Charleston, South Carolina is one of the region’s most popular destinations. It’s not uncommon to spend an entire week getting to know its streets, especially if you add in a trip to the beaches and nearby barrier islands.
But if you’re ready to get further afield, there are plenty of destinations to explore within a short drive. It’s easy to pick up your rental car in the city or at the airport and return to your hotel in the evening for these day trips from Charleston. Highways 95 and 26 make it simple.
Beaufort, South Carolina
Distance from Charleston: 1.5 hour
Beaufort, South Carolina is another coastal community that has been the setting of countless books and movies, including the works of Pat Conroy and the film The Big Chill.
On the way there, check out the Old Sheldon Church Ruins, a 1700s church site, and the Oyotunji Yoruba Village. The Beaufort History Museum provides good background knowledge of the area. There are also historic homes to tour.
If you want to go to the beach, continue on to Hilton Head Island or learn about the Gullah people on Daufuskie Island. Parris Island, home of the Marines, also has a museum.
Beaufort has a number of great restaurants. Old Bull Tavern is known for its European comfort food, including braised lamb shank and pizza. Lowcountry Produce is a farm stand and cafe with she crab soup, burgers, and tomato pie. Wren has sandwiches and salads.
Beaufort SC Tours
- Kazoo Factory Tour & Museum
- Beaufort City Tour
- Beaufort City Walking Tour
- Beaufort Ghost Tours
- Spirit of Old Beaufort Heritage Tour
- Pat Conroy’s Beaufort Tour by Bus
- Historic Sea Island Plantation and Lowcountry Life Tour
Georgetown, South Carolina
Distance from Charleston: 1 hour, 15 minutes
Georgetown, South Carolina is the state’s oldest cities, established in 1729. It was at the heart of the rice production industry, making half of the nation’s rice during the Antebellum period.
Some of these plantations, where enslaved people worked the fields, are still in existence and open to visitors. Hopsewee and Hampton plantations are just two of them, but others operate as inns.
The Hobcaw Barony is another private home that now serves as a nature preserve. The home hosted the likes of Winston Churchill and FDR. There’s also an interpretive center focused on the area’s wildlife.
Learn about the town’s important crop at the Rice Museum, located within two historic buildings. The nearby Kaminski House Museum and Gullah Museum cover other aspects of Lowcountry life and history.
Georgetown has a surprisingly underrated food scene. Root is a restaurant downtown using the best local produce and seafood. Big Bill’s Lowcountry Bar-B-Que is a casual buffet with pulled pork barbecue, fried chicken, and Southern vegetables. Start your day at Coffee Break Cafe, known for its coffee drinks, breakfast sandwiches, and pastries.
Georgetown SC Tours
Columbia, South Carolina
Distance from Charleston: 2 hours
Columbia, South Carolina is the state capital and has many museums to choose from, especially for families. The Riverbanks Zoo has a diverse collection of animals as well as a botanical garden and zipline course.
The EdVenture Children’s Museum has interactive exhibits focusing on science and technology. The South Carolina State Museum covers the state’s history, with exhibits on art, history, and science as well as a planetarium.
The award-winning Columbia Museum of Art, located on the University of South Carolina campus, features American, Asian, and European artists as well as regularly changing exhibits.
For a taste of adventure, hike the trails of Congaree National Park, the state’s only national park. It’s only 45 minutes from downtown and has platforms and trails over 20,000 acres of bald cypresses.
Chow down at Columbia’s best eateries. The Southern Belly BBQ is the perfect place for pulled pork, around the corner from the Capitol. Set in a former auto shop, Motor Supply Company Bistro is one of the city’s most celebrated restaurants. Blue Marlin is set inside the city’s defunct train depot with shrimp and grits, steak, and crab cakes.
Columbia SC Tours
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Distance from Charleston: 2 hours
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina has long been a favorite of tourists seeking out the white sand beaches of the Grand Strand. Enjoy old-school attractions like the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk and the childhood games at Fun Plaza Arcade.
The Myrtle Beach SkyWheel provides the best views of the area in air-conditioned glass pods. The nearby Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum has changing regional exhibits and is free to visit.
The private garden turned 85-year-old attraction Brookgreen Gardens. The sprawling estate has landscaped gardens filled with sculptures as well as a zoo. Atalaya in Huntington Beach State Park is a Moorish-style home open for guided tours.
Myrtle Beach has an abundance of great restaurants, especially for seafood lovers. Wicked Tuna is in the seafood capital of the state with fish tacos and sushi. Croissants Bistro & Bakery has the best brunch in the Grand Strand with eggs benedict on croissants. The Chemist is another fun science-themed eatery.
Myrtle Beach SC Tours
- Waccamaw River Nature & Wildlife Tours
- Guided Myrtle Beach Kayak Tour
- Myrtle Beach Surf Lessons
- Myrtle Beach Segway Tours, Huntington Beach State Park
- Myrtle Beach Boardwalk Food & Sightseeing Tour
Distance from Charleston: 2 hours
Savannah, Georgia is just across the state line and has similar charms to the Holy City. As the state’s oldest city, there are dozens of historic homes visitors can tour, including the homes of Flannery O’Connor and Juliette Gordon Lowe.
View priceless works of art between the two locations of the Telfair Academy museums. The SCAD Museum of Art has works by up-and-coming artists.
The American Prohibition Museum is an interactive space on America’s failed experiment with exhibits on Savannah’s boozy past and even its own speakeasy.
If time allows, visit Wormsloe State Historic Site, a former plantation with ruins and trails, and Pin Point Heritage Museum, which focuses on the Gullah and Geechee culture of the Sea Islands and the freedmen that lived in the area.
Savannah has restaurants that have been open since the early days of the city, including the family-style fare at Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room and the fried chicken at The Pirates House. The Grey is an award-winning restaurant in a former Greyhound station with modern Southern fare.
Savannah GA Tours
- Free Savannah Walking Tours
- Follow the Drinking Gourd African American Walking Tour
- Savannah Bonaventure Cemetery Segway and E-Bike Tour
- Jepson Center and Telfair Museums Admission Ticket
- Discover Savannah Narrated Sightseeing Trolley Tour
- Savannah Taste Experience
- Movie Locations Segway Tour of Savannah
- Skip-The-Line: The American Prohibition Museum Admission Ticket
- Savannah Riverboat Sightseeing Cruise
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