A top historic attraction in South Carolina, Fort Sumter National Monument is famous for being the site where the Civil War began. Today, the sea fort, accessible only by boat, retains much of its original stone structure—plus a few lodged cannonballs—letting visitors experience a piece of American history firsthand.
Fort Sumter National Monument is composed of three sites: Fort Sumter, Fort Moultrie, and the Fort Sumter Visitor Education Center. The simplest way to visit is with guided tour tickets. Basic tours include round-trip transportation to Fort Sumter (accessible only by boat), commentary from a National Park Service ranger during the 30-minute ferry ride, and a guided tour inside the fort. The Fort Sumter Visitor Education Center is located at the downtown ferry launch on Liberty Square and provides additional information about the historic site. You can also catch views of Fort Sumter on a historic Charleston walking tour, Charleston harbor tour, or paddleboard tour of the harbor.
Though part of the Fort Sumter National Monument, Fort Moultrie is on Sullivan’s Island and accessible only by car. Look for tours that combine a visit to both forts to easily see them in a day. Fort Moultrie also offers self-guided tours.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Fort Sumter National Monument is a must for history buffs and Civil War enthusiasts.
- Book early to guarantee entry—tours sell out far in advance.
- Fort Sumter is accessible only by boat.
- Both forts are located on islands—dress in layers if visiting during cool weather.
- Fort Sumter does not require an entrance fee, but Fort Moultrie does.
- Tours to Fort Sumter typically last 2.5 hours. Plan to spend roughly 30 minutes in the Fort Sumter Visitor Education Center.
- Most of Fort Sumter is accessible to wheelchair users.
How to Get There
Fort Sumter is accessible only via commercial ferry or private boat from either the Fort Sumter Visitor Education Center or Patriots Point, across the Ravenel Bridge in Mt. Pleasant. The Visitor Education Center is located in on Liberty Square in downtown Charleston and is open daily to the public. Fort Moultrie, on Sullivan’s Island, is accessible only by driving.
When to Get There
Because the Fort Sumter National Monument is largely outdoors, it’s best to avoid the hot and humid summer months, roughly June through September. Spring and fall bring mild climates that make exploring more pleasant.
Fort Sumter’s Three Wars
Though famous for its role in the Civil War, Fort Sumter was actually named after an American Revolutionary War General and built as a response to the War of 1812.