Fort Sumter holds a special significance in the course of US history. It was this relatively unassuming military post where the Civil War began in earnest. Today, it is a popular attraction and opens for visitors to explore. This article serves as your guide to making the most of your tour of the site.
Fort Sumter, along with nearby Fort Moultrie, forms a designated National Historical Park of South Carolina. Fort Sumter was indelibly etched into American history when, on the 12th of April 1861, Confederate forces open fired on the US garrison.
The park is open year round but closes for Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day. The visitor center is open each day from 9 am to 5 pm.
In preparation for your visit and tour it is critical to check the boat schedule. Boats depart from two locations: Patriots Point (Mount Pleasant) and Liberty Square in downtown Charleston. Peak season runs from March 1 to November 30. During this time there are three daily departures from Liberty Square and two from Patriots Point.
From December 1 to February 28, there are two daily departures from Liberty Square and one from Patriots Point. The period from December 26 to December 31 reverts to the peak season timetable.
|Date||Liberty Square Departures||Patriots Point Departures|
|Peak Season||9:30 am, 12:15 pm, 3:00 pm||10:45 am, 1:45 pm|
|Low Season||11:00 am, 2:30 pm||1:00 pm|
Liberty Square also hosts the Visitor Education Center - a free service and one that is critically important in learning about the fascinating history of the fort. Note that Fort Moultrie is also open from 9 am to 5 pm from Friday to Sunday.
Tours & Particpation
An iconic part of the daily ritual for park staff is the raising and lowering of the US flag. Visitors on the first ferry out to the site can assist rangers in raising the Stars and Stripes, while visitors on the final ferry out can assist in lowering and folding the flag.
Fort Moultrie has lower visitation than Fort Sumter but still offers guided tours twice daily (11 am and 2 pm). However, it is open all year round for walking and exploring.
Current fees are $10 for adults and the site is free for children aged 15 and under. If you intend to visit in a group twice or more during a year, consider purchasing an annual pass for $35, which covers the card holder and up to three adults.
America the Beautiful Federal Lands Pass Holders enjoy free access, as do school tour groups. The latter require advance reservations and should reach out to the site staff at (843) 883-3123.
Strictly speaking, there is no entrance fee for Fort Sumter per se. However, the island is accessible only by ferry and private boats are not allowed.
To get the most out of your visit, we recommend booking an acclaimed tour aboard the Carolina Belle. You'll be engrossed in sightseeing and scenery suitable for the whole family, and local experts offer narrated insight into the history of the site.
Pets and alcoholic beverages are not permitted aboard the boat. Although every effort is made to make the tour accessible, ramps used for access are sometimes unavailable due to adverse weather conditions.
Visitors from outside the area should consider seeking accommodation in Charleston.