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When visiting boaters dock in Charleston, South Carolina, they’re sure to hear the story of a wealthy old Charlestonian woman who was once asked why she so seldom traveled. She replied, "My dear, why should I travel when I'm already here?"

It's easy to understand this woman's complacency about hitting the road or the high seas--few places on the water (or inland) can rival Charleston's blend of location, tradition, beauty, and cuisine. Charleston has a way of charming visiting boaters (and residents) so that they never want to leave. This welcoming water-soaked city is also incredibly boater-friendly.

Located on a peninsula, Charleston is an "old world" city, lovingly preserved and unique among American destinations. In this grand old city, church bells still toll the hours and the rhythmic sounds of horse-drawn carriages (and the lapping of docked boats) join in the melody. During a visit, boaters can see the antebellum homes and plantations that echo a lifestyle of the old south, as well as feel and smell the salty sea breeze blowing into the city from beaches of the resort islands nearby. Then, it’s time to taste the delicious fresh seafood at one of many renowned Charleston restaurants.

One should definitely begin any Charleston exploration with a visit to the Charleston Visitor Center at 375 Meeting Street. There’s a multi-sensory presentation called "Forever Charleston," lots of brochures and information, many tour and attraction tickets, and even the regularly departing DASH Trolley.

Right in Charleston's historic downtown area, history buffs find many urban treasures, including the Nathanial Russell House, a fine example of Federal architecture built in 1808. It's one of many homes targeted by the city-saving work of the Preservation Society of Charleston and the Historic Charleston Foundation.

Of course, Charleston is also quite close to many excellent beaches and beach resorts. Resort beach destinations include Isle of Palms (and famed Wild Dunes Resort), Seabrook Island, and Kiawah Island (stay at the award-winning Sanctuary).

Located at City Marina, the Mega-Dock is definitely the place to dock, stay, and play. As the southeast’s busiest transient marina (they average 80 traveling boats a night!), it’s hard to beat the Mega-Dock’s full facilities, services, and convenient location (on the Ashley River, just off the Intracoastal Waterway, and just a half-mile stroll from historic downtown Charleston). The recently opened Sportsman’s Island (www.sportsmansisland.com) out on nearby Daniel Island is also a great destination--it’s a one-stop shop for people into the boating lifestyle and it’s anchored by Hanckel Marine and Hanckel Marine Service Center.

From one of America's premier historic downtown areas to some of the nation's finest plantations and out to the beaches, Charleston is always colorful and charming. Once you step ashore, you'll understand why residents (and visitors) never want to leave. They, too, know they're already there.

For information, contact the Charleston Area Convention & Visitors Bureau at (800) 868-8118, or visit their excellent website at www.charlestoncvb.com.

Whether taking a carriage tour, shopping at the popular open-air public market for native sweetgrass baskets, looking for antiques along historic King Street, pursuing plantation life, or combing beautiful beaches, a Charleston visit is always a sensational sensory experience.

In the city and out on the plantations, America's oldest gardens explode with vibrant colors and are a delight, as the scent of the flora is like no other and the vision of the alluring azaleas, roses, and camellias are almost too exquisite to capture on a digital camera. Charleston is beautiful and aristocratic, where century-old houses peek at visitors behind gates that are alive with carolina jessamine, the state flower of South Carolina. If you happen to dock in Charleston during the spring or fall, some of the oldest and grandest homes and gardens are open to the public.

Other houses open to the public include the Edmonston-Alston House, the Heyward-Washington House, and the Aiken-Rhett House. All are well worth a visit, but the Aiken-Rhett House provides one of the most complete looks at antebellum life in the south at one of Charleston's most palatial residences.

Other "must-sees" in downtown Charleston include White Point Gardens (commonly called "The Battery"); the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon (both from slavery days); and at least one of the town's many historic churches. Everything is within walking distance down the city's tree-lined streets.

The South Carolina Aquarium sits right on the Charleston Harbor and takes water lovers on a trip from the state’s mountains to the Atlantic Ocean. It’s quickly become another “must-see” in a city full of them.

Charleston's colorful charms can also be explored a bit further afield, where many plantations are open to visitors. Out Ashley River Road, three colonial plantations interpret more than 250 years of rural life in the Lowcountry--Drayton Hall, Magnolia Plantation and Gardens, and Middleton Place are all highly recommended (as is a stay at Middleton Inn!). On the other side of Charleston, Boone Hall Plantation and Gardens begins with a 3/4-mile drive lined with massive Spanish oaks planted in 1743 by Captain Thomas Boone and includes many original plantation.

For those not sleeping aboard their boat, Charleston accommodations options range from modern hotels to quaint B&Bs. Boaters looking for a unique and historic place to stay may want to contact Lowndes Grove (www.lowndesgrove.com), a just re-opened historic estate right on the water (overnight guests can dock there)--it’s just minutes from downtown proper.

For a city its size, the dining scene is truly remarkable, with a wide range of restaurants offering creative seafood, southern cooking, and other fare. Ask around about several options from the Maverick Southern Kitchens group (www.mavericksouthernkitchens.com) or get a sometimes-difficult reservation at Charleston Grill, Cypress, Fig, Hank’s Seafood, Magnolias, Oak Steakhouse, Peninsula Grill, or Tristan.

Charleston is as boater-friendly as it is welcoming to foodies, amateur historians, and walkers.

As big-time boating country, Charleston plays host to several excellent boat shows. The spring Charleston In-Water Boat Show (www.charlestonspringboatshow.com; April 17-20 for 2008) features more than 10 acres of boats and lots of other exhibitors. Plus, the late-January Charleston Boat Show (www.charlestonboatshow.com) continues to be a Charleston favorite.