Imagine you’re taking a stroll along The Battery in downtown Charleston. You happen upon a lovely park. You make your way to a quiet, grassy spot underneath a giant Live Oak tree. You have a seat, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and exhale all the stresses of the day. When you open your eyes, it takes a moment to register that things seem a little different . . .
You’re no longer sitting on grass, but on oyster shells. The magnificent homes lining The Battery are there, but the cars parked along the harbor are not. The gazebo is gone. The seawall is noticeably lower than it was just a few moments ago. The streets are paved with ballast stone, not cement. The scent of horses and wood-burning stoves mingle in the air. Women donning long, cotton dresses and petticoats and men in breeches, hats, and boots casually stroll around the park as you look on in disbelief. Wait, are the cannons lined along the park live?!
These are just a few of the sights, sounds, and scents you would experience in 18th or 19th Century Charleston (formerly Charles Towne), at a park then called Oyster Point.
Previously Known as Oyster Point
This serene plot of land nestled along Charleston Harbor got its moniker from the oyster shells scattered along the ground which would turn white from the relentless South Carolina sun. In 1837, the name was officially changed to White Point Gardens. However, it wasn’t always the peaceful retreat we know it as today.
The cannons that adorn the perimeter of the park were ever engaged in battle during the Revolutionary and Civil Wars as defense for Charleston Harbor. In 1718-19 the pirate Stede Bonnet and 49 of his cohorts were hung from gallows in the park as a warning to any profiteers making their way into the harbor. There is still a piece of shrapnel lodged in the attic of the William Roper House (9 Battery St.) which dates to the Civil War when Confederate troops exploded artillery deemed too heavy to move during evacuation. Thank goodness there were no homeowners associations back then.
Present Day White Point Gardens
Today, White Point Gardens is a picturesque icon of the Charleston landscape. Gentle ocean breezes, giant live oak trees dripping with Spanish moss, a quaint gazebo built in 1907, monuments and plaques memorializing the past, park benches to take in the splendor, local wildlife flit and scamper about, and the original cannons (plus a fake one) still line the confines of the park. It is also a nesting site for the Black Crowned Night Heron!
History and nature blending seamlessly is the perfect metaphor for this beloved park and for Charleston itself.
Things to Do at White Point Gardens
White Point Gardens is free to all. No entrance or membership fee is required. It is the perfect place to take a break from the masses of tourists along the Battery, French Quarter, and Rainbow Row. Even though downtown Charleston can feel congested with tourists and residents alike, there is something quite magical about how this spot feels empty and quiet, despite people all around.
- My favorite way to enjoy the park is to simply just be and take it all in. It’s also a wonderful place to let your kiddos run around, climb on the cannons, dance on the gazebo, or sit and have a picnic once the weather begins to cool.
- Grab a friend and coffee from nearby Second State and head over to the park for a lovely morning stroll with (or without!) the kids.
- Queen Street Grocery is a neighborhood favorite and has a delicious assortment of panini, crepes, sandwiches, and salads which you can grab and go for a picnic at the park.
- There are several amazing restaurants up and down Broad Street to indulge in and then walk off the calories!
- If you’re looking for a stunning backdrop for family photos, White Point Gardens is the perfect locale. It’s also a great spot to take your own photos. I always find something new on each visit!
- The gazebo can be rented through the City of Charleston for small events: weddings, anniversaries, and birthday parties for up to 25 guests.
If you’ve never been to White Point Gardens (also known as Battery Park), or it’s been a while since your last visit, do yourself a favor and head over that way. The weather is going to start cooling soon (Please hurry, fall!) — the perfect reason to check out this not-so-hidden gem tucked along the Charleston Harbor and majestic antebellum homes of The Battery.
Do you have a favorite thing to do at White Point Gardens? Drop me a note and let’s chat!
Check out more from our Lowcountry Parks & Playgrounds series here!