Top 7 activities for the perfect, dog-friendly day trip to Charleston

A dog-friendly trip  to Charleston, SC. Photo by Remy Thurston
A dog-friendly trip to Charleston, SC. Photo by Remy Thurston

My boyfriend, Rémy, and I whisked our dog away to Charleston for a little overnight trip this weekend. We spent two nights with Maisie at a dog-friendly Airbnb just over the iconic Ravenel Bridge from downtown, in Mount Pleasant. (To look for a similar stay, select “dogs allowed” in the “house rules” filter when you’re browsing housing availability on the Airbnb website — easy.)

We devoted all of Saturday to a low-key, whim-based day of activities. Our only goal was to bring Maisie everywhere, while making sure she was comfortable despite the unexpected October heat.

Based on our adventures, here’s a guide to a perfect day trip in Charleston with your pup:

(1) Stroll through Waterfront Park

99 Harry M. Hallman Jr Blvd., Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464

Early morning: We packed a water bottle and a plastic bowl, along with Maisie, into the car and drove the short distance to Mount Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park. The park features ample free parking, multiple green spaces, a playground and, most noteworthy, a sweeping view of the Ravenel Bridge and Charleston Harbor. Before you reach the 1,250-foot-long pier (we walked Maisie the whole length of it and then found out that pets aren’t allowed — oops), you can stop and grab a coffee or snack from the River Watch Cafe. Menu items like ham melts, reubens, grilled cheeses and pumpkin spice shakes (hello, fall) are available. Check the cafe hours here and the park hours here.

Waterfront Park in Mount Pleasant, SC. Photo by Katie Toussaint

(2) Grab coffee and tea at Collective Coffee Co.

766 S Shelmore St., Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464

Mid-morning: It’s well past coffee time at this point. We holed up at a table on the narrow patio outside of Collective Coffee Co. for a caffeine hit. The patio at this local spot (which feels like the Not Just Coffee of Charleston) even has a bowl of water waiting outside for pup customers. What to order: The Maghreb Mint tea for tea drinkers (who also want caffeine), and iced coffee with oat milk for the coffee fans. Breakfast items like avocado toast and omelets are made in-house if you’re feeling peckish.

Collective Coffee Co. in Mt. Pleasant, SC. Photo by Katie Toussaint

(3) Brunch/lunch at Taco Boy

217 Huger St., Charleston, SC 29403

Late morning: Just over the Ravenel Bridge in downtown Charleston is beloved local taco joint Taco Boy, which features a brightly decorated (and enormous) patio, complete with large, forceful fans, picnic tables, dinner tables, outdoor bar access and lounge couches. There’s a ton of parking here, too. Grab a patio seat where you can park your pup in front of one of the large fans and your server will pour fresh water into a dog bowl from a pitcher — royal treatment. What to order: For a brunch-y vibe, opt for the fresh-fruit margarita (the strawberry marg has the ideal tart-to-sweet ratio), the salsa trio, the Mexican Caesar salad with the creamiest dressing, and a round of of tacos (the tempura avocado and the fried shrimp taco pair nicely).

Taco Boy in Charleston, SC. Photo by Katie Toussaint.

(4) Wine and cheese at Goat. Sheep. Cow.

804 Meeting St., Suite 102, Charleston, SC 29403

Early-afternoon: Cafe and wine bar Goat. Sheep. Cow. has the ideal hideaway patio (complete with a tall fence and vines climbing the building walls) to relax away from the hustle and bustle of Charleston tourism crowds. Expect a quiet, foliage-filled outdoor space and a sleek, airy indoor space with a long bar and tables for sipping and dining. Don’t miss out on the retail selection of cheeses and wines inside, either. What to order: A wine by the glass (there’s a nice, diverse selection of rosés) and a small cheese board to curb the snack craving — it comes with cheeses both soft and funky, dried fruits and crackers.

Patio at Goat. Sheep. Cow. in Charleston, SC. Photo by Katie Toussaint

Insert a short break here — to head back to your Airbnb, if it’s hot, like it was this weekend. Take a quick nap with your pup in the air-conditioning, and drop some kibble into his or her dish before the next adventure. Plus, crank up the AC in the car when you’re cruising between destinations for optimal dog-friendly temperatures.

(5) A refresher at Butcher & Bee

Late-afternoon: This sweeping patio has big benches that can fit a dog, plus a few shady patches — ask your server for a specific cool spot, if it’s open. Butcher & Bee is known for shareable spreads and mezze plates (from hummus to bacon-wrapped dates), bowls and salads, and sandwiches like pulled squash and burgers. The menu emphasizes vivid flavors courtesy of local farmers. What to order: A honey lavender iced latte to cool off, plus a palate cleanser like the daily variety of gelato and sorbet.

(6) A romp at Isle of Palms

Sunset: How can you fully enjoy Charleston without a trip to the beach to see how your dog reacts to the ocean? Isle of Palms offers ample public beach access, plus a gorgeous assortment of homes to ogle en route. Find a patch of free street parking (in the grass, roadside) and unleash the beast on the sand. On this shore, from 4 p.m. until 10 a.m. for the rest of this year, dogs can roam “under voice command” if the owner has a leash in hand (see the complete rules here). It felt like an absurdly happy, high-energy dog park when we visited.

Isle of Palms, SC.
Dogs can be off-leash during certain times at Isle of Palms, SC. Photo by Katie Toussaint

(7) Dinner at Xiao Bao Biscuit

224 Rutledge Ave., Charleston, SC 29403

Evening: Once you hose and towel off the dog (how can so much sand stick to one animal?), you’ll both be wiped out enough that one more stop for a late dinner should do the trick. Xiao Bao Biscuit is a trendy little Asian soul food establishment downtown that has a cluster of picnic tables outside with just enough room for a furry friend to tuck into. The staff is super friendly (and likely to obsess over your dog), so don’t hesitate to order a drink outside while you wait for your picnic table to open up. What to order: The Okonomiyaki (their ever-famous Japanese cabbage pancake) as well as the Mapo Dou Fu (a spicy classic sichuan pork and tofu dish with a vegetarian option and a mouth burn sure to make your face feel numb — in a delightful way).

Xiao Bao Biscuit in Charleston, SC. Photo by Katie Toussaint

Believe me — seven activities in a day is plenty with a pup in tow in this busy city. Just be prepared for a bit of driving to get out of the heat.

While I wish it was a little cooler for Maisie during this early October trip, having her along was the greatest excuse to take it easy. To stay awhile at each destination — and to truly slow down.