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14 Best Day Trips from Charleston, South Carolina

14 Best Day Trips from Charleston, South Carolina

If you’re planning fun and exciting day trips from Charleston and need some inspiration, you’ve landed in the right place. Whether you’re staying in downtown Charlestown, in the historic district, across the Cooper River in Mount Pleasant, or somewhere along the Ashley River or the South Carolina coastline, there is a wide array of places to visit from the Holy City.

From nature trails to historic landmarks and championship golf courses, the surrounding barrier islands and inland cities make for unique and interesting day trips from Charleston. After you’ve checked out Charleston harbor, the rich history of the French Quarter, and indulged in Lowcountry seafood, it’s time to head to some of the neighboring cities.

Follow along as we share a few of our favorite day trips from the rich history and Southern hospitality of Charleston, South Carolina. Most of them are within one or two hours of the city. So, if you’ve been wondering, “what is the best city outside of Charleston,” we’ve got a variety of answers, whether you’re a local, a visitor, or just passing through.

Best Day Trips from Charleston, South Carolina

1. Myrtle Beach

Myrtle Beach Ferris Wheel

From North Myrtle Beach to Pawleys Island, the Grand Strand of Myrtle Beach features about 60 miles of sandy beachfront activities, amusement parks, and attractions. It’s approximately 94 miles from Charleston to the central area of Myrtle Beach, which is one of the best day trips in South Carolina for couples, families, or groups.

Gather your crew and hit Broadway at the Beach and Barefoot Landing for dining, shopping, and entertainment, or head to the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk for funnel cake, cotton candy, and seaside amusements. You could also just plant yourself on the sand and work on a tan. We won’t judge.

Myrtle Beach attractions include the SkyWheel, Family Kingdom Amusement Park, Myrtle Waves Water Park, Captain Hook’s Adventure Golf, Pirates Voyage Dinner and Show, and the Carolina Opry.

If you decide you need another day to enjoy everything in Myrtle Beach, you might want to consider The Strand – A Boutique Hotel. The beachfront hotel has an outdoor pool, complimentary daily breakfast, several on-site restaurants, and a fitness center. Guests can enjoy free Wi-Fi. Nearby attractions include Ripley’s Aquarium, Myrtle Beach State Park, and the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk.

See Related: Best Places to Visit in South Carolina

2. Huntington Beach State Park

One of the best trips from Charleston, Huntington Beach State Park, is about 80 miles north of Charleston near Murrells Inlet. You may catch sight of loggerhead sea turtles, alligators, and other creatures while hiking, camping, and swimming.

Check out the Sandpiper Pond Nature Trail or visit Atalaya, a Moorish-style mansion that holds events such as the Atalaya Arts & Crafts Festival. Atalaya, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was the winter home of industrialist Archer M. Huntington and his wife, sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington. Tours are available.

Brookgreen Gardens, which has extensive gardens and sculptures, is next door to Huntington Beach State park. The Lowcountry Zoo is located within the gardens. This is a great way to bundle several attractions and activities into one day trip from Charleston.

The Hampton Inn Murrells Inlet / Myrtle Beach Area is a great choice if you want to prolong your day trip from Charleston. The hotel has an outdoor swimming pool, a hot tub, a fitness center, business facilities, a snack shop, and a daily breakfast. Guest rooms offer a microwave, a mini-fridge, a coffee maker, and a work desk.

See Related: Best Things to do in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

3. Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum

The Patriots Point Museum complex is just across the Cooper River in Mount Pleasant. This is a must if you have history buffs or military enthusiasts in your group. This quick trip offers the chance to take a self-guided tour to check out the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier, the USS Laffey Destroyer, an F4F Wildcat aircraft, and exhibits dedicated to the Cold War and the Vietnam War.

While you’re in Mt. Pleasant, take time to stroll along the Mount Pleasant Pier. It’s located beneath the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge. It’s a terrific spot to get photos of the bridge and Charleston Harbor. There’s a café and a gift shop, as well as benches, swings, picnic tables, and rocking chairs. Pull up a chair and sit a spell (Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do in the South?).

Other Mt. Pleasant attractions on this day trip from Charleston, SC itinerary include Boone Hall Plantation & Gardens, the Sweetgrass Arts Cultural Pavilion at Mount Pleasant Waterfront Park, several golf courses, and our next selection, the Waterfront at Shem Creek.

Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge

For this day trip from Charleston, you’ll travel across the scenic Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, which connects Charleston to Mount Pleasant. Architecturally striking, it offers panoramic views of the city and the Cooper and Ashley River. It’s accessible for walking and bicycling as well. You may have even seen it in Charleston native Darius Rucker’s music videos.

If you’re looking for a convenient Charleston hotel for your day trip adventures, we’ve got you covered. The Comfort Inn – Downtown Charleston is a central and convenient choice. Guests can enjoy an outdoor rooftop pool, a fitness center, and a deluxe continental breakfast. Rooms have free Wi-Fi, a work desk, and cable TV with HBO.

The hotel is near the South Carolina Aquarium, the Citadel Archives, and Museum, and the Charleston Museum. For extra convenience, the Charleston DASH trolley has a stop in front of the hotel.

4. Waterfront at Shem Creek

The Waterfront at Shem Creek destination, across the river from Charleston in Mt. Pleasant, is a laid-back waterfront district with harbor views. Dine at waterfront restaurants (dock and dine if you’re bringing a boat), book offshore fishing charters and dolphin-watching cruises, or rent kayaks and stand-up paddleboards. You can also just stroll along the waterfront boardwalk of this coastal town if you prefer.

Shem Creek Waterfront Restaurants

  • The Mill Street Tavern
  • Shem Creek Crab House
  • Tavern & Table
  • Red’s Ice House
  • Saltwater Cowboys
  • Water’s Edge
  • Vickery’s Bar & Grill
Shem Creek Inn
Image source: Booking.com

If you decide you just love this waterfront area, the Shem Creek Inn is right on the waterfront (across the river from Tavern & Table). Guests can relax by the pool while watching boat traffic along the riverfront. This casual hotel offers free breakfast and Wi-Fi, and rooms with balconies.

Acme Lowcountry Kitchen
Photo: Sandy Allen (Acme Lowcountry Kitchen)

While you’re in the Mt. Pleasant area, you may want to check out Isle of Palms. It’s about a 12-mile-drive away. Enjoy a beautiful Atlantic coast beach and that famous Atlantic coast seafood at restaurants such as Acme Lowcountry Kitchen, Coconut Joe’s Beach Grill, Luke ‘n Ollie’s Pizzeria, and the Boathouse at Beach Inlet.

See Related: Best Restaurants in Charleston, South Carolina

5. Folly Beach

Folly Beach is one of the best day visits from Charleston because of its proximity (about 25 minutes) to the Holy City. You can spend a day in the sand and surf of the Atlantic and then make it back to your Charleston hotel in time for dinner.

For fishing, head to the Folly Beach Pier, which also has a tackle shop. Bring your binoculars to catch sight of the offshore 1876 Morris Island Lighthouse from the Lighthouse Inlet Heritage Preserve. Spend that souvenir money in surf, beach, and t-shirt shops on Center Street. Fort Sumter is just off the coast, between Folly Beach and Sullivan’s Island, in case you missed it when you were in Charleston.

Looking for a luxury hotel in Charleston to anchor your Folly Beach visits? The Vendue, located in the historic French Quarter, is just what you’re looking for. Comprised of two hotels dating to 1780, the hotel is decorated with rotating art exhibits, bold colors, and antique furnishings.

There’s a restaurant and a rooftop bar to enjoy sweeping city and harbor views. The Charleston City Market, the King Street shopping district, downtown Charleston, the Port of Charleston, and Charleston Waterfront Park are all near this luxurious retreat.

6. Wadmalaw Island

Wadmalaw Island is about half an hour away, making it one of the best trips from Charleston. Farms, marshland, and gracious oaks draped in Spanish moss make up a good portion of this lovely and quiet Sea Island region. It’s about 10 miles long and six miles wide.

Visit a winery specializing in sweet tea vodka and muscadine wine or the Charleston Tea Plantation, which is the only producer of black tea (it’s owned in part by the Bigelow company) in the United States. This is a super cool idea for Charleston day trips.

Don’t miss the Firefly Distillery and Irvin-House Vineyards, which is the producer of that aforementioned tea-infused vodka. You can take tours and enjoy samples. There’s also a petting zoo, walking trails, and a seasonal garden for the youngsters or non-drinkers in the group.

See Related: Best Things to do in Charleston, South Carolina

7. Kiawah Island

Charleston, South Carolina, road trips don’t have to take all day. The sooner you get there, the sooner you can start exploring and having fun.

About 20 miles south of Charleston, Kiawah Island sits along the Kiawah River and the Atlantic Ocean. Along with beaches like the Kiawah Beachwalker Park, visitors can test their golf swing at Osprey Point Golf Course, Cougar Point Golf Course, or a couple of others.

Night Heron Park has a water play area that’s popular with the young set. It also offers a nature center, live exhibits, walking and biking trails, sports fields, and wildlife such as the great blue heron and the snowshoe egret. Kiawah Island is just south of Wadmalaw Island, so you could easily visit both of them on scenic drives from Charleston.

8. Edisto Island

With boundaries along the South Edisto River and the Atlantic Ocean, Edisto Island is about 42 miles from Charleston. This barrier island lies within a larger tidal basin (known as the ACE Basin). The Ashepoo, Combahee, and Edisto Rivers make their way to the ocean. Consequently, the island is filled with the natural beauty of parks, preserves, and nature trails.

The Ernest F. Hollings Ashepoo-Combahee-Edisto (ACE) Basin National Wildlife Refuge is an 11,815-acre preserve. Part of the larger 350,000-acre ACE Basin area on Edisto Island, it’s made up of two sections: the Edisto River and the Combahee River.

Habitats include beaches, saltwater marshes, woodlands, and cypress swamps. Native animals, as well as threatened and endangered species such as the wood stork, live there. You also may see birds, alligators, and sea turtles as you travel the hiking trails or take a short walk.

Edisto Beach
Edisto Beach

Go hiking, fishing, and camping at Edisto Beach State Park. There’s an education center that offers activities and seminars and has an exhibit on the ACE Basin estuary at Edisto Beach State Park for the nature lovers in your crew.

Check out the Edisto Island Serpentarium to visit turtles, alligators, and lots of snakes. If serpents aren’t your thing, work on your swing at the Plantation Course at Edisto.

The Botany Bay Heritage Preserve/Wildlife Management Area features the Botany Bay Plantation and other historical sites, such as three buildings from the 1840s. Travel down Botany Bay Road, which is flanked by giant oaks lining the roadway. The Edisto Island National Scenic Byway (Route 174) takes you past many of these sites, making for amazing day trips.

Looking for an Edisto Island hotel? Club Wyndham Ocean Ridge is located within the grounds of the Plantation Edisto Championship Golf Course. Spacious suites have balconies, free Wi-Fi, kitchens, and a washing machine. The resort has an on-site restaurant, barbecue facilities, a tennis court, an indoor pool, an outdoor pool, and bicycle rentals.

See Related: Where to Stay in Charleston

9. Congaree National Park

If you’re looking to check off a national park on your bucket list, you’ll want to head off to Congaree National Park while you’re in the Charleston area. It’s about 106 miles northwest of Charleston in the state’s midsection and capital city of Columbia. Go bicycling, birdwatching, canoeing, and trekking along hiking trails through old-growth hardwood forests.

Time it right, and you just might be able to catch the unique and totally cool synchronous fireflies. The forest is ablaze with twinkling lights as these creatures try to attract mates in the spring. This is one of only a few places this occurs (the Great Smoky Mountains in Gatlinburg, Tennessee is one of the others).

Other attractions in Columbia that make nice road trips from Charleston are the Columbia Museum of Art, the Riverbanks Zoo & Garden, the South Carolina State Museum, EdVenture Children’s Museum, and the Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park. Lake Murray is popular for boating, fishing, waterskiing, and swimming.   

The Columbia Suites Columbia at Harbison is near the Riverbanks Zoo & Garden, the University of South Carolina at Columbia, and Lake Murray. Guest rooms feature a mini-fridge, a microwave, a coffee maker, a work desk, and free Wi-Fi. Hotel amenities include an indoor pool, a fitness center, a convenience store, and a meeting space.

See Related: Do You Need a Car in Charleston?

10. Beaufort

Port Royal SC Sands Beach Boardwalk

Located on Port Royal Island, the historic town of Beaufort makes for wonderful day trips from Charleston, SC. It’s just an hour and a half drive from historic downtown Charleston. Port Royal is the largest of the Atlantic Sea Islands, which includes Daufuskie Island, Edisto Island, Hilton Head, and Kiawah Island, as well as Cumberland, Jekyll, and Tybee Island in Georgia. Neighboring islands in this beautiful region include Fripp Island, Dataw Island, Pritchards Island, St Helena Island, and Hunting Island.

Stroll through Beaufort’s historic downtown area filled with art galleries, shops, and restaurants, as well as historic mansions on Bay Street. Check out the Beaufort History Museum, the Parris Island Museum, and the 1800s Hunting Island Lighthouse, or wander along the Spanish moss trail.

On this day trip from Charleston, travelers can visit the Fort Fremont Preserve and History Center, which dates to the Spanish-American War. On a pop culture note, many of the scenes in Forrest Gump were shot in Beaufort.

The Beaufort River filled in for the Mississippi River, Bubba’s house is on Lady’s Island, and some of the Vietnam scenes were filmed on our next day trip from Charleston, Hunting Island State Park.

The Hilton Garden Inn Beaufort is a terrific option if you decide you must spend another day in Beaufort. There’s an on-site restaurant, a bar, a swimming pool, free Wi-Fi, and a fitness center. Guest rooms have a mini-fridge, a microwave, and a coffee maker.

The Southern Escape on Harbor Island is another excellent choice for Beaufort accommodations. This vacation rental has one bedroom and two bathrooms and can accommodate four guests. There’s a full kitchen, a living area, and a dining area. You’ll have access to a community pool, tennis courts, a fitness center, and a barbecue grill.

See Related: Best National Parks in the USA to Visit

11. Hunting Island State Park

Located on the 5,000-acre barrier island of Hunting Island, Hunting Island State Park is about 88 miles south of Charleston. One of SC’s most popular state parks, it offers five miles of beautiful beaches, as well as coastal forests, marshland, and a saltwater lagoon. The park has campsites, a playground, a picnic shelter, a fishing pier, and a nature center.

Hunting Island Lighthouse (built in 1859 and then rebuilt in 1875 after being destroyed during the Civil War) is the only one in South Carolina that visitors can climb. There are 167 steps to the top, so get your climbing shoes ready.

12. Cypress Gardens

Located in Goose Creek, about 25 minutes from Charleston, Cypress Gardens is a 170-acre wildlife preserve with an 80-acre blackwater bald cypress and tupelo tree swamp. You’ll find both water and land trails for boats and pedestrians.

Open since 1932, there’s a butterfly house and seasonal blooms of camellias, water lilies, azaleas, and yellow jessamine (the South Carolina state flower). Visit fish, reptiles, and amphibians in the Swamparium, which has a South American anaconda and African crocodiles. Take a guided swamp boat tour as you look for alligators, turtles, and birds.

If anything on the property looks familiar, it might be because several movies have been filmed at the site – including the North and South (1985) miniseries, The Patriot (2000), The Notebook (2004), Cold Mountain (2003), and Rear View Mirror (1984).

See Related: Is Charleston Safe To Visit? Things To Know

13. Savannah, Georgia

savannah, georgia, river street

At approximately 108 miles south, Savannah is about two hours south of the charming city of Charleston. It’s one of our longest-day excursions from Charleston. You’ll want to be invested in this adventure, but the time is worth it for the historical, natural, and peaceful vibe of the Southern city. You just can’t beat a city with cobblestone streets and horse-drawn carriages.

Charleston’s sister city of sorts, the historic city of Savannah, shares a lot of the same types of attractions and attributes as the Charleston historic district. This great day trip destination includes antique stores, towering oak trees draped in Spanish moss, and romantic restaurants featuring freshly caught seafood.

Spend some time in Forsyth Park and its famous 1858 Place de la Concorde-inspired fountain during weekend trips. Wedding ceremonies, proposals, and tons of selfies have been taken by this stunning landmark. Forsyth also has two playgrounds and hosts events such as the Savannah Jazz Festival, the Sidewalk Arts Festival, the Rock ‘N Roll Marathon, and the Sidewalk Arts Festival.

Other attractions on Savannah day trips from Charleston for culture, Civil War, and history lovers include Bonaventure Cemetery (fans of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil will likely recognize it), American and European art at the Telfair Museums, Skidaway Island State Park, the 18th-century open-air City Market, the Georgia State Railroad Museum, and the American Prohibition Museum.

The reportedly haunted Mercer-Williams House Museum is the site of the 1981 shooting where John Berendt’s 1994 novel Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is based. Gather those literary pals and get on down to Savannah!

You may find that you love Savannah so much that you need another day to explore. In that case, check into the Drayton Hotel for the night. The colorful and historic hotel offers a restaurant, banquet facilities, free Wi-Fi, and a terrace for city views. Nearby sites include Johnson, Reynolds, and Ellis Squares, as well as the Davenport House Museum, the Savannah Theater, and Forsyth Park.

For river views, the Marriott Savannah Riverfront is an excellent choice. It’s located on the Savannah River and features an outdoor pool, a fitness center, a restaurant, and an atrium bar. Guest rooms have work desks, free Wi-Fi, a seating area, and a coffee maker. Washington Square, Forsyth Park, the Ships of the Sea Museum, and the Savannah History Museum are all nearby.

14. Hilton Head Island

Hilton Head Island

Another one of the best weekend trips from Charleston is Hilton Head Island. Hitting the two-hour mark, Hilton Head offers 12 miles of secluded beaches. Enjoy bicycling paths, an ocean course golfing setting, the Harbour Town Lighthouse, and Museum, the Coastal Discovery Museum, or the Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge.

For a super fun time, take a pirate cruise on the Black Dagger. This swashbuckling adventure is always a hit with the kids. You’ll leave out of the Harbour Town Yacht Basin. Passengers get a pirate name, learn pirate lingo, and get to use water cannons to defeat the villainous Stinky Pete.

Traveling to Hilton Head from Charleston? You may want to spend a night or two. The Hilton Head Island Beach and Tennis Resort make a wonderful overnight stay. Enjoy an outdoor pool, tennis courts, a fitness center, and more just steps from the beach. Golfers will appreciate hotel discounts at local courses.

If you’re looking for great rates on flights, hotels, or rental cars, head on over to Kayak or Skyscanner, or VRBO to find the perfect vacation rental, beach cottage, or condo for day trips from Charleston.

Additionally, GetYourGuide and Viator are excellent options for finding the perfect tour for day trips. You’ll find everything from food and wine to outdoor activities, ghost tours, and adventurous excursions to really kick up your day trip itinerary.

See Related: Best Breweries in Charleston, South Carolina

FAQ

What are the best day trips from Charleston to do with kids?

If you’re looking for kid-approved fun, Myrtle Beach is one of the best day trips from Charleston with kid ideas we can think of. Folly Beach and Sullivan’s Island are the perfect blends of beachfront leisure and family-friendly destinations.

What are some fun day trips from Charleston?

Check out state parks such as Hunting Island State Park or Huntington Beach State Park. Both are along the South Carolina coast and make fun day trips for families, couples, or groups.

What are some fun day trips from Charleston when it’s raining?

When it’s raining in the historic district of Charleston, SC, head to the Columbia Museum of Art in Columbia or the Mercer-Williams House Museum and the Telfair Museums in Savannah, Georgia on a Charleston, South Carolina day trip.

What are the best tourist attraction day trips from Charleston?

For tourist attraction day trips from Charleston, SC, check out Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum, Fort Sumter, or the cobblestones and Spanish moss-draped scenery of Savannah, Georgia.

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