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Mount Pleasant: A City in Size, a Town in Attitude

Bob Gillespie Bob Gillespie
Bob is a former sports writer at Columbia’s The State newspaper. He enjoys golf at South Carolina’s 360-plus courses, and after a round, sampling craft beers from the Palmetto State’s breweries.
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It is among the five largest communities in South Carolina, but as far as the folks on the other side of the Cooper River from Charleston are concerned, it’s still — officially, in fact — the Town of Mount Pleasant.

With nearly 68,000 residents (per the 2010 census), Mount Pleasant trails only Columbia, Charleston and North Charleston in population, and ranks ahead of both Rock Hill and Greenville, each of which classifies itself as a “city.” And that’s the way the folks in Mount Pleasant want it. The town’s vibe is more about neighborhoods, including nearby beaches at Isle of Palms and Sullivan’s Island, and less about tourism — or it was until recent times.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to see and do in Mount Pleasant, starting with the gateway to the town from Charleston: the Charles Ravenel Jr. Bridge, a 2.7-mile span across the Cooper River and Town Creek that opened in 2005, replacing the aging Grace Memorial Bridge (1929) and its companion Pearman Bridge (1966).

A $531 million project — the largest construction job in South Carolina history and the largest cable-stayed bridge in the world when completed—the Ravenel Bridge not only has eight lanes carrying cars into and out of both communities, but also biking and running lanes, and serves as host to the world-renowned annual Cooper River Bridge Run. With its two 570-foot towers (15 feet higher than the Brooklyn Bridge) and a stunning view of Charleston Harbor and the Lowcountry landscape, the bridge is a photographer’s dream perch.

Once you cross the bridge from Charleston to Mount Pleasant, a different world awaits. The main drag, Coleman Boulevard, is dotted with shops and restaurants and serves as the entrance route to Patriots Point, home to a naval and maritime museum, the World War II aircraft carrier USS Yorktown, and other historic vessels. Also on site are the Cold War Memorial, Vietnam National Experience (the only one in the U.S.) and the official Congressional Medal of Honor Museum. Oh, and a golf course (Patriots Point Links, one of four public-access courses within the town limits) with spectacular views of the harbor.

Equally popular — and even more historic — is Mount Pleasant’s Old Village, where visitors can see 18th-century homes and plantation houses, as well as a couple of hidden restaurants, such as The Wreck. The original footprint of the town, the Old Village was formally laid out in 1803 by James Hibben, and the Hibben House still stands in the area.

If some locations look familiar, that’s no surprise: the 2004 movie “The Notebook” shot many of its scenes in the Old Village — the “Seabrook Inn” and the ice cream scene, notably — while a guest house scene was shot at nearby Boone Hall Plantation.

Should African-American and jazz history be among your interests, be sure to visit Remley’s Point. A housing development these days, the area north of U.S. 17, previously known as Scanlonville after its 1868 founder and former slave Robert Scanlon, was home in the early 20th century to popular jazz joints that hosted such stars as Duke Ellington, BB King, Etta James and Louis Armstrong before the buildings were torn down in the 1970s to make way for housing. The area included the state’s first black beach (Riverside Beach), which featured a pavilion, boardwalk and White’s Paradise Motel and Nightclub. Today, Remley’s Point is best known for its scenic boat landing.

Whatever you choose to do — go boating on the harbor, enjoy the lively ambiance of Shem Creek with its fishing boats and seafood eateries, take in harbor views or tour historic plantations — Mount Pleasant is a refreshing change of pace from its more bustling, tourist-focused neighbor to the west. It’s slower and more relaxed, but no less historic, no less interesting and no less fun.

Golf, beaches, shopping, restaurants and more — Mount Pleasant has it all, but at a town’s pace.

Bob Gillespie
Bob is a former sports writer at Columbia’s The State newspaper. He enjoys golf at South Carolina’s 360-plus courses, and after a round, sampling craft beers from the Palmetto State’s breweries.