on the time of year, the departure point, and the weather.

Ticket Prices

  • $32 for Adults
  • $29 for Military/Seniors
  • $19 for Children (ages 4-11)
  • Children under 3 ride for free with a parental guardian.
  • Purchase tickets or learn more.

NOTE: This activity is included with the Charleston Tour Pass, a discount service you can use to save 30% - 40% or more off general admission prices.

Departure Schedule

Jan 2nd – Feb 27th

  • 11 AM & 2:30 PM (from Liberty Square) | 1 PM (from Patriot's Point)

Feb 28th – Mar 13th

  • 9:30 AM, 12 PM & 2:30 PM (from Liberty Square) | 10:30 AM, 1 PM, and 3:30 PM (from Patriot's Point)

Mar 14th – Aug 21st

  • 9:30 AM, 12 PM, 2:30 PM & 4 PM (from Liberty Square) | 10:30 AM, 1 PM & 3:30 PM (from Patriot's Point)

Aug 22nd – Nov 30th

  • 9:30 AM, 12 PM & 2:30 PM (from Liberty Square) | 10:30 AM & 1 PM (from Patriot's Point)

Dec 1st – Dec 24th

  • 11 AM & 2:30 PM (from Liberty Square) | 1 PM (from Patriot's Point)

Dec 26th – Dec 31st

  • 9:30 AM, 12 PM & 2:30 PM (from Liberty Square) | 10:30 AM & 1 PM (from Patriot's Point)

Additional Details

  • No tours available on Christmas or Thanksgiving
  • Labor Day Weekend departures are extended to summer hours

FORT SUMTER REVIEWS

Whether you plan to learn about this fort from afar or see it up close, it could be useful to hear what other visitors thought about the historic site.

These reviews will reveal the details that guests either enjoyed or disliked about this location, making it much easier to determine whether or not a trip to Fort Sumter is right for you. 

History Comes to Life

Several reviews indicate that history buffs and beginners alike can find a lot to enjoy about Fort Sumter.

That being said, some visitors felt that their experience was made less enjoyable by guests who didn't know anything about the location and had no interest in learning about its historical significance.

Although this doesn't seem to be a common issue, it is worth noting that some audiences may not understand the importance of a site like this.

As long as you don't let that affect your enjoyment of the attraction, there shouldn't be a problem.

Original Artifacts

Several significant artifacts from Fort Sumter remain, including a cannon that was actually used during the war and the flag that was flown over the fort.

A majority of visitors appreciate the maintenance of these important items, allowing them to see an actual piece of history in the best possible quality. 

Many visitors feel that these objects are monuments that remind us of the struggle that this country has undergone, providing a greater appreciation for the freedom we enjoy today.

Flag Raising

Many tourists have noted that if you take the first tour of the day, you can take part in the flag-raising ceremony at Fort Sumter.

Visitors describe the event as "wonderful and touching," paying honor to the fallen heroes of our past.

One could imagine that raising the flag over this historic site would easily put you in the right frame of mind to learn all about its past.

Great Views

Many visitors have also enjoyed the fantastic views of Charleston.

Guests who took the tour (which includes a boat ride) were quite impressed with the trip both to and from the site, indicating that there were a lot of wonderful photo opportunities along the way.

Some tourists even mentioned seeing dolphins during the boat ride, making the outing even more pleasurable.

Fort Sumter Museum

If just visiting the fort isn't enough, the museum located on-site should provide plenty of historical context for the landmark.

Guests recommend using the museum either to take a break from walking around the grounds or to learn more about Fort Sumter while you're there. 


COUPONS AND COMBO PACKAGES

If you're looking to do more than just see Fort Sumter, there are a few combo packages that can help you save money on a variety of activities in and around Charleston.

Bus tour companies offer combo packages that include a tour and an activity, such as visiting Fort Sumter. But they have many other combos as well.

Find out more about saving money with a Charleston Bus Tour Combo Ticket here.


Charleston Tour Pass

This is one of the best ways to save money on tickets to Fort Sumter, because you can save anywhere from 30% - 40% off general admission prices.

In addition to that, the pass also includes many other popular activities and attractions in Charleston, including the following options:

  • Schooner Pride Afternoon Sail
  • Palmetto Carriage Tours
  • Haunted Yorktown Tour
  • Charleston Tea Garden
  • Charleston Fun Park
  • Gray Line City Tour
  • Harbor Tour Cruise
  • Charleston Museum
  • Kayal Rental
  • Drayton Hall
  • And more!

If you're already planning to enjoy some of these activities while visiting, the Charleston tourist pass will definitely come in handy.

Check our post covering Charleston city passes to learn more about how to use this service.


Gray Line

This company is well known for providing bus tour services all over the world. In Charleston, they offer a historic city tour that takes you to some of the most significant sites in the area.

One of their combo packages combines the city tour with a trip to Fort Sumter for one low price. This is a great way to discover the city and see some of the most important landmarks along the way.

  • Ticket Price: $57/Adults | $37/Children
  • Duration: 3-4 hours
  • Availability: Daily
  • More information.

They also have a combo deal which includes their city tour, a trip to Fort Sumter, and a visit to the Joseph Manigault House.

  • Ticket Price: $68/Adults | $44/Children
  • Duration: 4 hours
  • Availability: Not currently available.
  • More details.

Reviews for these combo deals are pretty good, although there were a few complaints from time to time.

Some customers would have liked the opportunity to stop and take pictures, but the city of Charleston does not allow hop-on, hop-off bus tour services.

A majority of guests were very happy with this trip, indicating that their tour guides were friendly and entertaining. Several visitors felt that this was a wonderful way to discover the area and its history.


Old South Carriage Company

If a bus tour isn't your style, perhaps you'll enjoy a carriage ride instead.

This company provides a combo tour of Charleston via horse-drawn carriage, allowing you to experience the city in an old-fashioned style.

You'll pick up your tickets for this tour when you check in for the Fort Sumter tour. Once you receive the Old South Carriage tour tickets, you can use them at any point during the next 7 days.

With a 4 ½ star rating on TripAdvisor, it's clear that most customers enjoy the carriage tours offered by this company.

Some guests described the outing as romantic, while others are pleasantly surprised by the amount of information provided by their tour guides.

Although most visitors describe this service as very professional, there are a few negative comments which take issue with Charleston's rules regarding tourism.

Unfortunately, there's nothing that the Old South Carriage Company can do about these issues, so it's not really their fault.

Despite a few concerns, the overwhelming majority of customers appreciated their experiences on this trip.

TIP: If you are thinking about a carriage tour, read our post comparing the different Charleston carriage tours to choose from.


USS Yorktown

Located at Patriot's Point, the USS Yorktown is an aircraft carrier developed for the United States during WWII. The craft was named after the Battle of Yorktown during the American Revolutionary War.

One of the combo deals available for Fort Sumter also allows you to visit this ship and walk in the footsteps of heroes from an entirely different generation.

Both sites are historically significant landmarks in Charleston, so it's safe to say that this combo package is a great deal for history buffs.

USS Yorktown and the Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum have received excellent reviews on TripAdvisor. The aircraft carrier was the first installment of this museum, and it remains one of the most popular sites in the area.

Guests are typically very impressed with the volunteers and employees on hand, stating that they are very helpful. Some visitors even suggest that this is one of the best naval museums in the country.


South Carolina Aquarium

This is an excellent option for families, allowing them to experience both the history and the natural beauty of Charleston.

You'll start off with a visit to Fort Sumter and finish the day at the South Carolina Aquarium.

While most of these combo packages focus primarily on historical sites, this one also provides an opportunity to learn about a variety of marine life. If you're looking for fun activities that everyone in your family can enjoy, this is a pretty good deal.

  • Ticket Prices: $47 for Adults | $33 for Children
  • Duration: 3-4 hours
  • Availability: Daily
  • Not currently available as of October 2022.

It might not come as a surprise, but this aquarium is very well rated on TripAdvisor. Guests tend to enjoy the opportunity to see some of the aquatic life that you'll find in the waters off the coast of South Carolina.

While some visitors enjoy this location because it isn't too crowded all the time, others appreciate its uniqueness. Customers indicate that the building is located right next to the boat to Fort Sumter, making it easy to visit both attractions in one day.


About The Author

Scott Nelson

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.
Updated: January 15th, 2023
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