Charleston, South Carolina is one of the best cities not only in the United States but across the globe. This is not surprising thanks to its location near the coast. In addition, it has plenty of beautiful old buildings, plus the food and drinks scene here is worth experiencing too.
15 Best Day Trips from Charleston, SC
In fact, this is a good jump-off point for day trips in the region. You can head to a posh island to experience the lap of luxury or check out a Hollywood movie set if you like. No matter what you are looking for in your vacation, you will find them in Charleston.
Best Day Trips to Consider While in Charleston SC
One of the first things that you will love about Charleston is its old-world charm. In fact, there are plenty of historic buildings here that will give you a glimpse of its rich history. History buffs will want to spend some time exploring the town as it yields several historical landmarks. Aside from that, beach-goers will not be disappointed with the waters here. In fact, you can go swimming, surfing, and other water sports here during the summer.
But the best part about Charleston is that there are plenty of day trips that you can do here. From nature parks to historical landmarks, it is high time that you plan your trip to this city and the rest of South Carolina. If you are wondering what to do here, take a look below for the best options for your itinerary. For sure, you will find something that will suit your fancy.
Are you itching to live the island life? Kiawah Island is one of the best islands that you will find in South Carolina. It lies just 21 miles south of Charleston and has been attracting tourists and locals alike. In fact, the barrier island boasts pale beaches with gentle waves caressing the shore. Pair this with lush foliage and this island is truly a paradise.
Aside from that, Kiawah Island also has some of the best championship golf courses that you will find on the East Coast. In fact, one of the iconic courses here is the Ocean Course where the Atlantic breezes add that extra challenge to the game. It seems that the breeze blows differently from one hole to the next. Overall, the golf courses here are quite picturesque with the shimmering blue waters around them.
Meanwhile, nature lovers will fall in love with the natural beauty of the island. It has miles of sun-soaked beaches with plenty of flora and fauna to entertain you. In fact, it would be a sin if you forget your camera while on the island. After all, this island is home to some bobcats hiding in plain sight. Although the numbers of these cats are going down, there are conservation efforts ongoing to prevent them from going extinct.
If you are thinking of visiting this island, bring your hiking boots too. After all, there are thirty miles of idyllic hiking trails here that will give you a great view of the island.
St. Helena Island
Meanwhile, St. Helena Island is another option to consider for a day trip from Charleston. This is the perfect place to visit if you want to learn a thing or two about the Gullah culture. Visit Penn Center where you will be taken back in time. After all, this was one of the first schools for freed slaves in the country. There is an entrance fee of $7 for adults and $5 for students. Once inside, you can walk around the campus or make your way to the museum. The exhibits here showcase the way of life back in the day.
Aside from that, another hotspot is the Red Piano Too Art Gallery. This is where you will find plenty of authentic Lowcountry artwork. There are more than 150 artists participating in this exhibit, including Gullah artists. This is a great spot to head out to after your trip to the Penn Center.
Also, don’t forget to visit the Chapel of Ease. What makes this a popular attraction is that it combines beauty and destruction in one. The ruins of this 1740 church are hauntingly beautiful. You can learn more about its history and the forest fire that consumed it. Aside from that, you can also walk around the grounds and the nearby cemetery.
Edisto Island spreads over the counties of Colleton and Charleston. One of the reasons why you should include it in your itinerary is the fact that it is one of the hidden gems in the area. Also, it is family-friendly and there are no crowds to worry about. In addition, there are beach cottages that you can use to have your picnic. What’s more, half of the island is underdeveloped which adds to its overall charm.
There are several tourist hotspots that you can enjoy here. For starters, there is the Botany Bay Plantation Heritage Preserve. This is a great spot to see and explore the former plantations of Bleak Hall and Sea Cloud. In fact, this working plantation has plenty of live oak trees and hidden trails that you will want to explore.
With all the walking that you are bound to do here, you are sure going to be famished. The good news is that there is no shortage of options. If you prefer a laid-back diner-style eatery then visit SeaCOW Eatery. On the other hand, if you want to experience an elevated dining experience then Ella & Ollie’s is perfect.
Meanwhile, nature lovers will enjoy Edisto Beach State Park where plenty of outdoor activities await you. The best way to get the most out of your visit to this state park is to go on a bike ride. Aside from that, you can also go hiking, camping, fishing, and more. In fact, Edisto Island is the ideal day trip since it is just an hour away from Charleston. If you want to explore areas outside of the town, this is definitely one of the best spots to visit.
Have you been bitten by the beach bug? You are in luck since the Myrtle Beach area is just a few hours away from the coast of Charleston. In fact, this is where you will find some of the most beautiful beaches in South Carolina! It boasts more than 60 miles of beaches that you will want to explore for sure.
Myrtle Beach welcomes more than a million tourists each year. After all, the white sand beaches are wide and pretty safe for everyone. Aside from that, there are bustling areas here that you can explore as well as quiet corners where you can get away from the crowd. Depending on what you are looking for in your vacation here, trust that there is something for you to enjoy.
You can lay down your beach towel to soak up the sun or play a round of beach volleyball if you like. Aside from that, you can try shelling, which is a local activity. The best time to do this is during low tide. Meanwhile, water activities like parasailing, kayaking, and jet skiing are among the must-do activities here. You can even go surfing here if you like. Fortunately, most of the beaches here have lifeguards to keep everyone safe.
Walk along the pier to see local fishermen try to catch fish. You can even join them if you like! In addition, the pier is a good place to spot dolphins. There are tour choices here where you can see these dolphins up close. The best part? There is an amusement park nearby to bring your children to.
Meanwhile, another of the sea islands that you can add to your itinerary is Beaufort. This historic town lies on Port Royal Island. Aside from that, it is well-known for its antebellum architecture, historic bed and breakfasts, as well as stunning water views. In fact, Beaufort was recognized as one of the best small towns by Southern Living. This is a good testament to why many tourists and locals alike love visiting this town.
You can stay later to go on a sunset boat cruise or spend your day in the shopping district. Aside from that, you can dine at the Wren & Bistro Bar downtown if you are feeling hungry. Different tour options for fishing and kayaking are also available. Any of these two activities are sure to be enjoyable. Don’t forget to check the Beaufort History Museum if you want to learn a thing or two about the town’s history.
Meanwhile, if you want to immerse yourself in the area’s unique biodiversity, then head to Saint Phillips Island. It is best known for its impressive sand dunes and dense forests. This is a relatively new addition to the South Carolina State Parks System. The former beach house of Ted Turner has become a tourist attraction. In fact, there are guided tours here that you can take advantage of to see this retreat house. Travel time from Charleston to here is just 90 minutes making it another option for your day trip plans.
Another popular day trip option in Charleston is Fort Sumter. History lovers should not skip a trip to this fort since it was once a stronghold for the Confederates. In fact, this is a great place to learn more about the Civil War that happened near Charleston.
You will find this fort on top of an artificial island. Although the fort was partially destroyed during the Civil War, several of its foundations remain intact. In fact, walking around the fort will give you a glimpse of the weaponry that was used back in the day.
Tourists will need to get on a boat to reach Fort Sumter. If you are thinking of visiting Mt. Pleasant, there is a boat ride that will take you to Fort Sumter from Patriots Point. The good news is that there are plenty of boat tours to choose from. Some even include Fort Moultrie which is on Sullivan’s Island. What makes this another tourist hotspot is that this layered fort has withstood battles and the test of time.
Aside from that, some parts of the fort have been restored. This way, guests will get a better understanding of the history of the place. If you are looking for historic sites to visit in and around Charleston, Fort Sumter is definitely one of them.
Congaree National Park
If you are looking for more adventure in the Holy City, then Congaree National Park is an excellent choice. In fact, this 26, 276-acre national park is where you will find one of the oldest and tallest forests just east of Mississippi. Tourists flock here for some fun adventures like canoeing, fishing, hiking, and wildlife viewing year-round. With so much to do here, you will want to spend the entire day here!
However, if you are looking forward to a unique experience, then time your trip here during the synchronized fireflies season. This spectacular phenomenon happens just a short time during spring. In this event, millions of fireflies light up the night with their synchronized flashing. You can’t help but be mesmerized by this natural phenomenon! Believe me when I say that this is an experience you will not soon forget.
The synchronized flashing and dancing of the fireflies happen in just a few places across the globe. Luckily, one of them is at Congaree! It doesn’t matter if you are flying solo, with your family, or with your significant other, this is one event you don’t want to miss. However, you will need to reserve your slot for this event since the park limits the number of people who can witness it each night. This way everyone will have an enjoyable time here.
Hilton Head Island
Another island that you should also visit is Hilton Head. After all, it has been voted one of America’s favorite islands. This is not surprising since it has 12 miles of beaches, plenty of golf courses, and tennis courts too. Aside from being a natural paradise, there are tons of activities to choose from such as water sports, art galleries, and museums. Also, there is the Harbour Town Lighthouse.
You will also find a distillery here where you can go on tours. There is a bottle shop as well as a tasting room here to try. Meanwhile, wine lovers can visit the Island Winery. You should take advantage of their wine-and-cheese pairing before you head back to Charleston. On the other hand, if you are looking for a more laid-back environment, try Harold’s Diner. What’s great about this spot is that it has a more local feel to it.
If you want to experience real old-world charm as well as Southern hospitality, Mount Pleasant is your best bet. In fact, if you have a love for nature and history then you have found the perfect spot! For starters, make your way to the Boone Hall Plantation & Gardens to learn about the Gullah. Here you will find the exhibits adorning the Slave Street cabins in the Boone Plantation. Aside from that, there is also a botanical garden that you can go on a walking tour. You’ll fall in love with the beautiful roses that were planted here.
Meanwhile, the Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum is worth visiting here. After all, this is where you will find the only replica of the Vietnam Naval Support Base Camp. Aside from that, there are more National Historic Landmark ships that you will find here. One of them is the USS Yorkton. In fact, if you want to know more about its history then make your way to the Medal of Honor Museum.
On the other hand, one of the best restaurants that you can visit here is Shem Creek. This quaint area is a favorite among the locals as well as tourists. After all, the bars and restaurants here overlook the waterfront district where you will get amazing views of Charleston Harbor.
Are you planning a road trip to the charming city of Charleston? Then you should also consider what sights to see here. Fortunately, there are several tourist hotspots to consider like Wadmalaw Island. Aside from being just a stone’s throw away from Charleston, this is the perfect spot for those who want a quick getaway. In addition to the Southern hospitality that South Carolina is known for, the island itself is spectacular. What’s more, there are plenty of surprises here too that you will want to see.
For starters, if you are looking for a more laid-back trip from Charleston, this is a good spot to start. There is the Charleston Tea Plantation, which is a favorite stop for many since it is the only tea plantation in North America. You can ride a trolley to learn a thing or two about how tea is grown and even prepared. In fact, you will see more than a hundred acres of tea plants here.
On the other hand, if you are looking for something stronger, you should visit Deep Water Vineyard. Since it is the only winery and vineyard that you will find in South Carolina, it is definitely worth a trip here. Here you will find some of the best Southern wines in the area. In fact, you should try their famous muscadine wine. It has deep, sweet notes that you are sure to enjoy. Book their wine tasting tours to make the most out of your trip here.
Are you traveling with the whole family? You are in luck because you can bring them to Brookgreen Gardens. In fact, this is one of the best spots for a day trip. Think of it as a cross between an idyllic botanical garden to a zoo that is home to plenty of native species. For sure, there is something for everyone here.
As you stroll through the gardens, you will see how nature has transformed the area. In fact, you should see Live Oak Allee! The live oaks that you will see here have stood for centuries and are a sight to see. Meanwhile, the butterfly garden is home to a lot of evergreens as well as seasonal blooms which are a must-see.
Aside from that, the sculptures that pepper the gardens are worth checking out too. After all, Brookgreen Gardens is where you will find the largest collection of American figurative sculptures. In fact, there are thousands here that come in all manner of sizes. You definitely need to keep your eyes peeled for these amazing statues.
As for the children, the Lowcountry Zoo is going to be a hit. This is one of the few institutions that have been recognized by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Simply put, this place is quite special. Among the animals that you will see here are red foxes, bald eagles, and even owls too. If you are feeling outdoorsy, then walk the trails at the Lowcountry History and Wildlife Preserve.
Hunting Island State Park
Do you want to get away from the city even for a little bit? Then Hunting Island State Park is a good option to consider. With its beautiful beaches and impressive trails, it is not surprising why it is one of the popular state parks in South Carolina. In fact, you should definitely pack your beach bag since the beaches here are quite pristine. Pair this with emerald-hued waters and you have your own little paradise right here. This is the perfect spot to just relax, unwind, and watch the world go by.
Aside from the stunning beaches here, you can also go on an adventure. You can start by climbing the Hunting Island Lighthouse. From the top, you will have panoramic views of the Atlantic Coast as well as the maritime forest nearby.
If you want to get a closer look at the lush forest here, then there are plenty of trails to consider. One of these is the Marsh Boardwalk Trail which will take you directly to the marshes and into the forest. And since you are on a trail, make sure that your camera is ready. You might catch some of the wildlife out there.
Another beach that you should add to your itinerary is Folly Beach. It lies just south of Charleston and is known as “The Edge of America”. One of the things that you should know about this beach is that it has become an inspiration to many creatives. Artists, writers, and other creative minds find inspiration here. If you are looking for yours, then you should explore this charming beach town. Aside from that, its pristine beach runs alongside the Atlantic Ocean.
Meanwhile, if you are curious about the wildlife here or are already an enthusiast, you will find a lot here. In fact, it is not unusual to see loggerhead turtles giving birth on the beach. Aside from that, you might even spot some bald eagles on a majestic flight overhead. Also, you can go shelling by the shore, or go kayaking to get closer to the dolphins.
On the other hand, fishermen or those who want to go sports fishing will like it here. In fact, you should make your way to Folly Beach Pier. You will find plenty of anglers here waiting for that big catch. You can also join in on the fun by casting your own line. Aside from that, you can also go on a boat tour that will take you out into the open waters. This is where you can enjoy some deep-sea fishing.
Are you still looking for a historic city outside of Charleston? You have come to the right place because Savannah is worth exploring. It is just a few hours away from Charleston since it lies in the state of Georgia. Foodies and history buffs will not mind the additional cost of traveling here because it is worth every penny. After all, this is where they shot some scenes for the movie, Forrest Gump.
After all, this charming city is abuzz with life. In fact, you should make your way to Forsyth Park if you want to immerse yourself in its grandeur. Spread your blanket here and have a picnic with the family. You can even chat up some of the locals too. They are quite friendly and are willing to point out some of the hotspots in the city. Aside from that, this is also a good place to unwind after a day of exploring the town.
If you want to see more of the historic houses and Southern charms, then the Historic District is the place to be. Each site tells a little bit of the history of Savannah. From the transatlantic slave trade to the Revolutionary War, there are pieces of history here.
Meanwhile, you can spare some of your time to see Wormsloe Historic Site. After all, this is one of the best day trips that you can do in Savannah. This historic site is one of the oldest plantations in the region. However, if you are looking forward to seeing the beach, then visit Tybee Island. After all, this barrier island is a good spot to enjoy some scenic waterways.
Middleton Place may attract tourists who love a well-manicured lawn. However, if you are truly a nature lover, then the Magnolia Plantation is the place for you. Although the house here is not as elaborate as the other plantations, you will love the gardens. In fact, the wildlife here is one of the main attractions together with the sculpture garden.
Locals and tourists alike drop by this plantation to see gators, sea turtles, and herons at the Audobon Swamp Garden. You should bring some binoculars if you want to go bird watching if you like. On the other hand, you can rent a bike to explore the trails faster. Aside from that, children will want to explore the zoo here.
Although many people travel here because of the wildlife, there is a deep history here too. In fact, it was the home of many enslaved people. They used to live in the four cabins on the property which have been preserved. A tour guide will take you to each of the cabins here to share a bit of history with you. You will learn about their way of life and how the slaves were treated back then. This is a 45-minute tour that showcases slavery to their freedom.
Additional Options for Your Day Trip from Charleston
Local history aside, there are other things to do in Charleston. Here are a few more to consider.
Isle of Palms
Bring your family to the Isle of Palms if you want to spend some quality time with the kids. In fact, there are plenty of oceanfront rentals, beachy restaurants, and more here. Aside from that, there is plenty of parking space here to accommodate day-trippers.
What makes this a tourist hotspot is its 7-mile-long soft white sand. You can stroll here while the waves gently touch your feet. Make sure that you wear plenty of sunscreens when you are out for a walk. Aside from that, your children will have some fun building sandcastles here.
Huntington Beach State Park
Wear your hiking books if you plan on exploring this state park. Not only does it have gorgeous beaches, but plenty of walking trails too. You can lounge by the beach or explore the trails that snake around the park. Aside from that, the wetlands are worth checking out too. After all, it is home to a large number of wildlife that you can take photos of.
If you want to get closer to nature, you can opt for the Kerrigan Trail or Boardwalk Trail. Aside from that, there is also the Atalaya. This is a Moorish-style castle that you can explore on foot.
Things to Do in Charleston
Now that you know what tourist hotspots to visit outside of historic Charleston, it is time to bring your eyes back to the city itself. You can go on a city tour if you want to learn more about the history of Charleston. Aside from that, you can also do more fun activities here too.
Take a look!
This historic home is a good place to learn about life in Charleston back in the 19th century. It was built back in the 1800s and was later expanded by Gov. William Aiken Jr and his wife. Make sure that you explore the grounds first before touring the interiors. The slave quarters have been preserved to give tourists an idea about the way of life here.
Meanwhile, Drayton Hall is one of the oldest living plantations in South Carolina. Take your time exploring this massive home or opt for the video tour. This is a great way to learn about its history.
There are plenty of tours that you can take advantage of in this city. But the best way to know more about the buildings in downtown Charleston and surrounding areas is through walking tours. Your guide will bring you to some of the historic hotspots and share some details about their past. If you are looking for a unique experience, there are paranormal tours offered here as well.
Charleston Boat Tours
Go on a boat tour of Charleston harbor to see the city from a different perspective. Aside from that, you will also learn about the city’s maritime history. Take your pick of boat tour and see more hotspots in the area. You can even make your way to Murrell’s inlet if you like.
Charleston City Market
Although some would say that this is a tourist trap, you shouldn’t miss it. In fact, this is one of the oldest city markets. This is where you will find plenty of unique products that you will not find in any gift shop.
Wrap Up: Charleston Day Trips
Exploring Charleston onboard a modern bus is all well and good. However, if you truly want to enjoy its old-world charm, then a carriage ride is a must. A carriage tour is a fun and unique experience that will take you around the city hotspots. This will take a few hours so enjoy every bit of it.
A bus tour is a good option for roundtrip transportation around Charleston. Your tour bus will take you along Cooper River Bridge, the waterfront park, and more. Aside from that, you can even enjoy a box lunch during your trip. For sure, exploring Charleston is going to be an experience you will not soon forget.
While you are in Charleston, make sure that you see the sights outside the city too. After all, there are dozens of fun activities and historic sites to see. You can use this as a guide to see the best of South Carolina with Charleston as your jump-off point.