Living in Charleston

Where to live in Charleston: A Guide

Choosing where to live in Charleston is an important part of starting your graduate career and can depend on multiple factors such as budget, commute time, and proximity to activities. This guide can be used as a tool to explore the different areas of Charleston as you determine which location is best for you!

charleston map

Image Map

Historic Downtown Charleston, as seen in yellow on the map, is a terrific place for first year graduate students to live. You do not necessarily need a car as classes, restaurants, nightlife etc. are all in walking and biking distance. Living downtown you are in the epicenter of all the activities and it is great for people who truly want to stay engaged in their program and the Charleston lifestyle.

  • Hampton Park, Marion Square Farmer’s Market, Riverdog’s baseball games, Waterfront Park, King Street
  • For dogs: There are hidden small dog parks all around the city.
  • Gyms: Downtown you will have student access to CofC’s gym (note that access to fitness classes are an additional fee) and can pay for MUSC’s gym (about $50 a month). There are also a variety of yoga studios and spinning studios all in walking distance.  

Keep in Mind:

  • Heavy rains and King Tides often result in flooded areas in Charleston, so it is important to consider flood zones. If you have any specific questions about this, feel free to reach out to the graduate office or ask your apartment complex or landlord about the flooding situation.


James Island, noted in orange on the map, is in close proximity to downtown but offers a quieter atmosphere. James Island is great for students who want to be a bit closer to the beach, out of the chaos of downtown, but are also able to pay a bit more than in West Ashley or North Charleston.

  • Folly Beach is 10-20 min away and approximately a 10-20 minute commute downtown, depending on how far down the island you choose to live.
  • For dogs: James Island County Park, which is a great place to bring your pups and go on runs.
  • There are plenty of quaint restaurants and little bars on James Island for a calm nightlife.
  • Gyms: Golds Gym and O2 fitness.

Keep in Mind:

  • Grice Marine Lab, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, NOAA, and Hollings Marine Lab are all located at Fort Johnson on James Island. If you intend on focusing on marine courses, many of your classes will be out at Grice.


John’s Island, as seen in blue on the map, is a great place to live for students who do not have to be downtown as often. It is more natural, a bit more secluded, yet still has a few breweries, restaurants, and bars on this island. John’s Island is where many of our students live if they want to have a bit of land, or if they just do not want to be in the chaos of downtown.

Keep in Mind:

  • John’s Island does come with traffic though as the main road experiences heavy traffic during peak hours. This is a location that can be a bit stressful at rush hour, but if you can avoid the busy traffic times, it is a quaint place to live, adorned with beautiful oaks and still has a touch of wildlife.


West Ashley, which is in light green on the map, is a common place for our students to live. It is one of the most affordable locations, and is also a central location to downtown, and all three main beaches (Folly Beach, Sullivan’s Island Beach, Isle of Palms Beach).

  • West Ashley has a little area referred to as Avondale, which is adorned with bars, cafes, restaurants, coffee shops, stores etc. This is generally where most graduate students like to live near and it is only about a ten minute drive from downtown.
  • For dogs: West Ashley also has a few dog parks, and is also the home of the West Ashley Greenway, which is perfect for biking, running etc. and is about 7.8 miles long. It also makes a bike commute doable if you want to explore the West Ashley area.
  • Gyms: The most popular gym in West Ashley is Pivotal Fitness, but there are also a variety of yoga studios, F45, Orange Theory, and O2 Fitness.


North Charleston, in turquoise on the map, is the most affordable location in Charleston, yet that does come with a longer commute to downtown. The commute and the traffic to downtown can typically be around 30-40 minutes during peak traffic times.

  • Many students choose to live in Park Circle. This area is a great area to live with a small-town feel, but fun younger crowd, with fantastic restaurants, plenty of breweries and bars, and is close proximity to a variety of gyms.
  • Students who typically work around North Charleston, and only have to come downtown for classes live in this area.


Mount Pleasant, in a darker green on the map, is one of the more expensive locations in Charleston, but is in very close proximity to downtown, and to two of our nicest beaches: Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s. Mount Pleasant has about a 10 – 30 minute commute downtown, depending on how far out in Mount Pleasant you choose to live. Mount Pleasant is where many people with a family live and is a bit calmer in terms of nightlife and excitement.

  • There are a variety of things to do in Mount Pleasant, including frequenting Shem Creek where you can kayak, paddleboard, and explore the bars and restaurants.
  • Gyms: O2 fitness, Orange Theory, Pivotal, and F45 fitness. You can find CrossFit gyms in all of these locations.
  • For dogs: There are a variety of dog parks in Mount Pleasant and Sullivan’s Island Beach and Isle of Palms are a bit more dog friendly than Folly Beach.

Additional Considerations

Parking: Keep in mind that parking in downtown Charleston can be expensive. Typically, you’ll have to pay $2/hour for street and deck parking. Students can purchase deck parking passes through the College of Charleston which range from about $500 to $750 per semester (depending on the deck’s location) for 24/7 access. Night deck passes are a cheaper option for students who only need to be on campus after 3:00 pm and cost students about $250. To learn more about CofC’s parking options, visit their website. The prices of garages and lots in downtown Charleston can be found here.

Alternative Transportation: City buses, Charleston’s HOP Park-And-Ride service, and alternative private parking lots are other options for students who have to commute.  To learn more about CARTA Bus maps, schedules, and student pricing, visit their website. Student passes are valid for an entire semester (6-month period) for $80. Learn more about student pricing here.

Charleston County Parks: Charleston County has parks located around the entire county. These parks offer a variety of services and activities, including dog parks at certain locations. While parks do require an entrance fee, park passes are available for those who expect to visit frequently. Visit their website here

Apartments in Charleston, SC

Utility Company Options