The ferry to the fort is run by a private contractor. There are two different ferries running to the fort - from Liberty Square in Charleston and the once a day from Mt. Pleasant on the other side of the Cooper River. We went from Liberty Square.
The ferry ride is quite a lot of fun. There is a snack bar on the ferry where you can get drinks. I took all these pictures except the second one (which is of the rate board) from the ferry. In the first one, there is a seagull, a sailboat going out of the harbor, a container ship also going out of the harbor, a speedboat coming toward the ferry, and sometimes I think I can see a dolphin gamboling in the wake of the ferry.
Limited handicap access at the Liberty Square boarding facility only.
Rates for 2006 Dates and Season From Patriots Point Mt. Pleasant Rates and Schedule subject to change without notice. Limited handicap access at the Liberty Square boarding facility only.
Schedule /Rates for 2006
Date/Season From Patriots Point Mt. Pleasant From Liberty Square@ Aquarium Wharf
April 1 thru Labor Day 10:45 am, 1:30 pm, 4:00 pm 9:30 am, 12:00 Noon, 2:30 pm
Day After Labor Day thru November 30 10:45 am, 1:30 pm 9:30 am, 12:00 Noon, 2:30 pm
December 1 thru December 24 1:30 pm 11:00 am, 2:30 pm
December 26 thru December 31 10:45 am, 1:30 pm 9:30 am, 12:00 Noon, 2:30 pm
** Closed: Christmas Day, New Years Day, and Thanksgiving Day.
Fort Sumter Tour Rates:
Adults: $14.00; Seniors: $12.50; Kids (5-11): $8.00; Infants (5 and Under): Free
These are departure times.
Please allow at least 25 minutes for Ticketing and Boarding.
When we got off the ferry, we walked around with a ranger for a short (10 minute) tour. After that we walked around on our own. You do not have to take the ranger tour, but it really helps to understand the history of the fort. One of the facts I remember is that the guns at Fort Sumter would not have reached as far as the Battery in Charleston.
The Fort Sumter museum has exhibits that tell the story of the construction of the fort and island, the events leading to the April 12-13, 1861 battle, and the subsequent bombardment and reduction of Fort Sumter by artillery to rubble later in the war.
Since Fort Sumter is designated "Historic" they don't want you to climb on the cannons (which of course my granddaughter immediately started to do since she wasn't listening on the tour). Other than the wayside exhibits which interpret the historic resources found throughout the site and the vistas visible from the observation level there is not that much to do except for such recreational activities as bird watching and fishing.
The ferry ride to Fort Sumter costs money - it is operated by a contractor. But the Exhibit Hall on the Charleston side ferry docks is free. Inside is a museum giving the history of the fort and the area before and during the Civil War.
The Exhibit Hall is open 8:30 to 5 every day.
My first picture shows an exhibit about the decline in the commercial importance of Charleston between 1790 and 1860. Most of the population growth in those years was in the north. In 1860, Charleston was the 5th largest city in the south, behind St. Louis, New Orleans, Baltimore, Washington D.C., and Louisville. The population of over 40,000 included 14,000 slaves and over 3,000 free African Americans.
The second photo tells the tale of the sucession. On December 20, 1860, in response to the election of Lincoln in November 1860, the South Carolina Social Convention of 169 delegates passed and signed an Ordinance of Secession, taking the state out of the Union.
The third photo contrasts Ft. Sumter itself from 1860, when the walls of the fort were 55 feet above the water, to today when they range between 9 and 25 feet tall. The fort is basically a stablized ruin. The task of clearing the rubble began in in the 1870s. During the next 20 years, the fort served mainly as a lighthouse station. In 1899, a modernization added a concrete Edicott battery in the middle of the parade grounds. The fort was used throughout WWII, and was decommissioned in 1947 when the War Department (as it was then) turned it over to the National Park Service. It became a National Monument in 1948
The museum on Fort Sumter is a tiny area which contains some interesting exhibits. One of the original flags which flew over the Fort is on display here. The photo shows how the nearly completely destroyed Fort after the war. During the attempts at preservation, the Park Service reconstructed some of the buildings and the Fort which stands as a National Monument bears little resemblance to the Fort which was the symbol of Confederate resistance and, not coincidentally, the most popular target of Union bombardment.
In order to tour Fort Sumter, you must take one of the boat tours offered by the National Park Service. There are two departing locations- one on Calhoun Street and the other on Mount Pleasant. The tours depart twice a day- three times per day in the busiest months, and run just a little over two hours. There is an indoor cabin for days when the weather is not cooperating. Even on mild days, it can get pretty cold on top when the sea breeze starts blowing.
The boat ride takes about 30 minutes each way. There is a recorded message which gives some basic information about the Fort and nearby points of interest. The information provided on the return trip was more useful than the info on the way out there.
On the day I visited, the water was really rough due to a storm in the area. We ended up getting tossed about for a good 15-20 minutes while waiting for the other tour boat to depart. This is an unusual situation, but bring dramamine if the water is choppy.
Fort Sumter was an enjoyable day's visit for the price. The little boat ride out to the monument was very pleasant! There was some construction going on at the time we were there, but I'm sure it's gone by now! :)