Riley Waterfront Park & Pineapple Fountain
6 min drive
19 mins walk
With its gorgeous oceanfront esplanade, Riley Waterfront Park is a favorite among Charleston locals and tourists alike. This park is the ideal place for a sunset picnic or a relaxing stroll, and it only adds to the romantic charm of Charleston. It won the 2007 Landmark Award from the American Society of Landscape Architects, confirming its status as a Charleston treasure.
Riley Waterfront Park, named after former Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley, was completed in 1990, making it a relatively new attraction. This eight-acre park stretches about a half-mile along Cooper River and Charleston Harbor, an area that has historically been busy with maritime traffic. After a 1955 fire at one of its steamship terminals, the area became neglected and overgrown.
Mayor Riley began planning for the park soon after he took office in 1975, but construction only began in 1988. Unfortunately, 1989’s category 4 storm Hurricane Hugo caused about $1 million worth of damage to the park, though it was still able to open in 1990.
Designed by Stuart Dawson of Sasaki Associates, Riley Waterfront Park is split into distinct sections. On the north side, home of Pineapple Fountain, is Vendue Wharf, a wooden pier with unrivaled views and swinging seats. The center of the park is characterized by a shaded oak tree alley and an open, palmetto-studded lawn. The southern end of the park is where the area begins to mesh with the saltwater marshes of Charleston, as well as a reconstructed 17th-century pier.
Pineapple Fountain, an iconic symbol of Charleston, is a popular attraction within the park. Pineapples are common throughout the city, representing its tradition of hospitality. Historically, pineapples were expensive and extremely difficult to acquire, because they could only be grown in South America; this exoticness is what made it a symbol of wealth and hospitality. The fountain itself also represents restoration and hope, as it was opened to the public in the aftermath of Hurricane Hugo.
Visitors are even allowed to wade in the pool of Pineapple Fountain, making it a refreshing destination on a hot summer day. There is also another splash fountain located nearby.
Whether visitors are looking for a gorgeous view of the harbor, a place to cool down, or a sunny lawn to tan on, Riley Waterfront Park is the ideal destination. Pineapple Fountain and its surrounding park are beloved to the city, a perfect representation of Charlestonian hospitality and charm.