Downtown Charleston is a walkable city that offers easy access to fantastic restaurants, harbor views, and famous landmarks. It’s tempting to stay exclusively in beautiful Downtown Charleston during your trip to South Carolina, so trust me on this—you’ll miss the whole experience without taking a handful of the best day trips from Charleston, SC.
Venture just a few miles outside Downtown Charleston, and you will discover pristine beaches, lush greenery, fascinating museums, historical exhibits, and beautiful southern homes. During our trip to Charleston, my favorite memories were our day trips from Downtown Charleston!
Don’t miss the chance to explore the beautiful Lowcountry during your time in Charleston. Here are the five best day trips from Charleston, SC!
1. Patriot’s Point
- Location: 40 Patriots Point Rd. Mount Pleasant, SC 29464
- Distance: 5.3 miles from Downtown Charleston
- Cost: $24 per person
Patriot’s Point is a naval and maritime museum in Charleston Harbor in Mount Pleasant. Your ticket gives you access to three historic ships: USS Yorktown Aircraft Carrier, USS Laffey Destroyer, and USS Clamagore Submarine.
Visiting Patriot’s Point is one of the most interesting day trips from Charleston, SC, for anyone interested in U.S. history. This experience is unique because the exhibits are built into the ships themselves, making it easy to become engrossed in the historical and educational experience.
You can spend an entire day (or at least several hours) exploring the ships. My husband and I enjoyed learning what the soldiers’ lifestyle was like on the aircraft carrier and more information about each ship’s most famous battles. My favorite thing while we were at Patriot’s Point was climbing on the flight deck on the USS Yorktown! The view of the city is remarkable. We enjoyed visiting Patriot’s Point during the day, but if you want to get extra spooky, book the exclusive access haunted tour of the USS Yorktown. Who knows, perhaps you will run into a few ghostly American heroes!
Tip: While on-board the ships, you will be doing a lot of walking and climbing up and down narrow staircases. I would recommend wearing comfortable shoes.
2. Beaufort, SC
- Location: Beaufort, South Carolina
- Distance: 70 miles from Downtown Charleston
Deep in South Carolina’s Lowcountry, you’ll discover the city of Beaufort, located 70 miles south of Charleston on Highway 17. Beaufort is one of the most charming cities in the southeast US and one of the best day trips from Charleston, SC!
Explore downtown and the Beaufort Historic District to take in the beauty of South Carolina’s second oldest city. Dip in and out of shops, admire the southern architecture, and get lost in the extensive history.
Then head to the Port Royal Boardwalk and Observation Tower to take a beat in nature. Here, you can view coastal wildlife and enjoy spectacular waterway views (bring your camera). The Cypress Wetlands is another excellent spot for a stroll. Sit down for a meal at The Cracked Egg and then find the boardwalk just outside for a walk through the marsh. Keep your eyes peeled for alligators!
The Port Royal Farmers’ Market is a must if you’re visiting on Saturday. In addition to local produce, vendors serve crab cakes, she-crab soup, and other southern food delights. I recommend the Myers Family Farms booth for a homemade bagel with fresh goat cheese, eggs, and locally grown veggies.
If you’re up for an extended day trip, Hunting Island State Park is approximately 18 miles from Beaufort and worth the drive. In addition to miles of beaches and beautiful marshlands, this park is also home to South Carolina’s only lighthouse accessible to the public.
For fans of the Netflix hit Outer Banks, you’ll know its filming location is Charleston, but did you know the Hunting Island Lighthouse also makes an appearance in the show? Climb the 167 steps to the top and be rewarded with breathtaking panoramic views of the magnificent coastline and the Atlantic Ocean.
Contributed by Morgan from The Home That Roams
3. Boone Hall Plantation
- Location: 1235 Long Point Rd. Mount Pleasant, SC 29464
- Distance: 11 miles from Downtown Charleston
- Cost: $26 per person
Boone Hall Plantation is one of the best day trips from Charleston to experience both beautiful scenery and an educational experience. Boone Hall was founded in 1681 by General John Boone. The plantation was instrumental in the development of South Carolina and the United States. The bricks produced at Boone Hall Plantation built Fort Sumter. The current plantation home was built in the 1930s and is most famously known for its appearance in The Notebook as Allie’s Summer Home!
The beautiful, mossy oak trees that line the plantation’s entrance are an excellent spot for a breathtaking photo! John Boone’s son planted the trees nearly three hundred years ago.
There are several plantations you can choose to tour when planning day trips from Charleston. I decided to visit Boone Hall because of the plantation’s commitment to presenting the uncomfortable history of slavery accurately and educationally that honors and respects Black Americans.
During your visit, walk through the nine historic slave cabins turned into the “Black History in America” exhibit. Also, don’t miss the chance to attend the live presentation of “Exploring the Gullah Culture” to learn about the culture adapted by enslaved Africans unique to the Lowcountry. Overall, these exhibits and experiences were my favorite part of visiting Boone Hall. I learned tons about the Gullah culture and the history of slavery during my visit, which was important to me.
Other famous South Carolina plantations that make for excellent day trips from Charleston include Middleton Place, Magnolia Plantation, and Drayton Hall.
Tip: Touring the plantation home only takes a few minutes. Plan to spend most of your time at Boone Hall walking through the gardens and exploring the Black History in America Exhibit.
4. Hilton Head Island
- Location: Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
- Distance: 98 miles from Downtown Charleston
Renowned for its incredible beaches and world-class golf courses, Hilton Head Island makes for one of the best day trips from Charleston!
However, you will have to get up early to make the most of your day since the drive from Charleston to Hilton Head covers roughly 100 miles and takes around 2 hours to complete. However, it’s a relatively easy drive since you cross several beautiful bridges over the Intracoastal Waterway to get to the island.
Once here, enjoy some of the best things to do in Hilton Head, SC, including a trip to Coligny Beach Park. Not only is this area home to one of the prettiest beaches in the state, but you can stop by Coligny Plaza just across the street and visit a wide variety of local shops and restaurants.
Next, learn about the diverse array of animal and plant life that inhabit the island at the Coastal Discovery Museum – an institution that has been in the area for 35+ years. Afterward, head into Harbor Town and see the famous Harbor Lighthouse here. If you can, climb to the top of the lighthouse and enjoy impressive views of the marina.
Finally, get out onto the water and see dolphins in their natural habitat during an exciting dolphin boat cruise with a trained guide before heading back to beautiful Charleston.
Contributed by Victoria of Southern Trippers
5. Charleston Tea Garden
- Location: 6617 Maybank Hwy. Wadmalaw Island, SC 29487
- Distance: 22 miles from Downtown Charleston
- Cost: Free
The Charleston Tea Garden made my list of the best day trips from Charleston, SC after we unintentionally stumbled upon it on our way to Savannah. And the best part? There is no parking or admission charge to visit the Charleston Team Garden!
The Charleston Tea Garden is the only location that grows and produces tea in North America and is owned by the Bigelow family. Once you arrive, I recommend entering the gift shop for the tea factory tour. During the tour, you can view all the equipment used to produce tea while learning about the process with accompanying videos.
It was interesting to learn that black, green, and oolong tea are all produced from the same leaves. The difference in taste comes from how long the leaves are exposed to oxygen! Who would have thought that we would have learned so much about tea during one of our day trips from Charleston?
The tour will lead you back into the gift shop (the cutest farmhouse!), where you can sample and purchase tea. We bought a few boxes of the Plantation Peach Tea (it’s so good) and were relieved to find that we could order it online after we ran out at home. Before you leave, don’t miss the chance to walk around the lovely tea garden and see if you can spot the resident alligator in the property’s lake.
Tip: Charleston Tea Garden only takes a few hours to explore. I recommend pairing this day trip with the iconic Angel Oak Tree. You will pass Angel Oak Tree on the way to Charleston Tea Garden, so stop at this famous landmark either on your way there or back!
6. Myrtle Beach
- Location: Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
- Distance: 95 miles from Downtown Charleston
Just a short two-hour drive north from Charleston is Myrtle Beach, SC. This city is known for its beautiful and sprawling beaches, golf courses, and endless activities. Perfect for families, friends, and couples, there is truly something for everyone!
Head to the boardwalk for live music, shopping, seafood, and the Ferris wheel that sits right on the beach. There’s always something to do in this area, and it is the hub of tourism in the city. At night, catch a baseball game at Pelicans Stadium. They might even be playing the Charleston Riverdogs!
Try avoiding the crowds and check out some of the locals’ favorite things to do in Myrtle Beach. Start by strolling Barefoot Landing, have a wine tasting at Duplin Winery, or take a brewery tour at the Crooked Hammock Brewery. Follow it up by visiting a quieter place to get in the ocean, Surfside Beach. There are far fewer tourists and some excellent places to grab lunch; either Bubba’s Fish Shack or River City Cafe. You can’t go wrong either way.
On your way back to Charleston, stop at Murrells Inlet’s MarshWalk. Stroll the boardwalk, listen to live music, and watch the sunset over the marsh. You’ll find the best hushpuppies and seafood at Dead Dog Saloon.
Contributed by Tori from Tori Pines Travels
7. Kiawah Island
- Location: 8 Beachwalker Drive Kiawah Island, SC 29455
- Distance: 24 miles from Downtown Charleston
You can visit dozens of beaches in Charleston; however, Kiawah Island is the most gorgeous of them all! Kiawah Island exceeded my expectations—the island is clean and lush and offers visitors a peaceful retreat from the city’s hustle. It’s one of the best day trips from Charleston and makes for a relaxing getaway.
Kiawah Island is full of untouched natural beauty and offers an excellent habitat for wildlife like bobcats, sea turtles, and butterflies to wander. Since most of Kiawah Island is privately owned, the only public beach access is at Beachwalker Park on the island’s west side.
While on Kiawah Island, rent a standup paddleboard, kayak, or boogie board to enjoy time on the beach! Or, play golf on one of the legendary golf courses at Kiawah Island Golf Resort. Enjoy an upscale meal at one of the resorts or hotels on Kiawah Island, or head to Freshfields Village and Bohicket Market for more affordable options.
8. Folly Beach
- Location: Folly Beach, South Carolina
- Distance: 12 miles from Downtown Charleston
Charleston has three main beaches in the area – Sullivan’s Island, Folly Beach, and Isle of Palms. All three are within a 20-minute drive of the city and are some of the best day trips from Charleston!
Folly Beach is one of the most visited beaches due to its proximity to downtown, ideal swimming, and Morris Island Lighthouse. Known as “Charleston’s Beach Town,” Folly Beach is located on Folly Island – a 12-square-mile barrier island just off James Island. To get to the island, you’ll want to follow Folly Beach Road over the bridge until it turns into Center Street. This main road contains coffee shops, beach-casual nightlife options, rooftop bars, and coastal shops. It leads directly to Tides, the giant three-star hotel on the beach next to Folly Beach Pier.
If you take a left at Tides, you’ll hit 2nd Street, followed by 3rd, and down to 13th. The more you drive, the farther you’ll get away from crowds. You can park for free on the road if you can find street parking in the dirt. Just be sure all four tires are off the pavement, or you’ll get ticketed. Expect parking to get full during peak beach seasons.
If you’re looking for simple sandwiches for beach picnics, head to Bert’s Market on East Ashley Avenue. They offer pre-made options here along with a full deli where you can have something made fresh on the spot. Additionally, if you’re looking for a nice sunset dinner spot, head to Chico Feo. This funky outdoor cafe usually has live music and a festive vibe, offering everything from tacos to sandwiches. Folly Beach is a must on your Charleston itinerary!
Contributed by Nicole from The Abroad Blog
9. Savannah, GA
- Location: Savannah, Georgia
- Distance: 108 miles from Downtown Charleston
If you are looking for an opportunity to visit a new state during one of your day trips from Charleston, SC, look no further than Savannah, GA! Savannah is about a two-hour drive from Charleston, making it the perfect day trip or overnight trip from the city. Historic Savannah is a quaint town that oozes charm, southern hospitality, and delicious food.
My husband and I spent three days in Savannah during our trip to the Southeastern United States, and we thoroughly enjoyed our time in the city. One of our favorite things in Savannah was a nighttime ghost tour. During our trip, we learned so much about Savannah’s quirky, local history that made me fall in love with the city even more!
Before you visit spooky Savannah, check out my blog post to learn the interesting history of six haunted places in Savannah that you can’t miss during your visit! Savannah is not only a fantastic city for day trips from Charleston, but it makes for an incredible weekend trip too.
10. Columbia, SC
- Location: Columbia, South Carolina
- Distance: 114 miles from Downtown Charleston
For one of the best day trips from Charleston, SC, check out Columbia, SC! This busy college town is less than a two-hour drive from Charleston and has a lot more to offer than you may think.
Start your day in Five Points for brunch at the Gourmet Shop. Every item on their menu is craftily made and offers a variety of healthy and southern-style dishes. Don’t just enjoy their delicious menu, be sure to shop in their market after your meal!
If you’re visiting in the summer, consider booking a river tubing tour. You’ll spend two to three hours floating down the Congaree River and even get to pass by the Columbia Zoo, hearing the monkeys as you float by! If river tubing isn’t your thing, go to the zoo, and meet the monkeys instead.
Drive through the University of South Carolina campus and be sure to pass by the Historic Horseshoe, the original hub of the school. While you’re there, stop at the best sandwich shop in town, Beezers, located right across the street. Finish your campus tour by visiting Williams Brice Stadium, where the USC football team plays. You might be lucky enough to catch a game!
Spend the afternoon at the baseball park, where the Columbia Fireflies also play the Charleston Riverdogs! They often have promotions and activities, like Thirsty Thursdays and Dog Days! Close your day trip by walking down Gervais Street and picking one of the many great restaurants for dinner. From seafood at the famous Blue Marlin to sushi at Tsunami, you can’t go wrong eating at any of Columbia’s restaurants.
Contributed by Tori from Tori Pines Travels
11. Fort Sumter National Monument
- Location: Fort Sumter, South Carolina 29412
- Distance: 1.1 miles from Downtown Charleston
- Cost: $32 per tour
Fort Sumter has stood watch for over 200 years at the entrance to Charleston Harbor, making it one of the best day trips from Charleston to learn about the city’s history. Planning began originally after the invasion of Washington DC by the British during the war of 1812. Built on an artificial island (that started as a sandbar), the construction of the present fort began in 1829. The fort became most famous as the location of the start of the Civil War in 1861.
Fort Sumter is reachable only by ferry. Ferries leave either from the Liberty Square Visitor Education Center in downtown Charleston or Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum in Mount Pleasant. Tours regularly leave throughout the year from both locations and take about 30 minutes to reach the island. Ranger-led tours occur periodically on the island, and visitors on the first or last ferry can assist in raising and lowering the flag over the island. Exhibits on the island tell the fort’s history through artifacts and information about the wars and construction.
There is no entrance fee for Fort Sumter. However, there is a cost based on the type of ferry tour that the visitor books. Visitors can also visit nearby Fort Moultrie, which is part of the same National Park unit. This fort has an entrance fee and requires a separate boat trip.
Contributed by Anwar from Beyond My Door
12. Brookgreen Gardens
- Location: 1931 Brookgreen Garden Dr., Murrells Inlet, SC 29576
- Distance: 79 miles from Downtown Charleston
- Cost: $20 per person
Brookgreen Gardens is an easy day trip from Charleston, SC. This beautiful National Historic Landmark is a great way to spend a day among beauty, nature, and art.
Located in Murrells Inlet, SC, Brookgreen Gardens is 79 miles north of Charleston. So this means a road trip on a very well-marked highway. The drive takes about 90 minutes each way, but you may want to stop along the way at one of the many cute country stores, beaches, or BBQ joints in the Pawleys Island area.
An absolutely stunning mix of art and nature, Brookgreen Gardens covers a gorgeous 9,100 acres of South Carolina lowlands. Walk amongst the sculpture gardens, the wildlife preserves, or even take a boat ride. You can easily spend a full day here and not see it all!
Experiences at Brookgreen vary based on the time of year of your day trip from Charleston. Try to time it for one of the popular exhibits like Nights of a Thousand Candles or one of the summertime live music events. There’s always something new and beautiful to see at Brookgreen Gardens.
Brookgreen Gardens has three restaurants, or pack a picnic to eat among the botanical gardens. Alternatively, linger in this charming part of South Carolina with a meal at a waterfront restaurant in nearby Murrells Inlet.
Contributed by Melinda from Mel on the Go
Experience the Best Day Trips from Charleston, SC
Charleston is a diverse city that has a lot to offer. Don’t miss the chance to experience these unforgettable day trips from Charleston that will make your time in the city memorable. Which of these day trips from Charleston sounds the most interesting to you? Let me know in the comments!
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