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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Did you enjoy reading about these day trips from Charleston? If so, you might also enjoy these other posts about the Southeastern USA:
- Epic 9-Day Southeast Road Trip Itinerary
- The 14 Best Places to Eat in Savannah, GA
- 9 Helpful Tips for Visiting the Biltmore Estate
- 12 Charming Things to Do During a Weekend in Savannah
- 6 Haunted Savannah Spots You Need to Visit
- Ultimate 3-Day Weekend Itinerary for Atlanta
- Helpful Tips for Visiting the Georgia Aquarium
- 10 Most Romantic Things to Do in Charleston
I definitely want to visit historic Savannah and Patriot’s Point! Those two seems such a cool day trip!
Those are both such awesome places! Very different, but both very fun. Thank you for reading, Falke!
Interesting tips, I would love to do the ghost tour in Savannah
Savannah is such a fun city to explore! And the ghost tours are amazing. If you are interested in Savannah’s haunted history, check out this blog post! 🙂
I love the Southern charm of South Carolina. I really need to do a tour of some of the popular Southern cities like Savannah too.
I’d love to visit the south one day, it looks like such a beautiful area of the USA. The plantations might be difficult places to visit but I respect that they don’t shy away from their history and can present it in an informative way. I would really like to see Savannah, I didn’t realize it would be so close
Our visit to the South really blew me away! It’s a beautiful area of the country. Yes, the plantations were difficult to visit but I feel like it was presented in a respectful way, and I truly learned a lot. I hope you have the chance to visit soon!
Really enjoyed reading about your suggested trips. I’ll definitely want to visit a few of these places when I can go back to the US, hopefully in the near future.
Thank you, Kitti! I hope that you are able to enjoy these day trips when you can return to the U.S. 🙂
South Carolina looks soo beautiful, I would love to visit one day and experience these day trips.
It’s a gorgeous place! I hope you are able to visit soon, Tina!
I actually may be in SC at the end of the month, this list is very timely!
Yay, I hope that this list can help you find some amazing spots! Have fun!
Such a well curated post. And all these places look so beautiful. 😊
Thank you, Mitali! They are wonderful spots to visit!
[…] [RECOMMENDED: 5 Unforgettable Day Trips from Charleston] […]
Loved this guide! I visited Charleston, only for the day, about 3 years ago & fell in love. When I return for a long weekend, I’ll be definitely taking your day trip recommendation to Kiawah Island.
Thank you! Charleston is such a lovely place. I hope you love Kiawah Island when you return to Charleston!
This is such an informative post – we’ve yet to visit Charleston, and when we do, I know I will be referring back to this post for all these day trip suggestions. My children would love to explore the maritime museum and I think a tour of the tea factory would be a highlight as well. Would love to visit Savannah although I am sure we will end up spending a couple of days there to explore it some more too.
Thank you, Aditi! The Patriot’s Point and the Charleston Tea Garden are both amazing! I would definitely suggest spending more than just a day in Savannah. I’ll actually be posting a weekend guide to Savannah soon, so stay tuned!
[…] 5 Unforgettable Day Trips from Charleston, SC […]
Thanks for sharing this, I felt like I was transported to these places as I read this post. Kiawah Island seems like a beautiful must-visit side trip. 🙂
I’ve never been to South Carolina but it’s on my list of places I’d like to visit someday! I’d love to check out the Charleston Tea Garden!
[…] Rent a car to save on rideshare costs and take advantage of the incredible day trips from Charleston. […]
I would love to visit Kiawah Island ~ these are great options!
Thank you so much! There are lots of beautiful places in the area, but Kiawah Island definitely blew me away.
Love these day trip ideas!! Definitely saving this for next time I’m in Charleston.
I hope you are able to enjoy some of them! Thank you for reading!
Savannah and Kiawah Island sound like awesome day trips! Though I’ve never been to Charleston either so I might have to start there haha.
Savannah and Kiawah Island are both magical! But Charleston is pretty amazing, too. I hope you get to visit Charleston soon, and when you do, I hope you have a wonderful time!
This is so helpful! We were actually planning a trip to Charleston for New Years but canceled when the COVID numbers spiked again. We were planning on Patriot’s Point but I think we’ll be adding Boone’s Plantation and the Tea Garden to our itinerary when we reschedule.
Hi, Elle! Oh good, I am so glad this was helpful! Boone Hall Plantation is so beautiful and educational, and the Charleston Tea Garden is a really fun, quick trip! I hope you have an amazing time 🙂
I haven’t been to anywhere of the US yet, but Charleston looks very interesting and is def gonna land on my bucketlist!
Charleston is a very fun city to explore! Can’t wait until you have a chance to visit the US and check it out. Thanks for reading, Schaguna!
[…] to see downtown, top-notch restaurants and delicious southern food to enjoy, and unforgettable day trips from Charleston, you’ll find plenty to keep you busy during a weekend in the Holy […]
[…] 5 Best Day Trips from Charleston, SC […]
[…] 5 Best Day Trips from Charleston, SC […]
I love history, so these all sound amazing. Kiawah Island sounds like the perfect way to wind down, relax, and enjoy a little nature. and of course play at the beach 🙂
It definitely is! Thanks for reading, Megan 🙂
Beautiful pics and locations. Your blue jumpsuit was just the perfect pop of color!
All of these are lovely options! I would love to Savannah someday. It is such a beautiful town!
I’ve always wanted to visit Charleston, but love that so many other interesting places are close by!
Thank you for sharing such interesting tips here. I loved the way you have described these day trips so beautifully.
Charleston and Savannah are two gems to visit in the South. I’m glad you publicized other plans to visit. My family always vacationed at the beach in Wild Dunes and Kiwah.
I’m excited to say I’ve been to all 12 of the items on your list! I lived in Charleston for a year and definitely did my fair share of day trips and excursions! Some of the things on your list can be done on the same day!
Only been to Savannah some years back and loved it so much! This is a region of the US I would love to return to. Thank you for more inspiration!
Great recommendations! We loved Savannah and Beaufort and Boone Hall Plantation..saving some of your other recs for 2023!
So many options for things to do! Hilton Head Island personally looks really good to me – although, i really liked that pic of your at Kiawah Island !