The sunny community of Mt. Pleasant is often overlooked by its more famous neighbor to the south, Charleston, but this large suburban town has a wealth of authentic southern charm, history, activities and dining options that are sure to keep any South Carolina newcomer completely entertained.
Known as one of the best places to live and play for Charleston County residents, Mt. Pleasant is a network of gorgeous parks, wide waterfront views, and stunning antebellum style homes, and has a fantastic location that's next to barrier island beaches and historic and populated Charleston.
The secret of Mt. Pleasant's allure is slowly getting out, as the population has more than quadrupled since the 1980s. However, visitors will happily find that the small city by the water still retains its original genuine hospitality and laid back pace, and it won't take long for vacationers or new residents to discover why this South Carolina destination is considered one of the best and most beloved communities along the southern East Coast.
Like many of South Carolina's low country communities, Mt. Pleasant was founded at the very beginning of America's European colonization. Originally home to the Sewee Native Americans, the area was first discovered and developed by white settlers in 1680, under the command of Captain Florentia O'Sullivan, who was granted a 2,340 acre tract that included the current "Mt. Pleasant," as well as the barrier island region, Sullivan's Island, that shares his name.
Mt. Pleasant was originally marked as "North Point" on the captain's map, and in 1696, 51 English settlers arrived to stake their own claim in this newly formed community. It soon became clear that this new home, bordered by water in virtually every direction, had a lot of natural resources from fishing to farming, and the area prospered with new growth and a large development of farming plantations. Later, the deep water channels in between Shem Creek and the Wando River would serve as excellent grounds to launch a shipbuilding industry, a venture that would thrive for centuries to come.
On September 24, 1860, Mt. Pleasant made national headlines as a public meeting in the town resulted in the first secession resolution of South Carolina. The town would soon gain notoriety during the ensuing Civil War as well, as the secretive training grounds for the nine-man crew of the Confederate submarine H. L. Hunley, and as the home to a floating battery between Mt. Pleasant and Sullivan's Island, that was instrumental to the defense of the Charleston County region.
After the war, the plantations faded somewhat, although several, like the Boone Hall Plantation, stayed operational for generations, producing cotton, pecans, and other popular low country exports. In fact, Boone Hall is still a working farm - one of the oldest in the country - and produces fresh fruits and veggies to the delight of seasonal visitors.
Overall development remained relatively small in the 20th century, with a 1980 population that hovered around 14,000, until Mt Pleasant made national headlines once again as the site of the nation's first mixed-use New Urbanist "Traditional Neighborhood Development (TND)." A success since breaking ground, today the collection of homes, businesses, shops, parks and restaurants is one of the most popular places to live in Charleston County. The town's popularity boomed with new development, and in 2005 the eight-lane Arthur Ravenel Bridge opened for traffic, allowing Mt. Pleasant residents easy access to the larger neighboring city of Charleston.
Today, Mt. Pleasant is thriving with over 67,000 residents, and plenty of visitors who want to experience the slow-paced coastal lifestyle, incredible attractions, and great shopping and restaurants. Favorite destinations in town include the Patriot's Point Museum, a fascinating tour through South Carolina's military history and home to the now retired USS Yorktown battleship, Shem Creek Park, and Mt. Pleasant Memorial Waterfront Park, a stunning park and fishing pier that is located almost directly under the Arthur Ravenel Bridge. Visitors will find these big name attractions within easy reach, as well as plenty of fishing, kayaking, golfing, nature trails, and historic sites, including 'The Old Village,' Mt. Pleasant's oldest neighborhood which features historic residences that date all the way back to 1755.
Destination weddings are also popular in this town, and event venues like the Lighthouse on the Creek Marina or Boone Hall Plantation welcome wedding parties of all sizes, styles, and tastes for unforgettable weddings and receptions with a stunning natural backdrop.
When it's time to relax and enjoy a good meal, Mt. Pleasant visitors will find over 250 regional restaurants to choose from, including downtown establishments that are tucked away in historic homes, and plenty of seafood shacks, bistros and grills that specialize in the fresh local seafood. Foodies are encouraged to load up on shrimp, crabs, and other local seaworthy fare, as the community is well known for its commercial fishing - a reputation that is evident by the dozens of shrimping boats that are often docked along the local marinas.
As for accommodations, visitors will find nearly 20 hotels, including national hotel chains and small, locally run inns, a handful of Bed and Breakfasts in the heart of town, and a number of vacation rental homes, townhouses and condos, which are ideal lodgings for longer stays. Many longtime visitors claim that the selection of B&BS, particularly the converted plantation homes, are a great way to dive into the southern scene and get a taste of the antebellum style that is prominent around every corner.
Best of all, coastal lovers will find themselves close to the water virtually everywhere they go. With town borders that connect to the Cooper River, Charleston Harbor, Shem Creek, and the eastern saltwater sounds, a fantastic sunset or good waterfront view is never out of reach.
Mt. Pleasant has blossomed in the past few decades, and is quickly becoming a competitor for the title of prettiest southern town in South Carolina. With a family friendly coastal atmosphere that bodes well for visitors who want to shop, dine, stroll, and soak up the history and culture of the low country, it's easy to see why this growing community is considered one of South Carolina's favorite down home places to visit, vacation, and live.